by Travis Perry -
Ernsto Mons, on the verge of rolling leftward to plunge over the ridge to the glowing angel city below, caught a glimpse of glowing light in the corner of his right eye. He thrust upright in surprise, jerking upward his guided torpedo launcher.
And there, less than five meters away from him, his eyes rested upon the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. A shape like a woman, glowing with a dazzlingly brilliant white glow. His eyes hurt to take her in at first, but after a moment they adjusted and he began to see details. Completely unlike the angels he’d glimpsed at the surface as a boy, she had wings like some kind of ocean ray, peacefully rippling as she flapped to hover near him. What would have been a ray’s tail was for her much wider and thicker and ended in a horizontal fin. Her body was roughly the length of a human with wide shining wings attached. She had no arms but her almost-human shaped head was adorned with what he’d first thought was hair, but realized were actually long thin dark tentacles on the top of her head, stretching up behind her. Her eyes were as large as his fists and glassy dark and the mouth…was more like an animal’s muzzle than a woman’s…
Why does she seem like a beautiful woman to me? he wondered to himself. Beautiful in rippling light, yes, beautiful the way a woman is, no.
But beauty poured out of her somehow along with gentle kindness and innocent curiosity about him. The feelings washed through his being. He’d heard angels could do that, could project emotion…but nothing had prepared him for the actual experience. And there was no doubt she was every bit a woman, though he saw no breasts or anything else on her that would mark her as a woman in the way he knew.
His hands released the torpedo launcher and grasped for something else. “Hey, babe,” he said, for some reason wondering why he needed to say anything. But it seemed right somehow.
She cocked her head sideways and asked herself in a way he could feel what he’d tried to say to her. “I jus’ said,” he answered, “You’re ‘bout the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”
Then fast, before she could sense his force of will, he snapped up the tranquilizer gun and shot her. Her pain hit him hard—not the pain of the puncture, which was small, but the horror of betrayal, shock at his cold-hearted violence.
His heart pounded in his chest as she faded to the ground, the brightness leaving her. He lunged forward and caught her in his arms.
“That’s how things are, babe,” he said to her unconscious form. “Life is tough—and for you, it’s about to get worse.”