‘So you got me to watch quidditch and now you think I’ll be down to play football?’ Even for Angela this was a stretch.
‘Not play. Just watch. Aaron is playing.’
‘But why? It doesn’t interest me.’
‘Come on. How bad could it be?’
‘It’s not bad. Just boring.’
‘I bet I can change your mind.’
‘I bet you can’t.’
Angela leans in close to me so our eyes are level. ‘Carlie will be there.’
The worst part about friends knowing you is they can blackmail you.
‘I didn’t realise your brother played football.’
‘Did you realise I had a brother?’
‘Of course I did.’
‘The day we went to the beach then out clubbing, he picked you up.’
‘Oh yeah. Well he also plays football.’
Carlie, Dame and I are all walking to the fields where weeks earlier I watched the quidditch game. This time there are definitely jocks. Big, rough-looking guys who are all acting too much like alpha-males for my comfort. But Carlie was here. I spot Angela waiting for us, dressed in her paramedic clothes. She was and standing with a similarly dressed guy holding a first aid kit. We walk up and say hello.
‘Oh good, you guys came.’ Her voice is innocent but her look is taunting me. ‘This is Harry. Harry, think you’ve met Dame and Carlie. This is Jordan.’
‘Hello Harry. Is Angela as annoying in uniform as she is the rest of the time?’
‘You were right, Angela. I am glad I came. Is Aaron here yet?’
The game starts a few minutes later. For the most part the game is exactly as I remember it, jocks doing their best to inflict pain without breaking rules. I never understood it, and I never needed to. Carlie also seems to be uninterested, except when Aaron or her brother gets the ball.
There’s a hard tackle, one of the players hits the ground and for an instant I think there is a problem. Then he pulls himself to his feet, and I see his friends pat him on the back and game resets. Feet crunch on the brittle earth and the lights fade to a red hue as lightning crackles around the sky. I can feel Carlie holding my hand as the people on the field seem to warp and twist. I see horns grow from their heads, arrowhead-tails snake out from the top of their shorts. The coaches seem to be gaolers of some kind, massive stone beasts that move between the devils, herding them where necessary.
Carlie’s other hand grabs my arm. ‘You okay?’
‘You’re getting that far-off look.’
‘Oh.’ The demons on the hellish battlefield are ferocious. ‘That.’ Lightning booms every time someone is tackled. ‘I’m okay.’ Each step shakes the ground, a continuous earthquake and sense of seas sickness. ‘It’s just different, you know? Unexpected.’
‘You haven’t really explained it. Does it scare you?’
‘No.’ Another flash of lightning, a fire erupts near the goal posts. A devil on the opposing team has gone down, screeching in fury and agony. ‘That guy who got tackled. He’s okay, right?’
‘Yeah,’ Angela spoke loudly. ‘He’s fine. Just winded. See, already back up.’
Carlie’s voice was soft so others wouldn’t hear. ‘Is there a reason?’
‘Like, I don’t know. Do you have a mental issue?’
I feel her hands loosen. Maybe she’s worried that she’s offended me. Maybe she’s getting ready to retreat. I reach up and hold her hand on my arm.
‘It’s okay. I’m not offended. And no, not really. I mean, I may have something, but that isn’t what this is.’ A devil kicks a fireball across the field and the rest scamper to catch it. ‘I just have an over-active imagination. It makes life more interesting. Makes things easier to deal with. I never really had the need to grow out of it, so I didn’t.’
‘So, you’ve seen things your entire life?’
‘What I can remember, yeah.’
‘What do you see now?’
The skies cracked again as the fireball was dragged back towards the other end of the field. ‘I see a battlefield. Each side sees the other as the enemy. They are fighting devils who want to take their team to victory’
‘Yeah but it’s just a game, they are people not devils’
‘I know. And I know they know. But in this moment they want to win, so they push themselves.’
The ground heaves and the moment freezes. Aaron is on the ground, clutching his leg and pain twisting his face. Referees surround him and push the players back. Angela and Harry have both begun moving forward. In this one moment I see people, not devils as the players from both sides show concern. Then the moment moves again. The devils all crouch nearby, hunched shoulders and whispers. The golems hold them back and mutter in guttural rasps.
But there is a soft, blue light as two white-feathered angels descend onto the field. They wear white clothes and gleaming silver armour with gold engravings. There is a soft whistle, like wind through an opening as they glide to Aaron-devil’s side. He looks up at them with regret. They look down on him with kindness. Then they lay their hands on him and sing. It’s beautiful, it’s harmonious, it’s loving. Then a light shines from within him, and Aaron is lifted into the air on brilliant blue energy.
The players all applaud as Harry and Angela help Aaron off the field. It’s a sign of respect. The referees give a penalty kick, and the game continues as Carlie and I walk over to check on Aaron.
‘You okay, man?’
‘Yeah, just a rolled ankle. Hurt like a bitch though.’
‘Can’t take you anywhere, can we?’
‘Apparently not.’ I can still see his horns, but his face is more human, more natural. He smirks at me. ‘Don’t look so concerned. There’s always one or two a week.’
Harry was currently strapping his ankle. ‘Yeah, they keep us busy. Great experience though.’
Devils may be vicious and angels may be saviours. But all I could think in this moment is I’ve found a great group of people to inhabit my mind. They certainly keep it busy.