I walk towards the beach, looking around carefully for anything amiss. Mithra is safely sheathed in her scabbard strapped around my waist.
I hear an odd sound off to my left as I get closer to the shore. I veer from the path and walk through the lush grass and trees. Another odd sound. It sounds like a whirling machine sound, too loud for this place. I keep walking picking up the pace. As I get closer I can hear a sucking sound accompanying the whirling noise. There's a feeling of dread in my stomach and I start to run. I run the rest of the way to the beach and then I stop dead.
In the water about 10 feet from the shore is a giant steel door. It looks to be outfitted with some strange pump contraption at the base. The steel door is wide open and there's nothing but the purest white light beyond. The whirling, sucking noise is the sound of the sea being pumped into the white beyond. I unsheathe Mithra and walk fearlessly to the door, sloshing through the water. There are no birds around and even though the water is warm, I feel a coldness seeping into my heart. I approach the machine and am ready to take a swing at the door when I see in the white beyond, a flash of yellow. The familiar yellow of Mr. Gryphon's eyes! I re-sheath Mithra and when I get to the door I scramble over the machine, cutting my left hand in the process. The metal door doesn't move and when I get top of the pump I perch there for a moment, looking into that white light. I don't know where that is or what's going to happen if I take a leap. It's probably a trap but then I see the flash of yellow, and I can make out his yellow eyes just beyond. Without thinking, I leap into the whiteness, into nothingness.
When I wake up I'm in a soft, solid place. I feel warm and cozy, protected. I snuggle into that softness and smell the very reassuring scent of my old friend. I sigh in relief, allowing myself to drift off again. I can hear the sucking, whirling noise still so my beach must not be far away.
When I finally open my eyes, I don't see the gold of Mr. Gryphon's fur or feather, instead it seems I'm wrapped in the black wings of a creature. All I can see around me is black feathers. I can feel the thing breathing and muttering. It feels warm but when I try to get up, the creature shifts, knocking me down. I crawl to one of the wings and try push my way out but they won't budge. I move around, pushing and shoving and get myself to get myself into a sitting position. I push and shove at the feathers until I finally find a small opening. I push the black feathers aside and can just see the pure whiteness beyond. I try to look left right, above and below but there's nothing but whiteness. The sucking, whirling sound seems to have disappeared. I work my hand through the crack and the air feels cold and clean, like those foggy nights in my beloved city. I try to shove more through the crack but it won't get wider. The thing I'm sitting on, shifts and growls, then it shakes, rattling me around in it. I pull my arm back inside and grab hold until the shaking stops.
Of course all my things are gone. I'm still wearing my clothes but my backpack, weapons, Mithra, and my body armor is gone. A lot of time seems to pass and I spend my time both trying to make the crack larger with no success, and listening. No one comes. There's no explanation. I am simply a prisoner. I know I shouldn't have taken that leap but I just had to. Who knows what that really was anyway. Maybe a hallucination, his actual head. I shake my head at these thoughts.
Not knowing what else to I stretch out my hand, willing a blue door to appear. "Heaven," I say, choosing my destination. The blue door appears slowly but never solidifies. It fades in and out, like a flickering film image. I throw myself against the door, but it disappears and I land on the soft feathers. I reach for the door handle as it appears again but I can't grab it. The door fades away.
I try again, and again but it doesn't work. It seems impossible but someone has managed to disable this ability of mine. I sit down and try to think. I flex my right hand, trying to get a sense of how far Mithra is from me but there's nothing. I open and close my right hand again but there's no momentary pain. That's not a good thing.
After a while I feel around the creature's body, not bothering to enlarge the opening. I probe and pinch but its feathers are so thick that it's hard to reach skin. Eventually I locate the area where the joint should meets the shoulder of the thing, if it has a shoulder. I probe and pinch until the thing starts. I pinch again and the thing shifts. Having found what I was looking for I straighten out my legs and stretch for a while. My back is bothering me from sitting for so long and my hips are tight. I spend time opening up my hip muscles and stretch out my back. When I feel more limber, I remove my left boot and fish around inside it for the hidden pocket. I'm really happy I insisted that the boots be made this way even though my 36 year old self said it was overkill.
I pull out the switchblade and open it. I locate the vulnerable spot below where the creature's armpit should be and stab the switchblade into it. I pull it out and stab again. And again. The creature is shaking me, throwing me to the opposite side of my feathery prison. I crawl back and stab the spot again and again as quickly as I can. The creature is roaring now, the sound vibrating beneath me. I move to the crack in the wings and shove them a little wider apart. I locate the joint where the elbow should be and shove the switchblade into it. Everything tilts but I managed to grab hold and stay where I am. The creature tilts again before I can stab it again but the crack grows larger. Wasting no time I pull myself through the crack, struggling and fighting. I'm halfway out into the cool, clean air and I stab the elbow joint again. The wings separate again and I make my second leap out into the whiteness.
I fall for a long time, the feeling is terrible. I can barely breath from the wind rushing past me. The air is getting colder and there doesn't seem to be an end to the mist. I'm yelling too, yelling and coughing. I turn upside down and try to right myself. I don't want to land on my head. Falling and falling in the white mist until it suddenly parts and I see that I am above Heaven's ocean. The sea is dazzling blue but I'm so high up that I'm going to shatter my limbs when I hit the water, if I survive at all. Still I fall, but the blue is rushing up to meet me. I have a coughing fit from the yelling and then I start retching. The cold seems to be seeping into every fiber of my being.
Whamp! Something grabs me in mid-air, knocking the wind out of me. An angel, of course. I don't look at it. I think about stabbing it with my switchblade but wait. The angel smells good, all green grass and soft flowers of spring. It's blond hair flows past in waves and curls. I look down and see a perfect white hand holding me. I let the familiar anger spread through my chest. The ground gets closer but we never land. Instead, we swoop up towards the cloud topped White Tower that Ravelle had bowed to when I was here last.
“Miss Turtle, you should not have done it,” the angel's voice is beautiful, reassuring but the rebuke gets my blood boiling. I don't reply.
“We're going to destroy your world, all that you love, even in the real world. You'll spend the rest of your life locked up in a room after your entire world has been dismantled. The armies are assembling now,” it says, sweet smelling golden hair blows briefly in my face.
“Funny that you need your armies to stop me especially when I'm unarmed,” I finally reply, my voice hoarse. The White Tower is getting closer. I can see where we're going to land.
“Your world is nothing. All that you love is nothing,” the spit of the words from the angel sounds odd with its beautiful voice.
“You're dead,” is all I say in reply. The angel shakes with laughter, the sound high and musical. We reach the landing and the angel drops me to the stone floor. It lands close behind me. I turn quickly and slam the switchblade into its eye and then into its other eye. I can see its blue eyes and pale, fine features. It shouts, not in pain because angels don't feel pain, but in surprise as sweet smelling amber liquid flows out of the ruined sockets. I run down the nearest stairs without looking back.
I run as fast as I can and duck into the nearest wooden door. I just need a little time. A little bit of time. I open and close my right hand, hoping against hope. There's a slight tingling and then the momentary pain blooms briefly. I sigh with relief. I hide underneath a large beautiful table and concentrate. My throat hurts and I feel cold from falling in the air but I don't waste time. I focus and relax. Pain blossoms in my right hand but fades away. I focus again but nothing happens. The wooden door opens and I can smell the angel.
“That wasn't very nice of you,” it says, “I know you're under the desk so you better come out now.” I relax and settle myself. I let my anger flow and then drain way. I breath gently.
I let my body and mind unfurl. I lean back against the dark, beautiful wood of the desk. My eyes soften, my hands unclench and open. I hear the angel leaning out the doorway, shouting in angelspeak, such a beautiful sound, no doubt telling everyone my location. I breathe and the pain blossoms slowly at first in my right hand, then steadily. I let the pain flow without resistance. The pain increases through the joints of my right wrist and hand and then the pain is gone and I close my hand around my new weapon. The angel is coming around to my side of the desk. I wait.
The angel grabs my legs and drags me out from underneath the desk just as another group of angels crowd through the wooden door and into this room. As soon as I'm out in the open I slam the dirk into the angel's stomach. It staggers backward, eyes wide and screams. It's body shimmers and the screaming gets louder, a vibration, and the screaming stops abruptly as the angel's energy is destroyed. It vanishes slowly, leaking away from existence.
I stand up, slowly and leisurely. The other angels are backing away from me. There are about 10 of them.
“Easy there, Miss Turtle. Easy,” says one in the front. It has flowing brown hair, velvety brown eyes, and beautiful latte colored skin. I take a step towards them, holding out the dirk, the black blade shimmering. They stare at it and then at me.
“Get out of my way,” I say, stopping now. I'm standing in the middle of the room now.
“Where did you get that?” asks another angel. It looks as fresh as spring, like the one I'd just destroyed. “No one said anything about another sword, did they?” The angel looks around at the others but none of them reply.
“It's not a sword, it's a dirk and it's part of the package, a guarantee. I'm the FailSafe! You think whoever came up with this idea would have just left me with one sword?” I shake my head. “But none of you would have come up with that anyway. No imagination.”
“Imagination is highly overrated. Most people use their imaginations to come up with stupid or destructive things. They don't use it to really create something,” says the same blond angel looking superior.
“You are right, but it's far better to have an imagination than to be a vacant pretty thing like all of you. All you know how to do is take orders. At least the guys downstairs are interesting, they have some sense of rebellion, of another way of seeing things,” I say. I begin to walk forward again.
“Blasphemy!!!” shouts the blond angel, its beautiful blond hair shining like white gold.
“Shut it. If I hear that word once more I'm destroying all of you. Now GET OUT OF MY WAY!!” I shout. I walk forward towards them, dirk out to my side.
The angels run out of the room. I walk slowly and easily out and walk down the hallway. A few angels follow me, keeping their distance. I take my time. The White Tower here in Heaven is surprisingly like the one in Dis. It's an office building with lots of beautiful furniture and art but still an office building. Beautiful lighting and classical music plays. I'm sure those composers would be happy to know that their compositions ended up on Heaven's Musak system.
I'm not sure where I'm going but I trust that I will know when I get there. There are no angels other than the ones following me at a distance in this part of the building so I decide to turn at the nearest elevator bank and press the up button. I wonder why there are even elevators in this building. Angels don't really need them, but no matter. The angel with the latte colored skin edges closer to me, just inside the where the elevators are.
“Miss Turtle, you probably have a destination in mind. I can help you, really. You just have to promise to spare me is all I ask,” it says, bowing low. I feel the glaring from my eyes, a sharp penetrating sensation.
“You're disgusting. You'd change your alliances just like that, eh? The Boss won't like your sudden change of heart,” I say.
“But, but,” the angel starts, then stops and then it takes another step towards me. “But you're going to destroy The Boss, aren't you?” The angel is twisting its robe in nervousness.
I hear the elevator ding and the doors open. I do not reply. The angel smirks for a moment and I turn without looking, slamming the dirk into the nearest body. The angel standing behind me is holding a sword out in mid-swing. Shimmering, vibrating, screaming, then suddenly nothing. I don't hesitate. I shove the dirk into and out of all the angels in the elevator. Again, shimmering, vibrating, screaming, and nothing. Soon, the elevator is empty. The smell of sweet nectar is strong and there are splatters of amber liquid on me, on the walls, and on the shiny floor.
All the angels who were following are crying now. I look at the latte skinned angel, holding open the elevator door. “The Boss, where is he?”
“Top. Penthouse. Code 666999,” it says through sobs. The doors close and I press the button at the top. The elevator whooshes upward silently. I wonder if the angels are going to try to kill me by cutting the elevator cables but nothing like that happens. It figures. They don't have much imagination for this kind of stuff. The elevator pauses and a sweet voice says, “Please enter your code on the keypad. Please enter your code on the keypad.” I enter the code and wait. The elevator moves upwards again then stops. I hold out the dirk and the doors open.