Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers; for in doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
– Hebrews 13:2
Mrs Daniels ran an inn. Carved into the wood on the front door was an insignia that read – ‘Where Angels Rest’. It was a small inn, nothing very fancy really. Guests that stayed at the inn would gather at meal times around the hearth and swap stories about the strange and wonderful things that they saw during their travels, while sipping Mrs Daniels’s wickedly good stew. After everyone had shared a story, the guests would retreat upstairs to their own rooms. It was all very quiet and cozy. Even the rowdy travelers would talk in hushed whispers when they stayed at the inn.
It was not so much the inn, as it was Mrs Daniels herself. Mrs Daniels had that effect on people. She was the nicest person that most people had ever met; not in the sickly sweet way that nice people sometimes are, but in the old grandmotherly serene way. No one wished to offend her by talking too loudly or imposing on her aged sensibilities in some other way.
The day the world ended, the Angel of Death knocked on the front door of Mrs Daniels’ inn.
“Hello”, he said, “Your front door read ‘Where Angels Rest’. May I come in?” He added after a pause, “I don’t think I can pay you anything though.”
Mrs Daniels looked at the young man standing outside her inn. He had a handsome boyish face with eyes too old for him. He was also a little scrawny but his old-fashioned robe (who wears a robe these days?) covered it well.
Mrs Daniels smiled warmly and replied, “Oh don’t worry about payment. I hardly collect it these days. I just let people give me anything they want. Come on in. I cook a really fine stew. You look like you could have some.”
She clucked at his slightly bony forearms and fussed over how gaunt his face was (it was actually just a little sharper than most men’s) as she led him to a sofa next to the fireplace. After bringing him a bowl of her stew, she sat down opposite him. There were just the two of them.
“So what brings you here, young man, if you don’t mind me asking?” she asked.
“I heard about this place from Raphael and Gabriel. They told me to drop by if I needed to take a break,” he answered.
“Raphael and Gabriel? Hm I can’t really remember them…” Something stirred in Mrs Daniels’s memory about men that seemed to glow or float or something like that. But she decided not to pursue those memories. She knew from experience that the more you tried to remember these things, the more they slipped away.
“And what about you? What’s your name?” Mrs Daniels asked.
“I… don’t exactly have a name. Everyone just calls me the Angel of Death,” he replied.
He then tried a spoon of her stew. He stared at it in surprise at how good it was. Then he scooped another spoon into his mouth and said, “Wow this is really good.”
“Now, now, young man. Don’t talk with your mouth full. Mind your manners around an old lady,” she chided.
He swallowed and looked abashed. “Sorry ma’am,” he muttered into his bowl.
“It’s the End of the World today.” He added sheepishly.
“Ahh.” She nodded understandingly.
After a few moments, she quietly asked, “So are you here to rest or to let me rest?”
He looked up from his bowl then and looked into Mrs Daniels’s eyes. And it seemed to Mrs Daniels that his eyes contained all the sadness and all the joy of the world. Mrs Daniels felt eternity course through her. It was terrible, and wonderful.
And then he smiled and his eyes were warm and kind. And he answered her, “For now, I’m here just to rest, ma’am. Just to rest.”