TO SEE GOD IN A SNOWFLAKE by Leslie Fish
"Ahmed, we don't have to do this." Amanda slid one hand under the little bar-table, under the edge of her coat, and clasped the grip of her sword. "Not here, not now, not in Paris in the Spring..."
"We must battle where we find each other," said the intense-looking young man on the other side of the table. His dark eyes blazed with a desperate fervor. He couldn't have been more than 20 at his first death, and probably hadn't lived more than another ten years beyond that. "It is the will of Allah."
"Ahmed, dear, who told you that?" Amanda noted that her best display of elegance, charm, and frank sensuality hadn't swayed him from his course. She hoped that logic would.
"My teacher, Daoud Al-Hadj Al-Fazir." There was a tremor in the young Immortal's voice as he said the name. "He was slain but two months ago, by an infidel. It falls to me to carry on his mission."
"Darling," Amanda tried, beginning to despair, "I never met the man. Did he say who told him that story?"
"His teacher before him, and that one's teacher before him, and so back unto the Creation."
"Ahmed, I've heard that story too -- and one thing nobody ever knew was where it came from. Can't you see that nobody knows where it came from? We don't have to believe it, we don't have to battle until there's only one left, we don't have to kill each other. We particularly don't have to do it today."
"Yes we do!" Ahmed clenched his light-brown hands on the table, even in outrage being careful not to touch any of the wineglasses -- even though they were empty. "It is the will of Allah. We must battle to the last, and that last shall become an angel upon the Earth. My teacher was certain of it."
"So you're certain too. Because you were told. Do you believe everything you're told?"
"Don't try to deceive me, woman," Ahmed snapped. "I have taken oath, and no clever words shall make me stray from the path."
Or listen to reason. Amanda sighed. She knew the type. Only an emotional appeal might sway him, and it had to be the right sort of emotion. "And has Allah ever given you a sign to stop, or proceed?"
"A sign...?" That put him off balance for a moment.
"If your course is truly a holy one, wouldn't Allah give you a sign that it was so?" Amanda pressed.
The boy shook his head. "I need no sign to know my course," he insisted.
"But would you recognize a sign from Allah if you saw one?" Amanda insisted. If she could just get him into the right receptive frame of mind, she could find him an omen in anything...almost anything.
"Surely I would," said Ahmed, slowly. "That which is contrary to the ordinary workings of the world..." He shook his head again. "But there is no sign. Do not attempt to distract me, woman. Draw your sword, and let us do as Allah wills."
"Not in here, at least," said Amanda, looking offended. "Not in front of mortals! Didn't your teacher tell you that?"
Ahmed blinked, remembering. "Oh. Yes, of course. Let us go at once to some private place, where none shall observe."
There's no sparing him, Amanda sighed again. "Very well. Let's go out to the parking lot. At this time of night nobody should be there." She gathered up her coat, slinging it artfully over the sword. "Through that door, I believe."
They got up and went to the exit, unnoticed by the bar's few remaining patrons. Ahmed was muttering a prayer under his breath. Amanda was reviewing strokes and strategies. She reached the door first, and pulled it open.
A huge pile of snow tumbled in. Beyond it stood a taller drift, easily five feet high. Past it, Amanda could see the snow falling, thick and fast in the darkness, obscuring the parking lot and all beyond it.
Freak storm! she realized. I saw this before, in 1959, even later in the year than this...
"What in Allah's name...?!" Ahmed gawked.
This is the chance! "Ahmed, it's your sign! It's snow. When did you last hear of snow in Paris in late April? THIS is contrary to the ordinary workings of the world!"
"...A sign...?" Ahmed kept staring. He'd probably never seen real, live snow before.
"We can't possibly fight in that. This is Allah's sign, his message; he means us NOT to fight. Don't you understand? Can't you recognize a miracle when you see one?"
A blast of freezing air echoed her words. Ahmed shivered and backed away from it. "...We can't fight in that," he agreed.
"And we can't fight indoors, because it's forbidden to let mortals see," Amanda pressed her argument fast. "We can't fight now. In fact, we don't have to fight at all until the Gathering. We don't have to fight until the End of Days. Until then, our time is our own. Do you understand, Ahmed?"
"...We can't fight." The concept finally worked its way through the boy's structure of desperately unquestionable faith. "We need not...until the End of Days?"
"That's what my teacher told me -- and her teacher before her, and that one's before her, back to the dawn of Creation," Amanda recited solemnly.
Ahmed turned, almost blindly, to the nearest chair and dropped heavily into it. Amanda let the door swing shut, had to shove it hard to get it past the melting mass of snow on the floor.
"...What, then, do I do with my days?" the boy asked, almost pleading.
Amanda saw that he had lost his fearfully-held purpose, and now had no idea how to live, how to guide his life. She couldn't leave him like that.
"Use your time to study, to gain wisdom," she said. "Surely that's what our long lives are meant for, don't you think? How can you become an angel if you don't have wisdom?" She held her breath, watching to see how he'd take that.
"...I'm supposed to be a student," Ahmed murmurred, almost dreamily. "I take classes at the American School. I hadn't taken my studies seriously..."
"Do it now," said Amanda. "Surely Allah guided you there for a reason."
"Yes," he muttered, nodding his head in growing decisiveness. "Yes. I must learn all the world's wisdom. Yes!"
With that he lunged to his feet and marched toward the front door of the bar, eyes sparkling with hope and determination. He didn't even seem to notice Amanda as he left.
She smiled, returned to her table and sat down. He's traded one fanaticism for another, she thought, But this one might lead him to better sense in a few centuries.
Smiling, she finished her drink.