Presenting An Occupation of Angels by Lavie Tidhar.
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Check out the author interview.
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After Archangels materialise over the bloodbaths of WWII, they take up residence in most of the world’s major cities. But what would happen if, more than quarter of a century later, something somehow managed to kill these supreme beings? Killarney knows and, as an agent working for the Bureau, a British agency that’s so secret it doesn’t officially exist, she finds herself embroiled in the consequences as, one by one, the Archangels die.
Assigned to trace a missing cryptographer thought to have information on the murders, she travels from England, through France, heading for the frozen wastes of the USSR. But there’s an unknown third party intent on stopping her, and there’s God, who also has an agenda. Not knowing who is friend and who is foe, and with only a brief glimpse of a swastika on angel wings as solid information, Killarney struggles to remain alive long enough to glean sufficient information to put together the pieces of the puzzle and complete what is, without them, an impossible mission.
“Sharp, brutal, cool–yet also stunningly imaginative and perfectly realised.”
–Michael Marshall, bestselling author of The Straw Men trilogy
Our fiction feature this week is Israeli author Nir Yaniv‘s “The Word of God”!
The Word of God
By Nir Yaniv
Translated from the Hebrew by Lavie Tidhar
The beginning of the end was very simple, but no one suspected it.
Ofer searched through his pockets like a man possessed. ‘A pen!’ he said. ‘My kingdom for a pen!’ and immediately found one, in the pocket of his shirt, and when he returned home discovered that the door refused to open. He couldn’t understand why.
‘This time it will work,’ she said to herself, while waiting at the café for a guy she had never seen. ‘This time it will work out. He will be beautiful, rich, intelligent, nice, considerate, and he will fall madly in love with me. I know it.’
And so it was.
‘I wish I had a shekel for every time you said you’ll be here on time,’ said Uri Schwartz to Rafi, his business-partner. Pop! said something, and a heap of coins materialised around him until it swallowed him whole.
‘I don’t believe it,’ said Rafi. ‘Shit!’
His fate was much worse.
‘Moshe, you stupid lump of meat!’ Shouted fat Nati at his rebellious nephew and Pop! – and in the end, the rest of the family enjoyed a particularly delicate barbeque on the nearest traffic-island.
‘Look Dad,’ said Yoni, ‘Meow! I’m a cat! Pop! Meow! Meow! Meo…’
‘Thank you very much!’ said Rivka Meirovich to her neighbour. ‘What a wonderful cake! You’re simply pure gold!’
The profit was entirely hers.
‘Yes, you’re wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, yes, yes…’
‘Oh, Rami, yes, more, more, you’re big, you’re huge, you’re great, you’re great…’
It was a mess.
‘Listen to me, and listen good,’ said the sergeant, ‘you’re all a bunch of fucking dicks!’
‘Oh my God!’ said the sergeant.
I am the Lord your God, said the voice of pop gravely, and something appeared – the last thing that the sergeant saw in his life, for no man can see god. Do not take my name in vain!
* * *
The middle of the end was rather complicated, but man was generally occupied with his own affairs.
‘I wish His Honour happiness and wealth, but such as can not be interpreted literally or constitute a form of harm to His Honour or any of his family, friends or acquaintances.’
‘Thank you,’ said the judge to the council of defence, ‘is the defendant ready to have his say before this court?’
‘Your Honour,’ said the defendant and stood up, ‘if you don’t release me right now, I swear I’m going to stand here and say you’re a…’
The court’s security guard shot to his feet. ‘The accused is a stinking dog!’ he roared. And so it was.
‘Thank you,’ said the judge. ‘The council of defence is asked to properly muzzle its clients in the future.’
‘I’m a millionaire!’ Pop.
‘I want all the stinking Ashkenazim to die!’ roared Ya’akov.
Nothing happened. The neighbour from upstairs – an Ashkenazi – continued to play the piano, as if the word of God or man meant nothing to him, and the hour wasn’t between two and four in the afternoon.
‘That stinking Ashkenazi,’ muttered Ya’akov, and suddenly his nostrils were assailed by a terrible, horrible smell. He understood immediately. He stood, smiled the best of his smiles and said, quietly and confidently, ‘I want all the stinking Ashkenazim to die!’
The piano fell silent at once, but Ya’akov will no longer enjoy the silence between two and four. He forgot he had a Polish grandmother.
‘Men are such animals, I tell you…’
‘Look what you did. You’re an idiot!’
‘Look! You turned them into animals! What are you, crazy?’
‘Animals. Funny animals!’
‘Animals! Woof woof!’
‘Ah. Fine, you’re not an idiot. You’re all right. And, ah… you owe me a thousand shekels.’
‘I’m a millionaire!’ Pop.
‘…and men are not animals. They’re beautiful, considerate human beings. And I’m the most beautiful woman in the world.’
‘What… what happened? Where am I?’
‘Don’t worry. You’re beautiful and calm and you trust me implicitly. Now, about those thousand shekels…’
‘I’m a millionaire!’ Pop.
‘…here are the news and the headlines first: this is the third day since the death of all the Arabs, and the government has still not found a suitable solution to the removal of the bodies due to opposition from the religious parties. A discussion on the subject is currently taking place in the Knesset Committee for Security and External Affairs.
‘The extreme Right’s demonstration is about to conclude its twenty-third day, and today, for the first time, a speech was delivered by Rabbi Meir Kahane, who returned from the dead due, it seems, to the name of the movement he had left behind him. A spokesman for Kahane Alive, however, was not available for comment.
‘The Knesset’s Finance Committee announces hereby that no one is a millionaire besides those who were millionaires before the start of current events, and that no one will from now on be able to say to himself he is a millionaire.’
‘I’m very rich!’ Pop.
‘I’m the most beautiful woman in the world! And I’m sixteen!’ Pop.
‘Likkud for Government!’ – ‘Labour for Government!’ – ‘Shas for Government’ – ‘Shinui for Government’ – ‘Mafdal for Government’…
‘…the giant eye that appeared in the air above Jordan and looked towards Jerusalem disappeared after the security forces became involved, and citizens will from now on refrain from singing the national anthem, in particular the reference to the ‘Eye on Zion’. The weather will be calm and pleasant, with average temperatures and low humidity, and we will repeat that here tirelessly for many hours, so there is no point trying to change it.’
‘Jews for Government!’ – ‘Arabs for Government!’ – ‘Ashkenazim for Government!’ – Mizrachim for Government!’…
‘There is world peace! Forever! And no one can think of anything to change it!’
‘Kibbutzim for Government!’ – ‘Workers for Government!’ – ‘Taxi drivers for Government!’ – ‘The Pensioners’ Union for Government!’ – ‘The lawyers, without conditions and limitations, and for an unlimited period of time…’
‘I pray to you, the Lord our God, to return things to the way they were and put faith into the nation and bring peace on Israel. Amen.’ But in vain.
‘Me for Government. I rule the world, and no one can ever contradict it now or ever or until I say so, not even God!’
‘I am the Lord your God,’ and something appeared, and darkness.
* * *
At the end it was simplicity that won, but no one will ever know it.
The boy played in the sandbox when the word of man became the word of God. One of the big kids approached him threateningly.
‘Go away,’ said the boy, and pop, his larger antagonist went.
The kindergarten teacher came and watched him. ‘Honey,’ she said, ‘you like playing in the sand?’
‘I love you,’ he said. Pop.
‘You’re cute,’ she said. Pop. ‘You’re the most wonderful and beautiful and most smartest kid in the world!’ Pop.
‘You love me,’ he said. Pop.
She looked at him admiringly. ‘My cuteness, my gorgeous one, you’re almost an adult already.’ Pop.
The kindergarten teacher and the teenager lay in the sandbox.
‘God, that was good,’ he said.
I am the God your Lord, said the voice of pop gravely, and something appeared – the last thing the boy ever saw in his life. Do not use my name in vain!
But the boy only smiled, and his blind eyes stared into the empty air, and for the first and last time man turned to God and said, ‘I am the God your Lord.’
And so it was.
The Word of God (c) Nir Yaniv 2007, first published in Trabuco Road. English translation (c) Lavie Tidhar 2007.