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     Laid Bare, p.1

       Natasha Weber / Fantasy
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Laid Bare
Laid Bare
By Natasha Weber

Virtue and his little sister, Courage, had been spotted. They ran across the barren, brown, rocky plains together.
    They were being chased by a band of humans holding up a banner signifying they were from a particular clan. Humans liked to divide themselves like that.
    Courage had given them away. She had woken up before Virtue and had gone flying. Virtue told her never to take flight--humans had guns that could shoot Angels down. But Courage often said to him, "what's the point of having wings if we can't use them?"
    Virtue didn't know what the point was; but he also knew flying was tantamount to death or capture. It had been that way for thousands of years now--ever since the world turned brown and the toxins flooded the earth.
    Angels were meant to fly, however, and some were driven crazy by not being able to. His sister was probably one of them. She spent long stretches just being sad and silent--not being able to stretch her wings.
    But wings were valuable to humans. They ate them, and it sustained them for weeks at a time. Virtue had lost his two years ago while being captured by humans during that time. Luckily, his parents were around back then to look after Courage.
    But now, with humans right on their heels and his little sister slowing down, he knew there was no way he could avoid capture. He had no thoughts for his own safety; he wanted to save his sister.
    Courage tripped. Virtue skidded to a halt and gravel flew beneath his feet as he turned around and went back for his sister. He tried to scoop her up in his arms, but two of the masked humans chasing them kneeled and took aim. They shot their darts and met their mark. Virtue lost consciousness.
    He awoke in a cell like he had two years ago. There was a woman outside the cell with her gas mask off. She had an ugly scar adorning her face--spreading from her cheek to her forehead. She wore the loose fitting robes and big coats with matching colors that all of the clan did. Virtue remembered that this clan called themselves Powder.
    They were underground, safe from any would be toxins.
    The room was lit by torches on either side of the arched door behind the woman.
    The woman knelt down and looked him in the eyes as he sat up. Virtue looked back at her fearlessly. Some of his little sister's courage had rubbed off on him.
    "Where are your wings, Angel?" The woman asked.
    "Eaten." He replied fearlessly.
    The woman wasn't surprised. "Why are you so fearless? Angels usually cower in the corner and refuse to answer our questions."
    "I'm not afraid anymore. I've been captured before. But my sister... Is my sister okay?" Virtue asked.
    The woman looked at him a little sympathetically. "Her wings will be eaten like yours were..."
    Virtue was overwhelmed with sadness. "Why do you humans do such things? Why can't you let her go? She is the sweet, kindest, most innocent girl you will ever meet. She would never harm you. Please, tell me you will let her go once you eat her wings."
    The woman had to look away when the Angel's oncoming tears started to affect her. "Do not cry... Creatures like you--the ones with big eyes and soft features--they were meant to manipulate humans. They are like dogs..."
    The woman began to walk away, but Virtue gripped the bars and called out, "please! I know you are not cruel like the rest. I know you don't want them to keep my sister!"
    The woman turned back around and faced him again. "What makes you think I am better?"
    "You heard me out... You've talked to me this long... Humans usually don't talk." Virtue said slowly. "You got that scar from other humans, right? You must have... Angels never fight back."
    The woman looked down sadly. "Trying to convince me that humans are evil and angels are good? Do not tell me things I already know... You can't judge us for eating your wings and abusing you. How can we not be jealous of your ability to be able to withstand the toxicity outside--to be able to live without food or water which we humans are running out of."
     "My mother told me..." Virtue began nervously, trying to keep the woman there and sympathetic by any means necessary. "That humans could at one time live above ground. But, by their own hand, made the world uninhabitable. How is that the fault of Angels?"
    The woman was surprised. "Humans... Were able to live above ground?"
    "My mother saw it--she lived a long time before humans ate her." Virtue cried a little harder when he had to remind himself of his mother's grisly death. "She saw humans living under a blue sky with plenty of food and... Houses."
    The woman seemed to be dazed as he told her about the time where a blue sky was present. She snapped back to reality. "You just want to keep me here... Goodbye."
    “Wait! It’s just you who’s going to be my guard, right?” Virtue gripped the bars with trembling hands—looking at his jailor face-to-face. He had two eyes: But within those two eyes were held one-thousand eyes more. They pierced her soul.
    “I will… See what I can do. I will ask to be your guard.” She said, unable to look away. “Maybe you can tell me more about the world with the blue sky.”
    The woman was lingering near the bars. Virtue caught her by surprise and held her face between both hands. She stared at him a little longer. She was not wrong about Angels being good manipulators—when they knew how to be. From his time among humans two years ago, Virtue knew how to be. “What’s your name?”
    “Trisha.” She answered. “And yours?”
    Trisha backed away from him and waved and then headed out the arched door behind her.
    There was nothing to do but wait for another human to come in. He hoped it would still be the woman. Virtue lay down on his back and looked at the ceiling. He worried endlessly for his sister. Being an Angel, he had no need for sleep. He was left alone with his thoughts. He let them drift to stories his mother told him.
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