by M. W. Anderson

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"Let me go!"  Melissa thought--no, she thoroughly believed--she had screamed those words at her captor.

"I am your best hope, Melissa.  I am the one who loves you, even more than the one who created you.  I have always been with you, through your trials and tribulations.  But now--now you must accept the death of your flesh.  We have much to endure, you and I."

She also believed that her wrists were bound with a rope made of razor blades.  She believed that this mad creature had abducted her while she lay sleeping.  None of it made any sense, and the pain she felt was unbearable.

"It seems odd to me; such faith in your own flesh, in life unending--is there no other faith or conviction?  What of your soul, Melissa?  I think we should have a look at your soul.  I believe that such a glimpse will inspire a greater understanding of what it is you are clinging to."

The creature's words terrified Melissa, but she couldn't break free.  The strange being first approached her, then seemed to surround her; its multiple limbs clutched brutal instruments that ripped, tore, and bludgeoned.

The monster stepped away from her and smiled; its countenance and body looked completely unfamiliar to Melissa.  It--he--looked like a man--no--like an angel.  Melissa felt as though her body had been shredded away, leaving her to float in a numbing void.

"See yourself now--see what you have become."

She did not look--she had no eyes, no physical body.  But she did see; she took in the vastness around her and understood that she was only a small part of it.

The Angel floated nearby, ethereal and benevolent.  The symmetry of its brightness was different from her own.  The angel bore no disfigurement.

Melissa observed her own soul, and understood many things.  Small, bright beams of light broke through the multi-layered crust that was the chaff of her life.  Hate, Fear, Loss, Envy, Greed, Rage, and Indifference--all left a scarring residue.  Tangled within these traces were the essential threads of her happiness as Melissa.  The knowledge of a lifetime and the totality of the complex experience of being human lay intertwined with all that was detrimental to her soul.  She couldn't lose the painful scars without losing herself--her identity.

"Yes, now you understand," said the angel.  "Choose."