The Angel

He spread his wings and soared over the canyon on a rising wave of heat. Excellent, precise eyes could make out the minutest details of cactus, sagebrush, piñons, even the faint tracks left by a rabbit over a stretch of dry riverbed. Ahead the canyon narrowed up, ending in a cliff over which water would shoot on those very rare days after it had rained. The sun beat down merciless and indifferent, but he in his turn scarcely noticed its heat. He reached the upper rim of the canyon, soared over it, and was above a rolling mesa dotted even more sparsely with vegetation. Far away to the north a squat line of blue mountains interrupted the flat horizon. Sensing the rightness of it, he turned in that direction and soared on. Below him, finally, he spotted motion. His eyes scanned and found the desert mouse. It had darted and then stopped and cowered under another sagebrush. But it was to late; he had spotted it. As he tore down towards the creature the wind rushed through his feathers and a cold, steely thrill enveloped him. At the last moment the mouse seemed to guess its fate; it darted out from under the bush in a desperate bid for some other refuge. Again too late. He pounded his wings to partially arrest his breakneck descent, and at the same time struck the mouse with incredible force. In only a moment he was up and in the air again, the mouse clutched in a claw. The mouse remained, miraculously, alive. He spiralled higher and higher, aiming for the proper vantage from which to drop it to it’s death.

The rush of pride and glory that had flooded him upon the capture of his prey and the anticipation of finishing the kill was interrupted by the deep booming voice, back again.

"Congratulations, Zephail. You have done well."

The voice seemed to return to him a sense of his self that had faded into the background in the hawk, and he marvelled that he’d been able nearly to forget it. Always the voice came and always it had this effect on him. He knew this now. It came when his current purpose was complete; came to assign him a new one. This time was no different.

"As you may remember, we are preparing things.

A great many things you have assisted me to prepare.

A great many more we must yet set aright.

I am unable yet to release you."

Yes, he remembered now. The phrases were formulaic—a ritual, almost an incantation—stated every time.

"Will you come with me?"

He signified his assent. The hawk, the desert, faded, to be replaced almost at once. His old purpose also faded and was replaced. Before him now, a lush, partially wooded hillside, split by a stream. In the distance a haze. In the midst of this haze many tall spires, too shiny to be of rock.

"You know what you must do."

He did. And very little else.