Saturday, 10 November 2012

Fledglings - Part 3

Hi! Sorry for the gap in posting, but I've been very busy :O

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.

No.

No.  

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.

No.

“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?”

Simon nodded.

“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.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Fledglings - Part 2

Hey! Part 2 of Fledglings today - I hope you like it!

Fledglings - Part 2

Simon felt shivers erupt over his skin and his wings tilted to the left. He forced them into their normal position and said, “I think it might be.” Fear was clogging his mind. He knew it would come, he knew this day would always come, but so soon? So quickly? They weren’t ready. They weren’t Angels, not yet. They were only kids, fledgling Angels, not yet fully grown. Surely it was a mistake.

The feeling swept over them again and Asa nodded, his Adam’s apple jerking in his throat. “It’s time. We need to go.”

Simon forced a nod. There was a question on his lips, so soft and simple. “Are you scared?”

There was a moment of silence, a second of peace. Asa felt the air for his brother’s hand. “I’m not scared. 
I’m terrified.” And with that, he pulled away and flew.

Simon caught up with his twin in a matter of seconds. His mind was reeling. Their first reaping. Their first chance to find out who was who - who was Heaven, and who was Hell. Angels were supernatural creatures, made to take the souls of the dead and deliver them to their afterlife - Death was too busy to do it, and so he had decided to create a workforce. They had a long life span, and when they died, they were reincarnated as another Angel, so as to continue the work left for them. They always came in pairs, and they were always male. Simon knew all of that, but still, he had never focused on their job. It was all about the wings and the magic and the flying. It was never actually about the souls, but now, he couldn’t ignore his duty.

 Fear cramped in his stomach, and Simon felt himself drop in the air. They were only fifteen...surely they were too young? Simon wished he could say they were, but he didn’t know. They had never met any other Angels - he knew they were out there, but they were always out of reach, dancing at the tips of their fingers. He couldn’t ask them. And as much as Simon tried to deny it, he knew the feeling was the right one. His wings had turned to take him there. He had acted without thinking. He had acted to obey the purpose he was born for. If that wasn’t proof, then...then...

Simon felt the tugging again and he turned left in the cool blue sky. They were flying over the town. People were running through the streets, abandoning their homes. Simon swallowed and craned his neck to see where they were running. A tower of smoke rose into the air on the Main Street, its tendrils wrapping round the school and the church. The smell of petrol and burning rubber was thick and cloying.  Simon wrinkled his nose. A car crash. He prayed it was no one they knew.

Asa suddenly swooped down and, holding his breath against the putrid air, Simon followed. The street unfolded in front of them, a play of sorts - men shouting and pushing the children back into their ranks; women stretching their necks to have a look at the carnage; dogs barking, adding to the noise. Elsie’s blonde hair bounced through the street, but she was swallowed by the mass. They were the ensemble, the chorus. The victim was the hero. And the Angels were the villains.

Simon levelled himself and landed on the pavement a few feet away from the wreckage, barely aware of Asa beside him. The heat was intense and the great black smoke was blinding. Simon pressed a hand to his face and wiped it downwards, clearing his vision. There. He could see now. Folding his wings behind his back, he took a step forward towards the burned out corpse of the car.

It was black and hollowed. Flames licked the inside of the steel and buried in the mess was a body.  Simon ducked his head away. He didn’t want to see. He never wanted to see. A hand pressed on his shoulder. 

“Simon, go.” Simon closed his eyes for a second and then walked. His feet slipped through the flames and petrol slicks on the pavement. He knelt down beside the body and jerked backwards.

“What is it? What’s wrong?”

Simon shook his head. “It’s Mrs Diller.”

“What the old hag from the county library?”

Simon nodded and Asa made a retching noise. “Oh God. That’s...that’s...”

“Life.”

No one said anything for a minute, then Asa’s voice broke the silence. It shook and quivered as he spoke. 

“What do we do?”

Simon shrugged. “I don’t know...touch her? We need to weigh her good and bad.”

“Yeah, but we need to know who’s Heaven and Hell for that, don’t we?”

“We can do it together. Then we’ll know, right?”

Asa nodded and crouched down. His breath was hot on Simon’s neck and he could feel his wings tense at his side. It was good to know he wasn’t the only one who was nervous. “OK. Ok. Three, two, one.”

Simon reached out a finger and placed it on Mrs Diller’s chest at the same time as Asa pressed his nail to her forehead. There was a tugging and a sudden cold feeling sparked in the air. It was only there for a second and when it was gone, a globe of dark light sat on Simon’s palm. He glanced at Asa. His globe was shocking white, blinding.

Simon forced a smile to his lips. “So, you’re Heaven?”

Asa nodded, his mouth ajar. “I guess so. And you’re Hell.”

The globe of light was burning Simon’s palm, but he was too far into his stupor to move. Hell. He was Hell. 
He knew one of them had to be, but...but...him? He had to carry the heavy souls for eternity? He had to endure the pleading, the screams, the begging. Why him? Why was it always him that got the short straw, the rough end of the stick? He would say it was fate, but he knew that was false. He would say it was God, but he didn’t exist. He would say it was coincidence, but all the bad things, all the worse things, piled onto him...that wasn’t coincidence. That was a cruel joke.

Simon felt a rush of heat sear his palm and he bounced backwards, slamming into Asa’s shoulder. “Sorry,” he muttered. “So, what now?”

“We...eh...compare them? Yeah, that sounds right. Well, which is bigger? The sins or the charity?”

Asa held his globe up to Simon’s. The bright globe was a fraction larger than the dark one, and Simon nodded at Asa. “She’s yours.”

Asa swallowed and gently placed his ball of light to Mrs Diller’s forehead. It vanished inside and Simon copied, letting his dark sphere fly back into its vessel. Asa was shaking, shivering beside him. “What do I do?” he whispered. Simon had never heard him so scared before. He had always been the strong one, the brave one. Courage was just another thing that made him better. But now...he was shaken. Broken. Smashed. There was sweat beading on his forehead and his wings quivered. “What do I do?” he repeated.

Simon shrugged. “Whatever feels right? Just...be careful.”

Asa nodded. He sat and stared at the corpse for a minute. The roar of the crowd behind them was getting louder. Someone was shouting. Someone was screaming. Everyone was chattering in panicked voices.

“Asa...” Simon said, glancing over his shoulder. Elsie and her father were standing right next to the makeshift barrier. Her face was streaked with tears and she kept on trying to move forward. Her father’s meaty hand held her back, but inside those deep blue eyes, Simon swore he could see flickers of Asa, kneeling and shaking in the flames. He turned back to his brother and leaned into his ear. “Asa, hurry. The spell...it’ll wear off...”

“Ok. Ok.” He took a deep breath and with a trembling hand he pulled a feather from his wings. It was long and soft and white and brown, all patchy and earthy and strong. Asa gripped it between his thumb and forefinger and pressed the tip to Mrs Diller’s heart. There was another flash of ice in the air and a long spindly thread of silver draped itself around the feather. It was transparent, but it had a colour. It was solid, but it was liquid. It was a paradox. It was a soul.

Asa clenched a fist around the feather and stood up. His hand tightened around Simon’s shoulder and he flickered. Simon swallowed. The spell. It couldn’t wear off. It couldn’t. “Asa, you have to move. You’re flickering.”

Asa looked round, and swallowed. “So are you.”

Simon jumped to his feet and looked down at his body. Asa was right - patches of wing, stitches of clothing were flickering in and out of existence. Fear held his mind in its icy grip and he cast his hand down. Nothing. No magic, no shimmer. Crap.

Simon grabbed his brother by the shoulder. “Look, Asa, get out of here. Go, fly! FLY!”

“Simon. Look.”

Asa was pointing at the crowd, his eyes wide and fearful as he stared into the mass of bodies. Simon turned round slowly. He didn’t want to see. He didn’t want to see, because if it was what he thought it was, they were finished, they were done, they might as well be dead. Humans acted rashly, the always did, if they were seen they would be dead, they would be strung up and dead...

Simon looked where Asa was pointing and his heart stopped beating in his chest. Eyes. Every pair of eyes was staring at him, staring at Asa. He stole a glance at his body. No flickering. Just solid material. His wings fluttered behind him, and he heard a gasp. He recognised it - Elsie.

“Simon? A-Asa?”

Her face was round with shock, and her thin arms shook. “A-Asa?”

“ASA, GO!”

All hell broke loose.