Eventually, you made it to the edge of the desert. This is not the false edge of grass planted by the Bridge Builder, this is the true barrier of this place; a sudden inevitable cliff that spans far beyond the eye can see. You approach the edge casually and peek over. The sight that welcomes you is a sheer, uninterrupted drop into complete and total darkness below.

Slowly, you back away from the edge. You've already suffered one great fall, you don't want to risk another. You travel on, keeping the edge of the world in view, but far enough away to be safe. If you need to find a bridge, then chances are keeping to the cliff will lead you to it eventually.

[You Wander the Desert]

Eventually you find a bridge. The bridge stands tall, white and gold and gleaming in the desert sun. It spans across the canyon before you, its other end far out of sight. It is the Bridge. The only way out of this world, short of divine intervention.

The desert angel is waiting for you at the Bridge's entrance. It feels like it's been ages since you've seen him, but he hasn't changed at all all. He smiles when he sees you.

"Finally," he says, walking over to you. "I've been waiting for you! I was worried you wouldn't make it."

"Well here I am," you say, holding your arms out a little at your sides. "Name's Neal. Nice to meet'cha. Can I go home now?"

The angel beams. "You have a lovely name," he says. "And you're so eager! Yes, we'll leave now."

The angel holds his hand to his heart as though he is grabbing some invisible thing. As he pulls his hand away, a long, burning sword appears, as though it was pulled out of the angel's chest.

Your hand flies immediately to the dagger at your side, though you don't draw it yet. You feel the strange consciousness of the dagger struggling to get your attention, but you ignore it.

"What the hell are you doing?" you say. The snake bracelet around your wrist hisses angrily.

The angel still smiles.

"Please don't be frightened," he says. "I need to get to Heaven." His smile is open and wide and completely free of guile. "I can't though, He took our names and locked us down here. Only named souls can get in or out these days, but that's why you're here! You're a soul! And you've got a Name to go with it!"

He lunges forward. You move out of the way mostly by accident. You fall to the side and scramble backwards.

"I'm going to kill you," he says. "When you're dead, your soul will lift us both to Heaven. We'll both be free!"

He brings the sword down on you.

You whip out the dagger and, to your immense surprise, you parry the angel's strike. There's a clash of metal as the blades meet violently enough to cause sparks to fly. The angel draws back, looking as surprised as you feel.

"Where did you get that?" he says.

"Found it," you say. You jump to your feet and try to hold it like you know what you're doing. You've killed two people with it already, and though the dagger is practically oozing enthusiasm into your mind, you really don't fancy making it a third.

"You shouldn't have that," says the angel.

Before you can respond, the angel suddenly appears at your side, sword in mid-slash. As if by its own will, the dagger meets it in a shower of sparks. The angel presses forward, and you struggle to keep the dagger up, acutely aware that your hand falls, the angel's sword will lop your head off.

"Don't make this harder than it needs to be," the angel says. "If you stop fighting me now, I'll make sure it doesn't hurt."

He leans in, and your arm begins to buckle. You're absolutely certain that you can hold him back any longer, and you're desperately weighing your options between letting go and trying to duck to the left, to the right, or simply dropping. Maybe if you drop, he'll trip over you and you can stab him in the stomach--

Then, the the surprise of both of you, there is a snake on your wrist. Not a flat, if animated, tattoo, but a live snake, an entirely physical snake that's big enough that it needs to loop around your forearm. The snake draws back and, with no fuss, sinks its fangs directly into the angel's exposed face.

The angel shrieks and teleports away, only to take the snake with him. The snake vanishes from your wrist and clings to the angel's face. The angel screams wordlessly and yanks the snake off, trying to dislodge it. You run at him while he's distracted, dagger at the ready.

The angel successfully removes the snake and hurls it to the ground. Before you can stop him, he slices the snake neatly in half.

You yell out and drive the knife hilt-deep into the angel's chest. There's a rush of air, not from his mouth, but from where the dagger has struck, and you realize that you must have hit him in the lung.

The angel teleports away, causing you to stumble forward with the sudden absence. He appears several feet away on his hands and knees, coughing yellow blood onto the ground.

"You shouldn't have that knife," he chokes out as you approach. "'S not for humans."

Kill him! kill him now! the dagger urges.

Your hand shakes.

"I don't want to hurt you," you say.

The angel gurgles something through the blood that might've been a laugh. "Liar," he croaks.

"I don't! I just want to go home." You place the dagger back in its sheath-- which it does not appreciate. It sends disgruntled nudges through your mind, but you ignore it. "Look, see?" you say, putting your hands up. "I don't want to fight, I just want to go home."

The words barely leave your mouth before the angel appears in front of you, his fingers wrapped around your throat. Blood chugs out of the hole in his chest.

"As do I," he hisses. He squeezes.

Blind panic and instinct tells you to claw at his hands, to try and pry him off you. But a level head at your side reminds you that the dagger is still there, and still willing to help. With one hand, you pull out the blade and stab wildly in front of you, slashing the angel's face and arms.

He howls in pain, though he does not release you. It's not until the blade meets the soft flesh of his neck that he finally releases you. He falls to the ground, clutching at his neck as spurts of yellow ichor stains his white vestments.

Eventually, he stops moving, and you are left standing by the corpse, rubbing your sore neck.

Unlike the deaths of the men who claimed to be your father, there's no joy in this death. Or rather, the dagger is feeling joy, but you aren't.

You didn't want to hurt him. Why did he have to do that? You didn't want to hurt him.

It occurs to you that you've murdered an angel. An actual angel. One who was apparently not a very good angel-- so a demon then?-- but a divine creature nevertheless. You were never one for religion, but your dad was, and you wonder how this fits into his ostensibly Lutheran worldview. How does any of this fit into that worldview?

The knife is sending telepathic waves of eagerness. We killed again! it seems to say. Let's kill some more!

You step away from the body, horrified. You feel the bile rising in your throat, and you swallow several times to try and keep it down.

You had no choice, you think. There wasn't any other way.

It was him or you. You had no choice.

With a shuddering breath, you drop the knife. It lands in the dirt with a thud, and though you're no longer touching it, you feel the slightest touch of irritation in your mind. You ignore it and turn towards the bridge, alone again.

You cross the bridge.

* * * * *

You made it out of the Desert!

You're going home! Congratulations.

[Try Again?]

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