Note: This is posted “as is”, no editing or proof reading involved, as part of the 30 Shorts In 30 Days project. During April I will be attempting to write and post a new short story everyday.
Some people never get ill. These very lucky people can fend off pretty much any bug that nature or science can throw at them, and as such they make absolutely awful nurses. It’s very hard to have sympathetic bedside manner if you’re unable to sympathise with the person who is ill.
Other people are seen fine physical specimens, fast, strong and at the height of physical perfection. And if they’re intelligent too, then it’s an impressive combination.
And then, there are the angels. Angels do not get ill, and they apparently don’t age. They’re also incredible strong, fast, intelligent and vain. Angels are the most self-centred, egotistical creature there ever was, and they’ve been around for as long as anyone can work out. Not as a species, but as individuals.
One of the angels resident at London Zoo’s Endangered Creatures Programme for the preservation of extinct and mythical creatures was the mastermind behind organised religion, Polynius had a big ego even for angels.
The problem with the angels, well one of the problems with the angels, was that no-one knew anything about them. They were the first creatures on the planet, or so they claimed, and they didn’t get old or die. Being close to immortal, and never having to see the Programme vet the opportunity never arose to find out anything about their biology, and like every sentient member of the Programme, the angels valued their privacy very highly.
So it was a bit of a surprise for the vet to see Polynius come into the vets’ surgery.
“Polynius, this is an absolute pleasure, although an unexpected one I have to admit,” the vet said, gesturing Polynius to sit down.
“Please, call me Poly.”
“Are you sure? I mean, I’ve only ever heard Belia call you that, and you two are incredible close,” the vet asked, referring to one of the other angels resident at the Programme. One who Polynius seemed to always be getting into trouble with. At least until recently.
“Absolutely, after all I think we’re about to become very close friends.”
“Yes, er, you see, well this is a bit embarrassing doctor, you don’t mind if I call you doctor do you?” Polynius asked.
“No, no, please do.”
“Well doctor, the fact is, I’m ill.”
“Pardon?” The vet asked.
“I know, it’s the most awful bore, but I’m not operating at peak efficiency. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but, well, I’m not well.”
“Poly, you’ve been here since the Programme started. The vets, doctors, before me kept meticulous notes, and you’re not in any of them. None of the angels are in any of them. You don’t get ill.”
“Yes, I know. It’s most confusing. I can’t actually remember ever being ill, I can’t actually remember any of us ever being ill. But I am.”
“And, sorry if I’m appearing thick here Poly, but what would you like me to do?” The vet asked.
“Well, this is awfully embarrassing, but I’d like a check-up.”
“Poly, you do realise that to do this I’ll have to examine you. You will be voluntarily giving up not only your privacy here, but I’ll unavoidably be finding out some things about your entire species?” The vet asked, not totally sure he was understanding it himself.
“Yes, er, there is something I must ask about that. Doctor patient confidentiality does exist doesn’t it? I had heard that it does, but, well, I’ve not had opportunity to find out.”
“Yes, it does exist. Anything you tell me stays with me,” the vet replied.
“Splendid. In that case, where shall we start?”
“Well, we could start by telling me your symptoms, what’s wrong that makes you feel ill?” The vet asked.
“It started last week. I was sitting down to my normal breakfast…”
“A couple of boiled eggs with toast, is that important?”
“Not sure, but the more I know the better,” the vet smiled.
“Right, yes. I was sitting down to my normal breakfast and the smell of the eggs had a rather odd effect. They didn’t smell nice like they normally do, they didn’t smell bad, just, not appetising. Well, I ate them anyway, and within a few minutes I was sick. I know it was sick, I’ve been around humans long enough to know what it is, but I’ve never been sick before myself. At least, not that I remember. Well, yes, so, I was sick. And then the following morning too, and the next. In fact, I was sick every morning last week,” Polynius explained.
“And are you still being sick?”
“Not as much, just the feeling now that I will be, but nothing actually happens.”
“Poly, this may sound like a very strange question,” the vet said reaching into a drawer in his desk. “But could you pee into this beaker for me?”
“Pee into a beaker?”
“Yes please, er, you angels do pee don’t you? Am I okay to ask that?”
“Doctor, and you are my doctor now, you may ask anything that you believe is pertinent to my condition,” Poly smiled. “And yes, we do.”
“Ah, fine. Well, if you’d just pop behind that screen in the corner and fill this up for me that would be great.”
Polynius handed the beaker back to the doctor, who placed it on his desk and started to stir it with a long, thin piece of what looked like plastic.
“May I ask what you’re doing doctor?”
“Well, we can tell a lot from urine. You see, the chemicals that are passed through the body let us know what’s going on inside the body. An excess or an absence of something tells us what organs are either working overtime, or not working at all. And, assuming that you have the same organs as most species, we should hopefully be able to get an idea of what’s causing your condition.”
“I say, that is clever.”
“We try to be,” the vet replied almost absentmindedly as he watched the end of the stick turn pink.
“Well, I think I have an idea about your condition Polynius.”
“Oh good, what is it?”
“You’re pregnant Polynius. Or at least, this test says that you are.”
“Oh,” Polynius replied quietly.
“I think, perhaps we might need to have a chat about how angels reproduce. If you’re okay with that? But I’m afraid I can’t help you anymore without any more understanding of how angels reproduce. To be honest, we don’t even know if angels have genders.”
“Doctor, you are a highly respected man within the Programme, and I hear many good things about you. The thing I hear about you that I’d like to explore the most right now however, is that you keep a well-stocked drinks cabinet. I wonder if I might impose upon you for a large gin? This might take a while.”
“Of course Poly, let me get the bottle.”
“There’s no impregnation involved, we’re a bit like birds when it comes to that. It’s not just the wings that we share. It’s a lot easier when there’s someone else around to, well, I’d guess you’d call it fertilise, but it’s not necessary. I’m making a bit of a hash of this aren’t I?”
“Not at all, please carry on,” the vet said pouring gin into two glasses before topping them up with tonic.
“You see, what angels need is company. We may be aloof creatures, and don’t deny it, I know everyone thinks that we are, but we’re not solitary creatures. We need someone else. I don’t know what it is, some sort of symbiosis I believe, but we need someone. For many years, I had Belia, and Belia had me. Now, you see, when we spend time with our partner, just by being with them, we’re able to fertilise each other. It takes time, a few hundred years, maybe a few thousand, it really depends. But by being with one another, we sow the seeds in each other. And when the other angel goes, when we lose our partner, then the seed germinates and a new angel is born to replace the one that’s lost.”
“Sorry, Poly, are you saying that angels are only born to replace those that are lost?” The vet asked.
“I don’t know. Honestly I don’t, it’s so rare that this happens. I can’t actually remember the last time any of use reproduced. But as far as I know, yes, we only reproduce to replace those of us that are lost.”
“And, er, how do you reproduce? Organs wise that is,” the vet asked.
“We’re all female. Well, what you’d see as female. We’re all hermaphrodite in a way, both male and female. But mostly we’re female as you understand it, all angels are. I believe the gestation and the birth should be as normal as it would be for a human,” Polynius explained.
“In that case then, there’s only one question left to ask,” the vet said.
“And what’s that?”
“What are you going to call her?”
Polynius smiled. “I like the old biblical names, but I want to think of myself as a modern parent.”
“So, a modern biblical name?”
“Yes, I was thinking maybe Lucy Fleur,” Polynius replied.
“Yes, say it quickly,” Polynius replied as she got up to leave the room. “I’ll pop back next month for a check-up.”