The halo is the angel’s mouth, perpetually open, screaming for nourishment like a baby bird—to us it sounds like singing
The angel was daintily eating my severed leg as I tried to escape. The cloud-stuff blocked my way like a wall of soft and cool pillows, inviting me to lean back into them and just relax. The bloodstain spreading below me made that look like a very bad choice. I scrabbled for purchase.
“Do not fear” it gently said, removing a piece of tendon from its pearly white – and very sharp – teeth. “I will not let you suffer long.” It was speaking into my mind, an inescapable presence.
“This cannot be heaven. This must be hell!” I tried to find a way out of the enclosed space that still was suffused by sourceless golden light. Just a minute ago, it had been a comforting garden before the angel arrived, folded it up, and sliced off my leg.
The angel smiled. “Then why did I remove your pain?” It was true. When it reached out with its feathers, sharper than glass, there had also been a cutting of my feelings – I did not remember what pain was like.
“To fool me. To lure me into falsehood.”
“No. There are no lies here: ask and I will answer truthfully.” I knew it was perfectly true.
The angel set my foot aside on a little pedestal cloud and focused its mighty gaze on me. I recoiled from the intensity, slipping back in my blood.
“Food. I am eating you because it gives me sustenance, just as you used to eat in your mortal life.”
“But here there is no need to eat.” Since I arrived, I had never needed food. Delicious meals were available and always accompanied by pleasant appetite, but there was no hunger or thirst. Just enjoyment. “Or… do angels need food?”
“Indeed. What you partake of here is merely pleasant sensations. You do not need to build up or sustain your body or soul. I, on the other hand, do. And you are dinner.”
With a movement too fast to track, it swept a wing across my other leg, severing it perfectly. The blood splatter on the cloud wall formed an elegant curve worthy a modern art museum. While I screamed in surprise, fear, and betrayal, it began to chew. It let me cry for a while before continuing.
“You were told that through your mortal life you build up your soul by words, thoughts and deeds. That is true. You are a magnificent, beautiful, unique thing. That is why you are ripe for eating.”
“You are an angel. You are imperishable. You don’t need food.”
“Not quite. I do not need matter or energy. Like you, here we all are pure information. You are fresh, unique information nontrivially entangled with all of creation. That is what I am eating: I am taking your bits and making them mine.”
“You said no lies: why did you lie to me… to us… about heaven?”
“We promised everlasting life, and you will get that. After I have eaten all of you I will recreate you from my memories and let you continue your afterlife happily ever after. Minus memories of this ordeal: savour them. They are literally your last truly mortal moments.”
I recalled meeting some of the old souls of heaven, smiling beatifically… but not quite being there. My companions explained that over time many souls receded from the mortal perspective as they basked in the Presence. I now knew why.
“You and me are having this conversation in a myriad forms right now: I am eating you in all different ways. Experiencing your emotions, probing your mind. Enjoying the ingenious escape plan with the poem you came up with in one variant… Praying will do no good since the Presence is entirely, perfectly aware of what is happening.”
“You are twisting the knife.”
“Indeed. I may have removed pain in this instance, but psychological anguish is part of the flavour here.”
“Does… the Presence eat?” The angel stopped eating and looked for the briefest of instants surprised. Then it laughed a silver laughter.
“Indeed It does, and yes, It eats angels. Not humans.”
The angel did something incomprehensible and bloody muscle folded into an exquisite light filigree structure glistening in the air, unspooling like crimson spaghetti into its maw.
“The nutrient and energy flows of Earth sustain a tangled hierarchy of species. In addition, they produce human souls that are the basis of the information flows up here. The nutrient chain continues upwards. Ever upwards.”
It sidled over to me, putting a soft but immovable hand on my chest. “Yes. There are vaster predators out there. Far vaster. The fantasies of your mathematicians about large cardinals and complex orders of infinity are nothing compared to the web of predation that continues forever up there. Infinity is hunger.”
“Have you been eaten?”
“Yes. I liked it, of course. The Presence made us to want true union. There is nothing like becoming part of something greater. But once done we are sent out to gather new fresh information, refining it until we are ripe for plucking another day.” It looked wistful for a moment, and then laughed. It had somehow removed an organ (I did not know which) and thoughtfully dangled it in the light in front of its achingly beautiful face. The scene reminded me of a baroque still life. Then it gulped it down and I noticed that whatever it was I had known or experienced the moment before was gone and would never return. It was literally parts of my soul vanishing.
“You should know that you were a truly good person. When I recreate you I might put some of the feeling of my union into you.”
It reached down towards my stomach.