Almost no one thinks about the knees of an angel.
No one really sees them, under the toga. Nobody ever stops to consider whether angels have knobbly knees, the kind of knees usually seen on scrawny fourteen-year-old boys who’ve only just barely managed to survive their first real dose of hormones. Of all the exalted, perfect qualities of angels, knees are fairly low on the list.
Quiniel looked down and frowned at his knees as they knocked together nervously. Like everyone else, he’d never stopped to consider his knees until now, and he found himself thoroughly annoyed with them, especially as they bounced together and added another level of anxiety to his already-flustered state.
The cherub sitting at the desk looked up, running her eyes over him without pity. “He’s ready for you,” she called out in high, melodic tones that sounded like wind chimes.
Quiniel grimaced. “Any idea what he’s upset about?”
The cherub shrugged. “Who are we, to question the thoughts and motives of the One Most High and Exalted?” Despite this, her grin was rather petty as she anticipated the Divine reaming that Quiniel was, apparently, about to receive.
Still glaring down at his recalcitrant knees, Quiniel went past the cherub’s desk and into the office of the One Above All. He had no idea why he’d been called up here. Usually, if there was some problem with the animals he’d designed to populate the Earth, he just received a quick memo from his supervisor.
Instead, he’d shown up to work to find a summons from the Divine One waiting for him, all his coworkers murmuring under their breath as they looked sidelong at him.
Inside the Holy One’s office, Quiniel squinted at the divine glow radiating out from behind the massive white desk. “I have come, O Lord, as you requested?”
AH, YES. AND WHO ARE YOU AGAIN?
“Quiniel, O Exalted One.” The divine radiance really was making Quiniel’s eyes hurt. “Uh, Master of Creation? Any chance you could turn down the glow a bit?”
WHAT? OH, I SEE THE PROBLEM. HERE, IS THAT BETTER?
“Yes, much,” Quiniel said, relieved, as the divine light of creation dropped off to the point where he could see again. “Now, Being of Divine Worship-”
YOU KNOW, “GOD” WILL SUFFICE, I THINK.
“Erm, right. God, uh, why did you call me in here?”
The Ruler of Heaven and All Worlds frowned at Quiniel for a moment, and then snapped his fingers. AH, YES. IT WAS ABOUT THIS. He reached below his desk and pulled up a small animal carrier, which he opened and placed on the gleaming white surface.
Quiniel felt another stab of unease, right at the level between thigh and calf, as the animal inside came flopping out. It had been the last one of the day, and sure, he’d needed to get rid of some parts, but it came out alright, hadn’t it? All the tubes connected and such.
WHAT IS THIS SUPPOSED TO BE, QUINIEL?
“Er. It’s a platypus, O Great- God.”
IT SEEMS RATHER… DISORGANIZED.
Quiniel shuddered at the term. Angels were naturally champions of order, and abhorred chaos. “God, um, it fits quite well into its environment. It consumes crustaceans and shellfish, and is in turn preyed upon by several large capstone predators-”
IS IT A MAMMAL? IT SEEMS TO BE LAYING AN EGG.
With a wince, Quiniel saw that, indeed, the platypus had decided to deposit an egg right there on the desk of the Highest Creator. “Yes, well, with the aquatic environment and the nests, eggs seemed to be the way to go. It still produces milk, sure, but the egg laying means that the females can hunt and gather food.”
WELL, I SUPPOSE THAT THIS- COME NOW, MY DESK IS NOT YOUR NEST. DO NOT TRY TO PUSH YOUR EGG INTO MY INKWELL.
The platypus, however, steadfastly ignored the commands of He Who Made All Possible, and shoved its newly laid egg towards the depression on the desk. It began grabbing papers, shredding them with its claws and beak to form the nest around its egg.
“I suppose I could look into a pouch situation, like the other animals on the island,” Quiniel volunteered, although he already harbored some misgivings about whether a pouch could seal out enough water to avoid drowning the young.
PERHAPS WE CAN FIND ANOTHER- OW. God had brought his Divine Hand around to try and sweep the platypus back into its carrier, but the newly created mammal wasn’t yet ready to leave. It had rolled onto its back, duck bill honking, and swiped with its claws at the approaching Divine Fingers.
“Yes, they’re, um, very territorial and defensive of their eggs,” Quiniel said miserably, wondering whether there was a demotion level below “banished to Hell”. He’d probably be stuck as a Cherub for millennia.
MY HAND SEEMS TO BE SWELLING. WHY IS MY HAND SWELLING, QUINIEL? IT IS ALSO TURNING A VERY INTERESTING SHADE.
“They’re venomous, Lord.”
I DON’T BELIEVE I INGESTED ANY OF IT.
“No, Lord, that’s poisonous. Poisonous is if you die when you bite the animal, Lord. Venomous is if you die when the animal bites you.”
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DIE WHEN THE ANIMAL DOESN’T BITE YOU?
“Um, accident?” Quiniel hastily tried to back-pedal away from the deep end of the philosophical pool. “Anyway, Lord, the platypus should fit in with the rest of the ecological species, I believe. I’ll make sure it’s not too odd.”
For a long moment, God stared down at his wayward angel. Of course, the stare probably would have carried more weight if God’s hand wasn’t swelling to twice its size and turning very, very purple, and if the platypus wasn’t making snuffling noises as it formed its new nest, but Quiniel still felt very intimidated.
VERY WELL, God said at length, turning away. BUT MAKE ANOTHER ONE, SO THAT THIS WON’T BE THE ONLY ODDITY.
IF ONE CREATURE PERFORMS A UNIQUE FUNCTION, IT STANDS OUT. CREATE A SECOND MAMMAL THAT LAYS EGGS, AND IT WILL SEEM LIKE JUST A NORMAL QUIRK.
“Yes, Lord. You got it.” Quiniel hesitated, and then ducked forward and snagged the platypus by the scruff of its neck. It struggled, but he managed to get it, and its egg, into the carrier.
THANK YOU. THAT IS ALL, QUINIEL.
He’d made it. He wasn’t getting demoted. His heart beating so strongly with joy that it threatened to burst from his chest, Quiniel grabbed the carrier and ducked out of the Exalted One’s office, headed back down to his workshop, practically levitating with delight.
He already even had an idea for the platypus’s egg-laying companion. He’d noticed a nearby angel working on a small, spiky creature called a hedgehog, and he felt that the Southern Isles needed their own version.
Echidna. Yes, this could work.