THE WORLD AS SEEN BY ANGELS • by Olivia Berrier

Angels can only see in metaphors, and this fact tends to be as inconvenient for the Heavenly Hosts as it is for the people we try to help. Each Angel has a unique interpretation of the world. Mine is beaded bracelets.

While I know life consists of far more complex things—falling in love, dealing with illness, achieving a dream or losing one—all I see are millions of people sitting calmly on the floor and quietly stringing colored beads on strings.

Here is a man making a bracelet of only one color. Over and over, he adds dark blue beads to the string. He doesn’t even look at the other beads lying in tidy piles around him. I think his true life must be repetitive and he is afraid to seek change. I kneel close and whisper, “It’s okay to try something new.” He strings another blue bead, so I try again. “Different doesn’t always mean frightening. See what else is out there.”

After looking at the colors suspiciously, he selects a green bead and adds it to the bracelet. He returns to blue after that, but I am proud of him just the same. I don’t know what that bead represents, but the experience wasn’t easy for him. “Good job,” I whisper, kissing his forehead.

I trust that God has a good reason for only allowing us metaphorical views of the world, but I still think it’s sad that my advice is so vague. I wish I could do more.

Here is a girl struggling to force a bead over a knot. This means that some obstacle is keeping her from having an experience she wants. She grinds her teeth and yanks at the bead, and I am afraid that the string will break and all of the previously ordered beads will scatter into chaos.

“Slow down,” I whisper, but she shuts out my words. “It’ll be okay. Just untie the knot.” But here I’ve made a mistake. To her, it isn’t a knot; it’s an injury or financial difficulty or unfulfilled obligation. I try again. “Take a step back. Trust me.”

She hesitates, but then pulls the bead off the string with tears hovering at her eyelids. “I know, Sweetheart. I know it’s frustrating. Let’s just look at the problem, okay? What’s the real reason you can’t move forward?”

I want to continue helping her, but I don’t know what that knot represents, let alone how to untie it. That is something only she can do. After a long time, she starts picking at the knotted string. I kiss her and say, “Well done,” and move on.

An old woman reaches out to me as I pass. Her eyes meet mine, so I know she is praying. “What’s wrong?” I ask. In response she holds out two beads, yellow and purple, begging for help deciding between them. These are the moments in which I feel most useless. How can I possibly tell her how to proceed without knowing what the real choices are?

“Follow your heart,” I whisper. She holds the beads out again, eyes pleading me to choose for her. I know she would follow my advice without question. Why am I here if I can’t answer the prayers of a woman with such admirable faith? “I’ll stay with you,” I say, because it’s all I can offer. She chooses purple, and I am proud of her, but ashamed of myself. I did nothing.

Then I notice a young man who hasn’t put a single bead on his bracelet. What could that possibly mean? “Are you afraid?” I ask, but he doesn’t hear me. “Are you lonely?” No response. I look at the string. “You’re empty, aren’t you?”

He whimpers softly in a way that tells me I’m right. He begins tying a knot in the string. “No… You don’t want to do that,” I say, hovering my fingers close to his and wishing I could touch him. “Please don’t. It will make life so much harder.” He seems to understand, and yet keeps tying the knots anyway.

I understand now that he is lost in depression. He eyes the golden clasp that can only be attached to the bracelet at the end of life. Normally God does that part, but he is thinking of doing it himself.

“Please don’t,” I beg him. “I’ll find a way to help you. Wait for me.”

He gives me fleeting nod, but his eyes are so glassy I know I must be quick.

I search for people with the same sadness. I see bracelets with little sections too knotted to hold any beads. Some just accept the gap and move on. Some become angry, looking at fuller bracelets and seeing their own as ugly and incomplete.

Then I find a woman with the answer I was hoping existed. Her string is filled with knots, but they are not merely hindrances to the beads. She found ways to make knots decorative. It was a much harder bracelet to make, surely, but it was beautiful beyond words.

I turn to run back to my sad boy, but then stop myself. How can I describe the woman’s life without mentioning bracelets? I look back to the lady as she weaves beads in with the knots, and I know I can’t teach him how to do that.

But maybe she can.

I bend close to her and whisper, “Will you come with me? Someone needs you.” She stands and follows as I lead her to the boy. I’m sure they talk in real life, but I can’t hear their words. Through my eyes, she sits down beside him, shows him the bracelet she is weaving, and he makes a hesitant attempt at copying it. It isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t have to be.

And for once, I don’t resent only seeing in metaphors. I can see enough to know which people can help each other. That’s all I really need to know.


Olivia Berrier is often clueless and always shoeless. She tweets at @OliviaBerrier, rambles at her blog, and gets lost in her daydreams.


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 average 4.6 stars • 26 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Paul A. Freeman

    It all seemed a little bit contrived to me, though obviously I’m in the minority.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    It all seemed a little bit contrived to me, though apparently from the star-rating I’m in the minority.

  • I think this is an interesting approach. I thought it was a novel idea and well-told. I quite like metaphors although my mother told me to avoid cliches like the plague 🙂

    • macdabhaid
      Nah, seriously?
  • I think this is an interesting approach. I thought it was a novel idea and well-told. I quite like metaphors although my mother told me to avoid cliches like the plague 🙂

  • Paul, Derek, I agree with both of you to a fault. Hard to follow along with so much unsupportive license.

  • Paul, Derek, I agree with both of you to a fault. Hard to follow along with so much unsupportive license.

  • macdabhaid

    Ooops, fell at the first fence. If Angels can only see in metaphors, how do they know what beads, string, knots and colours are? In order to have a metaphor one must have a field of comparision. A horrorlicks of a construct which could have been so much more had the writer even applied the slightest of logical thought … and the editors missed this. Tut tut!

    • Joseph Kaufman
      Even if an entity can only perceive the human condition in terms of metaphor, that doesn't necessarily mean other, "normal" perceptions are impossible. To embrace the device and go even further with metaphor and analogy, if I have a friend who is thought by many in my social circle as seeing things "only in black and white", I know that doesn't mean said friend lacks the ability to see color. That particular contrast is more a matter of language, but that's what we're talking about here -- the language of fiction. To put it another way, the metaphor idea is a metaphor/analogy in and of itself to help us understand how angelic comprehension works -- something I would assume is fairly difficult to fathom for a mere mortal. The angels are perfectly aware of what colors, beads, and knots are, but they are only allowed to perceive humanity's struggles (and successes, I suppose) through metaphorical scenarios. That made ample sense to me, at least enough to keep my disbelief suspended. If you have ideas on how to make the devices behind this piece work more logically (and still represent the theme and vision in a similar way), I am sure the author would appreciate any constructive criticism you have in that regard. Personally, I can't think of anything, so this is one of those pieces that tends to work for readers (like me), or not. Regardless, I'm not sure I understand how any of that corresponds to EDF's editors missing something. The editors accepted a story for publication, and the posted work is pulling an admirable rating on a sizable number of votes. It's hard for me to understand how serving up a thought-proviking, well-received tale to EDF's readership constitutes missing anything.
      • macdabhaid
        Mnyeh, but the direct quote is "Angels can only see in metaphors". That is an absolute, not a conditional or supplementary sight. I'm afraid you argument fell on top of the story.
        • Joseph Kaufman
          The flexible word in, "Angels can only see in metaphors," is "see". As I stated before, if as a fiction writer I wrote, "Jeff can only see in black and white," you'd wonder what I meant by "see" and implment some personal interpretation. Do I mean the cones in Jeff's retinas are completely shot such that he only sees, literally, in black and white? Do I mean he is a right/wrong type of person with no flexibility as to moral gray areas? Do I mean that he can only perceive objects if they happen to be black or white in color, and all other objects fade from his sight? The interpretation of "see," in this story, represents the essence of how much we suspend our disbelief (or don't). I had no problem doing so because I took "see" to mean the angels can only perceive big-picture human condition in terms of metaphor rather than being right beside people and seeing their actual experiences (and by the end I could fathom why God would implement such a system). Angel "vision" had nothing to do with what their visual cortexes (whatever those look like on an angel) could actually propel into their sentience. This brings to mind one more analogy: I might say a greedy Wall Street broker only "sees dollar signs". And for how such a person sees others, that might very well be true. He might judge people by the look of their clothes, their car, or only use/trust people as far as he can bilk them for cash. But that doesn't mean his retinas register only boldface "S" shapes with vertical lines through them. Your interpretation, of course, is entirely up to you. I do wonder, though, if you take everything so literally in fiction. At what point does a fictional passage become a matter of interpretation, and at what point do you interpret such passages as something less than literal? I imagine a great deal of "classic" literature falls down for you if descriptions of characters and/or their behavior is so vehemently taken word for word.
          • macdabhaid
            No ... to "only see in black in black and white" is an established vernacular which is scientifically inaccurate - if one wants to be pedantic about it. You can utilise all the pretzel logic you want, you're wrong and you know it. As a fiction writer you SHOULD know that you have to establish a creditable "chain of reasoning" which permits your character to do the extraordinary. Every little story involves a bit of world-building. In order to even take your argument seriously, I must allow for metaphors and imagery, but both these depend upon a shared empirical world in order to draw the comparisons which give birth to metaphor. Save your RSI: you can utilise all the pretzel logic you want, you're wrong and you know it.
          • Joseph Kaufman
            "Pretzel logic" -- I like that. I'm not sure why you needed to state it twice, though. I can read, and I am trying my best to listen to what you are saying. I agree that an author must establish proper reasoning and consistency in his/her plot cosmos. (I'm quite picky as a reader when it comes to overall cohesion). Apparently, this author has done so with great aplomb -- while the rating will undoubtedly go down over time (they usually do) 4.2/5 is quite good. I am also glad you took the time to present your dissenting opinion, as the author can hopefully take something from that feedback. I'll try one last time as I implore you to lay off the vitriolic delivery: I see your point and will always defend your ability to state your opinion. But that opinion had no need to "tut tut" the EDF editors, and subsequent responses had no need to passively accuse me of being unable to understand, of wearing blinkers, or of being wrong and knowing it. There's no call for that. Not to mention, it is impossible for me to be "wrong" on this totally subjective matter. The "seeing in metaphor" idea didn't work for you. Fine. And you've presented some words you would have added as an author to more properly gel the story-world for you. Excellent. But there's no right/wrong here, only opinion, and there's no reason to do anything more than present such opinions considerately and without implicit personal attacks.
          • macdabhaid
            The edit didn't take when I cut-pasted it to the end. That's enough on that.
        • Joseph Kaufman
          I'm not sure if you edited your comment after I started my more lengthy reply or what, but it would appear you took the time to make your comment more insulting (condescendingly implying I cannot see your point and alluding to my use of "blinkers"). Any particular reason you felt the need to employ such tactics? Do you detect that sort of personal attack in my response to you? If so, then I apologize. I never intended to belittle your opinion in any way. I do see your point, and, as I said before, I wouldn't have even stated my viewpoint if you hadn't taken direct issue with the EDF staff (for no apparent reason from a constructive criticism standpoint). Now it would appear you want to double down on using an insulting tone. I politely suggest you refrain from moving further in that direction.
          • macdabhaid
            Oh nonsense. The blinkers refers to what appears to be a deliberate stance on not taking logic on board. You may like arguing. I don't. I just point out facts. I provided five words which would cure the whole malaise, but apparently that was not enough. You continued to flog the dead horse - there's another metaphor. Personal attack? Good grief, I dismiss your faulty reasoning, not you. I don't feel the need to attack a stranger or employ "tactics" over what I regard to be a below par story. I find this exchange ridiculous. I'm sorry if you feel a rebuttal of your argument is ad hominem, but that's just not the way debates work. I do hope you don't take it personal if I comment on the paranoid nature your responses appear to demonstrate. Thank you for your polite suggestion. I feel obliged to return the favour. Perhaps you should let EDF decide whether I was being playful with my "tut tut" or horribly pernicious?
  • Olivia, ignore the men. This story is amazing, I loved every word of it. The beads and bracelets are perfect metaphors for our lives. Five stars.

    • I thought the story was interesting and the chosen metaphors opened up all sorts of possibilities. I am sorry if my comments were taken as negative.
  • Olivia, ignore the men. This story is amazing, I loved every word of it. The beads and bracelets are perfect metaphors for our lives. Five stars.

    • I thought the story was interesting and the chosen metaphors opened up all sorts of possibilities. I am sorry if my comments were taken as negative.
  • I love this and I’m not sure why! Perhaps because I have a fascination with metaphor, having decided it’s one of the keys to great writing. The story itself, well, it seems to be more a parable than a story. As a parable it’s original and insightful, and it works. Whatever we call it, I really enjoyed reading it.

  • I love this and I’m not sure why! Perhaps because I have a fascination with metaphor, having decided it’s one of the keys to great writing. The story itself, well, it seems to be more a parable than a story. As a parable it’s original and insightful, and it works. Whatever we call it, I really enjoyed reading it.

  • Rose Gardener

    Olivia, a personal comment from me (not as staff). I promised myself I wouldn’t cry when I read this again, yet I have tears streaming down my face. Your story affected me profoundly. The imagery was divine inspiration. As authors we hope to touch at least one heart, connect to another soul through our words, and you succeeded. Just wanted to let you know.

  • Rose Gardener

    Olivia, a personal comment from me (not as staff). I promised myself I wouldn’t cry when I read this again, yet I have tears streaming down my face. Your story affected me profoundly. The imagery was divine inspiration. As authors we hope to touch at least one heart, connect to another soul through our words, and you succeeded. Just wanted to let you know.

  • Lisa Walpole Finch

    Beautiful and touching.

  • Lisa Walpole Finch

    Beautiful and touching.

  • Diane Cresswell

    I just flat out love this. I’m absolutely touched with your metaphor giving wonderful light to this story. I do believe you were guided by your own angel on this one. Thank you.

  • Diane Cresswell

    I just flat out love this. I’m absolutely touched with your metaphor giving wonderful light to this story. I do believe you were guided by your own angel on this one. Thank you.

  • Chinwillow

    I think the some of the men here need more Angels in their lives! I think this story is wonderful and touching. Sometimes one has to look beyond the “book perfect critic”and just feel the story.. I once wrote a line in my novel about how the female bartender after a grueling ten hour shift kicked off her high heels and rubbed her tired. I was blasted off the planet by many people (men as well as women) for how unbelievable that was…That a woman tending bar would only wear sensible shoes..lol People forget that not too long ago women who worked in dept. stores, stewardess, cocktail servers and bartenders ALL wore heels. ( I was one so I know!) I’m just saying, here is a story that feels good to read. I think some of the purists need to lighten up a bit. 5 stars from me

    • Paul A. Freeman
      I'd better read Mills and Boon romances, then - and enjoy them irrespective of taste or quality.
      • cp
        obviously you do not know what either of those are
        • Paul A. Freeman
          Would that be 'Mills' or 'Boon'?
  • Chinwillow

    I think the some of the men here need more Angels in their lives! I think this story is wonderful and touching. Sometimes one has to look beyond the “book perfect critic”and just feel the story.. I once wrote a line in my novel about how the female bartender after a grueling ten hour shift kicked off her high heels and rubbed her tired. I was blasted off the planet by many people (men as well as women) for how unbelievable that was…That a woman tending bar would only wear sensible shoes..lol People forget that not too long ago women who worked in dept. stores, stewardess, cocktail servers and bartenders ALL wore heels. ( I was one so I know!) I’m just saying, here is a story that feels good to read. I think some of the purists need to lighten up a bit. 5 stars from me

    • Paul A. Freeman
      I'd better read Mills and Boon romances, then - and enjoy them irrespective of taste or quality.
      • cp
        obviously you do not know what either of those are
        • Paul A. Freeman
          Would that be 'Mills' or 'Boon'?
  • Tammy Setzer Denton

    I think I’ve found my new favorite story from Every Day Fiction. I loved the metaphor and the symbolism. Well-written. I would love to see more work along these lines. Good job!

  • Tammy Setzer Denton

    I think I’ve found my new favorite story from Every Day Fiction. I loved the metaphor and the symbolism. Well-written. I would love to see more work along these lines. Good job!

  • I liked the metaphor. I stumbled in the beginning of the story but was upright and following along well as I made it to the end. Nicely done.

    Thanks for the story.

  • I liked the metaphor. I stumbled in the beginning of the story but was upright and following along well as I made it to the end. Nicely done.

    Thanks for the story.

  • MPmcgurty

    As soon as I saw “Angels” I almost stopped reading. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed an angel story. I think it’s scoring highly because it makes (many) readers feel good, makes them smile. Their angels are telling them to just go with that first reading. So I did. I smiled.

    • S Conroy
      Funny. Similar to my reaction to the story and to angel stories. I quite enjoyed it despite myself. But I didn't vote, probably for the wrong reasons, these being that stories of an equal quality have imo been getting such low ratings. Some dark voice whispered that I should down rate it, but then the angel came and said that is unbelievably childish and has absolutely nothing to do with the story itself which is really quite touching.
  • MPmcgurty

    As soon as I saw “Angels” I almost stopped reading. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed an angel story. I think it’s scoring highly because it makes (many) readers feel good, makes them smile. Their angels are telling them to just go with that first reading. So I did. I smiled.

    • S Conroy
      Funny. Similar to my reaction to the story and to angel stories. I quite enjoyed it despite myself. But I didn't vote, probably for the wrong reasons, these being that stories of an equal quality have imo been getting such low ratings. Some dark voice whispered that I should down rate it, but then the angel came and said that is unbelievably childish and has absolutely nothing to do with the story itself which is really quite touching.
  • PCH

    The conceit is interesting, but overall I found it a bit treacly and unsurprising. I wished there were more story in it.

  • PCH

    The conceit is interesting, but overall I found it a bit treacly and unsurprising. I wished there were more story in it.

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  • Amy Sisson

    I am very late to this story — found it via the retrospective post. I am an atheist and do not believe in gods or angels, yet I found this to be a beautiful, life-affirming story. I don’t suffer from depression myself but know many people who do, and I found your way of describing it to be beautiful and perceptive.