The Wingless Angel: Excerpt 1 – Long Excerpt
It is important to note that part of the Devil’s plan in Hell is to malform, or as a function of Hell’s design, force you to malform your body. This has been fully and completely orchestrated by the Devil. It is widely known that man has an enduring and sometimes obsessive attachment to his body. In order to successfully survive in Hell, you must endeavor to release yourself from this constraint, as it will only hinder your progress. Understand that you are dead, fully and completely. Although you will feel pain, just as you have felt it in life, the idea of self-preservation from the standpoint of your physical visage is irrelevant. Those who can release themselves from the attachment of their physical selves and embody these principles are amongst the most successful survivors in Hell.
—From “Hell: A Survival Guide”
Montly sat perfectly still on the soft waiting room couch. Supple onyx skin stuffed with semi-hardened fat; the couch almost engulfed her. The cushions, cool and refreshing, were comfortable against her rough, chapped thighs.
“Would you like something to drink?” asked the receptionist.
“Of course,” Montly said without thinking. Her mind was elsewhere—paging through her studies, her practice questions, and the stories she’d rehearsed in preparation for the interview.
The receptionist got up from her white, bone-on-bone carved desk while Montly watched in silence. She wore the most exquisite, sinew-netted blouse, so translucent her breasts could be seen through it. Her legs, wrapped tightly in a black-skinned skirt, looked smooth and unlabored. But her shoes fascinated Montly the most. She had never seen their equal: high, thin stilettos, pristine polished white bone on their sides, with heels of pure, whole teeth. As the receptionist walked to get Montly the water she’d offered, the teeth ground on the bone tile so loudly, she thought the floor was cracking.
Montly felt a tinge of jealousy. She wore the only garments she had: an off-white, skin overcoat with a pair of loose fitting, high-water pants held up by a braided-vein belt. Her shoes, a pair of simple, skin-folded moccasins, were old and tattered. Montly wasn’t even wearing a blouse. She felt the overcoat was enough, and besides, she didn’t have any breasts to speak of. She’d removed them long ago, far too useless for the weight they burdened her with.
The receptionist returned with a small cup made of thinly pressed keratin.
“I just want you to know,” the receptionist whispered. “Us girls here on The Sled, we’re pulling for you.”
“Thank you.” A slight wave of anxiety released itself as Montly took the cup. She drank deeply. The cup smelled of finger- and toenails, but the taste of the water overpowered that. It must have been filtered at least twice, as it wasn’t salty at all. They had such luxuries here on the Sled, nothing like living out in the Skin-Land with the Herd, Montly thought.
“He’s usually late. He likes to make people sit and sweat it out,” said the receptionist.
“Yeah, well, it’s working,” Montly replied.
The receptionist strode back to her desk with the toothy stilettos grinding. “So, you command part of the Herd? That’s what I was told.”
“I do,” Montly said with guarded confidence. She rolled her muscled shoulders back, cracking her spine in a few sore places. The couch had become almost too soft for her, the fat pockets molding too willingly to her body.
“I can’t imagine being out there again,” the receptionist continued. “It was so long ago for me, but it still makes me shudder.” A fearful tone soaked her words. “I got out of the Herd as fast as I could. Up here on the Sled, you just have so many more opportunities, and well, the food’s much better.” She let out a giggle.
Montly just smiled with a half curl to her lips, counting the long moments between this conversation and her interview.
“I’m actually going to be leaving this position soon to be an assistant for one of the Daughters,” the receptionist continued. “I have a friend who is going to get me in. She says I’m sure for it because of my work here, and because I have the right look. Then I’ll be invited to all of the dinners, probably meet the Devil . . .”
Montly had trouble paying attention to what she was saying, distracted by the receptionist’s “right look.” She had a soft, perfectly skin-stretched face, the work of an expert engineer, no doubt. It was puffed with creamy fat in all the right places and anchored with cultured bone spurs. But Montly could catch even the tiniest of imperfections in a person, and she could see one such detail clearly in the receptionist. Hidden beneath all of the confidence and the clothes, just below the personality she tried so hard to project, lay a deep fear. Montly realized she could almost see the remnants of a capital H depressed into the receptionist’s forehead.
Of course, “Sin follows, it does not lead,” Montly thought. It was part of an ancient saying she’d repeated to her Broken slaves in the Herd many times before. Funny how relevant it was here amongst the “civilized” people on the Sled.
A fast, hollow tapping started. It seemed to be coming from behind the reception desk, born from some mechanism beneath the floor, Montly guessed.
“He’s ready for you now,” the receptionist said.
Montly rose from the couch, straightened her overcoat, and rolled her shoulders back once more to crack her spine.
“Thank you.” Montly walked into the office, her moccasins not making a sound on the tile.