Babette by Carol Bond

Every now and then, I remember
Loose images of what used to be
Or could be,
Or should have been.

He was a beautiful creature, sublime in faith and godly intentions with downy wings that when unfurled stretched in unworldly glory. Aarin watched her sleeping and was amazed as always how the dead could look so alive in this place of mirrors.

Babette slept as she did every night, but although a smile ghosted her pale face, a frown also sat firmly over the bridge of her nose. She would wake in the morning, like she did every day wondering why it was her sleep came away empty. No one dreamed here.

Another, also watched Babette, but not while she slept, no his interest lay in her waking hours. Shadows and trickery was his game. This creature was as ugly as sin and by far the most evil of creatures. Jabin was his name and although he was as squat as he was high on the nose, he was loyal to the cause and this meant Babette could never be allowed to remember.

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The mist rolled across the water drowning everything in its path with a fine coating of wet. Babette stood on the bank: damp curls tickled her ears as she looked at the bridge. It hung over the water, spanning its girth like a wooden snake swaying in the rising wind. Something about it, just being there frightened her so she turned her head. Looking the other way felt better: Babette didn’t know why.

Aarin waited on the corner. He felt a little sorry for this soul entrenched in the belief that her life was a steady flow of the norm, if only she could remember, if only he could make her. That was his purpose, here in this place where deception and distortion decreed the way of things. Perdition was neither here nor there, it was a world of betweens and for those that tarried too long, it was a dangerous void to be trapped in an eternal loop of denial.

Jabin waited, unlike God’s messenger who stood as a man, he hid in the shadows, dribbling acid and fingering the sizzling spit in anxious spite.

You think to win? I’d sooner shit and call it brother than let you take what’s mine. You had best not show your hand puppet for I can already see the strings your master uses to make you dance.

Aarin looked up and winked at the hellion. It hissed and shifted, angry that they both shared common thought. Jabin poked out his tongue eager for a chance to steal the prize, another soul, just one more and his days as a Collector would be dust. A black tongue split in two lashed the darkening sky, the air in this place tasted stale and as false as death, just the way he liked it. He never played fair.

Dead is dead you fool. She’s plain dead and not even you can save her. My mistress owns this soul and well you know it.

The angel ignored the jibe and set off towards Babette, he was wearing a red coat as a reminder of what had been. His was the path of truth and Aarin took each step in certain comfort knowing that the hand of god guided the way. He stepped to the left on purpose and collided with the young woman.

“My apologies miss.” His voice compelled her and as she grabbed at his red coat to advert skinned knees and elbows, Babette looked into his eyes.

Unconsciously she put a hand to her throat. Suddenly, there was no air and as the man before her, his eyes the colour of dark churning water smiled a little sadly, Babette thought of the bridge and she felt cold. It was so very cold.

Jabin spat and as the glob bounced, a malevolent splash to sway Aarin’s coaxing: it began to rain. The heavy downpour broke the tenuous link and Babette dropped her head. She was back, a suffering wretch trapped by denial.

“No…no it was my fault.” She whispered and hurried away.

The tightening in her throat eased with each sodden step, fear took its place and the rain, washed her bad dreams away. Deception was the passing storms trick and Jabin, satisfied with his handiwork scratched the festering boils on his groin.

Time did not move in Perdition. How can wily minutes be counted in a waiting room such as this one, to drag out such suffering, no such clock existed to help the dead. But still, despite this, time had a strange way of pushing itself in, making even otherworldly agents accountable. Miracles can happen in death it seems, so each lost and deluded soul was given a chance. By remembering, they ascend and by remaining in denial, they drop. It was a simple sorting order: for heaven and hell, it was a game played out to amuse their creators.

Babette ran. Her sore heart needed to feel safe. She turned a corner and stopped, there just up ahead was a young girl. Waving for her to hurry, Aarin shifted and the umbrella in the girl’s hand swayed in the rain like a beacon. There was something familiar about it, then she remembered red was her favourite colour.

Jabin cursed, You misbegotten bastard, you’re what crawled out the bucket.

With a look, the rain stopped and in its place came wind. It was sudden and sharp: it slammed into Aarin’s red umbrella and rode the wind out of sight, stolen by the demon Babette’s memory jolt disappeared into the storm.

“Too late for some.Aarin yelled over the top of the gale. You’re an ugly swine Jabin and you know it.

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The loop began again, just like it did everyday but that was okay because she couldn’t remember.

The mist rolled across the water drowning everything in its path with a fine coating of wet. Babette stood on the bank: damp curls tickled her ears as she looked at the bridge. It hung over the water, spanning its girth like a wooden snake swaying in the rising wind. Something about it, just being there frightened her and she turned her head. Looking the other way felt better, Babette didn’t know why but it just did.

She wore the red jumper she had found on waking. Babette didn’t remember putting it on her bed the night before but lately remembering wasn’t very high on her list, getting through the days was hard enough.

Jabin crawled, for as far as he was concerned it was the only way to get around, up the side of buildings, over the rooftops and anywhere else where his spotted feet didn’t have to touch the ground. This unceasing need to return to the scene of her demise was unnerving and for a creature such as a Collector, it was a little off putting. This was his last soul, the one that would clinch the end of a brilliant career.

To think that a spineless angel such as Aarin would get the better of one such as he was a crippling blow, but arrogance slights the mind, impairs even the sharpest of messengers so this filthy demon slithered on.

Blooms of red flowers appeared like a red arrow, it set the pace away from the bridge enticing Babette to walk on. He would lead her down the garden path, to another place where there would be no return. His laughter was cruel, devious, a fiery taste of what was to come. The angel shook his head and smiled, the demon was an easy read.

Babette was almost skipping when the flowers stopped, ahead was a house, not hers but another. Jabin thought to cloud her mind, ensnare her until time ran down but Aarin was not a quitter. It wasn’t easy to step into a mirror made by another, especially that of a demon, but the angel was not about to loose Babette. Stepping through bough a nasty kick that left the angel feeling sick, but he followed the pair regardless.

Jabin hated taking another’s form, it felt wrong to stoop as low as an angel to win a boon but he was desperate. On the steps of the house stood Babette’s mother, kindly looking at her approaching daughter, the demon twisted a smile onto the mask he had made. Babette hesitated, but only for a moment and then she ran, at last everything would be all right.

Aarin wanted to scold the creature, silent thoughts would have served but that would have given him away. From a corner the angel watched as Babette’s mother’s sat the beaming child down, they didn’t have long now. A fuss was made, cake and milk, all the things a young girl wanted when visiting and when Jabin, who couldn’t take another smile or fond look begged his excuse and disappeared to empty his foul bowels. Another took his place.

A young girl entered the room, pretense was an ugly way to go about things but when you are fast in a corner with nowhere to go, deception sometimes takes on a life of its own.

“Hello.” Such a sweet voice, enticing all with the snare of godliness.

Babette looked up.

Aarin took a seat beside her: he appeared to be all smiles and curls. “I like your jumper, it’s a beautiful colour. Red is my very favourite.”

“It’s mine too!”

The angel gave his guise an easy smile, a girly tag of encouragement to entice Babette into friendship.

“I live across the river.” The little girl leant forward in earnest. “In a red house. Would you like to see? Promise me you will visit.”

Sweat and the uncontrollable urge to sick up overwhelmed Babette. Where was her mother? She stared at the girl beside her and noticed that she was wearing red shoes: she closed her eyes for the colour had started to sing. It was no small deed to create a miracle for he was far from God’s touch, but Jabin would be back soon and Aarin had to hurry.

Babette rose to the song, swayed slightly and began to walk to its thrumming beat: together they left the mirror house. Aarin turned the little girl’s head, looking for the odious imp and relieved to find him missing grabbed Babette’s hand, the pair almost danced away.

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Again, the scene played out, Perdition was predictable if not anything.

The mist rolled across the water, drowning everything in its path with a fine coating of wet. Babette stood on the bank: damp curls tickled her ears as she looked at the bridge. It hung over the water, spanning its girth like a wooden snake swaying in the rising wind. Something about it, just being there frightened her and she turned her head.

The music kept playing: it flooded her ears and rose over the wind, and the lapping water. “We only have to cross the bridge, it’s just a short walk from there. You’ll see.”

Babette turned and looked at the girl, wishing she could cry with the fear inside. The little girl was now dressed in red, even the band in her hair was red but the song rang in her ears dispelling the worry and fear. She looked at the bridge swaying over the water and she hesitated.

Aarin stood beside her, clutched her hand for the e little girl had once stood in this spot. “You can do this. I’ll go first and you can see just how safe it is.” In Perdition everyone lied.

Jabin rolled on the ground scratching the itch, farting out loud and fingering those irritating boils. He didn’t hear the door close: nor the miracle at first, but as his fidgeting slowed the song hit him like a herald of bleating sheep. He vomited bouts of gassy bile covered his feet. I’ll flay that weak willed son of a bitch.

The demon bounded on all fours, racing and gathering wind, and rain as he gained speed, everything hinged on stopping this angel from collecting his soul.

As Babette moved closer to the foot of the bridge, the song gathered her up and each step came a little easier. Her heart beat faster than ever before, she looked up at Aarin on the bridge and he called to her.

“Walk a little further sister and you’ll find that soon you will be home.”

His voice became singsong and Jabin bounding like the hounds of hell in gleeful chase caught sight of the bridge and his prize. Time was dead, it had ended and he had to stop her crossing. He had to stop her from remembering.

Babette wobbled a little, two steps into it and she began to remember. Six steps along and she let out a cry.

“What have I done?” Memories slapped at her like the water against the bank, she felt dizzy as the suspension bridge swayed. Babette fell against the guard rope grappling the rough cable.

Jabin roared, guttural, he threw out his frustration and anger in that sound, it ripped the air over Babette’s head and she turned in fright. She slipped and fell.

Aarin laughed and Jabin wept, molten tears hit the ground in a sizzling fizz, Babette hit the water. She remembered. I am dead! I drowned here. Oh sweet Jesus what will I do.

You will go home Babette, Aarin’s thoughts sang the last few notes taking the pain away and, as he gathered her soul, it was Jabin’s screams that she left behind as she rode the wings of an angel home.

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15 thoughts on “Babette by Carol Bond

  1. Beautifully crafted and so imaginative. Not usually my genre but I could not fail to be impressed by your wonderful creativity. I loved Jabin and his uncouth manner by the way. Superb.

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