by C. T. Hill
Have you ever heard a whisper?
Whisper of a Name
By C. T. Hill
I knew a whisper of a name once, it was silent, it was sweet. It was as most things are, misunderstood and eventually forgotten. As revelation abandoned me, I felt myself slipping, grasping at crumbling roots, and ultimately falling.
I was lost.
I thought of being lost as the same as being without purpose, but no. I do not agree with that, for life should have purpose, should it not? To be a rock skipped across the pond waiting silently for submergence is perhaps more frightening to me than any monster.
I looked around and noticed that I was alone, taken by isolation, left treading in a pool of what I could imagine only as fear. I then looked down at my hands. They were covered in blood. Why, I could not remember. Perhaps I should have been concerned, for blood does not simply appear without reason, yet I remained calm.
She whispered to me again, the name, and it was sweet, but I still could not remember it.
“Why do you run, child?”
I stopped and turned to her. She was blurry, like I was looking at her through someone else’s glasses. It was odd, but I could sense her beauty despite my failing vision. I felt her move around me.
“I… I am not sure.” It was a stupid answer, but I had no other. A chill had entered my bones, and I was overcome with a deep longing, one that I could not explain, one that I could not escape.
As she moved around me her eyes looked me over. They were the kind of eyes grandmothers have, ones that have seen more than intended and loved more than required. Though, in reality, I am not sure I could even see her eyes, perhaps I was imagining them.
“It is not your fault.” As she spoke, I felt an embrace. Though, it could not have been her, because she remained at least three feet from me. “May I tell you a story?”
I looked down at my blood covered hands. “I guess a story would be nice.” Though, I would have probably agreed to anything at that point, I felt faintly dizzy.
She smiled a warm smile. It reminded me of a child’s. “Once, when I was younger, I had great ambitions. They are like stars, you see. We can look at them and they seem almost close enough for us to reach out and touch, but they are far, so far away.
“Things like that do not make sense when you are young, though, and I was enlivened to receive a purpose. My ambitions were to serve as best I could. To be seen and heard by him. He had not been named yet; He was simply, He.” She was smiling at the memory. “I knew the rules, that no one had ever seen him and that we were all equal in his eyes. Yes, I knew them well, but I hoped them to be flexible. It was naïve, I know, but I hoped nonetheless.
“I know not how long I had been in existence, for time there is different, but it was long enough for my ambitions to grow into something I was not sure that I could control. And then I was sent for. I remember walking through the light, my enthusiasm almost boiling over.
“Once I arrived, I knew something was amiss, but I buried the feeling deep down. I looked around the large space and in front of me stood Gabriel. He was magnificent. I had heard stories of Gabriel, the kind you hear about someone so brave and honorable that they could not possibly be real.”
I must have been looking at her with questioning eyes, because she stopped and smiled at me.
“Yes, even we have stories,” she said with a quiet laugh.
I meant to apologize for my rudeness, but she continued as if nothing had happened.
“He looked me over carefully and said, ‘the time has come for your service. You are Azra’il. You are love,’ and I knew my name and everything that came along with it, because I was Azra’il. I nodded to Gabriel and turned to leave, but he continued to speak. ‘Go now and speak with the sons, for you have much to teach them,’ and I nodded once more before I turned, already preparing for the journey ahead.
“It was odd to leave the light, for I had never been out of it before, but when I arrived here I saw the two sons and they were beautiful. ‘Hello, I am Azra’il, and I am love. Tell me, do you know what love is?’ I said to them, and they looked at each other and then back at me. I smiled at them, for I was love, and they smiled back, ‘walk with me and I will teach you about love.’
“And they did. We walked for hours and they became increasingly interested in love. I was pleased, for they spoke of love and it was beautiful. I looked up and Gabriel was there, though the sons could not see him. I smiled at him, but he did not smile back. He only nodded, looked at the sons, and then was gone as quickly as he had come.
“As I have said before, I was young, and though I had heard stories of Gabriel, I had no idea what he was actually like so his behavior up to this point had not alarmed me. However, it was as if the air had been let out of him, and in some way unbeknownst to me, he was different; different than he should have been, different than I had imagined him.
“I turned back to the sons. They had decided to make an offering of love to He. I smiled, for I was love, and they were also love. They ran home and told their parents. They were giddy. It was beautiful. I watched them for days and days as they prepared their gifts. The older was a farmer and he grew the finest grains. The younger had love for animals and his flock was lovely.
“And so came the day for their offering. I sat in silent marvel awaiting He, for the sons were so filled with love, and because they were filled with love, I was as well. When He came, the older son presented him with the finest grains and He looked at the grains but He did not smile. He then looked to the younger son, and the younger son slaughtered his lamb, offering He all that was present, and He smiled.
“Perhaps I was too young to have seen it, but I was probably just too caught up in the moment. For He had accepted the gift from the younger son, but refused the gift from the older, and in doing so, caused something to grow in the older son that I was unfamiliar with.
“So I asked him, ‘my son, what is wrong?’ and he looked up at me with scorn. I knew not what to think, for I was love, and he no longer was. The older son then turned to his brother and beckoned him to follow and his younger brother did."
I don’t know how long it took me to realize that she had stopped talking, for I was enthralled, but when I looked at her I noticed that the warm smile had all but faded from her elegant face. “Continue, please?” I asked, and she looked at me, her features shrouded with sadness, and nodded.
“I went to the field and watched them, the brothers, the younger still love, the older something else. I watched as the older son embraced the younger, and I watched as he spilled his blood into the earth. I remember crying. I had no idea what tears were then, but they flowed from my eyes nonetheless. I went to the younger brother, and he smiled at me as his life blood left him. My heart ached as I looked deep into his eyes. They were so filled with love that I almost lost myself in them.
“It was the oddest feeling that I have ever experienced, looking into the younger son’s eyes. They were deep and beautiful and wondrous, yet behind them loomed something that was new not only to me, but to the world as well. It was a growing tragedy, one that was matched only by its necessity, and I knew that everything was about to change.
“His breathing was shallow as his blood mixed with the dirt at my feet. I looked up and Gabriel had appeared, a somber look covering his face. I suppose he had known all along what would happen to the sons. What a burden it must have been to bear such knowledge. He looked at me for a long moment before he spoke, ‘you are love, Azra’il, but you have another purpose now, one that is necessary. He has spoken, and it is so,’ and I nodded as he turned and left.
“I looked back into the younger son's eyes and whispered softly into his ear, ‘come with me now my son, for I am love, and we must go.’ He looked up at his brother, who was no longer love, and a tear rolled down his cheek.
“I took him away, and when we arrived to the light, He stood before me. I was gripped by sadness. He looked into my eyes and silently nodded. I knew that I was no longer love. My heart broke.”
She smiled at me again as she wiped the tears from her eyes. The chill began to leave my bones, and everything became clear. I remembered the gunman, I remembered the store, and I remembered the shot. I felt a twinge of pain in my belly and realized that the blood was mine. I looked back into her eyes. She smiled at me and nodded with an outstretched hand, beckoning me to follow her.
It was then that I remembered the whisper of the name, it was silent, it was sweet.