God was humming as he approached.
Johpiel stopped what he was doing to listen.
‘Good tune. Yours?’
‘No. It’s Zechariah’s. I’m going to see him. Come with me. One of the cherubim is due a break anyway.’
Together, they entered the sanctuary. Jophiel signalled the angel, who dutifully ran off to choir practice. The light shimmered as God’s cloak swirled, then the darkness opened to envelop their silence.
Zechariah continued preparing the coals. Once they were hot and the incense was smoking nicely, Jophiel said:
‘Why do we come here? Surely the girl is your dwelling place now.’
‘Yes, but it takes some getting used to. I like it here. I like being with him.’ God nodded towards the grizzled old man, who was trimming a candle.
‘These nine months have been so long. Constant temptation to reach out to her, to brush past her consciousness and remind her of who she is. But it’s too soon.’
‘Yes,’ said Jophiel. ‘And she’s a he, now; remember?’
‘Hmmph. Yes. An unavoidable necessity.
I come here because Zechariah understands the frustrations of silence, of not being able to do a thing. Gabriel’s peevishness proved useful to me at last.’
Jophiel watched the old man. He went about his business contentedly, humming as he fed the coals.
‘Does he even know that you’re here? How can he tell?’
God rearranged the folds of his garment, then released the bonds he put on himself. Presence swelled, and Jophiel felt the light blazing, the shuddering darkness.
Zechariah stopped humming, and looked up suddenly. He stood very still, then bowed his head as his skin tingled in anticipation. Warmth flooded him as he drew breath. But when the breath was gone, so was his certainty. His eyes strained against the dark, then he turned back to the smoking pot.
‘That’s it?’ Jophiel cried, realising it was over. ‘No words? No song?’
‘Not usually.’ God said.
‘But you’re sure he knew you were here? He didn’t seem sure.’
‘Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But Elizabeth will know. She always does.’
God looked amused as he watched the old man.
‘Elizabeth claims that when I’ve come, he goes home full of energy and chatter. She says he laughs more, and wants attention. Indeed, she sometimes asks if I couldn’t have sent Gabriel to him, instead.’
Johpiel looked sceptically at the craggy face of the priest, unsure if God meant what he thought he meant.
‘Truly, Lord, your wonders never cease.’