In the morning when she woke up, Torralei’s bed was comfortable and familiar. Why wouldn’t it be? She was created to exist on Lamacoln. She stretched under her thin wool blanket and the bed felt larger than it should have been. She was up early and headed straight for the bathroom. She was still unsteady on her feet. Her center of balance seemed off. But that was understandable. She was only born yesterday, after all.
She stood in front of the toilet and felt the same moment of panic as she did when she went to use the facilities the night before. Then she took a deep breath, and a second one. By the third breath, the world had stopped spinning and she was able to turn around, sit down, and pee.
“It’s all okay, everything is going to be fine,” she whispered to herself.
Outside, a line of angels had already gathered in the hallway. Long blonde hair, piercing blue eyes. They all could have been members of the same family.
And they were, weren’t they? They were all children of Avourel, the sacred god of Lamacoln.
“Good morning, Torralei,” said the first person in line. Torralei shrank back instinctively, as if he was going to hit her. He did. A hearty slap on her shoulder that made her stagger.
“Goddammit, Jannalor,” she said, rubbing her shoulder. “How many times did I ask you not to do that?”
“You’ve never asked me anything,” said Jannalor. “You were born yesterday.” He laughed. “Only born yesterday! That’s funny.” He looked around, but nobody else laughed. “Well, I think it’s funny.” He raised his hand to slap her again, but this time Torralei stepped back quickly enough and he put his arm down. “Get you next time!”
The angel behind him poked Jannalor in the back and he stepped into the bathroom.
“Good morning, dear sibling,” the angel said. Torralei hadn’t met him yet. “Welcome to Lamacoln.” The angel hugged her and kissed both her cheeks. “I love you, sibling.”
“I love you, too, Ninlein.” Torralei kissed him back. Ninlein was tall. Too tall. Just like Jannalor was too tall. Had they grown recently?
Thefiel, next in line, had also grown taller.
“I love you, sibling,” Thefiel said and stepped forward to hug Torralei. “Welcome to Lamacoln. You will love it here.”
Torralei was hugged and welcomed by five more angels before she finally got to the washing room, which had several sinks. She walked up to the first sink and reached for one of the toothbrushes in a holder on the wall between her sink and the one next to it.
“That’s Alosrin’s toothbrush,” said the angel next to her.
“Ah, right, sorry, Elyon,” said Torralei and started to put it back when Elyon took it from her hand and threw it out.
“You can get your own later today,” he said. “Ask…”
“Hamalar, I know,” said Torralei.
“You’ve met her already, then?”
“Yes… well, no,” said Torralei. “But I feel like I already know her.”
“It’s like that sometimes here.” Elyon patted Torralei on the arm. “You just know that you belong. Like you were meant to be here. Welcome to Lanacoln. I love you, sib.” Elyon left.
“I love you, too,” said Torralei. She washed her hands, then swished water around her mouth and used her finger to get the morning film off her teeth. Then she spit, straightened up, and said, “God, I could use some coffee.” The angel who took Elyon’s place at the next sink gasped.
Torralei turned her head. “Sorry, Jannalor, didn’t see you there.”
Jannalor leaned close and lowered his voice. “Don’t joke about coffee. Especially not if the great lord god Avourel is around. I mean, he knows all and hears all, but he tends to let things slide unless you commit the apostasy right in front of him.”
“Right, I keep forgetting,” said Torralei.
“Well, it’s understandable,” said Jannalor. “You were only born yesterday.”
Torralei ducked away before she got slapped again.
Hamalar sat in the dining room at a table near one of the narrow windows. She was eating porridge from a wooden bowl and paused when Torralei came up to her.
“Hamalar, most holy and divine quaestor of Lamacoln…” Torralei began.
“Yeah, yeah, I heard it all before,” said Hamalar. “Sit down. Whadda need? A change of robes?”
“Well, yes, but also…”
“Your own bowl and set of utensils, am I right?”
“A set of underclothes.”
“I was going to get to that,” said Hamalar. “I can get you everything but the change of robes. We’re short right now. But you can just cut off the hem of Alosrin’s old robes. Do you still have them?”
“Yes, they’re in the cubby…”
“Good.” Hamalar dipped her spoon into the porridge. “Oh, and don’t forget to check the schedule for your daily assignments.”
Torralei glanced up at the back wall, where the day’s chores were written in chalk.
“You’re in the laundry this morning,” Hamalar said. “That’s in the wash house down by the…”
“By the river, I know,” said Torralei.
After breakfast, Torralei’s feet led her down to the river, where she filled up buckets with water and brought them into the washhouse. Ninlein was already there with a reed basket full of robes and bed linens.
“We’re low on soap today,” Ninlein said. “So we’ll have to scrub extra hard.” She pulled out one of the robes. “At least the cold water will keep the blood from setting.”
“Blood?” Torralei looked at the robe Ninlein was holding and her head swam.
“We had to have a stoning yesteray,” Ninlein said. “Some of the spatters must have gotten on people.” She shrugged. “It happens.”
“Who was stoned?”
“You wouldn’t know him,” said Ninlei. “That was before you arrived. It was a guy named Alosrin.” She spat on the ground. “May his name be cursed for all eternity. May he burn in hell with the demons and torn to shreds by hellhounds. May he be whipped for millennia and suffer endless torment.”
“What did he do?”
“He took the lord god Avourel’s name in vain,” said Ninlein. “Avourel the highest and most powerful is merciful, but even he has his limits.” She shook her head. “Coffee! Can you believe it! The idiot kept asking for coffee every single morning.”
Torralei poured the buckets of water into the washtub. Her eyes kept going back to the blood-stained robes.
“I’ll get more water,” she said.
“You know, I’ll never understand Alosrin. I thought he was a decent angel. We have everything here. It’s paradise.” She put down the robe and waved her arms around. “Look at this place. It’s beautiful. We have everything we need. We don’t have a single thing we lack. Our existence is perfect, thanks to Avourel.”
“Don’t say that,” said Ninlein. “In all his wisdom, Avourel is probably just testing us. He is god, and his thoughts are not for the likes of us. Once the soap arrives, we will be able to show our gratitude in appropriate ways. How would we know to be grateful if we never lacked for anything?”
“I don’t know if that makes sense or not,” said Torralei.
“It’s just the way it is. Our minds are too tiny to comprehend the full glory of Avourel and what he has created here for us. All we can do is bask in the joy that he brings us.”
“And be grateful.”
“Yes, very, very grateful. Especially if he’s around.” She glanced over her shoulder. “Though he can see and hear us at all times and in all places, since he is all-knowing and all-seeing.” She picked up the robe again and glanced at Torralei. “So don’t test his patience. And get more water.”