Nathan flicked on his headlights; night came fast in the country. The road was beginning to wind and wind. Nathan was still a way off from home. He switched on the radio and wound down the window, letting cold air rush in to wake him a little. He hated the station's music selection, but there was nothing he could do about it. He drove on a little further, eyelids starting to sag. The same thought continued to ricochet around his head; nearly home, nearly home, nearly home-
A dark shape flashed across the bonnet of the car, inches from the windscreen. That brought him out of his dream state in a hurry, and he
slammed down on the brakes. The shape passed in front of the Holden again and Nathan's heart skipped a beat. He wound up the window and locked his door, remembering stories about creatures in the night, large bats and bunyips and God knows what else. Nathan kept the headlights on high beam and stared out into the night.
Again, the thing passed close to the car, then collapsed on the road not far in front. Nathan sat. And sat. He could just make it out, lying on the road. He knew he might hit the creature if he drove off and if he stayed... he wasn't sure of what might happen.
He couldn't sit all night. Nathan unlocked his door and opened it slowly, cringing. He leant back into the car, looking for a weapon and felt the torch he had laying on the passenger side floor. He hefted it ahead of him like a baseball bat. Slipping down to the side of the car, Nathan peered over the bonnet. Lying on the tar in the stark white of the headlights was a man, curled into the foetal position, but there was something quite extraordinary about him.
He was the most pale colour, an almost perfect white, like marble or
alabaster, and wrapped about him was a blanket of fine white feathers.
Nathan edged closer to the man and squatted down.
'Hey, you okay?' he said.
There was no response. Nathan stretched out his hand, then pulled it
back. He went to speak, but the man on the road stirred.
It was just a whisper, but Nathan heard it clear as a bell. He backed off a little. The man slowly got to his knees, the blanket falling to his sides. Nathan stepped back further, coming hard up against the bonnet of the Holden. The blanket was no blanket.
The man had wings, wings that stretched from above his shoulders down to his knees. He seemed like some human swan. The smooth down left
tufts of feathers on the road as a slight breeze ruffled the wings. Nathan stared.
'Could you please help, I need to be somewhere soon.' The strong voice hacked into the uncomfortable silence and Nathan snapped out of his trance.
'Uh, yeah, I can help. Um, aren't you cold?' Nathan had finally noticed the man had no clothes.
'Thank you, but no. I just need to go, quickly. Please can you take me?'
Questions collected in Nathan's head, but he thought that getting this man to where he wanted was more important.
'Um, yeah, just get in.'
Nathan got back into the car himself and clicked his seatbelt into place. The man opened the passenger side door and slid inside, a graceful movement. The two closed their doors simultaneously.
'Uh, you better do up your seatbelt.'
'Thank you for reminding me.'
The man seemed better now, his voice more confident and he had better colour.
'Um before we go, can I ask you a question?'
'Are you an alien?'
The man laughed, his smile remaining as he turned to Nathan. Nathan saw that the man was beautiful, and his smile something special.
'In the sense of what you know, I suppose you could say, yes. But it is more appropriate that I am called an Angel.'
Nathan frowned, 'Angel?'
'Yes. I suppose I'd be a Guardian Angel. Please. I'm in a rush, could we go?'
Nathan started the car and they were soon moving off into the night.
'Um, if you're an Angel, could you change yourself so I don't have to not look anywhere?'
Again the Angel laughed, a bright sound and was soon dressed in a
T-shirt and jeans. The wings had disappeared. 'Is this easier to look at?'
'Yeah, thanks. Anyway, where we going?'
'Ah, I knew you would want to know. But, no, it's not important, just drive, I will tell you where to stop.'
The two sat silently as the car hummed and bumped along. Nathan reached over to turn the radio on, glanced at the Angel, who nodded acceptance, and let the music fill the car.
'So, why are you here? Um, what's your name.' Nathan turned to his passenger.
'Look at the road, Nathan.' Nathan flicked his head back to the road. 'My name is Gladrial, and I'm here to help.'
'Gladrial. It means -'
'No, I caught your name, who were you sent to help?'
'That is not for you to know.'
'Always asking questions,' Gladrial muttered.
Nathan frowned. He didn't think Angels would mutter.
'Simply because it is not important, Nathan,' Gladrial scolded.
Nathan looked uncertain, 'What's important to me, that's different to what may be important to you?
'Why?' The Angel looked at Nathan intently, ice blue eyes flashing with interest. 'You're right Nathan. Nothing distinguishes us, except I'm what you call an Angel.'
'So why can't I know?'
'A curious question. It is not necessary for you to know all things, but you will find out, soon.'
Nathan thought about the answer and out of the corner of his eye he caught the Angel watching him intently. Nathan stared at the road, lost in concentration, until he was pulled from his thoughts by Gladrial.
Nathan turned the Holden into a badly maintained dirt track and drove into deeper darkness.
'Slow down Nathan, we're almost here.'
Nathan's eyes answered his question as a small car stopped alongside a battered fenceline came into view.
Nathan pulled up behind the old yellow Datsun. 'What are you doing?'
'My job, Nathan.'
'Pay well?' Gladrial stepped from the car, frowned at Nathan, then slammed the door. The Angel walked to the driver's side and rapped his
knuckles on the window. Nathan rolled it down.
'I may need some help, are you coming?'
'Help? An Angel?'
'Sure!' Nathan opened his door and followed Gladrial over to the Datsun. A young woman lay on the back seat, a small floral dress clinging to her swollen sweaty form. She gasped hard as Gladrial leaned into the open window.
'Are you all right, miss?'
'Oh! I'm... having the... baby.' Her long dark hair lay matted over her face and she hugged at her sides, breathing hard.
'Where's your husband?' Nathan asked.
Gladrial gave him an angry look, but the young woman answered, between hard breaths.
'He... went... for help.'
Gladrial opened the door. The young woman was completely at ease, her breathing seemed to slow. Nathan wondered at this. Two complete strangers, burst into your car, while you're having a baby, and you're okay with it?!
Gladrial talked slowly, calming her even more. He had a strong glow around him, an aura that seemed sort of bluish. The car seemed lit by the glow of the living electricity that flowed about him. It made Nathan feel more at ease. He supposed it did the same for the girl. Nathan looked on as Gladrial worked.
He listened for a while and found out the girls' name. Kate. Her husband was Geoff and they lived a long way out of town. The car had broken down, but the story ended as Gladrial started to deliver the baby. He talked to Kate, through the ordeal. Nathan whinced as the young girl let out hard breaths and shrieks. He could still hear Gladrial voice though, soothing. The windows in the little yellow Datsun steamed over with the breathe of its two and finally three occupants. He heard a tiny yell and peered inside. When he saw Gladrial, hunched over the girl and the tiny baby in her arms, he felt pure happiness, unlike anything he had felt before.
Gladrial backed out of the car and spoke in Nathan's ear, 'Stay here, look after them until Geoff returns. Tell him what happened and say I had to leave. He will understand completely, you don't have to
worry about that.'
'You're going? Just like that?'
'I have to Nathan. I may see you again.'
The baby cried out and Nathan turned towards the car. Out of the corner of his eye a strange light flickered. He glanced back to where Gladrial was, only seconds before, but the Angel was gone. Nathan walked over to the Datsun and leant inside. The mother and baby girl both looked up at him and stuck to the blanket in which the tiny newborn was wrapped was a single white feather.