By Moe Lane


It's hard to deal with pain.

Well, that came out as trite, no? That's one of the things that I - well, not hate; I stopped hating a while back - it's one of the things that frustrates me about corporeal tongues. There are some things that just can't be said in them, and a whole lot more things that can only sound completely stupid and clumsy. There isn't a language on Earth that is better at expressing pain than in describing it. I wish that there were.

It's not for me, you understand; it's for them. The humans. They hurt so easily, so brutally, and the worst part for them is that trying to express it invariably causes more hurt. Even the cultures that let them show pain fall down completely when it comes to letting them verbalize it. Humans don't like to even think about suffering, pain and grief too much: they seem such insoluble problems that there's no point to trying to overcome them. The humans make do instead with clumsy makeshifts and nonverbal cues. It's, pardon my Infernal, a Hell of a way to run a civilization.

And the worst bit is, it's all so bloody unnecessary.

There's a guy in Heaven - one of the clever ones, and one that knew fear like a lover - that said once that the worst fear, the most primal fear of all, was the fear of the unknown. That's the source of their pain: they have to go through daily Hells on Earth because they don't know what's going to happen to them, and it scares them more than anything else that the corporeal plane can throw at them. That fear gnaws and bites at even the saintliest and confident of them; it colors everything that they do. They can't be sure. They can't help but think, late at night when alone, that maybe it's meaningless, all of it. That, maybe, when it's over it's over, with nothing at the end except for a fall into endless nothingness and silence. It eats at them, even when they don't consciously think about it. Actually, it eats at them especially when they don't consciously think about it.

And I, who have the one piece of knowledge that they all crave beyond food, water and even air - the knowledge that there is something beyond the silence of their last heartbeat - cannot give it to them. I could so easily show them... but I may not. I have to watch while they grapple with pain, fear and unfairness, and usually the best that I can offer is the metaphorical equivalent of a Band-Aid for a gut wound. I do not even get to have the satisfaction of hating the reason why I have to do this: I can do nothing but approve of it. Free will may be a stone cold bitch, but the alternative is too hideous to contemplate.

You would think that our Soldiers would thus be a comfort to us, and you would be right, but even then the pain is not removed, only lessened. If it were not for the War, we would not reveal the nature of their future past vitality to any human: partially because each recruiting of a new mortal to the cause s u b verts their right to find their path on their own (and each act of subversion rips into every angel in a pain that never lessens, or becomes Truly familiar) - but mostly because to become a Soldier is to trade pain wished upon you by the universe for voluntary, self-inflicted pain. They cannot give others the same essential comfort that we have gifted them with, you understand. No matter how much they might love those others, or how stabbing the pain might be to see others suffering when the right words could irrevocably end that suffering, our Soldiers must keep silent, lest they wreck the paths of others. Most of them meet the challenge bravely, so bravely - but I have heard too many tears in the darkness to delude myself.

And so, I hope that now you know why some angels volunteer for the honorable and ancient task of easing the last moments of a human's lifespan. Understand, the fact that we embrace such a task as if it were an eager lover does not mean that we loathe them, or enjoy the feel of their final breaths. We would not have any man, woman or child die, if we could help it... but they will, and so we do what we can (and there are never enough to do the task properly) to make that passing easy, when we are not denied even that service by mechanisms that are only dimly understood, even by us. Believe us, we love them. We love them so. Please believe me when I tell you this.

This is the only way that I may deal with their pain.


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