Guardian of the Watchtower—Silent City
The Angels were hard at work trying to lift the eternal rainfall caused by human tears. It was night, and one Angel strolled through the streets; he was taking an extended break from lifting sadness from humans. The Angel was called Benjamin, and he was relatively new to the game of curing sadness.
He made his way through the claustrophobic city. Skyscrapers were packed next to supermarkets, clothing outlets, and adult stores.
The rain splashed against the stony ground and Benjamin’s boots sloshed through the rain. Even at night, the city was bustling. Benjamin saw a ramen stand with an awning shielding customers from the rain on the strip just a mile away. When he was close enough, he saw a very pretty woman sitting at the stand, crossing her legs. She had dyed her hair blue and was dressed inappropriately for the weather. She was wearing a blue hat and a sheer dress with shorts and a tank top under it.
Once he arrived, he put away his umbrella and sat down on a stool in front of the stand. He ordered, and then he looked to his side.
The woman he saw earlier leaned her cheek upon her hand and blinked slowly. She took a sip of her beer and noticed Benjamin staring at her. “Something you want?”
He said sloppily, “you’re really pretty…”
The woman shook her head with a little smile and looked away.
Benjamin looked away and waited for his noodles, embarrassed.
After a moment, the woman turned towards him, “Did you mean that?” She asked plainly.
“Yeah…” He chuckled, breaking the ice.
The woman took a swig of her beer and raised her eyebrows with a knowing smile. “Why?”
Benjamin had no idea. He saw her from afar and she’d drawn his attention. That was all. “You’re gorgeous.”
The server behind the counter put the carton of ramen in front of him and he ate it while glancing at his new acquaintance.
“You really don’t remember who I am, do you, cutie?” The woman asked suddenly.
“Have we met?” Benjamin asked, around a mouthful of noodles.
“Yeah, we’ve met, baby… We lived inside your head together for a long time.” The woman said with a coy smile.
Benjamin laughed a little. “What are you.—?”
But he was silent, then. He remembered this woman, indeed. “Annalissa?”
“That’s me…” She rotated and faced him, leaning over. “Don’t you remember why you nailed that mask to your face, baby?”
He remembered her, but not everything. He remembered her face and flashes of memory, but he didn’t remember living inside his head with her. “I…”
“I’ve seen you naked—don’t you think I’d also be able to see through your mask? I know you’re an Angel. Why else would you nail that thing to your face?” Annalissa winked.
The people sitting around them were looking at them. Benjamin was embarrassed. “I’m not an Angel…”
She raised an eyebrow and whispered. “Come on. Who do you think you’re talking to?” Benjamin nodded, looking about fearfully. “Fine I am. Just be quiet.”
Annalissa took out a lighter and a cigarette and said, “mmhm.”
“How do you mean we lived inside my head?” The rain was coming down all the harder and the people around them were leaving.
Annalissa was silent as she smoked her cigarette. She was thinking intently about something. “I gotta go, baby. It’s getting cold. Do you wanna come with me?”
Benjamin didn’t know. Something told him if he went with her, he would be hurt immeasurably. But she had him. Every movement she had made, every word she had said while they were talking, coaxed him into going with her.
“I’ll come with you.” He said uncertainly.
They each paid for what they had bought, and then Annalissa climbed down from her stool and took out an umbrella from her bag. Benjamin put his own up.
Annalissa led him around a street corner to her car parked parallel to the sidewalk.
Benjamin got in on the passenger’s side, and Annalissa got in on the driver’s side.
Rain smothered Annalissa’s windshield as she drove. She said to Benjamin, “So, what are you doing with yourself these days, cutie?”
“Call me Benjamin… I do what all Angels do.”
Annalissa glanced at him, and then back at the road—waiting for a red light to turn green. “Still curing humans of depression to lift the rain, huh?”
Benjamin nodded. “That’s right.”
Annalissa frowned deeply for a moment before saying, “Are you still working for that Harris Angel?”
“Yeah, he’s still a jackass.” Benjamin snorted with a smile.
Analissa drove through the light as it turned green and answered, “I’m sorry I almost blew your cover earlier, baby. I forgot that Angels need to keep their identities hidden. When do you have to report to the Watchtower?”
“At midnight—we have time.” Benjamin replied.
Annalisa took him to a large house out in a gated community. The rain was coming down even harder than usual. Annalissa stepped out of her car and Benjamin followed her. She climbed up on the stairs leading to her front door that was painted pink. Her front yard was big; she owned a lot of land. Benjamin wondered what she did, and then he suddenly remembered she was actually a famous actress.
Annalissa opened the front door and waited for Benjamin to step in first. Benjamin stared blankly. He wanted to go in, but he also didn’t.
“You don’t want to come in?” Annalissa blinked, surprised. “Don’t be shy.”
She held out a hand. He took it slowly.
He stepped out of the rain and drank in the extravagant sights of the house. The whole thing had white carpeting with gold trim and was spotless. To his left was the living room, and to his right was the kitchen, and in front of him were stairs leading to the second floor. There was not a piece of furniture in the house that wasn’t arranged to perfection and didn’t go with the rich, white and gold theme of the house.
Annalissa tossed her purse to the side and then took Benjamin’s trench coat off and hung it up on the coat hanger next to the door.
“Go sit down in the living room. I’ll grab you something to drink.” Annalissa padded into the kitchen and Benjamin walked into the spacious living room and looked about. He spun around and looked at the whole room. There were plenty of incredible, painted portraits of Annalissa up on the wall; but there were also, strangely, many pictures of movie stars hung up. Most surprisingly of all; there was a big, black and white picture of Benjamin up on the wall above her flat screen TV.
Annalissa strolled into the living room with two wine glasses in her hands. She saw Benjamin staring at the picture of him hanging on the wall. She handed him a wine glass.
“It’s just table wine, but you never minded…” Annalissa said.
“What the hell is this?” Benjamin asked, pointing at the picture.
“It’s you, obviously…” Annalissa replied.
“Tell me what’s going on here?” Benjamin demanded, planting his hands on his hips. “You said you lived in my head? Are you crazy?”
“No, cutie. I mean… I was your therapist. I get numbers mixed up sometimes. Hey, come here, sit with me…” Annalissa sat on the couch in front of the flat screen and Benjamin sat next to her.
Annalissa took a sip of her wine and said, “You came to me some time ago saying you were having issues on your mission to cure humanity of sadness and lift this eternal rain. You said you had lost the passion… I treated you for sixteen weeks, and then I tore up my license for you.”
Benjamin raised an eyebrow. “What…?”
“I fell in love with you. You were pretty flirtatious, though. Not saying you didn’t tempt me. I always had this dream of being an actress, so I did that instead. More money in it, but less stimulating.” Annalissa shrugged.
“Why don’t I remember this?” Benjamin demanded, standing up.
“Baby, you told me your Angel friends can wipe your memory whenever they want. You wandered off one night and you didn’t come back. I think your friends abducted you.” Annalissa explained.
“Then why… Why didn’t you come to find me?” Benjamin shook his head confusedly.
“You were nowhere to be found. Maybe you should examine your friends’ halos… God I missed you…” Annalissa was frowning. “I thought I’d never see you again. I’ll answer any of your questions. Sit back down…”
Annalissa grabbed his wrist and pulled him down next to her. She looked into his eyes that were hidden by the mask. “I wish you hadn’t nailed that thing to your face, though… That other reality really scared you, huh?”
Benjamin had no idea what was going on. He felt like he had walked into a horror film. But this woman must have known him—how else would she know the things she knew. “You haven’t… told anyone, have you?”
Annalissa shook her head. “I’d never tell anyone that you’re an Angel.”
“Then—why would I come to you for help?” Benjamin asked.
“I told you. Because the amount of rain you were lifting from the world was pitiful. You were afraid you were making no progress.” Annalissa explained.
“And you believed me? Humans would never believe me…” Benjamin was doubtful.
Annalissa shook her head. “Of course not. Not at first, but… when you got done explaining it, it just seemed to make sense.”
“How sad did I seem?” Benjamin wondered.
Annalissa crossed her arms and looked away. “Miserable. But the truth is, you were sent to me by a doctor. You kept complaining of this thudding pain behind your eyes, but there was no medical explanation. We all thought it was psychological. When you told me you were an Angel; you made it known it was really painful to grow new eyes like Angels do. Later on, you told me iron was the only way to stop new eyes from growing. It’s partly why you nailed the mask to your face.”
That made a little more sense. Being in extreme physical pain would have made him try anything to relieve it.
Benjamin was in shock, however. He had learned many startling things in just a few minutes. He stood up, his back facing her, and said, “I gotta go.”
Annalissa frowned. “Don’t go… I gave up everything for you.”
Benjamin turned around. She was crying. Her makeup was running, and she was hugging her stomach for comfort.
She was incredibly alluring. That was what he remembered about her.
It was hot and summery, despite the constant downpour of rain. She was wearing shorts. She crossed her long, bare, legs while leaning forward and asked, “How long have you been feeling this way?”
He was staring at her legs, and when she noticed, he quickly looked at her eyes instead. “Weeks.”
She never wore shorts in their sessions after that.
He didn’t know whether she was deliberately trying to attract him or not, but every move she made hooked him. He leaned over and looked her right in the eyes. “Don’t cry, baby…”
He kissed her.
Benjamin fell asleep in her arms and woke up to look at his watch. It was almost midnight. He quickly put his clothes back on and headed out the door. He was almost late for his meeting.
The Watchtower was a little ways away. Benjamin called a cab and asked the driver to take him to the edge of the city; that’s where the Watchtower was. At the edge of the city by the ocean.
The cab driver dropped him off there and Benjamin headed inside. The inside was full of Angels, sitting on the upper level of the watchtower. They were all Guardians of the Watchtower, bidden by a higher purpose to look after humanity.
The leader of them was called Harris, and he was the only one at the bottom of the watchtower. He glared at Benjamin. “Late again? Sleeping with some slut?”
Benjamin made a face. Harris seemed to know everything about all of them. It was creepy. “Whatever you say.”
“Benjamin, if I see you doing that again, I won’t let you be an Angel any longer. You know it isn’t allowed.” Harris said.
Benjamin gulped and frowned. The Angels all had this obsession with purity. You were allowed three strikes and then you were out. Benjamin had already used up two of his.
Benjamin headed up the stairs of the Watchtower and sat on the upper level with the other Angels.
Once all the Angels were settled, Harris said loud and clear for everyone to hear, “it’s been a pretty bad year. We’ve only lifted an inch of rain. You all need to be working harder…”
Benjamin listened in and out. It was mostly the same monthly speech he always gave, but far more serious and threatening sounding. Benjamin sighed. He knew he had to step up his game. He had only helped one person feel more happy this year.
After his spiel, Harris would call each of them down individually and give them a status report on how they were doing. He would give glowing reports to all the other Angels, but with Benjamin he would be overly harsh. Today was no exception.
“What the hell have you been doing, Benjamin? You’ve only helped one person? Get your head out of the clouds and help us lift this infernal rain! If you don’t help three more people by next month, you’ll be in trouble! I’ll be checking on you daily. Come back tomorrow at the same time.”
Benjamin frowned. Truth be told, he was going through a hard time in his life. He couldn’t find the passion to want to help humans.
Benjamin walked outside of the Watchtower and put up his umbrella again. Like the other Angels, he had no money, and therefore, nowhere to stay. He found a bench under a tree and fell asleep.
“Benjamin, wake up!” Someone shook his shoulder.
Benjamin sat up straight and wiped the sleep out of his eyes. He was looking at another man his age who was also carrying an umbrella and wearing a trench coat. “Who are you…?”
“Goddammit Benjamin—get the hell up!” The man gruffly grabbed Benjamin’s arm and forced him to get up. “You went missing for years and this is how you greet me?”
Benjamin blinked and made a face and repeated, “Who are you?”
“I’m your brother! I can’t believe I found you… The police were on your case for as long as they could be, and you just turn up on a bench one day?”
Benjamin laughed a little. “I don’t have a brother… Sorry.”
Benjamin wrested his arm free and tried to walk away, but his supposed brother groaned and yelled, “Benjamin, if you don’t come with me, I swear to God, I’m calling the police.”
“Go ahead, what can they arrest me for?” Benjamin asked.
“For being a fucking nutjob! I could have you committed to a psych ward if I wanted to!” The man did look like him… But he was not an Angel, so they couldn’t be related.
But Benjamin did wonder how the man knew who he was. “What’s your name?”
“Benjamin, you know who I am. I’m Terry. Now come home before you hurt yourself again. You scared Annalissa half to death when you nailed that thing to your face.” Terry said.
Benjamin didn’t know what he was talking about; but his Angel senses revealed something spectacular to him. This man he was looking at was horribly depressed, which was good news for Benjamin.
Benjamin said to him, “Okay, I’ll come with you.”
Terry sighed a sigh of relief. “Really? You won’t run away?”
Benjamin shook his head. “Let’s go somewhere to eat!”
Terry scratched his head. “You do look pretty underweight… You haven’t been eating again, have you?”
Angels don’t need to eat, duh… He thought to himself. Aloud, he nodded and said, “Yeah. Let’s go.”
“I was just on my way to eat, anyway. It’s my day off, so we can go anywhere you want.” Terry said.
“Pancakes?” Benjamin suggested excitedly.
Terry smiled and chuckled a little. “You still love pancakes?”
Terry frowned after that. Benjamin could he was depressed by aura he could see around him with his Angel eyes. In this case, it was an incredibly dark blue aura surrounding him that pulsed with sadness when he mentioned the thing about the pancakes.
Maybe he does know me…
Benjamin sat at a red table at a pancake place with Terry sitting across from him. They had already ordered. Terry was looking miserable.
“Hey, are you okay?” Benjamin asked, setting to work at curing his depression.
Terry shook his head. “I’m just waiting for you to disappear again…”
“How do you really know me?” Benjamin asked curiously.
Terry looked at him darkly. “I’m your brother, I told you! Do you have any idea how much it hurts for you to deny that?”
Benjamin didn’t believe him, but he knew in order to help him, he would have to indulge for the moment. “Alright, if I’m your brother, tell me something only you and I could know about me.”
“When you were fifteen, you got into a knife fight and that’s how you got that scar on your elbow.” Terry divulged earnestly.
Benjamin was shocked. He did know something nobody else could know about him. “How did you know…?”
Terry was making a deathly depressed face. “This is what I get for caring about you… I was wracked with guilt for years while you were gone and you come back just to deny we were ever related. I know what you’re going to do. You’re going to run away from me again, and I’ll worry myself sick about you until I die.”
“So you’re an Angel, then? You must be…” Benjamin said aloud. Terry had to be an angel as well if he was his brother.
Terry looked as if his face was drained of blood. And then he closed his eyes with a deep frown. “I won’t indulge that fantasy anymore. You’re not a fucking Angel. You’re a human. Stop this talk right now.”
“Oh, come on. You don’t have to play games with me. I’m one too, after all. No humans are listening at the moment.” Benjamin said cheerily. “I wonder why I don’t remember you, though…”
“Stop it! Just stop it!” Terry cried. “If you’re just going to torment me like this, you can leave!”
Benjamin wasn’t heartless. He could see Terry was very upset. Perhaps Terry didn’t remember he was an Angel because he was raised by humans whereas Benjamin was raised by Angels. “I’m sorry, Terry. I know it sounds incredible—but I can actually prove it to you. You should be with your own kind, anyway! I’ll show you the Angels later tonight.”
Terry was crossing his arms. “Really? You’re going to show me? You never would before…”
“I’ll show you. In the meantime, you can tell me about your childhood.” Benjamin suggested.
Terry was silent for a moment. “It’s the same as yours… Like that knife fight I mentioned? It was with some neighborhood kid who kept calling you a fag. You confronted him with a knife in our front yard and I thought you were going to kill him. I rushed out into the yard and I wrestled you to the ground to get that knife. You cut me right above the eye. I swear to God—I saw a demon in your eyes that day. I covered for you like I always did, so Mom and Dad never knew…”
He did, indeed, have a scar above his eye. But it wasn’t just that. Benjamin remembered the details of that incident for the first time in his life.
Benjamin lunged forwards and cut the other boy across the arm when he wouldn’t stop taunting him. The boy he was fighting took out his own knife.
Benjamin was angrier and seemed to have the strength of a demon as he kicked the boy in the leg and then tackled him.. The boy sliced his elbow—trying to get Benjamin off of him.
Terry arrived and grabbed his brother around the stomach and dragged him off of the other boy who ran off in fear. When he released Benjamin, he cut his brother above the eye.
“I remember that…” Benjamin was shocked. “We truly grew up together…?”
Terry leaned forwards on his elbows. “Kinda shatters your Angel narrative, huh?”
Benjamin knew that Terry wouldn’t believe him. That was okay; Benjamin believed in himself enough for both of them. He did wonder why he didn’t remember his own childhood, though.
“I know I’m an Angel… But, you know, they never tell you where Angels come from when you become one, so I’m curious…” Benjamin explained.
“Are you not even willing to entertain the thought that you’re not an Angel?” Terry asked.
Benjamin shook his head, feeling extremely defensive. “I know what I am.”
Terry sighed, clearly not knowing what to say. “Right… You know, I really missed you. I always had to take care of you, but you were always such fun that I didn’t mind it. Well—had to take care of you until Annalissa did, anyway.”
She knew she should have transferred him to a different therapist, but she couldn’t deny she loved his flirtations. She loved his quirkiness, and his eccentricities. She eventually started dating him and sleeping with him. She quit being a therapist, just for him.
“Who is she?” Benjamin asked. “I ran into her last night.”
Terry looked like terror had seized his heart, and then he looked down. “Benjamin… She’s your girlfriend.”
Benjamin felt a little warm when Terry said it. “I wonder how I can find her again?”
Terry’s lip trembled a little. “You met up with her…?”
“Yup. She seemed really sweet, but also really sad. I’ve seen her in movies, right?” Benjamin asked.
They paused their talk while the waiter showed up with their food and then attended to a different table.
Terry forced a smile. “Right. You were really proud of her when she landed that role. It was a drama called Silent City. You couldn’t ever keep your hands off her, even in public, but you really couldn’t keep your hands off her after that. It was disgusting…” He was laughing while he said it, however.
Benjamin was a little embarrassed—he didn’t remember that at all. If he had a girlfriend he couldn’t keep his hands off of, he was sure he would have had three strikes by now.
They had a lot of fun eating together. Terry told Benjamin about all the trouble the two of them used to get into. They clicked. Some siblings didn’t get along, but Benjamin and Terry had always been inseparable. Terry described more of their childhood together; they’d played video games, read comic books, explored outside of their neighborhood, played tennis together and when Terry got a job, he tried to get Benjamin one too.
They had worked together at a convenience store. But Benjamin had always been eccentric. He always had his head in the clouds. He would be miserable at work until it was over. He would daydream and Terry would have to work extra hard for his sake. But one day, Benjamin just snapped and wandered off, murmuring about something.
Terry told Benjamin that he kept displaying bizarre behavior like that. Around the time Benjamin got the job, he would often go off alone murmuring about being an Angel, and Terry would have to go find him wandering the streets at night and bring him home. Terry said that Benjamin was diagnosed as a schizophrenic. Benjamin and Terry were both silent after that.
Terry paid for dinner after that and drove his brother home.
His brother had a pretty tiny house, unlike Annalissa. It just had the essentials. A kitchen, a bedroom, a guest room, and some closets and bathrooms.
Benjamin had been quiet since his brother told him he went to therapy at age nineteen and was diagnosed a schizophrenic. He didn’t believe Terry about not being an Angel, but he had niggling doubts now that needed to be allayed.
“Are you tired? You can have your old room if you are. You said your Angel friends only call you at about midnight, right? Why don’t you get some sleep… You look awful.” Terry said sympathetically.
Benjamin blinked tiredly. “Yeah… I feel pretty tired.”
“I’ll show you your room, then.” Terry led him from the entryway to the room at the end of the hallway at the left.
Benjamin had a vague remembrance of the room. It still had his favorite space blanket—it had the videogame console with controllers attached, and many comic books. It seemed like a very childish room.
Benjamin noticed that there was a picture of Harris by his bedside. “Why do you have a picture of Harris here?”
Terry sighed and rested his hands on his hips. “Benjamin, that’s our Dad. I never understood why you wanted a picture of him next to your bed.”
Benjamin picked up the picture and sat on the bed, sweating like crazy. “This is our Dad?”
Terry sat next to him. “Yeah, that’s him… You never got on with him.”
Benjamin scratched his cheek. “I don’t remember that… why didn’t I get along with him?”
Terry took a deep breath and gathered his thoughts for a moment.
“Well, you never obeyed his rules and it drove him nuts. You never did your chores, you never obeyed his curfews, you never showed up for dinner at the right time. Just little things that led him to…” Terry scratched his head awkwardly.
“…He had this really weird rule about purity.” He continued, “I mean, all parents want their kids to make good choices, but he was obsessive about it. He didn’t want us to sleep with or kiss anyone until we were eighteen. He’d check our phones and rummage through our backpacks. He found out about you and this girl when you were seventeen and I thought he was going to kill you. It was horrifying.”
He was shoved up against the wall by his Father, who looked disturbingly like Harris. Benjamin couldn’t breathe.
“What the fuck were you thinking? You’ll never go to heaven now. I should kill you now while you still have a semblance of purity!”
Benjamin snapped back to reality and instinctively put a hand on his neck. “Why would he have such a strict rule?”
“I’d say it was because he was religious; but Mom was religious, too, and she had no such rules. It was just something in his head; something in his personality. I think that’s why… you have this fantasy about being an Angel.” Terry explained.
Benjamin blinked sadly and slumped over. This story was starting to sound more and more plausible. But, he didn’t want to be a normal human with a crazy, diseased mind.
He wanted to be an Angel. He wanted to be a good and pure creature who could cure humans of sadness. He was in a panic that he might actually just be crazy. But the other Angels felt so real—he knew they must be real.
Benjamin said quietly, “I think I’ll go to sleep now.”
Benjamin remembered the moment he’d nailed the mask to his face while he was trying to sleep.
Annalissa was there. He saw her from his own eyes. She looked terrified.
“Benjamin, calm down, you’re scaring me! Put those nails down! Reality is right before you. Look at me!” Annalissa grabbed his face, but Benjamin stepped backwards out of her grasp.
“Don’t you understand? I have grown too many eyes! The fabric of reality is falling apart! I can see through everything!” Benjamin claimed as he put a rectangular piece of metal around his eyes and readied a nail and hammer.
Annalissa was in tears. “Baby, please… put that down.”
For a moment, Benjamin indulged. He put the hammer and nail down and grabbed her by the shoulders. “I love you… But I’m not sure you’re even real. I couldn’t take it if it turned out you weren’t. I never want reality to fall apart again—because if it does, you and my brother will disappear. I don’t want to live without you…”
Annalissa embraced him with all her strength. She was trying to keep him from the hammer, nail, and mask. “You don’t have to live without me. I’m right here. I’ve always been here for you, and I always will be. Reality is not falling apart. You have me right here in your arms.”
“You’ll leave me, baby… I have to block out the true reality.” Benjamin kissed her neck lovingly.
He wrestled his way out of her grasp and grabbed all the utensils necessary for nailing the mask to his face.
Annalissa tried to wrest the utensils from his grasp, but he pushed her away and succeeded in nailing it to his face. Warm blood ran down his skin.
Annalissa was weeping in horror while hiding her face in the couch.
“Why are you crying? Now I’ll never have to confront the idea that you might not be real…” Benjamin said, uncovering her eyes.
“You’re crazy! We have to get you to the hospital!” Annalissa took out her phone and dialed an ambulance.
“Crazy?” Benjamin repeated.
Annalissa had always taken care never to call him that. Now that she did, Benjamin was angry. More angry than he had ever been. He headed out the door and never came back.
Terry shook him awake. “Benjamin, it’s almost midnight. I’ll drive you to the place where your Angel friends hang out.”
Benjamin sat up and said longingly, “Where’s Annalissa?”
Terry was silent with a frown, and then he said, “I’ll tell you later. Come on, let’s go.”
Benjamin stood up and followed Terry to his entryway, and Terry grabbed his umbrella from its holder next to the front door and braced for the cold air and rain.
The trip was silent but for Benjamin giving his brother directions.
Terry kept glancing his brother’s way. He knew he was thinking about Annalissa. He said aloud, “Silent City really was a masterpiece, huh? It really put her on the map.”
Benjamin had always loved the movie. He would be lying if he said he didn’t always have a crush on its starring actress, even when he forgot all about her and just knew her from her movies.
Silent City was about a woman who lived all alone in a gigantic city. The main theme was loneliness. A city was a place where humans were always bustling about and close together, but also a place in which people would completely ignore other humans who were in trouble.
There was barely any dialogue in the movie. It was just a woman walking around, reminiscing about past occurrences when there were other humans around. The more the woman walked around, the more she found out about why she was the only human left in the city. In the end, it was revealed that all the other humans had arrived at a supposed higher plane of existence and had left her behind.
But they had only got to that plane of existence by abandoning everything that made them human. The woman was the only one who refused to give those parts of herself up, and because of that, she was cursed to live alone.
She couldn’t give those parts of her up because it meant giving up the memories of her husband and child, which she could never do.
It was a heartbreaking movie and many people in the theatre cried when it ended.
Benjamin knew something horrible must have happened to Annalissa. He couldn’t bear to think of it. He still loved her deeply, although he could not remember clearly who she was in entirety.
His brother was a little different. Benjamin was beginning to remember many things about him. His selfless devotion to Benjamin’s wellness was astounding. He gave up his own life for him much of the time.
“What the fuck is he doing, Terry?” Terry’s girlfriend, Cheryl, asked. “Why does he keep wandering the streets at night speaking to random people? I’m tired of having to go find him.”
“He’s sick, Cheryl! You don’t abandon family.” Terry said while shepherding an exhausted Benjamin to the sofa.
“I abandoned mine for you! Are you really just going to wait for him to turn up dead, Terry? He needs professional help!”
Cheryl’s parents were Jewish, and they required her husband to be Jewish. They essentially cut her off for dating Terry, but said they would welcome her back into the family if and once she broke up with him.
“Terry, I can’t look after your sick brother anymore while you work… I want to have a life—I want to have children. I’m sorry. It’s either me or him.”
Terry took a long time before saying. “I’m sorry; I’ll always pick him. You go find someone who makes you happy, Cheryl.”
Benjamin looked over at his brother, shocked, when he remembered that truth. Terry noticed him. “What?”
Benjamin shook his head. “Nothing.”
Terry pulled up to a curb across the street from the abandoned Watchtower. Benjamin and his brother got out of the car together, and put up their umbrellas. Terry opened the door to the Watchtower.
Benjamin entered first and his brother followed him. It was empty. Terry gave him the benefit of the doubt and looked on both upper and lower levels. All the while, rain was pitter-pattering through the silence. Benjamin was hugging himself from the cold and for comfort. The idea that he was crazy… He couldn’t stand it.
Terry, who had been checking on the upper level, headed back down and said to his brother. “There isn’t anyone, Benjamin. Now please, let’s get you home, and then we can get you back into therapy.”
“I am not crazy! I saw them clear as day!” Benjamin cried.
“Benjamin, you have to stop this. I can’t always be taking care of you. I put my life on hold while you were gone because I was so worried.” Terry exclaimed, clearly exhausted.
“Terry, you have to believe me! Somebody has to believe me!” Benjamin cried miserably.
Terry was at the end of rope. He was frustrated, tired, and wanted to win the argument then and there. “Do you know what happened to Annalissa? She shot herself in the head because she was so fucking lonely without you! She blamed herself for your disappearance every day. You can’t just keep disappearing and leaving the people who love you behind.”
Benjamin was stunned. He had tears in his eyes. But he doubled down, “she should have believed me! She couldn’t see through the illusion of this fake life!”
Terry grabbed his wrist and was going to drag his brother out of the Watchtower when everything froze. Everything was black and white but for Benjamin. The rain stopped pitter-pattering.
Harris appeared. “There you are, Benjamin… you have finally fully accepted the truth again, despite nailing that mask to your face to prevent it. This is reality.”
“This is real?” Benjamin asked. “But you—you’re my Father.”
Harris nodded. “That’s right. Terry was useless. Just a normal boy. But you could see the truth ever since you were little. That made you Real. That’s why I had to try and get you to remain pure forever. If you had slept with someone one more time, you would have been fake forever.”
Benjamin was confused. “But you slept with Mom… Besides, how do I know I’m not just crazy? I could be hallucinating this. I hallucinated about my girlfriend the other day…”
“You were adopted. I only slept with your mother once. And I’ll show you that you’re not crazy.” With a wave of his finger, Harris snapped the metal mask off of Benjamin’s face. “So you can’t turn a blind eye to reality again.”
Benjamin shivered at that. He was silent. He didn’t know if he even wanted to accept this as the true reality. Nervously he said, “show me…”
Harris nodded. “Now, you need to unfreeze the true reality. You need to embrace the truth.”
“How… do I do that?” Benjamin wondered.
“You need to be confident in whatever happens. Then things will unfreeze.” Harris replied.
“How can I do that? Does my brother exist in this reality? Does… Annalissa?” Benjamin asked with tears in his eyes.
“Does it matter? If they aren’t real, then you have been indulging a false reality rather than living a real life. Wouldn’t you want to know? Open your mind.” Harris suggested.
Benjamin took a deep breath. He allowed room in his mind for the reality with his brother and his girlfriend to be fake. He allowed himself to see the positives of that. If Annalissa was not real, then he didn’t cause her to shoot herself. If Terry was not real, then his life wouldn’t be ruled by his younger brother.
Everything unfroze. It resumed raining, and Terry disappeared from reality. And, in this reality, wings sprang from Benjamin’s back.
Benjamin was horrified as he examined the air where his brother used to be. “What happened to him?”
Harris put a hand on his son’s shoulder. “He’s not real. This is real. Come outside with me.”
Benjamin was silent and he followed his father outside. There were no humans at all. It was the same city—except that it was destroyed.
The only similarity with reality was that it was raining and even thundering. The rain was an inch thick below their feet.
“We’re the only ones?” Benjamin asked.
“There are few others who have become Real.” Harris said.
“My brother? Can he become Real?” Benjamin asked.
Harris shook his head. “He does not have the power to see through the fake reality, and he is too impure. Only special people like you have that power.”
Benjamin shook his head. “Schizophrenics?”
“You’re not a schizophrenic. You can see the truth.” Harris answered while looking up at the storming sky.
“Why is it always raining? Is it really because of human tears? What happened to the city?” Benjamin wondered.
“There was a gigantic flood. Most of the humans died. That fake reality is where they ended up when they died. Even some who did not die decided to go to that fake reality. Mankind created a place with their own minds where they can be safe from this destroyed reality. They had children there. Their children, although not Real, have a greater chance of becoming Real again than their parents. Their children have more of an ability to see through that comfy falsehood than the human heads that have created it.” Harris explained.
Benjamin stepped further out into the rain; his world was shattered—he felt numb. “Are we truly Angels? Are these wings on my back real?”
“You are an Angel in this reality.” Harris told him.
Benjamin turned away from the rain and back to Harris. “Then… show me the proof of all this.”
“Very well. Follow me.” Harris moved through the reality that he called Real. He stepped over rubble from fallen buildings and past buildings that were being eaten away from water damage. The rain was cold. The city was empty and incredibly lonely.
They walked for an hour before Harris arrived at a dilapidated home. He opened up the door and revealed two humans who were walking on all-fours. One was female, one was male.
Benjamin scratched his head, “wha—?”
He remembered. He was horrified. These unintelligent beasts were his real parents. He was born in this reality. “These are my…?”
“The Angels of the true reality are little more than beasts. I rescued you from this true reality and raised you in the other—hoping you would someday remember the truth and become Real again.”
Benjamin was horrified. He shook his head and closed the door. “No! I am the child of these unintelligent beasts?”
“I’m sorry, Benjamin…” Harris said compassionately.
“But… Why have you showed me this? Why couldn’t you let me live in peace in that other reality? You expect me to live with you in this lonely, primitive world?”
“You have to live here with me and help me try to fix the true reality.” Harris told him honestly.
“What about my brother? Let’s wake him up and bring him to this true reality as well.” Benjamin suggested. “I don’t want to leave him there…”
Harris shook his head. “He’ll never believe you… He’ll never be Real.”
“But he could be!” Benjamin exclaimed. “I don’t want to give up on him! There must be some way to make him believe!”
“There is no way. If you go back to that reality right now, you will be convinced you’re crazy again before too long. Stay here with me. At least for a while.” Harris suggested.
“But—you’ll show me how to go back if I want to, right?” Benjamin asked.
Benjamin lived in that lonely reality with Harris for a month. He helped Harris grow food on fertile soil, he helped him fix up some of the destroyed houses, and Harris told him they were going to try and teach Benjamin’s parents how to speak. They were going to try and make them intelligent, along with some of the other living humans.
It was extremely frustrating. They tried to get them to walk upright, they tried to teach them to read and write and learn to speak, but they were very primitive.
More than that, though… Benjamin ever had the fake reality in his head. He wanted to go back to it. It felt more real to him. More importantly to him, that’s where his brother was.
And then there was Annalissa. The dead girl he loved. She appeared to him often in his dreams. The impossibly beautiful therapist turned movie star who begged him not to nail the metal mask to his face. He thought about those legs he couldn’t take his eyes off of; he thought about her luscious, blue-dyed hair and her sea-green eyes. He remembered her completely now. She was his soul-mate, and he felt empty without her.
He should have listened. He could have been content in that reality with his lovely girlfriend—even if it wasn’t real. He was miserable and lonely in this true reality.
Are you going to leave your brother alone, baby? There’s a lot of people in that false reality. She said in his head. Hey… I know you often wonder what the point of all this is. I know you want to join me. But I’m right here. You don’t have to go the way I went, darling. Come find me. I have something to tell you.
Benjamin heard her tell him that over and over. He thought he was just crazy. He had been eccentric for so long that his mind seemed to be changing to accommodate that.
He would hear her almost every day in his head. And one day, at night, when Harris was sleeping, Benjamin heard her loud and clear. She seemed to be finally real enough to him for him to hear what she wanted him to do.
Benjamin. Come to the big clock tower in the center of town.
Benjamin flopped out of bed in the dilapidated house he and Harris decided would be their home. He headed out the door and his shoes sloshed through puddles of rain as he sleepily walked toward the center of the wrecked town.
Her spirit appeared in front of him. He followed her dazedly. “Annalissa…”
His vision was blurry; rain was in his eyes.
Suddenly, his hands were on the clock tower. Her hand poked through and touched his cheek. You found me, baby.
She grabbed his hand and pulled him through the bricks of the clock tower. It was shining gold and ethereal inside. His lovely girlfriend was wearing a pink princess gown and she sat on an emerald throne inside of the clock tower. She held out her hands. “Come here…”
Benjamin slowly walked over to her and knelt before her; laying his head on her knees.
“Is this real, baby? Is any of this real?” Benjamin asked her as she stroked his hair soothingly.
“You poor thing. Remember when I tried to take the illusions out of your head as your therapist? I’m sorry… That was wrong. You were seeing reality and I tried to convince you you weren’t. Would you like to tell me what I believe you truly are? Would you like me to tell you what I am?”
Benjamin put his hands on her cheeks. “Do I want to know?”
“Of course you do, baby. You got a heart of gold; you’ll love to remember. You truly have forgotten everything?” Annalissa asked soothingly.
“I can’t… Remember…” Benjamin affirmed.
“You are the Guardian of the Watchtower. You watch over humanity again and again. And that man—Harris—he is here to guide humanity to a dark place. He wants to build it from the ground up. He wants humanity to be all his. He is a Devil, not an Angel.” Annalissa said to him.
Benjamin looked up at her. “What do you mean?”
“You see… He caused the flood which wiped away most of humanity. He sent the people who did not want to live under him to that fake reality. It is a kind of hell. Humans are either sent there by Harris, or they go there when they die. You can’t take out the people who were killed, but you can rescue the people who were sent or born there. You can still get Terry.” Annalissa explained.
Benjamin believed her. He knew she would not tell him a lie. “And what are you? Besides my beautiful girlfriend?”
“I am Time. I have and will always be in your head. Time will always watch over you like you watch over humans.” Annalissa grabbed his shoulders and lifted him up. She kissed his forehead. “You can no longer touch me or kiss me in reality, that is the only thing I miss… When Harris ripped reality from the seams, he ripped me from you. Without me in your head, he made you into a human child in that other reality and had complete control over you as he posed as your Father. I became your therapist in the fake reality, and you were my patient. When you nailed that thing to your face, I was reunited with you forever. I put the gun to my head when you left, and then I remembered everything. I became Time once again. The fear response seemed to trigger my memories. Harris wiped your memory after you went missing, however. It took me a long time to get your remember. I appeared to you just recently, but you blocked me out of your head…”
“What does Harris want with me, then? Why not just kill me? Why did he only allow me three strikes?”
“He can’t kill you. Angels and Devils can’t kill one another. That is why he wanted you under his control. He hoped to keep you in the fake reality, but when you saw through it just now, he had to tell you yet another lie. He created many false realities that you have seen through. As for the strikes… You see, sex is a very awakening and Real experience. He knew it would wake you up if you had it too much.”
“Will you rescue humanity?” Annalissa asked firmly.
“I remember! Of course I will! My purpose is clear!” Benjamin stood up and felt powerful for the first time in a long time. He let thousands of Angel eyes grow on his face and he remembered everything. He remembered every large, human, tragedy he had helped avert or he had helped subside. Every disaster caused by Harris, and every human he had ever loved through all the time he had been alive.
Humans were now an endangered race thanks to the large scale destruction Harris caused, and it was up to him to help them. It would be a lonely journey—but Lovely Time would always be on his side.
The first thing he did was convince his human brother that the reality he lived in was false. Those unintelligent humans that Harris tried to convince Benjamin were his parents he succeeded in making intelligent. He locked Harris away and began to make humans see the true reality.
Benjamin was always unsure whether the reality he was seeing was the true reality; he only knew that he was real. Time would often remind him again and again, your true self was revealed.
And Benjamin knew the reality he knew was real.
Benjamin is an Angel. Or, at the very least, he thinks he is an Angel. His job as an Angel is to lift the eternal rainfall that is ever gracing the desolate city. He realizes that he can't remember something very important when he runs into a mysterious woman named Annalissa. His confusion deepens when he meets up with a man who claims to be his brother who he also can't remember. As the evidence stacks up, he begins to think he may just be crazy.