A glowing, winged form traveled along the treetops, descending into the valley and glowing just brightly enough in the moonless night that I could not make out much else besides its most basic features. Feathered wings carried it through the air from branch to branch, supporting a slender human form as it stood atop a circle of light. Watching it fly to each new tree branch its massive wings seemed to have trouble carrying it very far, as if it were unused to flying through earthly skies or was too heavy to take to the skies, yet it had no other way means of travel. At that moment I thought it to be injured as its arms and legs hung unmoving, supported first by the branches it landed upon them by the circle of light at its feet as it took flight. It glowed with an otherworldly radiance, singing with a jarring, haunting series of notes, like a series of clicks woven into the song of some sea creature, like a dolphin or a whale.
As it left the final branch I watched it settle into the waters of the hot spring, water far too hot for a human to endure, resting atop that circular glowing platform where it remained perfectly still until I noticed more glowing forms descending into the valley. More glowing beings, carried on wings struggling to give them lift came to settle in the waters of the spring. I wasn’t witnessing God, I was seeing His angels, coming to rest in the waters of my own personal paradise, their wings struggling under earthly forces so vastly different to those of their heavenly home.
In awe I stepped away from my hiding place, allowing my flashlight to light the way down to the hot spring while listening to the chorus of the angels as they sung in the steam as it rose from the spring water in the cold winter night. Drawing closer, one of the heavenly beings noticed me and began to fly closer towards me, its massive 15-foot wingspan carrying it several feet at a time as it came to rest momentarily within the waters of the spring before continuing in my direction. The angel grew larger as it drew closer, standing nearly eight feet in height and bathed in that heavenly glow. It wasn’t until it made its final leap into the air towards me until I realized something was wrong.
There was no hair to speak of anywhere on its glowing body. The feathers that adorned its wings were coated in some manner of oily substance and they spread down over its shoulders, partially covering its abnormally large pectoral muscles while the circular pad that supported it in flight seemed to distort in shape while airborne. As it drew closer I realized that the circular pad was not the solid platform of light that I had first mistaken it to be, but was instead a series of thin, glowing, hair-like tentacles spreading out from what I incorrectly thought were its feet. From there a single limb, like two legs fused together, met with an armless torso, all of which supported a completely featureless face. It had no mouth, nose, eyes, or ears to speak of; just that slick, oily skin emitting a light bluish-glow.
Before I could react, the creature was upon me, those thin tentacles at its base impacting against my chest and wrapping around me as I felt something grab hold of my jacket, hearing the fabric tear. For a moment its song halted as it knocked me screaming to the ground. I found myself grabbing at the thing’s “legs,” trying to tear it off of me but finding it difficult to manage to grip the thing, its skin feeling impossibly soft under my grip, the oily substance covering its flesh hampering my efforts as if I were trying to grab the body of a worm yet still I persisted, an animalistic fear overcoming me as I struggled against my attacker until finally I felt something give under my grip followed by a shrill series of clicks.
The false angel fell away from me, attempting to fly away but faltering, falling backwards onto my legs and pinning its wings beneath own form. I suddenly found myself face to face with that circle of tentacles, looking into the maw of madness itself, for beneath the tentacles, where its feet should have been, was a mouth. No, not a mouth, a beak; one that appeared to be two beaks fused together side-by-side yet sporting rows of razor-sharp teeth. Circling its mouth was a ring of numerous tiny eyes, no bigger than an infant’s, each eye glowing a lifeless white under the glow of my flashlight, like that of a corpse. Looking down at my chest I saw where it had torn into my jacket in its attack and I now have no doubt that, had it been able, it would have preferred to latch on to the back of my neck, severing my spine and leaving me to die in the cold.
Looking into that piercingly clicking beak a panic overcame me as I struggled to throw the creature off from me. Expecting an unreasonable amount of weight I was shocked to find the creature to be impossibly light, though in hindsight that could have been thanks to a sudden surge of adrenaline. Tossing the creature off of me into the snow, I scurried backwards and onto my feet, looking out over the water of the hot springs in time to see the other “angels” fleeing into the trees, abandoning their injured companion as it struggled to right itself, green blood spilling from a wound torn into its legs, the blood forming a slowly reddening pool in the snow. Without a second thought I turned and ran. I ran until my lungs burned and my head swam from the exertion, my consciousness threatening to leave me at any moment. I ran into the night with nothing but my flashlight and instincts to guide me. I do not know how it is that I managed it, but I eventually found myself back at the campsite, unaware of how much time had passed and frantically dismantling my things. I never tried to warn anyone or to find a park ranger. How could I? Who would believe me? Glowing angels with the bodies of feathered worms in the hot springs, whose flesh was so fragile that it tore under the panicked grip of a gloved hand? They would call me mad, say that I’d been attacked by some wild animal and imagined the experience out of fear. No, I knew then that I needed to leave that place, to never speak of those things I saw lest I be committed or dismissed as someone seeking fame.
I packed my belongings and I fled that same evening, throwing my jacket out the window as I drove for fear of the questions it would raise and taking the first flight home. I spent the remainder my vacation in a hotel, unable to face the questions of my husband attempting to drink those memories away for eight consecutive days until finally finding the strength of will to compose myself enough to return home, telling my husband that I had caught an earlier flight home because I had missed him. He will never know this truth that I shall take to my grave, yet still I awaken in the middle of the night drenched in sweat, unable to breathe. For if I truly intend to take this tale to my grave, what angels will await me when I get there?