When he looked, it wasn’t there.
Gabriel took a seat on the edge of a cloud, dangled his legs off the edge and buried his head in his hands. Around him, the class buzzed with excited A.I.T (Angels in Training) who were about to get their big wings; they’d seen it.Gabriel had failed. This would mean getting held back a year… again.His Junior Wings felt his sadness and drooped at the tips.
As the sky turned to dark grey between the slats of cloud, a figure crossed the horizon to approach the boy who still wallowed in his disappointment.
“Didn’t see it, huh?”
The voice vibrated off every surface until its repeating sounds danced in the air. Gabriel wiped the tears from his face and looked up through puffy eyes at the stranger. He was a balding man in his early forties with round glasses pushed close to his eyes, instead of wearing wings he’d wrapped himself in a white blanket that appeared to have been fashioned from the clouds.
“Nope. Didn’t see it. Didn’t hear the voice last time either, but I’m trying… I guess I’m just not cut out for the big wings.”
With the last word Gabriel’s tears returned, painting darker droplets on the clouds beneath him. The man sat beside him, draping the edge of his blanket around them both.
“What d’you want most in the world? Is it your wings?”
“Maybe it doesn’t. Humour an old stranger?”
“I guess not my wings… I want people to be loved most of all. But I can’t do that without my wings.”
“Sure you can.”
The man reached inside of his cape and pulled something out, keeping it clutched inside of his hand. He opened his palm and held a minute key out to Gabriel. It emitted a slight glow and quivered when he picked it up and examined its every angle.
“When everyone else looked as instructed, you hesitated. Not out of disinterest or laziness but you saw something, what did you see?”
“How d’you know that?”
“What did you see, Gabriel?”
“A little girl, crying. She’d torn her wing.”
“So I went to help her, showed her where her teacher was.”
“And then you were late back. You didn’t see it.”
“No, and now I’m going to get moved back a year. Who are you anyway? How d’you know my name?”
“I’m what everyone saw of course. But you stopped to help someone in need, to be kind and loving. That’s more important than blind obedience.”
Gabriel turned the key over in his hand and smiled.
“Really?” He turned back to the man.
But when he looked, he wasn’t there.
While trawling through magazines and prompt books looking for inspiration I found this, an old competition that has since ended. The challenge to begin and end a story with the line ‘when he looked, it wasn’t there’. I’ve changed the word ever so slightly but this is what I’ve come up with. It’s turned out sounding a little deep and religious but it wasn’t really meant that way at all. I guess Gabriel and the mysterious man took over their story this time…