The Unworthy Prophet | Flash Fiction

Anyone with an inkling of understanding for how the world works knows that humankind is capable of infinitely more than it demonstrates on a daily basis. Unless one managed to find themselves in possession of The Black Pages – the magical equivalent of The Yellow Pages, albeit working on an international and interdimensional basis – the exact nature of the world would likely be a mystery.

Aaron Basquel was not aware of the existence of The Black Pages, or the magical practices it exposed, when he was visited by an angel. It was, of course, a dream; most people cannot survive the sight of an angel, the arrival of one in their immediate vicinity, or the sound of an angel’s voice. Angels, for their part, are usually not fond of the smell of humans. If they were capable of expressing emotions in the same way humans were, Aaron’s middle-of-the-night odour would have resulted in a three-house radius of destruction from the ensuing smiting.

Dreams were safer, and their memory temporary. Aaron awoke to the sensation of having been vaguely threatened and absolutely charged with responsibility. He did not enjoy it. The fleeting memory of the dream contained an angel with no name, and the word Prophet, repeated and, somehow, in large letters.

He could not argue with the dream, and he had not argued with the angel. Instead, while sitting over a bowl of children’s cereal, he willed the ocean of milk to part. He was the nineteenth Prophet to test their newfound title in this manner since the dawn of the Cereal Age. It was around this time that Aaron came to realise that his power came from Beyond, and not from himself, and that the angels observing his action – as well as being somewhat different to angels as described in the Bible – were not all pleased with his parting of the milk.

All of this knowledge, and more, flooded his brain at once. The dream, like a rubber band stretched to its limit, snapped back into his head. “Damn it,” he said to himself. The milk flowed over the edge of the bowl, drenching the table and littering it with candied wheat.

He was not upset over the cereal. Rather, Aaron had remembered why he had been made to Prophesise: there was an Apocalypse coming, complete with Riders.

***

The nature of the end of the world was not known to Aaron, and it did not matter. Despite his acceptance of the role – he was sure that Dream Aaron had been drunk at the time – he was not going to speak of the End Times.

Instead, he chose to be a Prophet in every other aspect of the role.

Despite failing to complete his undergraduate studies in the Arts, within a week Aaron was considered the foremost expert on sudden and radical health improvements. This was a local phenomenon, of course, as few people in his small town in the Midwest were confident enough to speak openly about the healing of their various cancers, broken bones, or bedroom-related diseases and infections.

It did little to spread the word of the coming Apocalypse, but the angels saw it as – what they had come to understand as the only magic most humans were capable of – a marketing technique.

Aaron’s healing business, while booming, had limited growth potential. He turned to fishing when no one needed healing, catching a single fish worth eating in a single afternoon. He found a buyer, and sold them that same fish a thousand times. The next week, when sales of locally sourced fish prompted both higher orders and an inquiry into the protection of wildlife in the area, Aaron supplied ten thousand fish, and proof that the species was safe.

The angels saw this, expecting word about the coming Apocalypse to follow, and waited.

The Prophet then took to larger, and chancier, goals, implementing that one true power of Prophets that people thought they were renowned for: he looked into the future. Specifically, he looked at the winning lottery numbers for several local, regional and national lotteries, and played the numbers as casually and certainly as he sold a hundred thousand identical fish to a buyer who was only too happy to have his athlete’s foot cured.

The angels watched Aaron collect his winnings, and keep his mouth shut. They had a meeting about it. They followed that up with a mingle, utterly incapable of getting drunk, but giving it their best shot, and then had another meeting. They decided not to smite the entire town. If they had been impossibly drunk, the Midwest would have otherwise gained itself a brand new smoking crater.

Instead, the angels took to reverse engineering Aaron Basquel’s success.

His lottery tickets, they decided, would be fraudulent. The numbers, when inspected at a whim, had been changed after the draw. They still didn’t understand how.

While the various lottery companies came to him for their money back, an outbreak of food poisoning took the nation. One hundred and eleven thousand fish had, it turned out, been toxic. Despite the fact that many people had long-since digested their meal, every single person who had eaten Aaron’s multiplied fish was admitted to hospital with simultaneously activating symptoms.

He was almost chased out of town, and would have been actually been followed as he sped away if the entire town hadn’t become immediately injured or infected in the exact way they had been previously, though the pity of angels had turned terminal cancers into merely bad cancers.

The town lost him, and he lost the town, but the angels had their eyes on him, always.

When it was confirmed that there would be no witnesses, they surrounded him in the dead of night, as he slept in his cat. It was spring, and it was cold, and the sky was dark. There were no stars; the angels forbade it that night.

He did not wake up screaming while the angels smote him. There was no time.

——

This story relates to A Death in the Family, in which a young man takes on a job as Grim Reaper to help pay off his parents’supernatural mortgage.

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About Paul Carroll

Paul Carroll is a writer, born, raised and still living in Dublin. By day he's a student and bookseller, by night he writes fiction and uses social media.
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