Enigma (4/4)

** If you missed the previous part, please read it here: Enigma – Part 3 **
** If you want to start at the beginning, go here: Enigma – Part 1 **

Sidaniel emerged from the black portal coughing, exhausting billows of soot and acrid fumes.
“Blech!” he coughed as he looked about.

Ahead of him, a corridor stretched out into infinity. Two large signs advertised ‘Aura Disentanglement’ and ‘Ballast Lockers.’ Gidmihr studied the latter sign’s small print.

“Small storage boxes rent for one Silverbarter per two centuries: four per millennium. Pricey, but hey, it’s a monopoly.”

“How’s that relevant to our—”

“Bear with me.” Gidmihr sped down the corridor, trailing smoke. Sidaniel followed him past endless rows of storage lockers, most of them showing a red ‘occupied’ status light.

Here and there, a few green dots split the monotony; other status lights blinked yellow, indicating the imminent return of the stored ballast to its former owner.

Gidmihr stopped at a vacant locker. “Fun fact: Raph averages one intelligent and truthful sentence per day.”

“Intelligent and truthful?”

“Consistently. Today’s gem was ‘Time is a construct affecting only mortal minds.’” Gidmihr magicked four gleaming Silverbarters from thin air.

Sidaniel stiffened. “Where, in Judgement’s name, did you get these?”

Gidmihr glanced at the coins. “Can’t remember. Maybe I found them on the floor somewhere, sometime?”

“You expect me to believe you found not one, but four Silverbarters on the floor?”

“I said maybe.”


“Irrelevant,” Gidmihr snapped. “Now listen. The soul can’t go back. And it can’t go on. Agreed?”

“Not without major—”

“Bla bla bla. Whatever. That leaves one option, no?” He turned to the locker. “It. Needs. To. Stay.” With each word, Gidmihr fed a Silverbarter to the locker’s coin slot, and its door sprung open.

“Ohhh no. No. No. No. You can’t possibly lock a soul within a ballast box!”

Ignoring him, Gidmihr popped the sphere in the locker. “Sure can. See? Fits perfectly,” he said, motioning to the setup with a victorious gesture.

Sidaniel bristled. “Maybe you can. But you should not. This is torture of…unprecedented wickedness.”

“Aww, thank you, Sid!” Gidmihr beamed. “But, unfortunately, it’s not. Time exists, but—as Raph reminded us so eloquently today—only affects mortals. This soul isn’t mortal anymore. No pain, no foul. So, unless you have another plan…?”

“I….” A cold breeze seemed to graze Sidaniel’s arms, and he shivered. He had no different or better solution. He was, quite simply, out of ideas.

“Didn’t think so.” Gidmihr slammed the locker shut. The bang rang in Sidaniel’s ears. “Next payment is on you. I suggest you find yourself four Silverbarters. Tick-tock, tick-tock. A thousand years go by like this.” Gidmihr snapped his fingers, smirked, and vanished into smoky nothingness.

Sidaniel’s feathers stood on end as he watched the chaos agent’s fumes disperse. He felt weak inside, as if some part had been chipped off and was now forever lost. He had failed. Enigma or not, this soul deserved better.

Sidaniel raised his palm to the locker’s upper left corner. A blazing light erupted and when he withdrew his hand, an ornately calligraphed E gleamed there, its outlines slowly fading. For now, this was all he could do to recognize the special contents of this storage box.

“I won’t forget. I’ll do better,” Sidaniel vowed, and stepped into thin air.

After her theatrical departure, Angel Laquiela had shrouded herself into her strongest mirror mist and returned to watch her junior council members’ struggle.

The challenge mattered, even if the danger wasn’t real. The myth of an Enigma’s destructible force had been carefully cultivated for two reasons. One was to test an angel’s character before promoting them.

As expected, Sidaniel and Gidmihr had worked the case together, opposing allegiances aside. Of course, the solution they came up with weighed harder on Sidaniel. Laquiela wished she could ease his mind now, but each angel had to find their own path. At their own pace. She could only wait, patiently, for Sid to find her. She wasn’t concerned for Gidmihr. He had probably forgotten about the affair already.

After Sidaniel’s departure, Laquiela stepped from her mist and placed a hand over the E he had left behind. Its lines had faded but the conflict and pain remained. The locker door opened to her touch. Carefully, almost tenderly, she picked up the crystal ball.

“Welcome home,” she said, smiling at the face in the sphere. The appearance of an Enigma was the first event in a new angels’ origin, and it had been a long time since the last one. Raphizal had come out on the Netherworld’s side. Maybe this one would turn out differently. “Let’s get you to recruitment. I can’t wait to see you in your wings,” she said.

Before she left, Laquiela placed a solved puzzle cube into the locker and resealed it. In time, Sidaniel would know to find her.

Enigma (3/4)

** If you missed the previous part, please read it here: Enigma – Part 2 **
** If you want to start at the beginning, go here: Enigma – Part 1 **

Laquiela sprang to her feet, excitement bubbling up in her chest. Maybe this was it—the moment she’d been waiting for. 

Hastily, she wiped a blooming smile from her face and instead resumed a façade of outrage and dismay. Struggling, she closed her eyes, fanning herself with her wings. Now it was up to her to act accordingly, to keep up the Enigma myth. She couldn’t mess this up. She opened her eyes and glared at the three angels at the table.

Sidaniel sat straight as a rod, eyes wide. Gidmihr, still voiceless, had dropped the lighter with which he had been drying his goatee, while Raphizal had clamped down on his pacifier.

Her outburst had shocked them well enough. Now she had to set the final challenge for the two junior council members. And that didn’t include Raphizal. Unfortunately, the ever-so-polite and conflict-averse Sidaniel had failed to ever demand his removal. Laquiela suppressed a chuckle. Throwing him out now would only serve the setting of the challenge and help underscore her message.

She took a measured breath and glared at the unsuspecting Raphizal. “Out!” she said, pressing the word through clenched teeth.

Surprised, Raphizal grunted in dismay.

“Now.” She made a shooing motion. It came off just as imperious and dismissive as intended.

Raphizal threw her a filthy look, but he didn’t argue. He kicked back his chair and went poof in a smoky cloud that rained down gnawed-off fingernails, a pair of pink mittens and a soggy binky.

Laquiela drew herself up to her full height and spread her silver wings. The air sparked with small energy bursts. “Sidaniel, I’m disappointed you’d stir up such a fuss over a slightly challenging client. And you, Gidmihr, need to stop harboring grudges about Evo Last. Move on. I will hear no more whining about such cases!” She gave both angels the most piercing stare she could muster. “As for the new case, you both will settle by tonight. Or else!”

Not waiting for any reaction, she folded her wings around herself and vanished with a blinding crack of lighting.

Sidaniel smoothed static from his feathers while he blinked hard against the afterimage of Laquiela’s exit. As soon as the last sparkle in the air faded, Gidmihr’s voice returned. “Astonishing temper,” he said. “Maybe I ought to recommend anger management?” Then the tip of his goatee self-ignited with a muted ‘pop’.

Sidaniel sighed, the sound coming from so low inside his chest that he felt the vibrato in his wings’ tips. He was tired. He was shaken. And worst of all, he was out of his depth. “I can’t believe you brought up Evo Last.”

Gidmihr ignored the comment. “So, I assume we’re talking about an Enigma?”

Sidaniel shuddered, then nodded. “Soul leaks, mood cracks, continuity fissures. If half of it is true, we’ll be putting out fires all over the place.”

“We like fire just fine.”

“Stop joking! This is serious!”

Gidmihr chuckled and steepled his fingers. “But it’s the only way to make your proximity bearable. Also, I’m sure it’s not really an Enigma.”

“No?” Sidaniel plucked a crystal ball from thin air and put it on the table. Inside revolved the transparent projection of a middle-aged man. Soul 126. “Prove me wrong. Go on.”

“Ha! He must lean one side or the other. He’s old.”

“I’m waiting.”

“Right, then. How about petty theft?”

A flurry of words ran over the sphere’s surface. Gidmihr skimmed the text. “Found a lost wallet, kept a tenner. Voila! First question hits.”

“You missed a cross-link. There.” Sidaniel pointed to a paragraph near the end. “Involved parties met again two decades later. Supermarket checkout line; former victim was short a tenner; he helped out. Wouldn’t even hear about repayment.”

Gidmihr scratched his head with the knee of his left wing. “The early years then. All kids goof sometime. Bet he nicked apples. Pears?”

“Plums,” Sidaniel confirmed. “Neighbor’s tree. One hundred forty-eight, between age nine and seventeen.”

“I sense a ‘but’.”

“Aged eighteen, he planted his own plum tree. Neighbor’s tree got blasted by lightning. Fellow shares his plums. For free.”

“Let me guess,” Gidmihr drawled. “One hundred and forty-eight in total?”


“How about regular exercise? Excessive prayer? Polyamorous impulses…?” With each new attempt, more words ran over the sphere’s surface. Each time Sidaniel shook his head ‘no.’

“Blazes! Seems you’re right,” Gidmihr finally groaned. “Options?”

“I’ve been chewing on it for hours. I got nothing. If this Enigma were to enter any of the unearthly realms, I’d wager it would wreck the balance faster than a wrongly judged soul. The balance is incredibly delicate.”

Gidmihr’s goatee tip gleaming brighter. “Already up for a gamble, dear Sid? Quite the rapid moral decay.”


“Alright, alright. How about an RTS, say a miraculous revival? One more deed, and the matter is settled.”

Return To Sender is impossible.”

“Already been processed?”

“Cremated,” Sidaniel sighed. “But yes, if only he’d come here a week later, a day earlier… basically any other time.”

Gidmihr froze for the fraction of a moment. Then, a fiery spark sprang up in his eyes. “Another time, then. Come on, I know what to do.” He pocketed the sphere, grabbed Sidaniel by his robe, and pulled him into a smoke cloud.



This is the penultimate part of this story. What do you think will be the resolution?
Watch this space – I’ll be posting the ending this weekend.

Read the ending here!

Enigma (2/4)

** If you missed the previous part, please read it here: Enigma – Part 1 **

Sidaniel had heard rumors about Enigmas, knew the theory as well as the whispered horror stories. But to see an actual manifestation? It had, quite simply, never seemed possible. Even now he was reluctant to share his suspicion. Once spoken, there was no taking it back. If wrong, he’d never hear the end of it. If right, it would be worse.

He tried again. “It’s an E—exception. A treat, if you will.”

“Sweet or savory?” Raphizal licked his teeth.

“I’m afraid he’s not talking about dinner, Raph, but a more metaphorical tidbit,” Gidmihr said.

“Shame.” Raphizal slouched back, ash-toned wings draped over his chair’s backrest. “I like sweets.”

Sidaniel’s under-feathers bristled, fluffing up his wings. He wasn’t in the mood for the duo’s antics. “Are you teasing me?” he asked sharply.

Raphizal jumped from his seat into a taut half-crouch. “Are we?” The air surrounding him flickered and rained soot flakes.

“Orrr—derrr…,” the Chairwoman drawled, attention still on her puzzle cube.

Gidmihr pulled is his protégé back onto the chair and left a calming hand his shoulder. A flame-red glint had come to the chaos agent’s eyes and his beard’s smoke turned a shade darker.

“Teasing? No. We’re accusing. I bet you botched the evaluation. Why else would you omit soul 126? This is like the Evo Last case all over again.”

“Nonsense. For one, I was ultimately right about Evo or we would have seen effects by now. And—”

Laquiela’s puzzle cube, one side solved, clattered to the table. “Stooooop it. Both of you,” she sighed. Then she pointed to the red-black flame that had burst from Gidmihr’s goatee. “Better watch it, Gidmihr. You’ll only trigger the sprinklers.”

Gidmihr’s gaze stayed fixed on Sidaniel. His goatee-flame blazed, licking with a steadily growing black tongue. “You are trying to rob us. Again!”

Angel Laquiela snapped her fingers. A water globule the size of a grapefruit appeared in front of Gidmihr and, correctly anticipating his evasive maneuver, exploded into his face. Defying physics, the water refused to splash all over the room. Instead, it ran in a merry rivulet down Gidmihr’s chin and drip-drip-dripped onto the table.

“Ewww.” Shuddering, Raphizal moved his chair over.

“That. Was. Unnecessary,” Gidmihr pressed out.

Laquiela eyed him with a mix of amusement and pity. “We are not revisiting the Evo Last incident. I settled that. Forget it.”

“Ah, but I’m afraid, Madam Chairwoman, that I don’t forget, much less forgive. This—”

“Enough. Take it up to appeals; this is the Last Judgement, not debate club.”

“And yet we’d all benefit from—”

Laquiela snapped her fingers again. Gidmihr’s voice cut out immediately, but he continued to mouth away. The chairwoman’s eyes sparked. “Five hundred seventy-seven years. Three investigations. No findings. It’s time to let it go.”

“Time,” Raphizal repeated, idly examining his fingernails. “Time is a construct affecting only mortal minds.”

“Be quiet, Raph,” Laquiela snapped.

Raphizal fell into a mutinous silence while Gidmihr proceeded with his outstanding red-snapper-pantomime. Ignoring both, Laquiela turned to Sidaniel. “You were saying?”

“Ahh…,” Sidaniel stuttered. He loathed bearing bad news. “Where was I?” he hedged.

“Sweets,” Raphizal prompted. Laquiela twitched but kept her eyes on Sidaniel.

“Right,” Sidaniel nodded. “Case 126. It’s nothing like Evo Last, I think. Not much room for differing opinions in—”

“Differing-shmiffering,” said Raphizal. He had started biting off his fingernails, spitting the half-moons to the side, then growing them back immediately to start over. Next to him, a carefully composed Gidmihr pressed water droplets from his goatee.

The Chairwoman rolled her eyes and snapped her fingers a third time. Raphizal found himself fitted with mittens and a pacifier, both in neon pink.

“Unacceptable,” he mumbled past his new accessory.

Laquiela picked up her puzzle cube, inspected one of its jumbled sides, then turned the cube’s top layer clockwise in a show of forced calmness. “Sid? What’s the trouble? Unsolved business with third-party entities? Aura entanglement, daemon possessions…? Spill it.”

“Uhm, it’s actually worse. It appears to be uhm—undetermined?”

Angel Laquiela froze mid-move. “Come again?”

“Pick anything. Kindness, truthfulness, courage, patience, wit, valor. Soul 126 is smack on the line in all categories. A solid grey. Even after hours of drilling down, I couldn’t find a smidge of green or red.”

An odd expression flickered over Laquiela’s face. Amazement? Agitation? Anger? Sidaniel couldn’t say…

“So, how did you judge?”

“I—I didn’t. Yet.”


Suddenly, the air was charged, and electric currents ran along Sidaniel’s wings. He swallowed hastily. “Meaning, I can’t very well send it anywhere. It might be an En—”

“SILENCE!” Laquiela thundered.


The penultimate part of Enigma is up. Read it here.


Part 1

After half an eon as a proctor for the Last Judgement Council, the angel Sidaniel discovered a gap in his supposedly infinite wisdom: disclose bad news to a superior right away—or leave the troublesome case for last?

Confident his divine insight would return just in time, Sidaniel walked into the daily council meeting, his summary report in speckless order. As tradition demanded, he went first, while the netherworld’s side had to wait their turn.

Working through his list, Sidaniel methodically listed each case’s judgement and additional honors. Soon, the offending case was only ten, then just two entries away. Sidaniel shifted in his seat. Where, in Judgement’s name, was that spark of enlightenment?

Uneasy, Sidaniel went on: “Case 124 was spiteful in her youth, downright vicious later. No redeeming actions. I sent her down to Terminal H.”

Sidaniel shuffled through his notes. One case remaining and no eleventh-hour epiphany in sight. “Case 125 was just as clear-cut and went the same way. Came in quite young after an unfortunate petty-theft-to-drug-cartel-muscle career.”

Suddenly pressed for a decision, Sidaniel found himself quite unwilling to discuss the troubling case—and skipped over it.

“Next came a good batch,” he said. “Numbers 127 to 159 passed well within green righteousness margins, two with outstanding merits. To those cases I awarded Silverbarters, three each, and they may off-load a proportional emotional weight in the ballast lockers before departing for—”

A laborious grunt interrupted Sidaniel and he looked up. Across the table at the Netherworld’s delegates’ side, the angel Gidmihr slouched in a chair. The tip of his carefully groomed goatee emitted its trademark curl of smoke. Next to him, the angel Raphizal had his left hand in the air. Upon Sidaniel’s pause, he raised his left wing as well, clearly hoping to underscore the urgency of his contribution.

Sidaniel glanced to the head of the table where the angel Laquiela, the Last Judgement Council’s chairwoman, sat in her elevated seat and fiddled with a jumbled puzzle cube.

The rules for the council were clear: one envoy for each side. This duo’s presence was egregious cheating, plain and simple. Laquiela should have thrown Raphizal out centuries ago, but all her attention was on that blasted toy!

  Sidaniel ruffled his wings, so the whispering feathers masked his sigh. “Why is he still here?” he asked, hoping the strain in his voice would register with Laquiela. “He’s not—”

“Now, now, dear Sidaniel! You know why.” Angel Gidmihr raised his hands in mock surprise. He pointed at a sticky note on Raphizal’s lapel. It looked on the verge of disintegrating and had TRAINEE scrawled on in faded, barely decipherable script. “Raph is my apprentice.”

“For two millennia?”

Gidmihr’s eyes narrowed, and his smoldering goatee emitted a volley of sparks. “Training on the job is vital. You of all people should know that. Without it, Raph could easily screw up a judgement. And then where would we be?” He licked his finger, smothered an ember flake on his robe’s cuff, and turned to his protégé. “No need to put your hand up, Raph. You had a question?”

“He skipped 126.”

“Not a question, but an excellent observation, Raph. Excellent indeed.” Gidmihr tapped his fingers on his pursed lips in an almost convincing show of concern. “Odd thing to do. Care to enlighten us, Sid?”

Sidaniel blinked, his mouth open as though an explanation might roll out of its own accord. When it didn’t, he snapped it shut. Alright! Next time, he would lead with the…difficult cases. Before he could collect his thoughts, Gidmihr went on.

“Granted, I’ve been there myself,” Gidmihr said, his black-rimmed eyes full of gleeful malice. “A little shuffle and boom! – a virtuous deed, a merit, a whole entry goes missing.” He twirled his goatee’s wisp of smoke around a finger and flicked it across the table like so much gossamer ribbon.

Sidaniel, nose pinched, fanned the air until the sulfurous smoke dispersed. “Nothing is missing. Case 126 will be last today. It’s a special soul, most likely an En—,” he choked on the word that had been haunting him since this case had come to his desk.



Read the next part here: Enigma 2.