Since escaping the
Dog Park through that odd house and heading out through the scrublands (she thought it'd be more likely to find water and something edible there than in the Sand Wastes), Dana had run out of phone battery and the last of her granola bars. It was warmer out here during the day. The tiny streamlet she located thanks to noticing where the scrub and grass grew taller and thicker than elsewhere didn't supply enough to quench her thirst properly. At least it'd keep her alive. Probably. She fashioned her coat and headscarf into a shade by draping it between two of the larger bushes. At night when the temperature dropped she wrapped them around herself as a blanket. She doubted even her mother would have criticized her for forsaking modesty in a situation where she was like a ghost to the rest of the world.
She had just finished her morning prayers - at least now that she could see the sky properly she could figure out where to face - and was chewing on some cactus pulp for breakfast when she heard it. At first she didn't recognize the sound. No birds in the Park or this odd netherworld layered over everyone else's plane of existence. When she saw the wings she remembered that this was fluttering, this was the tissues that make hair and fingernails into something soft yet strong, this was the sound of freedom and not being alone.
The being was ten feet tall, radiant, so bright against the sunrise that she couldn't look directly at it at first. When she did she could see that some of its eyes were solid white and others more humanoid. In two of its hands it held - her old backpack, the one she wore to class at the community college, until she was chosen in the Intern Lottery and took a leave of indefinite absence, the one she lent her girlfriend when her girlfriend's got covered in ectoplasm and needed dry cleaning just before Poetry Week.
The angel knelt so that it could gently place the backpack in front of her. Its face, or what was the best approximation of its face, tilted down so it could meet Dana's eye level. In a voice that sounded like the most grief-filled rejoicing, or the most joyful of all grieving, it said to her, I was. I'm sorry.
She had meant whether the angel had taken it from Vithya, but she guessed that in a way it had. Not thinking of the consequences, not that she would have cared anyway, Dana pressed their foreheads together. That-which-had-been-Vithya smelled like dryer sheets and snow cones but was unexpectedy warm to the touch. "I'm glad to see you anyway."
Sitting back on...haunches of some kind, the angel said, I am assigned to bring you sustenance until your return. There is water and food and hygiene products. Also a novel and that knitting you were working on.
She couldn't help but smile, especially the last sentence, but the space under her ribs ached. "Is there a reason all this has happened to us? Have we, well, is this a punishment?" Dana had been sure that loving Vithya was the best and wisest thing she'd ever done, that bad things happen to people and that's how it is, that it's about loving and not about who, but this time alone and lost had chipped away at such confidence.
The first answer is yes. The second answer is no, not punishment, destiny. I must leave now. There is a battle. I will return for the bag at sunset.
"Wait." I love you and I will always love you and if you never change back and if I can never see more of you I am grateful for this I am grateful that others will see your glory that I knew all along if I have to stay here to see you then I think I can handle it because I spoke to what you are now and you and I are alive at the same time and what could be better what more could I ask "Are you happy?"
And as it ascended, her heart with it, it sang to her, "Yes."