Fledglings - Part 3
The crowd went wild, screams rupturing the air. Dirty hands heaved the barriers out of the way and everyone ran forward. It was hard to tell if they were angry, or surprised or upset. Probably all three.
Humans acted rashly.
The mass of bodies thundered forward and Asa jumped into the air, heaving Simon with him. His wings flapped erratically and he searched for Elsie’s face in the crowd. She was staring at him. “I’m sorry,” he shouted, but words were not enough. “I’m so sorry.” She looked at him for a second and then with a look of terror streaking across her features, she hurled a rock into the air. It grazed Asa’s shoulder.
Simon regained control of his wings within seconds and began flying upwards, away from the beast below him. He felt a hand curl round his leg and yank him down towards the ground. Fingers latched onto his waist, tugging and tearing at the flesh. No. Simon felt rage build inside him, and with a roar, he pulled away from the riot and kicked someone in the face. There was swearing and a gunshot. The bullet missed him by an inch.
“FLY! GODDAMMIT, ASA, FLY!”
Simon pushed upwards and grabbed Asa by the shoulder, yanking him upwards and away from the crowd. His face was still pained with shock and his shoulder was bleeding. Simon couldn’t be sympathetic. He knew Elsie was a bad choice. He knew.
Simon and Asa streaked across the sky, blood dripping as they went. The crowd was following, getting into cars and racing after them. Simon didn’t see why they were so angry. They hadn’t done anything wrong. They were Angels - surely they would do better to be polite? Especially considering Angels were seen to be God’s messengers. It was a silly human thing, but if it helped them get out of this alive, Simon would milk it for all he was worth.
The town shrunk beneath him as Simon flew up into the air. They were above the road now and the cars were gaining on them . More gunshots; more shouting. Simon heard the words “Kill the bastards!” echoing through the air and a shiver erupted down his spine. He had to keep flying.
“Simon...Simon...I don’t feel too good...”
Simon stopped and looked at his brother. He hovered in the air, dropping a few centimetres with every breath. He was clutching his shoulder. His hand was stained red.
“I feel a bit faint.”
Simon raced over to him and held him up. “Asa...are you ok? Was it just the rock? Was it just the rock that hit you?”
Asa nodded. His face was turning paler. “Yes. Just the...just the rock.” He sucked in air through his teeth and gingerly pulled his empty hand away from the wound. Simon swallowed back vomit. It was deep and red and gungy, and buried inside a flash of white glinted. Bone. A stone couldn’t have cut that deep. It couldn’t have.
“Did you see where she picked the stone from?”
Asa shook his head. “No...it was near the car though...”
Simon swore under his breath and hurriedly pulled off his t-shirt. “That wasn’t a rock she threw. The little...she hurled metal at you. Actual, honest to God, metal. That’s why you’re bleeding so much. Hold on...stay still...”
Simon wrapped his t-shirt around the wound, pulling it as tightly as he could. Crimson blood seeped through the fabric, drip, drip, dripping onto the ground below. Simon bit his lip. The t-shirt would stop the flow for five minutes, ten if they were lucky, but it wouldn’t be enough. Asa was bleeding out. Simon glanced back towards the road and saw a line of red going all the way back to the town. He had lost a lot already. And in the distance, the cars were massing, howling and scrabbling at the dirt as they raced forward.
Asa groaned and Simon carefully hoisted him into a baby lift. His wings folded into his back and he gave a weak smile. “Thanks, Simon.”
“It’s ok.” The roar of cars was getting louder, and dirt particles were flying into the air. Simon could hear shouting, yelling. Another gunshot. Another threat of death. “Can you fly?”
Asa paused and shook his head. “I don’t think so...can you get us to the house?”
“Bad choice - we’d just be followed. It’s too far away just now anyway. We wouldn’t get there in time. You still have Mrs Diller’s soul, don’t you?”
“Yeah.” Asa unfurled his fist and showed Simon the crumpled feather. The soul was a whisper on its tip, so light and watery, it was barely there. Asa curled his fist again and breathed through his teeth. “This hurts like a bullet.”
“I know...” The cars were a few yards away - Simon could see the paintwork, scratched and muddy with
soil and grease, glinting dully in the light. There were people sitting on top of them, their eyes full of anger. Simon tried to tilt his wings away, but he couldn’t. The added weight meant he could do nothing but hover a few feet above the air, just out of reach from human hands. Bullets were another story.
Simon beat his wings against the cool air and propelled himself upwards. It was only a few inches. Fear gripped his heart. He couldn’t fly away. They were stuck in this patch of air, left to the mercy of the townsfolk. And they were superstitious, righteous idiots. They had knives and fire and murderous guns. They had rope to tie them with, phones to hand them in with. They screamed and shouted and yelled and swore. They had no minds, no rational ones anyway. They were mad.
The roar of the cars stopped and Simon closed his eyes. He didn’t want to see the anger on their faces. He didn’t want to see the red gleam in their eyes. And he didn’t want to see the bullets shooting towards him.
For a second, nothing happened. There was muttering and the sound of footsteps and then someone said,
“What the bloody hell are you?”
The voice didn’t sound angry, more curious. Simon opened his eyes and saw eyes staring up at him. Faces were red and guns were pointed, but no one was shooting or screaming. The town mechanic - Simon recognised him from the garage - was standing at the front, his dark eyes darting over the brothers. Simon swallowed and concentrated on Asa’s heartbeat. “We’re Angels.”
There was a muttering, the hurried whisper of conversations. The mechanic held up his hand and the crowd fell silent. “Actual proper angels?”
Simon paused and, looking at his brother, nodded. Asa winked at him, his wings twitching under Simon’s hands. “Yes, we’re actual Angels.”
Again, the whispers, louder this time. Someone shouted, “Kill the bastards already,” but he was ignored. A few guns had been lowered. “Have you been sent from the Lord?”
“Eh....” Simon was tempted to say ‘no’, but telling the truth would probably get him killed. “Yes,” he finally replied. Asa looked at him for a second, before giving a small shrug and wincing. Blood was still dripping onto the ground and Simon could feel his heartbeat slow and wane. “We came to take Mrs Diller’s soul...but the magic...you weren’t meant to...”
There was the sound of a grunt and running footsteps. A blonde head pushed its way into the open and
Simon felt his blood boil under his skin. Elsie. “What?” he asked. “What do you want?” His voice was scathing and hard, but hidden inside was a plea. Simon could hear it, but apparently, no one else could.
Elsie swallowed and straightened her back. Her petit frame was steady and strong, but Simon could see the quiver of fear in her eyes. “H-Have you always been...” She closed her mouth, unable to finish her sentence. She bowed her head and shuffled her feet.
“Yes, yes. That doesn’t matter. Look is anyone here a doctor? Anyone?” He could feel damp soaking into his shirt and Asa’s eyelids were flickering, his large brown eyes strangely dull against his ghostly face. “Anyone?”
There was a glassy silence, thick enough to cut with a knife. No one spoke. No one made a noise. Their eyes were glued on Asa, limp and quiet in Simon’s arms.
“Anyone? Please? Please?”
No answer, just the silence.
Simon swallowed, a boulder lodged in his dry throat. He didn’t want to look at Asa. He didn’t want to see his brother, but he couldn’t help himself. The eyes were closed, and the chest was still. No, not still, but slowing. The heartbeat was calm and steady but waning, weeping. Time was running out. No. His brother. Asa. Asa couldn’t...not...not him...
“Is anyone a doctor? Please!”
The mechanic cleared his throat. “Sonny, I think he’s going. There’s not much we can do for him.”
Simon shook his heads, tears sparking in his eyes. Glue suddenly jumped into his head. Asa had wanted to eat him when he had first arrived. That’s who he was - the boy with the confidence, the power, not the boy bleeding to death over a dirt road, surrounded by people who simply watched. He had to be ok. He had to. They were a pair, a matching set. One heaven, one hell. He couldn’t do it by himself. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t do...he couldn’t...
Simon felt his wings curl inwards and he dropped like a stone onto the grass. His head was bowed over Asa, his ear pressed to his chest. A heartbeat. Slow. Slowing. Waning. Vanishing. A flutter of life in his wings - a twitch, a quiver. A ragged breath. A loosening of muscles. A pumping of blood onto the soil, onto his hand. Another ragged breath. A flicker of light as he opened his eyes, only for a second. A single glance. That was all. Then closed again, the golden light extinguished. The butterfly chest slowing and stopping. The heartbeat coming to a close. The wings lying still against Simon’s knees.
A howl split the air and Simon buried his face into his brother’s chest. His wings curved round them, protecting them from the stares and the guns and the faded paintwork of cars. Another howl, another cry of pain. Not Asa. Never Asa. He wasn’t gone...he was an Angel. Angels couldn’t die. They couldn’t, they couldn’t, they couldn’t...
Simon felt something touch his wings and push them aside. He didn’t care, not anymore. He could feel Asa’s heartbeat against his chest, but it wasn’t there. A memory, an imprint of a soul. And blood. Crimson blood streaked with hidden gold and light and silver, painted across the road in drips and blobs and strokes. A gory masterpiece of a fallen angel. Simon’s hand sought out Asa’s, and his fingers grasped the crumpled feather. A soul. It all seemed so pointless now. He was dead.
He was Heaven. He was an Angel.
He couldn’t go.
“It’s ok, sonny. It’s ok. Just stand up now. Stand up.”
Two firm hands gripped Simon’s shoulders and hauled him to his feet. Fingernails dug into his back. Tears streamed down his face.
“Is Asa...” Elsie’s voice was a murmur, a whisper, but Simon could hear himself saying, “Yes.”
He wanted to shout at her, to accuse her, but he couldn’t. His throat was dry and his mind was numb. He was a ghost.
The strong hands eased him forward into the crowd and onto the other side of the road. Everyone was staring. Some faces were full of pity; others full of malice. One man was holding a pair of handcuffs and a long thin rope. Simon pulled his wings closer into his back. He didn’t want anyone to touch them. He didn’t want anyone to touch him.
“Simon...that is his name right? Look, Simon. Look at me.” Simon focused his eyes and saw the round face of the mechanic staring up at him. “I want you to fly. Just fly ok. None of us will say anything until you are gone from this State, alright. We won’t call the cops, or the FBI now, ok? Do you understand?”
“Ok. Good. Now, I want you to fly. We will keep the body, you understand? We keep the body, you fly, and no one gets tied up or shot at. Ok?”
Simon nodded again.
“Ok.” The hands touched Simon’s wings, easing them open. “Now, fly, ok? Fly away.”
Simon rubbed the feather between his fingers. He had a job to do. He had Asa’s job to do.
He spread his wings and jumped.