So I'm walking in a desert region. Some old town of tall buildings, made of skin-colored adobe. I've got my headphones on, and I want to get a view of the sunset. I walk over to a building and attempt to jump onto the roof, but I underestimate the gravity, and only go about ten feet up. My aim is bad, and I ricochet off the blank wall and flail to land safely.
I make another try, and catch the edge of the parapet. Laboriously I haul myself over, straining my arms. The roof is flat, and split-level, with a handrail separating the two halves, and a short connecting stairway. I rest on my back for a while, feeling the smooth rock under it, and then stand and walk to the railing. As I look at the desert sunset, I sigh and take off my headphones. That's when I notice Marlon Brando.
He's puttering around on the lower half of the roof amongst some wrought-iron furniture, mumbling to himself. He makes an almost imperceptible nod to me, with his weathered boulder of a head, and climbs the stairway, and throws himself into a large rocking chair, wheezing a little.
"Nice day, innit?" he says, mouth twisted down casually. He notices my iPod, which I have conveniently strung around my neck. "What's that thing you've got there?"
"Oh," I say, taking it off and handing it to him. "This is an iPod. It's a portable music playing device, like a walkman, only it holds a hell of a lot more music."
"Fashcinating", he lisps, turning it in his hands. He fumbles with the big center wheel, and it slips in his fingers. The iPod clatters to the hard floor, breaking into odd brass-colored metal chunks like the innards of a grandfather clock.
"Oh no," I say, staring morosely at an impossibly mangled brass part, "I'll never fix it! Damn!"
"Was my fault, boy. I'll help you out.", says Mr. Brando. He whips a pen and a stack of papers from his bathrobe, and writes me a large elaborate check for $200.
"Actually," I say, "I know it's crazy, but it acually cost twice that much."
Mr. Brando repeats his check-writing performance, and hands me a second check for $200.
"Thank you!" I say. Trying to be positive, I add "The old one was all scratched up anyway."
We sit and enjoy the sunset.
I'm watching from a distance as two black children flee from their white captors in South Africa. They're running down a riverbank, trying to stay ahead of a search party. The river slides into a large corrugated pipe rammed through a hillside, and drops a waterfall into a shallow pool before continuing on to freedom. The lip of the pipe, under the streaming edge of the waterfall, has been bent upwards in cruel steel spikes, to shred the body of anyone floating by. More steel spikes have been set into the floor halfway up the pipe.
The two boys, a young prophet and his younger brother, run into the pipe and see the spikes, but the younger brother slips. He screams, a high tinny echo in the pipe, and has to run downhill in order to stay on his feet, and jump over the first set of spikes. He stops himself at the lip, teetering on the edge of the waterfall. His sneakers are caught between two of the metal strips, and the water is coursing by, up to his shins.
His older brother, the prophet, has thrust an arm out to catch him, but also slipped. He has fallen on his back and slid down the pipe, and is now stopped in the middle, his arms thrown out to brace himself. He looks down the pipe, water splitting around the top of his head. If he doesn't do something, his brother will twist in the water, breaking his ankles, and fall onto the rocks below.
As I watch from the top of the pipe, he jerks his legs up and jumps to his feet. Blood streams in a wide arc from his right foot ... he has been standing on a nail. He sprints down the rest of the pipe, jumps past his brother, and dives into the pool. He then gets up in a fury of splashing, and slogs to the bank under the lip of the pipe. He yells for his brother to jump.
"Amazing," I think to myself, as I fly up over the pool for a better look. "This is a brave child."
His brother jumps, wrenching his sneakers from the metal, and falls backwards, four meters into the prophet's arms. The prophet falls backwards into the water, distributing the impact, then pushes out with his feet to propel them both downriver. Blood jets from his injured foot, turning a column of water red in his wake.
He curses to himself, underwater, growling and snarling. I can hear it as I fly, as clear as if he were speaking on dry land. He has lost a lot of blood, and is trying to stay conscious through force of will.
But it's not working. He passes out. His little brother, holding onto him, feels his body go limp, and, with effort, drags him to the sandy riverbank. He tries to hold him up, to drain water out of his lungs, bit he's not strong enough. It looks like the prophet is going to die.
I can't let that happen. I fly down to the two boys, pick up the prophet by the back of his belt, and sling him over one huge forearm. I then smack him on his back, and shake him around. His brother kneels, looking at me in awe.
Water dribbles out of the boy, making a dark patch on the ground. His body jerks, twists, and he coughs. I lower my arm, and set him on his hands and knees. After a while he lies down, and turns over, and then registers my presence with red, damp eyes.
We say nothing for several minutes, as I stand on one knee, glancing around at the forest and the clattering river. The prophet is safe, for now. He clears his throat.
"Who are you?"
"I am a guardian angel, boy."
"Why do I have a guardian angel?"
"Because you are the prophet. You're destined to save your people."
His expression remains casual. "Well I've got a great start, huh? I'm running from my people, and I can't even look after my own brother." He turns on his side, digs in a pocket, and produces a rumbled paper box, from which he draws an impossibly dry cigarette. He lights it up ... I cannot remember how ... and takes a drag. "The prophet.", he says, in a mocking voice. "Huh. Saving his people at the bottom of a river, yeah?"
"Years from now, people will talk about how you almost bled to death saving your brother in this river, and they'll say that the water was awash with the blood of your slain people, and it got inside your wound, and gave you power."
He laughs out loud. I smile.
He pulls his injured foot up to his face for inspection, and calmly extinguishes his cigarette onto the wound, cauterizing it. I am secretly amazed, but I say nothing.
"Guardian angel, huh." He rubs his foot a little. "What if you're an evil guardian angel? What if you're here to get my trust, just so you can control me later on, huh?"
"I have no desire to destroy this earth. Look at it this way... I'm an angel. I've come from heaven. Why would I want to hang around here, messing things up, and then get sent to hell for it? Pretty stupid idea."
He considers this. I can tell that he's finishing the reasoning himself ... What if I'm not from heaven? Then all bets are off. I have, however, saved his life, with the minimum amount of effort necessary. If I really wanted to gain his gratitude, I would have healed his foot, or just flown him over the pipe. But perhaps that would have been too obvious...
Observing his confused expression, I say this: "Trusting me isn't the point. You have to decide if you trust yourself. I've just prevented you from drowning. It's up to you to prove whether I have done a good thing, or a bad thing, by that action."
I put one hand down, pull one knee up, and jump into the air. I am gone.