There was a loud clanging sound and the space station reverberated horribly. ‘My God, we’ve been hit by something,’ said Mariah.
‘It sounded as if it might have been quite big, better check the systems for any damage,’ said Captain Shepherd.
Mariah floated over to the bank of consoles and checked the readings anxiously. ‘Everything seems in order, Captain.’
‘Phew. But can you hear something tapping?’
‘Yes, I can, it sounds like something is flapping against the ship.’
‘As if in a breeze?’
‘Yes, shame that isn’t possible up here. Listen, there seems to be a pattern. Tap, tap, tap … tap … tap … tap … tap, tap, tap.’
‘You’re right. It’s like some sort of weird code. Three short taps, three long taps, followed by three short taps. Any idea what it means?’
‘Check the external monitors, is there any visible damage?’
‘No. Wait. Oh my goodness, that isn’t possible.’
‘What is it?’
‘There’s someone in a space suit clinging to the side of the craft.’
‘Have you overdosed on the “wake up” pills again? I warned you about that last time.’
‘See for yourself, Captain.’
‘That simply isn’t possible, we’re orbiting two hundred miles above the Earth’s surface.’
‘I’ll open the outer lock.’
‘Wait. We need to think about this. It could be an alien.’
‘You’ve been watching too many of those old movies, Captain.’
‘A terrorist then?’
‘You just said it yourself, Captain, we are two hundred miles above the Earth.’
‘They’ll stop at nothing to infiltrate our way of live, bent only on destruction.’
‘You’ve been reading the “Daily Mail” again, haven’t you? We can’t leave him, or her, out there doomed to certain death, we must open the portal and let him, her, it, whatever, in. It’s the only decent, human, thing to do.’
‘I may live to regret this but, very well, open the portal.’
Mariah, busied herself at the console, and then donned her full suit. ‘I’ll go to the inner portal to help them, whoever they are, in.’
Captain Shepherd set about updating the log, fretting that he’d just agreed to let a three eyed, green monster with ferocious talons into the space station, or, worse, a bogus Syrian asylum seeker. Mariah returned a few minutes later, bringing with her someone, something, else, it was difficult to tell much about this stranger until they had struggled out of their suit. It was a man, but not as Mariah and Captain Shepherd knew it, for he had wings, white feathery things growing from between his shoulder blades. Mariah reached out, as if hypnotised, to feel them – yes, they were definitely wings.
‘Thank you,’ said the creature in front of them ‘not my smoothest landing but it’s very awkward in this suit.’ Mariah and Captain Shepherd floated, speechless, ‘sorry if I startled you.’
Mariah was the first to gather her wits, sort of. ‘But who, what, how …?’
As you can tell, her wits were only partially gathered but it was better than Captain Shepherd had managed as he had passed out and was floating like a dead fish at the top of the control room.
‘My name is Gabriel and I have been sent by The Lord with a message for Mary.’
‘I’m Mariah, will I do?’
‘You go by many names, Mary. You are known as Maria, Marie, Miryam, Mariam, and, indeed, Mariah, I could go on. But hereinafter you will be known as the Mother of the Son of God.’
‘Sorry, but I’m really not following you.’
‘No, clearly, let me explain it to you more clearly. You should kneel.’
‘Kneeling is really a bit tricky when you are weightless, will this do?’
Mariah adopted a kneeling sort of position whilst floating in space.
‘It will have to,’ said Gabriel, ‘I’ll introduce myself properly this time. Greetings, you who are highly favoured, The Lord is with you.’
Mariah might have crossed herself and answered ‘and also with you’ at this point but none of that had been invented yet.
Gabriel continued ‘do not be afraid, Mary.’
‘Mariah,’ she corrected him.
‘Do not be afraid, Mariah, you have found favour with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus.’
‘I’d like to pick you up on a few points there,’ Mariah interrupted ‘first, I’m not pregnant, I’m a virgin, see I’m wearing the ring, I’m saving myself for my Joseph,’ she went all dreamy at the mention of his name, ‘second, I’m not too keen on the name “Jesus” and third, I don’t know what makes you think you’ve got the right to tell me my own child’s name. We’ve moved on a bit from the days when a man could just …’
‘I’m an angel,’ Gabriel corrected her.
‘Whatever, there is such a thing as feminism you know and I’ll decide what my baby is called, thank you very much.’
Gabriel sighed as if to say ‘Why me? Why her?’
‘When is this baby going to be born anyway?’ Mariah asked.
‘Towards the end of December.’
‘Well that isn’t going to happen, I’ve got another four months up here before I return to Earth and I’m definitely, definitely, not doing it with him,’ she said gesticulating towards Captain Shepherd, still floating, oblivious, amidst the ducts and cables at the top of the room.
‘You won’t have to do it, as you put it, with anyone, The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.’
‘Did you do Biology at school? I did and I can assure you that isn’t how it works.’
‘This is an exceptional circumstance and I can assure you that, just this once, that’s how it will work.’
‘I’m not going back to Earth in August, obviously pregnant, after spending the last six months up here alone with him,’ she gesticulated again ‘and that’s my last word on the subject. You’ll have to find some other mug for your sordid little scheme.’
‘No,’ she waggled her purity ring in Gabriel’s direction ‘now get your suit back on and bugger off wherever it is you came from.’