Since I was in some sort of banshee state, I didn’t realize how far we had traveled into the city. We had somehow made it all the way over to Lexington Ave. Which is much closer to Time Square then I think any of us would like to be. Since there we’re so many people in Manhattan the day of the Awakening, it became a hot spot for supernatural creatures. Especially those who feed on humans like vampires and wendigos. I guess it makes sense that Katie would lead us all the way out here.
That isn’t the only problem though. With how bad this area is, it also means there are lots of SIF’ers around. Carrying a lot bigger and dangerous weapons then they do in other parts of the city. For the most part SIFA is only here to keep the creatures contained, as there are far too many to capture them, but they’ll weed out the weaker ones the moment they get a chance. Before I shifted, I wasn’t allowed anywhere near this side of town.
“What the hell do we do now?” Asher questions as we hide behind a large garbage bin.
Just around the corner is a platoon of SIF’ers who seem to be loading up their latest catch.
From where I’m crouching, I can just barely see them load up a small figure with wings similar to Cala’s. Except they are nowhere near as large and beautiful, instead they are slightly torn and black from what looks like scorch marks. Just before the figure steps fully into the truck, its wings flare out and push the two soldiers next to it harshly to the ground. Loud voices scream out and lunge towards the figure which I now realize is a young boy, maybe seventeen. He stretches his wings back, and his barely matured face contorts in agony and anger. I can tell he’s in a lot of pain but he knows if he doesn’t try, he’ll likely be killed or worse. He flaps his wings hard, knocking over a few of the SIF’ers attacking him, but before he can do it again, he screams out in a pain.
I cover my mouth in horror, trying not to draw attention to myself. A soldier had snuck behind him with what looks to be a heated katana of some sort -the metal of it so hot, it burns red- and easily chopped off one of the teens wings.
The boy’s body falls and the soldier behind him comes into my clear view. I instantly recognize his face and the dragon tattoo sticking out from underneath his collar. The suit he’s wearing is a darker green and he no longer has on a privates cap. He must have been promoted from the last time I saw him. His eyes look more menacing yet just as angry as when I launched him out of the back of that truck.
That feels like so long ago.
Cala winces next to me, having seen the same thing, and unconsciously brings a hand to her shoulder. “We need to get out of here.” She chokes out. I can almost see the bloody feathers reflecting in her eyes as they float to the ground.
“I don’t think that’s gonna be possible.” Asher says unfazed. “It’s a dead end the way we came and there’s too many soldiers to even attempt to go this way.”
“We could make our way back to that warehouse, maybe retrace our steps?” I suggest, trying not to look at the unconscious boy being loaded up into the truck.
“Yeah, we could but it will take up too much time. The sun will be up by then.”
“So what? We just sit here and wait to be caught?”
Cala turns back towards us, finally able to tear her gaze away. “That’s not gonna happen.” She looks around the alley way, her eyes widen slightly when it looks like she’s found what she was looking for. “Follow me.” she whispers and grabs Nat’s hand.
Asher gives me a skeptical look but we both follow anyway. I take one look back at the man, having a very unusual feeling that this won’t be the last time I’ll be seeing him.
We make our way back the way we came but stop after only a few feet. She gestures for us to help her clear some crates that are leaning up against the wall. Once their moved she slowly kneels to the ground and places her hands against the cement.
“Make a tight circle around me.” she says as her wings roll out of her back and mold around her.
We do as she says and wrap our arms around each other’s shoulders. The tips of our toes press against her and our heads face downwards. A light begins to leak out through her feathers, becoming so bright I have to squeeze my eyes shut. The marks on my arms start to feel warm as well.
It only lasts about a minute, but when Cala finally backs up, I see that she’s melted a hole straight into the building.
“That was hot.” Asher remarks and gives her a wink. She only rolls her eyes and shoves his head down and through the hole.
Nat follows quickly after, while I just stare at the obliterated concrete. “Is that what you were trying to do to me?” I ask, my arms wrapping around myself.
Cala doesn’t reply and instead just gestures for me to go through. I stare at her for a second then oblige. She follows quickly after me and pulls the crates in front of the hole once she’s in.
We seem to have burrowed into a small supply closet type room. There are shelves lined up in the middle of the room with various cleaning supplies, tools and toilet paper.
“We should be fine here until the sun goes down.”
“The doors locked and I put a shelve in front of it just in case.” Asher says and sits down up against one of the wall.
Cala nods her head and slides down the wall herself. I watch intently as she opens her arms wide and Nat timidly makes her way over to be enveloped in them. It doesn’t take long before Nat’s breathing slows down and she begins to slightly snore. Cala is still awake though, staring down at her and caressing her face.
It’s sweet. They don’t bicker much and it seems like they balance each other out. Nat calms Cala and Cala brings out the confidence in Nat.
I’ve seen sides of Cala tonight that I haven’t seen before; vulnerability, fear, helplessness. It made her more human than I had originally thought her to be.
As quietly as I can, I tiptoe over to the shelve directly in front of them and sit down. She notices but I only catch her attention for a split second before it goes back down to the girl sleeping on her lap.
“Why do you hate me so much?” I ask abruptly, probably louder than I should have.
Nat stirs in her lap and she looks back at me with a glare, Cala doesn’t speak until she’s settled again. “I didn’t take you for the type to care if people like you or not.”
“I didn’t take you for the type to notice something like that.”
Her gaze is now fully locked on me. “I don’t hate you; you haven’t done anything to cross that line… yet.” She adds on in the end and gives me a pointed look.
“Then I’m at a loss then. You are 100% one of the most confusing people I have ever met.”
“And you are the most reckless, your point is?” She retorts and I just lean back more, spreading my legs out in front of me. After a brief moment of silence -or the sound of Asher’s loud snores- she lets out a big sigh. “Look, you’ve been living in a bubble for the last year or so. You don’t know the shît that we’ve all been through. The bunker was nowhere as smooth working as it is now, when we first started.”
“You were one of the first there, weren’t you?”
“One of? I was the first.” She scoffed; her eyes unfocused. As if she was remembering a not too good memory.
“I don’t owe you any answers about my life.” She spits, closing off.
I swallow hard trying to think of what to say next. It’s hard to get someone to trust you that doesn’t seem to trust themselves.
“I was a gymnast.” I decide to say. “I had practice almost every single night and I would be with Katie all the other nights. Before I met her, gymnastics was all I had. I was training to be an Olympian… but I had no social skills, no friends. Unless you count my brother. Katie saved me, and before tonight I had hoped I could maybe save her too. Return the favor, you know? I really have lost her, I realize that now, and my brother is gone too. And I’m completely helpless.” I swallow hard and look up to find that her attention is fully on me. “You have no reason to trust me, and I you, but right now we are all each other has got. So, it would be nice if I didn’t have to do this alone anymore. It would be nice to have someone that cares as much as you do.”
She takes a long second to debate what to say next, even double checking that the other two in the room are really asleep. “When the awakening first happened, I was with my parents.”
When she starts talking, I have to clench my jaw together to keep it from hanging open. I can’t believe that actually worked.
“We were pretty well off as a family and I was an only child so I thought they would do everything in their power to help me, but they were so scared. We took a private jet from Cali to here. My parents claiming the whole flight that they had a specialist here waiting for me. It wasn’t until it was too late that I realized they were giving me away to SIFA. They tricked me and betrayed me, my own parents.
“I was there for about a week before Miri somehow got me out, but it was the worst week of my life. They had me drugged and chained to a wall with my wings tied tightly together. They’d shock me, prod me, beat me, cut me, pretty much anything you can imagine they did it. Everything you’ve heard about the facilities is true. They are terrible, inhumane places.
“It took over a month for me to get my strength back and Miri was there through it all. She taught me to fly, use me inner angel, everything.” She gulps and brings Nat in closer to her, as a security blanket. “For about eight months after that, all we did was try and save as many kids as possible. First, Reid and her brother, then Asher, all the way up until we finally found Nat, but it kept getting harder and harder to save people. SIFA and the Dark souls were getting too strategic for us. You were the first soul we had saved in almost two months.”
For a moment its silent after she finishes. Giving me a second to process everything she’s told me. “I’m so sorry, that’s uh that sounds rough.” I cringe a little, wondering if that was the right thing to say. One out of two for communication skills, I guess.
“Yeah sure, rough is definitely the word for it.” She says sarcastically. “Dark souls starting hearing about us and trying to find where the bunker was. Those two months where we didn’t save anyone is sort of fudged. We did but they were all dark souls. I honestly didn’t think there was anyone left that hadn’t changed until you came along.”
“What can I say? I like to keep people on their toes.” I try to joke but neither of us cracks a smile. “The facilities… my brother is there. He’s past the age where we turn but… you don’t think they are doing to him what they did to you, right?”
She licks her lips, looking straight at me with a look I can’t decipher. Her cheeks have turned paler then usual. “We should get some rest; tonight is going to be a long night.”
Before I can question her more, her wings flare out and encircle around herself and Nat.