Prologue (from “Sympathy for the Angel”)

— Prologue —

What Happens in Vegas…

from Sympathy for the Angel

The smell of stale cigarette smoke lingers like an invisible cloud of anxiety in this place, but no one ever seems to look worried. There’s a hallway between the MGM Grand Casino and the MGM Signature Hotel that has a sweet smell to it – a distinct smell – but otherwise, all of these places all smell the same. Something I’ve noticed: The casinos with the higher ceilings have less of that smoky smell, and this one, the MGM Grand, has pretty high ceilings, comparatively speaking. If you go down to Freemont, most of those ceilings are low enough to jump and touch.

As a general rule in Las Vegas: The classier and/or trendier the casino, the higher the ceilings (like on the Las Vegas Strip); the cheaper and/or more “vintage” the casino, the lower the ceilings (such as Freemont Street).

The sound of this town is unmatched. The dings, bells, and whistles of the slot machines give the place its baseline background soundscape; periodically spontaneous cheers from the Blackjack or Craps tables indicate when generous luck swings in someone’s direction. Contrarily, there is also the occasional sporadically loud burst of sudden profanity from someone who has not drawn the attention of luck’s generosity. Regardless, the audible traits of this setting cannot be duplicated by any other variety of locales. It all meshes into one sustained sound: Vegas.

This town – Las Vegas – is simply unlike anywhere in the world. Trust me, I’ve been pretty much everywhere and seen it from every angle. But this place; it’s odd that I would end up here considering people call it “Sin City,” but I suppose the irony is befitting of my situation. Walking the Las Vegas strip at night is like seeing the whole world on display in a neon bottle. All types of people from all types of places flood this city for a bit of distraction from the difficulties of life; to live the Vegas experience for a few days. Ordinary people can easily bump into A-list celebrities and it seems as though it’s a common occurrence. The sidewalks are full of tourists taking endless pictures that will invariably end up on a Facebook page that no one will view; numerous men in bright orange shirts are futilely attempting to hand out brochures for “escorts” of all shapes and sizes; proprietors of dance clubs and bars are perpetually offering three-for-one club passes for the evening’s nightlife; a man standing on a small wooden box is pleading for any ear he can, letting us all know that we can be forgiven for our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ, but everyone seems to avoid eye-contact with him.

Actually, the man on the box caught my eye. As I stood at a distance, listening and observing, I grinned. Christ would be proud of him, I thought to myself. Trust me, I know. I’ve rubbed elbows with Jesus more times than I can recall. Jesus is a guy who likes to defy the odds. He likes standing in the face of adversity and challenging reality to a stare-down. He likes going against the grain. He likes being the one who makes the difference. He likes shouting His message, even when no one is listening. Yes, Jesus would definitely like this guy.

The small wooden box on which the make-shift evangelist stood looked like an old milk crate. In fact, it may have been plastic, just old and worn; it was difficult to see through the motion of walking legs as they passed and ignored him.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

That smell – that aroma. Not the cigarettes; the hallway. There is a three-tower hotel behind the MGM Grand Casino called the MGM Signature Hotel, and between the two buildings, there is a long hallway that spans roughly a half-mile. And that hallway has a smell – an aroma – that is sweet and distinguishable from any other. I’ve searched to find that scent anywhere else and have only come close once when I found a candle scent called “Sensual Vanilla” that was quite similar, but not a duplication. Lavender Vanilla is similar as well, but it just isn’t the same. That hallway is the only place I’ve ever found it.

All my senses are heightened. I exist in the shadows, in the corner of peoples’ eyes, in the back of their consciences, in the forefront of their souls.

The word we use is “Guide.” The word people use is “Angel.”

I prefer “Guide.”

I can see more clearly than any man, I can smell more distinctly than any man, I can hear more details than any man. And that, plainly spoken, is why I love Las Vegas. This town does everything to over-stimulate every sense known to man – or me.

Guides have six senses, whereas people have only five. However, we have two senses mankind does not have, and they have one we do not. We have the concrete sense of intuition which allows us the ability to accurately estimate exactly what a person will do. We also have the perfect sense of time. Every guide’s sense of time is more accurate than a stopwatch, which allows flawless guidance for any person under our care – we refer to that person as our “Lead.” The one sense which man has that we do not is the sense of taste. As a guide – an immortal – we do not need to eat or be fed, and therefore do not require the sense of taste. God took that sense from us prior to the creation of man when he saw that taste leads imperfect beings to crave, to glutton, and to lust. And when that lust became a lust for power and the Guide known as Lucifer was cast down, God removed that sense to prevent further uprisings.

I call Him “God,” of course, because that name has been bestowed upon Him by mankind. We do not call Him “God.” Actually, we don’t call Him anything. He is on a level so much higher than anything, we do not address Him by any name. Instead, we speak to Him without title or designation. Mankind has given Him hundreds of names through the writings of His scriptures, but to us, He has no name. He simply, is. The only time mankind has ever accurately recorded God’s designation was when He spoke his name as “I Am.” Otherwise, all the Jehovah pseudonyms are just man’s attempt at giving Him a designation based on His purpose.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

It’s hot. Even at night. Sometimes I wish He’d taken away our sense of feel with regards to temperate conditions, because it is really hot outside. During the day, the orange glare of the sun burns down on the litter-ridden sidewalks which turn into invisible paths of debris at night. Littered escort flyers, beer bottles, and cigarette butts set the motif for the evening’s fast-paced night life; the golden shine of the daytime sun gives way to the neon shine of the night as Las Vegas illuminates into its mythic panache to dazzle the eyes, the ears, and the soul.

The guy on the milk crate is still standing there. His message is still the same. And his audience is still passing him by, pretending not to hear him or see him or believe him. But this evangelist presses on.

As I watched him plead for any willing ear, I saw a slight look of discouragement – defeat – cross his face. So I strolled through the crowd of passing patrons and whispered into his ear. He wasn’t my Lead and I wasn’t his Guide, but for this, I was willing to make an exception.

“Someone has heard you, and someone believes,” I said quietly as he searched the crowd for any interested set of eyes. He doesn’t know he was spoken to, but he heard what I had to say. With that, a small and confident smile spread across his cheeks, and he continued with his message – determined, confident, and faithful.

COVER COPY (Synopsis):

After being cast out of Heaven, an angel named Nathaniel decided to write his tell-all memoirs about God, Heaven, humans, and the true purpose of God in the lives of humanity. Yet, unable (or unwilling) to step forward and say these things to the world, he finds a man on the streets of Las Vegas upon which he can bestow his stacks-and-stacks of the hand-written notebooks containing his memoirs. This man on the streets of Las Vegas – the structural narrator – relays the words of this fallen angel to the world in this true test of humans’ suspension of disbelief . . . and belief.