Bewildering Stories

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A Benign and Archaic Afterthought

by R D Larson

Jack backed up against the wall as the four women closed in on him. Their fingers, twisted and ruined, reached out for his face. Fingernails, broken and dirty, scratched his cheeks and lips. He spread his trembling black wings against the ancient mossy bricks

The four women caught him trying to steal the Infant. His capture would ensure their control of the Drownaught Citadel. Jack knew his mission; his calling would be the only one for this rare occurrence. The Deity did not spend much time any more on little things like new babies. Not since the incorporation of the Belief.

The Deity had appointed CEO’s, CFO’s, and numerous high-ranking religious executives. All events programmed and directed years in advance left no chance of error or success of a barely-remembered ritual from long ago. A Black Angel on a mission had now become a benign and archaic afterthought.

Jack compelled his mind to focus.

The witches guarded the most recently developed Infant sent from the Starship with their usual fanaticism. They remembered only their old ways, wanting everything to stay the same. They snickered in derision when Jack appeared to take the Infant up to the Beyond.

“Here you are again, Jack. Stupid of them to send you. Why don’t you stay with your manuscripts, fool?” The oldest crone of the witches leered at him. Snot, green and jellied, hung from her nostrils and her fetid stench surrounded him.

Jack gagged, his reflex action giving the four hoary women a reason to snigger as they probed at him with their fingers. One, a pale moon of a witch, pinched his stomach and ripped a feather from his wing.

“Ouch! That really hurts.” Jack’s eyes flashed a sudden temper. He tired of patience being a virtue and didn’t care that the Saints declared patience as ‘appropriate behavior.’ He rubbed his palms along the ancient mossy bricks behind him as his wings throbbed in time to his heartbeat.

“Tut, tut, Jack,” said Uzia. She laughed with a great quake of her flesh, some of it bouncing against his chest and stomach.

Jack sucked in his breath. His glare turned icy. “I will succeed. This time.” He spit the words into the void of their soul. Cackles rent the chill in the air.

“Want to see the baby you can’t save?” Hertia smiled her twisted snarl. Her fingers slid over him like a blind person memorizing the nubs on a spring tree.

“Oh, sure,” Jack said. “Why not? At least I will see the Infant whom I seek.”

They pointed to the arched doorway behind them. With their warped fingers bent like claws, they gesticulated toward the nursery that Jack remembered from his last Mission in 2YK.

Jack lifted his wings, suspending them over the heads of jeering women. The muted shadow cast by his delicate wings spread over their tangled hair and warty countenances.

Jack could not tell if they shrank back from his wing shadow. They appeared to spread apart as with any flock, even as with any coven. He pulled himself up to his greatest height with his bright blue eyes staring intently ahead at the Incubating Ovasphere.

As he stepped forward the group of four pressed against him, touching, feeling his living warmth. Their stink raised bile again in his throat so that he breathed through his flared nostrils. They moved as one toward the opening of curved stones. The Citadel was thousands of years old and a sparse remnant of past victories. Directly through the arch a blazing fire spiraled. The depth of the caverns beneath Drownaught Citadel muted the hum of medieval machines.

As they arrived at the doorway, the four women slowed so that Jack might lower his head to step under the stone arch. Then swift as osprey the women flew after him, their tongues clacking and sucking in their soggy old mouths.

The baby, part human, part animal, part Deity, rested in the Ovasphere. Curled in a fetal snail shape, its smallness seemed insignificant. A blank unidentified face and unformed appendages lay folded close to the body. Jack knew that this living child could be the imprint from which future evolutionary humans could develop.

What could he do? After all, he forgave himself ahead of time, he was only a black angel of the fourth Regiment of De La Weir, the enigmatic legion of scribes and scholars trying if vainly to keep the histories of the peoples and the animals up to date, in 5KY, Year of Our Deity.

His mind flittered along the skulls of the witches, feeling the depths of their powers. A slight tugging at Iria made his mind stop, and touch it with sightless thoughts, finding the raw crack along the seam in her head. A small but willing split, he thought, stepping closer to the child.

Iria stood to his left, a shapeless, formless thing of lies and evil. Jack took his rapier of brain light and touched her open cleft, unseen below her matted hair. He stepped nearer to the Star Child. Its eyes flew open and the tiny mouth released a single cry.

Jack twisted the brain-light rapier with his mind and Iria fell. Blood and gray matter spilled slowly like smoke from the tiny crack below her hair. Uzia gasped. She grabbed Iria’s arm as the witch flailed in death spasms.

Motionless, Daret raised her pocked face, orange in the firelight, to face him. Her eyes burned into his, analyzing his strategy to save the Star Infant. Her mouth opened in rage and her small sharp teeth chewed at his flesh. Jack, his wings spreading behind him, felt fury pouring into his heart. He raised the wings until they were a dark camber over the snarling witch.

angel image

With a single beating from the wings, he crushed her. The two remaining witches took up their armor of curses. He was ready for them. Before they could chant a word or think a thought, he flashed again above them. The wings thrashed and churned in the stone room of the witches’ citadel. Again, Jack’s black wings maimed and killed the heretics.

The child’s face turned to him, with large eyes knowing everything. “A failure. Black Angel, you must use transformation of will and not force to terminate such wicked creatures. Such denizens end not from murder but from conversion. You have released me only to make me prisoner of the past.”

Weeping silver tears, Jack bore up the wee Star Infant in his arms, as his great black wings drove them upward to Beyond. Perhaps, just perhaps, a plan had been phased in for the Star Infant’s survival.

Copyright © 2005 by R D Larson

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