Did You Hear the Angels Sing?

by H.L. Fullerton

Waylon was dead. They used to joke that where there was a Wills, there was a Way, but now Way was gone so Wills wasn’t sure where that left him. Presumably answering questions for the nice men in suits who stopped by to inform him of his husband’s murder.

To be honest, the nice men in suits—law enforcement of some type; they’d flashed ID badges, but Way’s brain had been so otherwise occupied juggling shock and grief and fear that he hadn’t zeroed in on what agency was ripping his soul in two—they weren’t actually nice. The suits they wore were nice and they looked nice in them (the one on the left more than the one on the right), but Wills, who Way always said was a great judge of character, didn’t think either man knew much about niceness. Wills recognized an interrogation when it showed up on their doorstep.

The two suits who had bullied their way into his living room and cornered him on the couch—the couch he and Way had shared only that morning—asked him about Way, how long they’d been together, where they’d met, did Way have any enemies, all sorts of questions except the one they had to be salivating to ask.

Wills didn’t have anything to do with Way’s death and these two knew it. He wanted to toss them out and it was tempting, so tempting. Fingers itched; limbs ached. But Wills couldn’t allow himself to be tempted. The part that wanted to shred and storm and shriek with fierce delight had to be kept hidden. The last thing Way would have wanted was for Wills to end up killed, too.

“Everyone loved Way,” Wills said as his voice strained and hands shook. And it was true. But Wills, of course, loved Way most.

“Where was Waylon headed?”

To the school’s radio station. Wills had told him not to go, said it wasn’t worth the risk. But Way had insisted it was the best way of spreading the word. “The campus gym, I think. He said he was going to work out. Maybe stop by his office.”

Both gym and office were in the opposite direction of the radio station, but Way had taken his gym bag to give himself a reasonable excuse for being on campus and so Wills could have plausible deniability. The men shared a look, maybe deciding who would ask the next question. “Any reason your husband would lie to you?”


“Is it possible—”

“I want to see him.”

They didn’t recommend it. They promised to be in touch. They’d catch this guy, whoever he was. Oh, and one more thing, “Did you hear the angels sing?”

“No,” Wills lied, “I wasn’t there.” He didn’t dare say anything else.

The men left. Maybe they had believed him.

But maybe not.


Three months ago, a band of angels appeared at the re-opening of a mini-mart in nearby Bethel. They sang a song—just the one—then disappeared.

Soon after, the death rate in Fairfield County soared, most notably among those who had posted blurry pics or distorted audio of the mini-mart miracle online.

Wills and Way hadn’t advertised their presence, but Way must have been spotted in someone else’s pic. And everyone knew that wherever there was a Way, there’d be a Wills. It was only a matter of time before the men in nice suits determined he’d been there, too.

Thank God he’d stayed in the car.


The not-nice men followed him into the funeral home where Wills tried to make arrangements for a body no one would let him see. This time, they wore spendier suits and intimidating sunglasses. They wanted to know what Way had told Wills about the angels. “There’s a chance someone is targeting people who attended the mini-mart opening.”

Yeah, no shit. “Sure, sure. Whatever I can do to help. Way said it was beautiful.”

It had been catchy, a sort of punk pop/operatic funk deluge. The most wondrous sounds Wills had ever heard. The kind of music that changed whoever listened. Way claimed all change was for the better. Wills wasn’t completely certain that was true.

“Anything else?”

Wills shrugged as if it didn’t matter. “That it changed him. That given a chance, it would change the world.”

Wills bet whoever had sent these two suits over wasn’t thrilled about the world changing. Wills wasn’t thrilled about how his life had changed. Losing his Way was just the crappiest tip of this conspiratorial pyramid.

“Are there any recordings?”

“Those would be at the school, Way used their studio. Or on his phone. Did you search his phone?” The men stared at Wills. Perhaps he’d gone too far. Sounded too accusatory.

“Recordings of the angels.”

“Way didn’t have any. He played me snippets from the Internet, but those were mostly static-y. Why? What does that have to do with his murder?” That was definitely too accusatory, but Wills was tired of his temper being leashed. Way always called him Wills-ful when he got tetchy and if anything should make him furious, Way’s dying should be top of the list. Wills ought to be angrier, much angrier, at these men, at the loss of Way. Wills resented the angels most for making Way’s death bearable. Whatever had touched his soul that day made it harder for him to be—well, human.

“Did he try to play it?”

Wills needed to be careful he didn’t reveal himself. Talking about the angels meant remembering the angels and, if he thought about that day too long, their song reverberated through his entire body, crescendo-ing to epiphanic heights which his tongue longed to give voice to, despite its present inability to recreate the heavenly lyrics. Also, it was potentially life-ending. He picked up an urn and gripped it tightly to distract his awestruck brain. “Way tried. But he got frustrated that none of his efforts came close and stopped playing altogether. In some ways, it ruined him.”

It hadn’t. If Way had more time—if the men in nice suits hadn’t killed him—Wills had no doubt his husband could have recreated the angels’ song. Way’d had that kind of ear. What had ruined Way, and all the other souls who’d come together that afternoon, was whomsoever employed the men before him. Although sometimes it felt like Way wasn’t gone at all—and not just because Wills carried him in his heart.

“You look like you’ve put on some weight since the mini-mart,” the prettier man said.

Wills tugged at his t-shirt, hid his increasing girth beneath crossed arms. “My weight doesn’t have anything to do with the mini-mart,” he lied. “Was there anything else?”

The men left the funeral home, but Wills was certain they didn’t go far. He didn’t like his chances of surviving a third encounter with them.


Wills saw Way see the angels before he saw them himself. He’d been watching for Way to come out of the mini-mart, cringing as the Live Music part of the grand re-opening extravaganza butchered Prince’s “Little Red Corvette.” The song ended, badly, there was a smattering of applause, and a new song started. The intro alone was miles better than anything they’d played yet, although Wills couldn’t identify the song. Then Way came out, glanced over, up, and froze. When he stayed stock-still, Wills simultaneously reached for the door handle and checked to see what had stopped Way in his tracks.

First, Wills thought the band had set off fireworks, which in the middle of the day made no sense. Second, he thought it was some special effects projected images (also not very effective in full sun). He squinted in hopes of figuring out what the images were when, as if some long unused part of his brain booted up, he noticed the band wasn’t playing even though the music was and Wills thought, Angels.

They shimmered like aurorae in vaguely humanish shapes and had wings, several sets. The largest flickered fast like a hummingbird’s and seemed to keep them hovering like giants just above the horizon. Smaller wings, dotted with eyespots, opened and closed in rhythm with the song, in the way of musical instruments. Their faces had faces, human and not, which rotated as they sang. In their arms, they held…something.

Wills saw swords, Way saw trumpets.

But they both agreed it was angels that sang at the mini-mart.

Wills and Way fought a lot over the angels at the mini-mart: Wills wanting to forget it ever happened, go on with their lives, go on living period; Way insisting that angels didn’t appear for no reason, that they’d been chosen to—Wills always cut him off at that point, yelling, “We didn’t choose! We were out of goddamn milk!” And Way was out of Starburst, but Wills would never begrudge Way his candy fix. And Way would calmly say, “Wills, we heard the song.”

No matter how many deaths and disappearances the local news reported (first among women of child-bearing age, then everyone else) Way believed it was a blessing. Wills knew enough Bible stories to know angels heralded destruction or conception, sometimes both. Neither a forecast Wills had wanted anything to do with.

But if Way wanted to change the world, Wills would change it for him.


Wills abandoned the home he and Way had shared, following the plan they’d made once the murders started. They’d thought they would have more time before needing to disappear. And Way had wanted to play his latest attempt over the air. Now it was up to Wills to stay alive long enough to see the angels’ message realized. Long enough for him to complete the change that started with the first hosanna.

Wills’ gut cramped and he breathed through the pain as the concordant notes in his head played louder. His tongue formed sounds he almost understood. He wasn’t sure if he was turning into an angel or having an angel. Either way, Wills figured he’d see Way soon.

H.L. Fullerton writes fiction—mostly speculative, occasionally about miracles at mini-marts—which can be found in more than 50 anthologies and magazines including Fireweed: Stories of the Revolution, Daily Science Fiction, and Lackington’s. On Twitter as @ByHLFullerton.

“Did You Hear the Angels Sing?” by H.L. Fullerton. Copyright © 2021 by H.L. Fullerton.
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