The angels watch from a suspended corner square, coldly at ease amongst the squalor of Mao’s thoughts. Motionless in the placid still construction, they are completing complex observations and tallying the sequence of their findings in knots of fireflies the colour of the moon. Mao runs a part of his mind along the strings distantly touching the unknowable sequences, and tastes the caveats, burdens himself with the angel’s wisdom and adjusts his appearance accordingly.
Callistus sees the progressive change only evidenced in the finer wrinkles around the man’s eyes, their easing and releasing tension, a quiet subduction of the muscles around his eyelids, so that this man appears to her to become stiller inside. And in his calm, so it is that she notices the wind in the lane’s trees hushing the leaves a little more, and his whole body seems to breathe with the rise and fall of the breeze’s tide. It’s this subtraction of himself, his equilibrium, his mechanical absence within the surrounding aspects of the farmland that accentuate the soft clockwork mechanism of the place, and Callistus smells Autumn and knows rain is on the way.
As he approaches, measuring his steps, she sees that fire adorns him and knows he is calling crows down to witness the death of whatever being he used to be. That is what the ritual is, why the angels attend, to gauge Mao’s readiness and then permit the ritual to play out perfectly. Callistus knows that, that beyond the veil of her limited sight, now confined to the rapid swept vista of these browning hills, Mao has lain a corpse onto ground beside himself. A shadow, greyer shaded body, languid on the damp meadowland beside the fields, he is waiting for the black birds to land with heavy descents, and stick-walk their tough winged bodies around the prone figure, cawing thoughtfully and coldly to themselves. They are dividing the shadows of the ghost into strips with serated cries, whilst the angels observe nothing of the wind, and nothing of autumn’s slow onset nor Callistus’ adoring eyes, and only count the ticking knots of their firefly log-line paid out into the streaming waters of time, counting the perfect increments of the moments.