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...”
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!”
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.
Her face was round with shock, and her thin arms shook. “A-Asa?”
All hell broke loose.