There was a sound. A pure single note that somehow sounded as though it was in three-part harmony with full orchestral backing.
Spinning-on-a-roundabout spoke to the angel who had just appeared.
“About bloody time. I’ve been waiting for my annual leave for well over a year.”
“You up to speed or do you need me to run through anything.”
“Don’t worry. She can’t hear us. Can’t you see the muffler field surrounding us?”
“Wow. That’s amazing.”
The new angel ducked down as the girl turned over in her bed.
“Don’t worry. The muffler field is visual as well as aural. She can’t see us.”
“That’s so cool. A muffler field on my first day.”
“They’re not exactly new. What century are you from?”
“Um… I’m newly created.”
The new angel recoiled in shock and looked around in panic as if expecting the hounds of hell to lead an army of demons into the pink fluffy bedroom.
“They can’t be serious. Exactly how newly created are you?”
“I’m current year.”
“But this is a level one guardianship. What’s your name?”
“Oh God, blessed be his name, give me strength. You’ve not even been with a Ward long enough to get a name. And put that bloody sword away, it’s giving me a headache.”
Yet-to-be-named quenched their sword and placed it on their back where it merged with their body and disappeared.
“Look Yet-to-be-named, I know it’s not your fault but I think there must be a mistake. There’s not a current-year angel on earth with enough experience to guard a level one Ward. You’ll have to go back and explain things. I’m not leaving you here on your own.”
“That’s right,” said Yet-to-be-named cheerfully. “I’m on an apprenticeship. I work with you a minimum of thirty-five hours per week. I can’t be left on my own and you have to provide eight hours a week of one-to-one training.”
“Um… are angels allowed to swear?”
“A guardian angel may use any words that have been spoken by their Ward – Book of Guardianship chapter ten verse 3. [Addendum 3002 BC: or written] [Addendum 200 AD: or block printed] [Addendum 1440 BC: or in any form of type] [Addendum 2000: or howsoever transcribed be it ethereal or material. For the sake of clarity – yes this does includes posting on any form of social media or any other means that humans, or non-humans, devise in the future, forever and ever, amen.]”
“You have memorised the Book of Guardianship?”
“And the Book of Words – the list of all the Ward’s communication.”
“I’ve skimmed it.”
Two books appeared in the air. One thick volume of tiny type and one slimmer volume containing fewer than thirty thousand words.
“Here’s your first on-the-job-training. You’ve got eight hours before she wakes. Study these. That’ll be a full week’s worth of training so you don’t have to bother me again.”
Spin flicked a finger at the smart television. It was smart enough to do what it was told and immediately booted up Netflix even though it wasn’t connected to the internet. The television didn’t need to be told what programme the angel wanted. The Friends theme tune blasted out and season nine, episode twelve began.
“I love this one,” said Yet-to-be-named. “It’s great how Phoebe feels responsible for the orphan rats after Mike kills their mother.”
Spin flicked their finger and the muffler field split in two to enclose each angel separately. Once isolated Spin swore loudly, using words that their Ward hadn’t used herself except in her head. They weren’t one hundred percent sure that meant the words were permissible. They slumped in the armchair wondering how it was possible that a newly created angel already knew every episode of Friends but didn’t know the Book of Guardianship.
Spin agreed that Yet-to-be-named could accompany them on an outing to the shops the next day. Half way to the shops Spin spotted a problem.
“See that group of girls.”
“Out of sight, round the corner. You have to use your inner eye to see them.”
“They’re tagged as dangerous.”
“Indeed they are. They’re bullies. Here’s a job for you. I’ll distract the Ward. You make sure they go straight on and don’t turn this way.”
Yet-to-be-named stretched behind their back. Their sword glowed into being.
“What the heck are you doing?”
“Stopping the girls from coming this way.”
“With a sword?”
“A flaming sword. They won’t come this way when they see this.”
“You can’t do that. You can’t be seen.”
“But the Book of Guardianship… there’s a whole chapter on brandishing the flaming sword.”
“Chapter seven. But then chapter two thousand six hundred and nine, about the modern angel, that chapter definitely doesn’t recommend brandishing swords. Look read the book backwards. Those first chapters don’t apply anymore.”
“So how do I stop those bullies?”
“Watch what I do. It might give you an idea.”
Spin clicked their fingers and suddenly where there had been an invisible angel now stood a very visible, fluffy little cat. The cat jumped in front of the Ward, meowed loudly and rubbed against her legs. The Ward stopped, bent down and reached out for the cat.
A mind-voice sounded in Yet-to-be-named’s head. “Note how I’ve made her turn her back to the impending problem and got her to bend down so that the bullies won’t recognise her even if they look this way. Now you go deal with them.”
Spin purred and nudged the Ward’s hand with their nose, while watching carefully up ahead. Suddenly the group of girls ran as fast as they could across the top of the street. Spin didn’t have to wait long to see the reason. A rabid angelic dog pursued them.
The Ward looked around, saw the group of girls and smiled.
Spin used the moment of distraction to restore themselves to their usual invisible angelic form, leaving the Ward puzzled as to where the cat had gone.
“A dog. Why on earth a dog?”
“Well you’d already done a cat.”
“But why such an aggressive dog?”
“It worked. Did you see how fast they moved? And they’ll not be coming back in a hurry.”
Spinning-on-a-roundabout spent the rest of the trip lecturing about the need for subtlety with minimum impact.
Yet-to-be-named argued that three metre high angels with flaming swords were not meant to be subtle.
The rest of the day was quiet. The Ward sat in her room flicking between YouTube videos of cats, videos of dogs chasing people and watching a Tik Tok dance called the Floss. She then placed her phone on her chest of drawers and stood ready to do the dance herself.
“Oh no. This is bad. This is so bad,” said Spin.
“I kind of like it,” said Yet-to-be-named. “It’s quite easy once you get the hang of it.”
Spin shook their head despairingly.
“What? What am I doing wrong?”
“Not you. Her. This is a disaster.”
“No. Look at the Dial-of-the-Moment. Wow. That’s high. She’s really content at the moment. She’s great at this dance. Do you think her contentedness will max out and give me my first name?”
Spin watched the Ward’s arms swing in a complicated pattern in front of, and then behind her body. Meanwhile her hips swayed rhythmically. There was no doubting her dancing ability. After watching other people perform the dance it had only taken her a few minutes to perfect it herself.
Yet-to-be-named stood behind the Ward copying her motions as she moved faster and faster.
“She’s amazing. I can only just keep up and I’m an angel.”
There was a sound. Three pure single notes increasing in pitch that somehow sounded as though they were accompanied by harmonies and a full orchestra.
Yet-to-be-named stopped dancing and consulted the Dial-of-the-Moment. Contentedness had hit maximum on the scale. An envelope appeared in the air and floated into Yet-to-be-named’s hand.
“My name. I’ve got my first name. Look my name is now Dancing-the-floss.”
Spinning-on-a-roundabout looked sad.
“Don’t you like it?”
“It’s not the name. It’s the Ward.”
“But she’s content. She’s even happy. Surely that can’t be bad.”
“It’s what happens next that I’m worried about.”
“What? What’s going to happen? Will she go too fast and hurt herself? Is she not well and all this exercise will harm her?”
“No. Nothing like that.”
“Have you heard of Social Media?”
While the Ward happily filmed herself dancing, Spin explained how social media meant the video would be viewed all around the world.
Dancing-the-floss couldn’t see the problem. Spin told them to look over the Ward’s shoulder and read the comments after she posted the video online.
Ninety- nine out of a hundred comments were positive. Dancing-the-floss was pleased to see how encouraging and supportive the human race could be. Spin didn’t comment.
“What is she doing?”
“She’s harming herself.”
“Because of the bad comments.”
“But the comments were good.”
“Not all of them.”
“There were only three negative ones.”
“Those are the ones that hurt.”
“Shouldn’t we stop her? Become a cat or something.”
“We can’t. We have to watch.”
“But you stopped her getting hurt by those bullies.”
“It’s free will. We can’t stop her doing what she wants to do.”
“Why would she want to hurt herself?”
“Check the Dial.”
Dancing-the-floss consulted the Dial-of-the-Moment and saw that self-worth was empty.
“That can’t be right. Her dancing was beautiful.”
“She can’t see that. This is the worst part of being a guardian angel. When you have to watch and you can’t help.”
Dancing-the-floss was standing directly behind the Ward who was looking at her reflection in the mirror. The angel saw a beautiful girl made in the image of God. The girl saw ugliness.
It was too much for the inexperienced angel to bear. Such strong emotions flooded out that they shattered the muffler field.
“You are a beautiful young woman and you dance like an angel.”
Spinning-on-the-roundabout quickly restored the muffler but it was too late. The Ward had heard every word and had seen herself in the mirror surrounded by an angelic glow.
There was a sound. Three pure single notes increasing in pitch that somehow sounded as though they were accompanied by harmonies and a full orchestra. An envelope appeared in the air and floated into Dancing-the-floss’s hand.
The angel opened the envelope and read their new name, “Heard-the-voice-of-an-angel.”
A bright pinprick of light appeared and sucked the two guardian angels into it. They expected to be chastised but on returning to heaven they discovered that they had been recalled because their Ward no longer needed a guardian.
She had heard the voice of an angel and she believed it.