In Chapter 20 of Seven Archangels: Annihilation, you get the line that all my pre-readers commented on, and one book reviewer. As usual with these entries, there are spoilers beneath.
It’s not my favorite moment in the chapter, but since everyone comments on it, I’ll include it. Catholics laugh; non-Christians think it’s sweet; Protestant Christians feel uncomfortable and can’t articulate why.
Mary spatulaed the cookies onto a cooling rack and then handed two to Jesus. He grinned. “Thanks, Mom.”
It’s that homey, family sense which creates the different reactions in everyone who reads. A couple of Protestant pre-readers asked me to change Mom to something else, but then even while they were asking, they admitted it was accurate. It just seemed too familiar. I think it’s human.
The entire chapter is full of moments I love, actually. There’s a sense of relief about two of the major story-lines at this point, Gabriel’s and Remiel’s, even as Israfel’s story arc steps into high gear and Mephistopheles’ story is at its nadir. You have this moment for Remiel:
She huddled over herself and brought her wings between herself and Jesus. He stroked the outermost feathers, but she pulled tighter. “Don’t touch me. I’m wretched.”
“You were in pain.”
“Everyone’s in pain.”
Remiel makes no excuses for herself. And really, which of us hasn’t felt (even momentarily) that we’re too wretched even for God to touch?
There’s Michael’s shock at realizing Gabriel (always a Cherub) was helping Mephistopheles with annihilation theory right before Mephistopheles implemented it; and Raphael’s reaction (“He was trying to kill you, so it might have benefitted you not to help him.”) There’s the entire sequence where Jesus and Gabriel discuss the construction of a soul. And one of my pre-readers cheered when Israfel walks out on Gabriel.
Chapter twenty-one begins with Mephistopheles contemplating the spiritual equivalent of suicide. After the events of chapter nineteen, he’s got nothing left. Satan’s interaction with him is interesting to me (as the writer — his character never behaved for me, but what should I expect?) because usually Satan understands exactly what motivates his subordinates, but Mephistopheles’ despair has him baffled. He offers Mephistopheles whatever he wants, and Mephistopheles hisses, “Nothing!” He wants, literally, nothing. Not to be. Which Satan doesn’t want him to have, as it loses him an important player. Therefore he resorts to taunting.
This at least gets a reaction, and he can work with that. Mephistopheles attacks him.
Surprised and thrilled, Lucifer flashed right in front of him. There’s my Cherub!
Again, he’s not behaving for me; I strongly suspect Satan as an unbonded Seraph was reacting to Mephistopheles more than he wanted to, and he finds it thrilling. When he’s got Mephistopheles crazed, Satan immobilizes him and brings out his other weapon (fear) and orders Mephistopheles to find a solution to his own problem.
Finally, one last moment from chapter twenty-one:
Michael and Raphael were in the middle of discussing preventative tactics when Raphael’s eyes lit, fire surged around him, and he vanished.
Saraquael drew back. “Well, that doesn’t look good.”
Now I want cookies! May I pray for cookies? 😉