It is time to sleep but the Wings are still out there.
When I was young, when my mother was still alive, we lived on a farm by the southern forests of Devicrom, and we raised birds. So many birds! Their flocks would darken the afternoon sky at times. And at night, they would settle on the eaves of the house, fluttering back and forth from time to time. Each night I would drift into sleep to the sound of that fluttering; so long as the feathery scuffle was constant-- neither disturbed or fallen silent-- we were safe. Our feathered guardians would alert us to a prowler or wild beast.
But then we had to leave. Father never told me why we packed everything up and began to wander the unexplored planets. Was he looking for something? Someday, I'm sure he would have told me, but I will never know. I will never know because now he lies out there somewhere in the darkness where he fell-- fell when the Wings dropped out of the cloud onto him. I was watching his progress on a viewscreen when they attacked. Almost immediately, he was dead-- they stripped his suit off within seconds. How much longer could his flesh lasted?
I could not hear his screams because his transmitter failed immediately, but I knew they could have lasted long anyway. Hundreds of dark, flapping shapes flowed over him and the blood began to spray immediately. I could not watch; I reeled back from the monitor in horror. It was already over; the flock began to descend on the ship and I could hear the sounds of their scrabbling claws and, even worse, the fluttering of their spidery wings. They knew I was here, clearly. They knew they had only gotten one of two.
That I am going to die does not bother me. The computer has been keeping me sedated; this sort of situation is something it is programmed to recognize and deal with. The food will run out and I will starve quietly, or perhaps the autodoc will give me a fatal dose of something painless. But I have told it specifically to not make me sleep, for I cannot bear the thought of drifting off to the sound of the Wings fluttering against the ship's hull.
Eventually I will re-join you, Mother, Father. If the afterlife you once told me about, when I was small, is truth and not the fabrication of some alien priest, then we shall live on that farm on Devicrom, and I will once again sleep to the sound of fluttering wings which guard and protect.
It is not enough to have a mask to protect ourselves against the chemical weapons. It is not enough to have a mask to protect ourselves against the germ bombs. There are so many other things we must mask ourselves against. Not just gas masks. We need art masks. Fart masks. Fun masks. Sun masks. The alarm begins to wail-- warning! Someone is about to say something really stupid! Put on your mask! Warning! You are about to get yet another copy of that same list of lawyer jokes in e-mail from yet another former cow-orker! Put on your mask! Warning! This is going to be an ad for an Adam Sandler movie! Put on your fucking mask or suffer the consequences!
I keep my mask close. I keep my mask handy. My mask is ready. I might need it at any second, after all.
She calls me up and says, I hesitate to mention this but I don't know anyone else who might understand and could help. I'm lying here on the bed in my hotel room and there's this, I dunno what you'd call it, it's not a canopy really, there's like this wood paneling over the bed, all nice natural wood and there are these knotholes in it and I'm starting to have a really hard time dealing with them because there are two distinct curved shapes that are definitely the torsos of a lovely pair of women, I can see the well-formed breasts of the one and the back of the other, but between them... well, there's this little alien baby just like in the TV shows with the big head and eyes and it's staring at me rather intensely and I'm starting to wonder what these two women are doing with the alien baby and why it's there and I'm worried about what it's going to do and I thought you might be able to reassure me in some way so I can get to sleep.
So I told her, the two ladies are a really nice (albeit vaguely earthy-crunchy) lesbian couple from Santa Cruz. They did a commitment ceremony and stuff and, for all intents and purposes, consider themselves married to each other. They've been wanting to raise a child now but the State being what it is, they're naturally finding it very hard to successfully adopt and they haven't had any luck with suitable donors or surrogates or whatever and so they've been sort of at the end of their rope for a while now and in their... well, I hesitate to use to the word desperation, but I can't come up with a better one... in their increasing desperation they turned to a pagan moon ritual for inducing fertility, somewhat modified to account for the energies of sisterhood instead of the divine relationship of the He And She, and believe it or not, shortly after they did the moon ritual praying for a child, this meteorite crashed in the middle of their six acres of wooded property up in the hills above Felton, shredding their medicinal marijuana garden of course, but when they went to check the damage they found, sort of Superman-like, that the meteor had actually been a small spacecraft and inside was a small alien child-- obviously sent to fulfill their happiness, but also clearly intended to find his role as a messiah of peace and love who would eventually bring happiness to all humankind-- a role he already understands, even at his young age, which is why he's looking so intense. So the lesbian couple of course failed to report the encounter to any sort of government and are raising him very well indeed. It's all going to turn out well in the end.
Thus reassured, she went to bed happy and it was only later that it occured to me that I could have asked her how high she was.