Sharp as Sword Blades, ch. 13: Gabriela Silva

Monitoring: Gabriela Silva
Londrina, Paraná, Brazil

2:20 p.m. Brasilia Time
Thursday, October 13th, 2005
17:20 Coordinated Universal Time
Thursday, October 13th, 2005

Rewind—

In later years, Gabriela’s first memory will be of a midnight mass that her family is attending as part of their Christmas celebration. It is close to the end of the service, and after her parents and extended family members have exited the church, they sing Silent Night.

It is comforting, but not as important as what will be her second memory, from when she is five years old. It is when she meets the angels. Gabriela wakes up. Something has happened and in later years she will remember, after a fashion, what it was, but she’s reasonably sure that this was just a reconstruction based on what she was told about the event. As far as her older self is concerned, Gabriela’s second memory starts here, in bed and with a funny-feeling head.

There are two figures standing in the room: a woman in her fifties, wearing a bowtie and a suit checkered green and dark green, and a slightly younger man wearing a faded yellow suit, a little tattered and devoid of ornamentation. Their bodies are positioned away from her, and they are speaking animatedly to each other, words passing going back and forth in hushed but fervent tones:

“—five more minutes, alright?” says the man.

“I’ve indulged you for long enough,” says the woman in green. “She’s fine. She’s been fine. The girl isn’t going to unexpectedly get worse, and if she does then she’s in a hospital.”

Hospital? Gabriela turns her head about and takes in her surroundings for the first time since she opened her eyes. Sure looks like it.

Why is she in a hospital?

“Who…Who-o-o you?” she asks, slipping over the syllables as she stifles a yawn.

The two figures turn in unison to face her. “Shit,” they say in stereo, their faces dropping in almost the same way.

“She’s awake,” says the man in yellow. “Shit,” he says again, his voice nearly too quiet to hear.

They turn back to each other, and the woman in green pulls back her jacket a little and points. Gabriela can’t see exactly what it is that she’s gesturing at, just the edge of it, something metal. The woman makes a questioning sort of noise, just on the edge of a “Hm,” and the man glares and shakes his head. “Absolutely not,” he hisses, and the woman shrugs her shoulders.

“What else then?” asks the woman, but before the man in yellow can come up with a reply, Gabriela speaks up.

“Who’re you?” she asks, her words forming more clearly than the first time around. Then she remembers that she’s in a hospital. “Was I hurt? Are you d-doctors? W-Where’s—” she asks, building up to a panic, but the man in yellow rushes over and puts a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“We’re angels,” he says simply. “Don’t worry, you’re going to be fine.”

Gabriela pauses, and squints in suspicion. They don’t look like angels. “You’re really angels?”

“Your name is Gabriela Silva, you like model trains more than anything else in the world, and two nights ago you lied to your mother about how many raisin cookies you had eaten at your grandmother’s, so that she would let you have more.”

Oh. Well, that proves it. “Okay. Am I going—” she begins to ask, before she realizes that the man has just answered the question. “Am I sick?”

“You were hit by a car,” the yellow angel says, and he takes her hand and raises it to her head. She feels something soft there, like cotton. Bandages, or something like that. “I pulled you out of the way enough that it wasn’t a direct impact. You weren’t unconscious for very long, and your parents came as soon as they found out. They will be here soon.”

“Yes, soon,” repeats the angel in green. “So we ought to be leaving now. The situation is bad enough as it is.”

“Quiet. We can delay them if we want,” the yellow angel replies. He turns back to Gabriela, and his voice gets quiet. “I need you to do something very important for me, alright?”

“O-Okay.”

The angel crouches down until he is at eye level with Gabriela. “Do not tell anyone about us. ”

“Nobody should know about us,” says the other angel, and Gabriela realizes that they must have kept her safe when the car hit her. She can invent reasons why angels would want to remain a secret as easily as she reasons why they would want her to proclaim this miracle far and wide, so she nods silently, slowly and then in a few rushed movements that make her head sick and confused like she’s been spinning very hard.


Colombo, Paraná, Brazil

2:45 a.m. Brasilia Time
Monday, June 8th, 2009
5:45 Coordinated Universal Time
Monday, June 8th, 2009

Fast forward—

The next time that she meets the angels, Gabriela is nine years old. Again, she wakes up, but this time she is in her room and the green woman’s hand is pressed up close and hard against her mouth.

“Don’t. Scream,” she whispers in the dim light of Gabriela’s bedroom. “Will you be quiet?”

Gabriela nods, and the woman slowly removes her hand.

“You came back,” she says, and then gasps. She is old enough to disbelieve the memories of her younger self and write them off as a dream, but still young enough to believe in angels when those memories are proven true, and she realizes the implications of their return as quickly as her mind can work. “How am I going to be hurt?” she whispers, totally foregoing the question of whether she’s in danger at all. Her guardian angels exist, and they’re here: ergo, either something already went wrong, or it’s going to.

The man in yellow shakes his head. His clothes are better than she remembered, cleaner and without as many patches, but the style is still the same. “You haven’t told anybody about us, and that’s good,” he says quietly, “but you’re still leaving evidence. Where are the drawings?”

“I…”

“You must be making drawings. You’re taking an art class for the first time, you’ve been illustrating scenes from other dreams, and while you’re good about following promises, even ones that you don’t believe that you made, you’re also the sort of child who will pick at things and turn them over and wonder about them in private. You have been making drawings,” he says, using the same tone with which he had denied the woman in yellow and her idea, whatever it had been, years before.

“My desk’s drawer,” she says, pointing with a trembling finger. Gabriela isn’t sure whether it’s tiredness or fear. Oh, she never should have done it, never ever forever, even if she isn’t sure what the bad thing was all about. “Bottom-left drawer,” she clarifies, and the man in yellow digs through the papers there to find her drawings at the bottom of the stack. Most of them are in colored pencil; a few are crayon. She would have liked to do a watercolor but she doesn’t have a set and, whatever else she did wrong, Gabriela knew not to make the drawings where anybody else could see them.

She is old enough to not believe in dreams, but young enough to still feel uncomfortable with breaking a promise that she made in one. Now that she has seen that it was no dream at all, she is grateful for that.

“Is this everything?” the man asks, and she nods. “No drawings. Nothing. If anyone finds out, then people will probably be hurt. Your parents may die. You may die. Do you understand?”

Gabriela nods, and after the man in yellow stuffs the drawings in the inside pocket of his suit jacket, he pats her on the head. After a moment’s hesitation, the woman in green follows suit, but more tentatively.

“We’ll be seeing you, Gabriela. Try not to be seeing us, though, and remember: don’t tell anyone.”

She doesn’t fall asleep for a long time. The next morning, she notices that the dirt has been disturbed around one of the bushes, where the backup key is supposed to be. It’s still there, she discovers, but that doesn’t change the fact that it had to have been the angels who must have dug it up.

Gabriela doesn’t ask herself how they knew it was there. They’re angels, after all. What she doesn’t know is why they needed a key to get into her house at all. They’re angels, after all.


Colombo, Paraná, Brazil

4:10 p.m. Brasilia Time
Saturday, April 19th, 2014
19:10 Coordinated Universal Time
Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Fast forward—

Gabriela does her best to put the angels out of her mind, but her best isn’t good enough. Occasionally she will ask questions, as tangential and disguised as she can make them, and more often she will crack open large tomes on theology, especially angelology, trying to get to the bottom of it. One catechism describes some angels as being under “probation,” and she eventually decides that this might account for some of the inconsistencies that had first driven her to these studies.

Despite their wish that Gabriela not see them, she still catches glimpses of them from time to time: They pass through crowds, step onto buses, eat in restaurants, and birdwatch (or Gabriela-watch, perhaps). One time when she is twelve, her family doesn’t have quite enough money to pay the bills and someone tapes an envelope of money to their door; her parents suspect the priest but Gabriela thinks that his display of confusion is an honest one, rather than an attempt to hide his benevolence.

On her fourteenth birthday, she discovers that she has been blessed by God. Finally, she understands why her experiences have been so different from other people’s, and perhaps even why she was supposed to keep quiet. Were there not precedents in scripture of prophets who had been told to not announce themselves until a certain date? She is pretty sure that she had read something of that nature. It just hadn’t been time yet, and perhaps God wanted to prove that she could keep quiet with a small thing before she was given a much greater thing.

Gabriela still says nothing about her visitations or newfound power, but she exercises it as often as the opportunity presents itself and takes careful mental notes. God has blessed her with the power to peer into the hearts of men and learn what it is that they fear most, and by doing so she learns how she can help them.

She fancies that she is exorcising demons, in a way, for the scriptures state that it is not God who gives the spirit of fear, and if it is not God, then who else could be but the devil? When Gabriela touches a man whose greatest fear is of being found out as a murderer, she realizes that God has blessed her to help the world in many ways, and sends an anonymous tip to the police.

The months pass, and then she comes across the angels again, at least in a certain manner of speaking. As she waits for the bus one day, she talks with the man sitting beside her on the bench and, at the conclusion of their conversation, shakes his hand and glimpses his fear: as usually, she finds her mind’s eye thrust into a whirlwind of disparate scenes that then calm and coalesce, their unifying theme gradually resolving into a single idea: the man is on his knees, there is a gun pressed against his head, and it is the woman in green who is holding it there.

Gabriela isn’t sure what it means, but it takes a few days before she feels comfortable using her power again.


Colombo, Paraná, Brazil

2:30 p.m. Brasilia Time
Saturday, August 30th, 2014
17:30 Coordinated Universal Time
Saturday, August 30th, 2014

Fast forward—

“—et lux perpétua lúceat eis,” intones the priest as he speaks the opening words of the mass for the dead. Her father lies near him, feet pointed at the altar and lit candles surrounding his bodies. The priest speaks of the Resurrection of the Lord, and the gift of eternal life which has been promised, and the words mostly pass through her head unheeded.

Gabriela should be less distraught. She has walked with angels, or at least sat with them, and even now she can feel the power of God within her, ready to be used upon anyone that she touches. There should be no room for doubt, but Gabriela feels cold more than she does hopeful.

At a break in the proceedings, the parish secretary taps Gabriela on the shoulder and hands her an envelope. She opens it to find a letter saying nothing but that she should come outside. It is signed with three fingerprints in yellow paint.

She leaves the church immediately, pausing only long enough to excuse herself, telling her mother that she has to speak with one of the deacons. Gabriela doesn’t like lying, but she couldn’t say, “Some angels want to talk with me,” even if they hadn’t expressly forbidden her from doing that.

There is a limousine sitting outside the church. As she travels down the steps, a tinted window slides down to reveal the man in yellow. Gabriela pauses for only a second, then opens the door and slips inside.

“I-I haven’t told anyone about you,” she says before she has even finished closing the door, and the angels nod. There is room enough in the limousine for two benches, positioned against each other so that she is facing the angels. One of them opens the small partition window closing them off from the front, then shuts it, and the car begins to move.

“Introductions are probably in order,” says the man in yellow. He is older than Gabriela remembers, more scarred, and his dull yellow gloves are well-worn. “I am Mister Rukomo. My partner here is Fraŭlino Unu Hako. We have to talk about some things,” Rukomo says, and he hands her a takeout bag from Giraffas. “Brutus burger, extra lettuce, extra tomato, no mayo, small order of fries, and a bottled water. We know how you like it.”

She opens the bag gingerly and takes out the fries, then rolls up the bag to keep the heat in. The fries will go cold and awful-tasting if she doesn’t eat them first. “Why?” she says, still looking at her fries.

“Because you have a history of not eating when you are troubled, and this is one of these times. An empty belly hears nobody.”

Gabriela lifts her eyes. “But why now? What do you have to talk to me about?”

“We have to make sure that you’re safe,” says Unu Hako. “The first concern is psychological: one of the others, Luis Hernandez, killed himself a few months ago. It is imperative that you do not do the same.”

“I’m not going to k-kill myself!” says Gabriela. “I can’t. Why would you—oh my God, what’s happened to him? You said ‘psychological.’ He wasn’t in his right mind, was he? He’s okay?”

The angels share a glance, and Unu Hako pulls lightly at her bright green bowtie. “You can be sure that he’s in a better place,” which is just indirect enough that a part of Gabriela is still concerned, but she puts it out of her mind. She can pray for him later. “What’s the other thing?”

“The Chinese government is hunting for children like you,” says the man in yellow. “They’ve killed at least five of you, but probably more. Miss Giathi won’t tell me very much about what’s going on, so we can only conclude that our counterparts in Eurasia have seriously fucked the dog,” he concludes, and Gabriela winces. She had long known that they weren’t figments of her imagination, but she had still thought that the cussing something that she had added to the memory.

“Why weren’t the others protected? Are you not protecting me either?” asks Gabriela.

“We are not supposed to interfere. We are informants, not actors,” says the woman in green, and Gabriela notes the similarity of “informant” to “messenger,” the translation of angelos.

“But you’re acting right now, aren’t you?”

“You can consider it Mister Rukomo’s fault,” says Unu Hako, and Rukomo nervously fiddles with his tie. “You never would have seen us if he hadn’t gotten attached.”

“You got attached too,” he protests.

“Only because you forced us into proximity, and not to the same degree” Unu Hako returns her attention to Gabriela. “Regardless, the fact that we are not supposed to do anything only means that we have to be careful with how we go about it. This is why we have taken such pains to ensure that you were quiet.”

“I don’t know if I should let you interfere with me then,” Gabriela says, thinking of what she’s read of angels in a probationary state. It’s almost as bad to enable sin as to commit it, especially in a situation like this where they’re ostensibly doing it out of concern for her.

“We’ll be alright,” Rukomo assures her. “We just have to ensure that you’ll be alright too. Part of that, of course, involves staying quiet about us, but that won’t matter to the Chinese or anyone else who decides that you’re a threat.”

Am I a threat?” asks Gabriela.

“Even being tool-users, humans were not a threat to the mammoth until we decided that it tasted good,” says Rukomo. “And even so, cattle have never been doing better, at least as a species. If you want to know whether you are a threat, then ask yourself what you value and how you are going to go about accomplishing it. So, what do you want to do?”

“Give sight to the blind, free those that are in bondage, and minister to the weak,” Gabriela says.

Rukomo shrugs. “Then you are a threat to someone.”

The car slowly comes to a halt in front of a bus station, and Rukomo hands her another envelope. It is heavier than the one which called her here.

“What is this?” she asks.

“We can’t be around you. If someone finds you and intends to do you harm, we cannot interfere. That means that you have to be on the move, so that they don’t find you.”

Gabriela looks outside her window. “B-But my family… I didn’t even say goodbye. What, a-are you testing me? What are you doing?” Her hands clench, crushing part of the envelope between her fingers, feeling something thick but flat and hard inside, and Rukomo leans over and puts his hands over hers.

“You will do no good for the world if you are dead,” he says softly. “Now, there is a debit card in that envelope with enough money to last you for a five or six months. You’re a smart girl and I’m sure that you can figure out a way to make money after that. There’s a suitcase in the trunk which you ought to retrieve as well. We took the liberty of packing your possessions while you were gone.”

Gabriela nods slowly, biting her bottom lip.

“You have been scheduled for a number of bus trips that will bring you into Argentina. They’ve been paid ahead of time, and there is an itinerary in the envelope so that you know what to expect. You also have a false ID and two passports, one for each of your identities. Stick the fake stuff in your shoes and don’t lose either passport, even after you’ve made it into the country: you can go to any country in the world with those, unless you do something stupid.”

“And don’t tell anyone about you?” she asks.

Rukomo nods. “We’re skating on thin ice as it is. It’ll be difficult to explain how you could have gotten counterfeited papers on your own, given your present circumstances, so don’t use them unless you absolutely have to. You never know who is watching.”

“Then shouldn’t I use the fake ID all the time?”

He shakes his head. “The Chinese don’t know about the rules that we have to follow. Others do, and they already know about you. What they need to not find out is that we’ve interfered.”

“Then—”

“No more questions,” interrupts Unu Hako. “Just one more thing: You will have to find friends. We cannot tell you where. You have to do the work yourself. All that we can say is to start in Argentina, and to watch the news. You’ve already run away—which you ought to come up with a story for—and it’s to be expected that you might start looking for others like yourself at that point, but if you found someone too quickly then it would arouse suspicion.”

“Okay.” Gabriela nods and takes the Giraffas bag in her other hand. “Will I get to go back home again?”

“Define ‘home,’ define ‘back,’” says Unu Hako, and she opens up the door. “The time for questions is over. Now it is time to go.”


A/N This is the end of Sequence 4. Thank you for reading, and don’t forget to comment and let me know what I’ve done well and where I can improve. If you’ve been enjoying HSTW, then consider checking out my patreon page to help support it. For just $1/month you’ll get a free book every month, and at $5/month you’ll get access to a rotating archive of other fiction that I’ve written and am in the process of writing. 

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3 thoughts on “Sharp as Sword Blades, ch. 13: Gabriela Silva

  1. Near the end of the first section, there is a part that repeats. See “You were hit by a car,”.

    but she had still thought that the cussing something that she had added to the memory
    was something

    not to the same degree” Unu Hako returns
    degree.”

    Like

  2. For some reason the title of this story makes me kinda sad…It’s as if it’s less of a thing that heroes do and more of a thing they try to do, regardless of whether they can. It comes across as a bit melancholy.

    Regardless, still loving the story!

    Liked by 1 person

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