Fandom(s): Good Omens
Characters: Crawly, the Metatron, God
Word Count: 4042
Summary: The Host have been preparing the universe for the Almighty's Great Plan for billions of years. Now it is time to set it in motion.
Crawly floated in the darkness. It wasn’t like he could do anything else. Here, in this vacant region of the newborn universe, there was no mass to exert gravity to pull him in any direction and no light to shine on him, if he’d had a physical form at all, which he didn’t. He was an angel, a consciousness possessed of the power of Creation, called up by the Almighty to build her dominion and watch over it.
“Go out and fill the Void,” the Metatron, the Voice of God, had commanded the Host, and the Host had obeyed, as it always would. The angels had spread across the universe, painting it with stars and galaxies and nebulae and clusters. Those of the highest order had some blueprint they were following and stopped in now and then to correct the work if necessary, say, if this planet here was too tilted or that quasar was too close to that red giant. For the most part, though, the angels of the lower ranks were free to exercise their considerable powers as they pleased and Crawly enjoyed that freedom.
Today - if concepts such as “day” and “now” had any meaning at all - he surveyed the blank canvas of space before him. He spread his metaphysical wings, black as the void around him, and leapt, soaring through the emptiness. Gas and dust of all the light elements trailed from his feathers as he flew, filling a region a thousand light-years across. Coming to a stop on the edge of his creation, he puffed one last breath to imbue it with the explosive energy of a supernova and the nebula burst into life, swathes of viridian, cobalt, and orange laced with ribbons of gold painted across his vision. He considered for a moment, then dove in for one last pass through, scattering pockets of lithium everywhere. It needed a bit more red.
“Good one.” The voice sounded the moment he came to a stop. Another angel floated beside Crawly, one he hadn’t met before. That wasn’t unusual; there were twenty million angels and he doubted he’d met even a thousand of them.
“Janus. Nice colours. Bit of a waste of time, though, don’t you think? All that swooping and blowing, when you could have just thought it into existence. Then it would’ve been exactly what you wanted the first time.”
It was true. That would have been a lot easier. But Crawly’d had enough of that. He’d stamped out planets and stars from a cookie-cutter pattern of thought, thousands of times. This was more interesting. He got to play with it, to experiment with it. Crawly had conjured vast masses out of nothing and ignited them into stars, inventing new colours as he varied their densities and compositions. He had moulded lumps of clay into planets, carving seas and continents into their surfaces or cloaking them in thick shrouds of gas, and sent them skittering around their mother suns. He’d strung the galaxies other angels had created on invisible strings composed of gravity to weave a sparkling web across the entire cosmos. He was seeing what he could do.
“Yeah. But what’s time to us? We’ve got all the time there is.”
“Not anymore. Word is, the Lord has a Plan now. It’s starting, sometime soon. After all, we haven’t been building all this for nothing.”
“Oh.” He’d known this was coming. Well, to be honest everyone had. They were angels; how could they not? No one knew what the Lord’s Plan was, but once the order came down to enact it, they’d all take their places, assume the roles they’d been created to fill, whatever they were. Crawly wondered if it was going to be half as fun as this. Probably not. They weren’t in this for fun. But he was sure it was going to be interesting. It was going to be different. “How long we got, you think?”
“Not long. Seven million years. Ten at the outside.”
“Ehh. Plenty of time. Well, enough so’s a couple thousand to make this barely scratches it.”
“You’ve just wasted more time than that telling me I shouldn’t waste the time.”
“I’m on break. Heading upstairs for refreshment. Come with? A bunch of us are hanging out on the terrace above the Medusa Merger. Gorgeous view. And I hear Lucifer’s going to join us for a bit.”
Crawly hesitated, staring back at his new nebula. He hadn’t actually taken a break for a good billion years, though he had to admit that even back then, he’d been disappointed. Heaven had felt a bit sterile and stale, as if the angels assigned to keeping house were just going through the motions. On the other hand, he rarely got a chance to see anyone else. The universe was a big place, even to an angel, and with only twenty million of them scattered across it, your closest colleague’s workstation was at least a thousand light-years away. He had time. He could take a break.
“Yeah. Think I will. I’m done with this one. I can -”
On the other hand, sometimes space was too crowded. “Metatron,” he addressed the newcomer, then added to Janus, “You go on. I’ll catch up.” In the blink of a non-existent eye, Janus was gone.
“I have come to see how you are doing, how your work is progressing. Quite fine, by the looks of it.”
“Yup. Just finished this one, in fact.”
“No problems, then? No concerns to report?”
Crawly considered. He honestly wasn’t too happy that another angel of the same rank had come to meddle in his work, but that was between him and Janus, if he ever saw her again. Besides, if he mentioned it, the Metatron might agree he was doing it all wrong and order him back in line. Best to say nothing, then. He supposed he could complain about the amenities in Heaven, but that was likely far below the notice of the Voice of God. “Nah. Everything’s perfectly fine.”
“Good, good. I have been checking in with every angel. We shall be launching the Great Plan soon and I wish to make sure that everyone is properly prepared.”
“Yeah, I heard that, actually, just a bit ago.” Then, he dared to ask a question of the highest of the angels. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, after all. “Could I ask, what is the Great Plan, anyway? What’s going to happen?”
“The Almighty shall write the Plan, and all will be revealed at a time of her choosing.”
“Of course she will. But you must know what the Plan is, being the Voice of God and all. Can’t you give me a hint? I’m just wondering what the point of all this is.”
The Metatron was silent for a moment of a thousand years. “It is dangerous to ask of matters which do not concern you, Crawly. You are an angel of the lowest order, and you were created that way for a reason. You should be more circumspect. However, I may tell you some of the Plan, and a little understanding will help you prepare for the events that are to come.”
“Thank you, lord.”
“Do not thank me. I do you no favours.” The Metatron paused for the angelic equivalent of clearing his throat. “The Almighty has selected a world, the third one orbiting that star, in fact,” and a tiny pinprick of light in the darkness pulsed brightly twice. “On that world, she will create a new race of beings she calls ‘humans’. They will not possess power or knowledge as we do, but she will gift them something she denied to us: freedom of choice. Their world will last six thousand years, and over that period, she will test them, to see what they make of their gift.”
As he listened, Crawly stared at that distant star, trying to picture this fledgling race, opening its eyes for the first time and trying to make sense of the world around them. They would have no ability to shape their world beyond the bounds of the laws of physics, and they would need to fight for even the most basic understanding of the universe and themselves. But they would be able to forge their own path, at least for six thousand years…
“What do you mean by ‘test them’?” he blurted before his sense of self-preservation remembered who he was talking to.
“She will challenge them, place obstacles in their path, present them with quandaries, and see what they do.”
“‘See what they do’? Meaning, see if they make the right choices.”
“Yes. And she will reward them when they do.”
“And if they don’t? If they pick the wrong thing?”
“Then she will punish them.”
“And you’re going to tell them the rules, right? So they know what’s right and what’s wrong?”
“They do not need to be told the rules. They will know them, if they look in their hearts.”
“How is that a fair test? How can anyone be expected to choose the right thing when they don’t know which is which?”
“Are you questioning the wisdom of the Almighty, Crawly?”
The threat in the Metatron’s voice was unmistakable, and Crawly shuddered, sending ripples through the nearby nebula. “No. No, I’m not. I was just wondering…” He stopped again, before he talked himself into his own doom. “What will be our role in this, when the Plan is set in motion? What will I be doing?”
“We will be guiding them, gently, showing them the preferred path. They will make their own choices, but we will help them along, if they wish to let us.”
It still seemed a bit iffy to Crawly, but what could he do? “I guess that’s all right then.”
“Will that be all?”
“Actually…” This probably wasn’t a good idea, but he’d never get another chance. “There’s something else I’d like to ask, if it’s okay.”
“Why was I created this way?”
“You said, I was created this way for a reason. What was the reason?”
“There was only one reason for the creation of the angels of your order, Crawly. You were created to serve.”
Crawly floated amidst his nebula for quite some time after the Metatron departed, sulking in his existential crisis. Up to now, he’d enjoyed his life, shaping the universe for some heretofore unknown purpose. He’d always served, always did what he was told, happily and eagerly, and even now, the idea of serving, of being the lowest of the low, didn’t bother him one bit. That’s what he was and what he did. The thing was, why did he have all these questions? He shouldn’t; angels and servitors do not question their superiors, and no one else seemed to. No one else asked what would happen if he crafted a star of fluorine and boron instead of the usual hydrogen. (Nothing, by the way. Those elements just wouldn’t fuse properly, and he’d spent a century cleaning up a dead mass of dust.) No one else wondered why they’d created a whole universe just for the benefit of one little world on the edge of an unremarkable galaxy. No one else thought it was unfair to hold a race up to standards they didn’t know.
He had few answers, and he expected eternity would pass before he gained any more. One thing he did know, though, one thing that had been made perfectly clear to him was that asking questions would only get him into trouble. He needed to learn to keep his big mouth shut.
“I really need that break,” he murmured to no one at all. Perhaps the guys were still up on the terrace, and it would really help to take his mind off things. There was still plenty of time to get back and maybe swirl up a new galaxy before the Great Plan kicked off. It’s not like anything ever came up to interrupt the Lord’s work.
The woman sat on a grassy hill under a bright yellow sun. With one foot propped hard against a rock, she had an arm curled around her folded other leg, holding it firmly so she could inspect the sole of the foot. With her free hand, she poked under the arch with her thumb, then bent and wiggled each toe. She dropped the foot, then rolled over and scratched at her buttock.
“What do you think?” she asked the thin air as she jumped to her feet.
“About what, Lord?” the thin air replied.
“This is what they’re going to look like, the humans. Well, almost. I might make a few more minor adjustments before we start.” She splayed her hands in front of herself and gazed at her fingers. “I’m not sure I like this five-finger thing. Four might be better, though if I do that, then they’ll probably count in base eight and I don’t want to make things that easy for them, so I suppose five is best. I do like the dark skin, though, very striking and elegant, especially with the white eyes, and that’ll protect them from the sun, but they’ll lose this pigmentation easily if they don’t watch out. And, oh!” She hopped up and down in place. “These feet are perfect. Makes them stand full upright, which I like, but so poorly designed they’ll have to establish an entire industry to keep them from breaking.” She stood up and twirled on the spot, then swept her mass of curly black hair back. “So, Metatron, what do you think?”
“It is serviceable,” came the answer.
“Do you like it?”
“I do not like or dislike it, Lord.”
“Either way, you’re going to have to get used to it. Go on, take a body. Show me your variant on this.”
A proud, strong male with light, aged skin, a kindly face, and short white hair materialised in front of her. As soon as he solidified, he stretched his arms and legs and flexed his fingers, acclimatising himself to a physical body for the first time since he was drawn from the darkness.
“Very nice.” The woman’s smile was brighter than the sun above her. “I’m liking this form better and better. Come. Sit with me and tell me the news. Oh, but first.” She stopped him from sitting down with a touch, then a large blanket appeared at her feet, covering the grass. “This’ll be more comfortable. Grass irritates bare skin. Another thing they’ll have to figure out how to get around.”
They sat down together on the blanket. The woman crossed her legs and laid her hands in her lap, whilst the man shifted several times, trying to figure out how this body bent and folded to best effect. He finally settled for setting his legs out in front of him, knees bent and arms resting on them.
“You’ve finished your rounds, then.”
“And how are the Host?”
“They are exactly as you already know, Lord. Lucifer continues to sow his discontent. He has quite a few followers amongst the higher orders, but he is now targeting the lowest orders by championing advancement in the ranks. It is quite an effective tactic, convincing each angel that he deserves a higher order than he was created for.”
“The word for that concept is ‘ambition’, Metatron. Lucifer is well-acquainted with it, for without it, he could not wield his power effectively and command the Host.”
“But it has also made him turn against you.”
“Yes, it has. Isn’t this existence I’ve built lovely?” She laughed. “Go on. Tell me the rest.”
“There is not much more to tell. Lucifer believes that if he gathers a large enough army, he can defeat what Host is left and challenge you directly.”
“And what do you think his chances of that are?”
“Well, if he gains a majority of the Host, then I expect what angels are left will not be able to stand up to him. However, I do not for a moment believe that he can hope to defeat you, no matter the size of his army.”
“Thank you for your confidence, Metatron. How close is he to gaining a majority, do you think?”
“Close. I should say nearly half of the Host support him, in word if not in deed.”
“Mm. Then I shall have to do something about it. I do love my angels, you know, even ones that turn their backs on me. I don’t want any of them to be hurt.”
“What will you do, then?”
“Oh, that’s easy. Cast them out. If they don’t like their lot in Heaven, then they may go elsewhere and create their own. I expect they will find it isn’t as easy as it looks. And those of the Host that remain behind, they will count their blessings.”
“If I may ask a question, Lord?”
“How will this affect the Great Plan? You will have half the angels you expected overseeing its execution, and with free rein, Lucifer’s lot may interfere. You may not be able to test the humans as you hoped.”
The woman smiled. “Don’t worry, Metatron. It’s fine. The Great Plan shall proceed as I always intended. Even you don’t know the whole Plan yet, but it’ll be made clear when the time comes.”
He nodded in deference. “Very good, Lord.”
“Is there anything else?”
The one drawback of a body when you’re not used to having one is that you won’t know that emotions show plainly on the face and that you have to consciously stop them if you don’t want them to show. The woman saw the man glance away and his brow knit as he pronounced his words, and she laughed in delight.
“Oh, yes, that is exactly how I want these bodies to work! You’ll need to learn to control your facial expressions if you want to lie to me convincingly.” She was rewarded for that with a flush of colour across the man’s cheeks and neck.
“It is not a lie, Lord,” he tried to explain. “I simply do not think this paltry matter is worth your attention.”
“And yet it’s important enough to make you worry.”
“I do not worry. It is not significant.”
“Tell me, Metatron.”
The man could not ignore a direct command from his sovereign. “I am... concerned about one of the angels I spoke with earlier. I’m afraid he may be getting a bit beyond himself.”
“Oh, in what way?”
“He asked about the Great Plan, about what will happen and what his role will be.”
“And you told him, I hope.”
“I told him everything you told me, Lord.”
“Good. No angel should be denied the knowledge you possess, Metatron.”
“As you command. However, he was not content with receiving this boon.”
“Really?” she drawled. If the man had had any experience reading the expressions of the human body, he would have known she was not surprised. “In what way?”
“He doubted your wisdom, Lord. He questioned if it is ‘fair’ to test the humans in this manner.”
“He did, did he? And you did not destroy him on the spot?”
“No. It is not my place to mete out punishment. When I pressed him, he withdrew his objections, but you see why I am concerned. Loss of faith will destroy an angel from the inside.”
“I see. Well, you handled it correctly, have no fear on that front. I’ll decide for myself if I’ve been slighted, and take my own revenge if necessary. Which angel was it?”
“Crawly. No one of any significance.”
The woman clucked her tongue. “All of my children are significant, Metatron.”
“I apologise, Lord,” the man intoned as he bowed his head.
“What about the others? Any of them ask any questions?”
“Not even a hint of doubt in any of my commands and decisions?”
“Pity,” she murmured, then mused on the name, “Crawly. He is not one of Lucifer’s.”
“No,” the man replied, though she hadn’t asked a question. “Not yet, but I suspect he may be soon. When I encountered him, Janus had been at him.”
“Well,” she stated brightly and clapped her hands on her thighs, “I will save her the trouble and cast Crawly out with the rest of them.” She pondered for a moment, then looked quite pleased with herself. “Yes. That is quite a tidy solution. Once he is banished from Heaven, he may ask all the questions he wants.”
“Very good, Lord.”
The woman leapt to her feet and danced across the grass, whirling and capering around the blanket and the man. Her excitement shone in her wide eyes and shining smile. “It’s finally starting, Metatron. Soon, the first two humans - my first two mortal children - will open their eyes, not far from here, actually.”
The man stood up and spun in place to watch her dance. “It will be interesting to see what they make of their lives.”
“Funny you should say that. They say life is a test, you know.”
“‘They’ do? Who are ‘they’?”
“Oh, the humans. They will say it, that life’s a test, because that’s how they will think. They’ll try to come to terms with the misfortunes that befall them by saying that life is a test, as though someone is doing it all to them just to judge them. Which, I suppose, is ultimately true, though they won’t know that. Funny how that all comes back around.” She turned and strode back to the man, wagging a finger at him. “The thing is, what that all really means is that you can be tested, you could spend your entire life as the subject of someone’s experiment, without ever knowing you were. What do you think of that?”
“I do not have an opinion about it either way.”
“No, you wouldn’t, would you?” She gave the man’s cheek a condescending pat, then rubbed the fingers that had touched him together, testing out the feel. “Facial hair. Must add facial hair that grows quickly, so it’s a daily chore to tend. Just for the males, though. The females will already have it far worse.” She clapped happily, then bopped the man lightly on the nose with the tip of a finger. “You know, there are other definitions of the word ‘test’, as well. A teacher tests her students to see if they’ve learnt what she’s tried to teach them. In that case, only the student who has learnt the lesson well will pass, and the rest will fail.”
“This is the aim of the Great Plan, is it not?”
“In essence, yes. I do love all of my children, and I want them all to pass. But you know, even if only one passes, one out of the whole universe, all of this will have been worth it.”
“Come now. We’ve got work to do. You must gather the Host so that I may break the bad news. Be sure that Lucifer’s at the front. I don’t want to miss his reaction.” Her sparkling laughter pealed across the hillside, down into the Garden below. With the smile still playing on her lips, she took the man’s hand. “Now, you must understand, they won’t go quietly and this shall be a dark time in Heaven, but when it’s all calmed down and Lucifer’s off somewhere trying to placate ten million disgraced angels, I will write the Great Plan for all to see and that will be the Beginning of something wonderful.”
The man bowed deep. “The Host of Heaven is at the service of your eternal wisdom, Lord. We will labour to bring the Great Plan to fruition.”
“Of course you will.” She peered at the man and chewed on the tip of her thumb. “Tell me, Metatron, have you ever played poker?”
“I do not know what that is, Lord.”
The woman smiled and took the man’s arm, gently guiding him down the hill. “Excellent. It is a game, Metatron, a game of cards and wagering. We shall have to play sometime. I’ll deal.”