You step backwards just as the angel's sword comes an inch of slicing your neck.

"Don't worry," says the angel. "I'll make sure it won't hurt."

"No!" you shout. "Stop it!"

"Don't be afraid," he says, smiling. "You're going to help me!"

You turn to run, and the angel suddenly appears in front of you. You shout and fall backwards onto the dirt.

"Please, don't make this any harder than it has to be," he says. He speaks in the same tone you would use on a frightened animal. he holds his palm out in a pacifying way while his other hand raises the sword, preparing to strike down at you.

"It's going to be okay, I promise," he says, coming closer. He smiles, and his eyes glisten. "We're going to go home."

You desperately crab-scramble backwards and curse yourself for giving away the dagger. At least then you would have had a weapon! Instead, all you have with you is your own damn self.

As the angel appears before you, sword raised and poised to strike, you instinctively shield yourself, though some part of you knows it will do no good. You throw up your hands as the blade comes whistling down on you, and you close your eyes, waiting for the inevitable.

Except it doesn't happen.

Instead, there is the loud clash of metal against metal, and a spark of light like steel striking flint. There's a flurry of movement, and the angel is suddenly several feet away.

On your wrist, there is a snake. It is not a tattoo of a snake, but a three dimensional, entirely physical snake that's big enough that it needs to loop around your forearm. You have just enough time to be confused before the snake launches itself from your wrist and flies directly to the angel. No arc and descent; it flies straight as an arrow and latches itself firmly onto the angel's throat.

The angel screams in pain and drops the sword in his attempts to pull the snake off. The sword disintegrates into nothingness before it hits the ground, and you take the opportunity to pick yourself up and make a bee-line for the bridge.

"No!" screams the angel. He teleports in front of you, still grappling with the snake that has now wound itself around his neck. You shove him aside and keep running.

He tries again, this time appearing behind you. He wraps his arms around you and pulls you to the ground, and you both grapple for a moment in the dirt. You kick and bite and punch, clawing at his face and yanking feathers out of his wings, and he tries to do the same to you. The snake coils tighter and tighter around his throat, and he gasps and wheezes for breath.

"No," he rasps.

The snake slides up his jawline and, with little ceremony, plants its fangs in the angel's left eye.

The angel shrieks in agony and digs his fingers at the snake's jaws, trying to get it out. You kick him to the side and scramble to your feet, and then continue your mad dash to the Bridge. This time, the angel does not stop you.

You feel an electric edge to the air as you cross the threshold of the Bridge, like the air before a thunderstorm. The dryness and heat of the desert is gone, and it smells, strangely enough of, autumn: cool, clean, slightly of decomposing leaves, and as though it might rain. Though there's no physical barrier between you and the angel, you know you are safe.

Behind you, a few yards away, the angel stops chasing you.

When it's clear that he's not after you any longer, the snake releases his throat and falls heavily to the ground. It gives you one last look, bobs its head, and slithers away, back towards the vast emptiness of the desert, presumably going home.

The angel slumps to his knees.

"Take me with you," he says, both voice and spirit broken.

"I can't," you say.

"I want to go home."

"So do I."

You take a step back, still watching him. The second you do, the entire bottom of the bridge, the floor on which you should be walking, vanishes. You gasp, overcome by vertigo and the knowledge that you should be falling, but to your continued surprise, you don't. You're left standing in apparently-empty air. When you look down at your feed, you see them each surrounded by a small, glowing section of light. You move your left foot slightly, and find the nonexistent floor stays solid beneath you. The light is following your feet, and the light is holding you up.

The nameless angel watches you with a desperate look.

"Please," he says. "Come back. Let me go with you. I want to go home."

You say nothing and turn away. You have people who need you.

"Please!" he shouts, his voice cracking on the word.

You run.

Light meets your pounding footsteps as you get farther and farther away from the strange desert. There's no feeling of exertion; you feel lighter than air, and you're running faster than you've ever run before. The farther you go, the faster you become, and you are filled with a strange sense of relief. The relief isn't your own, but seems to enter your mind from the very world around you. Your presence in this world is a mistake, it seems to say. You were a splinter. You were an infection. Finally, this mistake is being corrected, and this world can resume. A feeling of certainty overwhelms you; you are going the right way. You are going home.

Behind you, you can hear broken sobbing, but you focus on the road ahead of you. Soon, though not soon enough, the sound of weeping is too far back for you to hear.

You focus on the journey home.

* * * * *

You made it out of the Desert!

You're going home! Congratulations.

[Try Again?]