A queasy sensation welled up in the pit of Alyssa’s stomach as she stared down at the obviously broken neck.
Alyssa turned away, fumbling around in her pocket for her cell phone. It wasn’t there. Right. Back on the couch. She stumbled, shaking knees failing to support her. Letting herself sit on the floor for only a moment in an attempt to quell her nerves, she couldn’t help but let out a slight laugh as adrenaline flooded out of her body. Using the abandoned bed as a handhold to get up, Alyssa paused as her fingers brushed over a raven black feather. It wasn’t the only one around. When Alyssa looked up, the air was filled with them. She only got a moment to stare. A ghastly wind picked up, forcing her to close her eyes and shield her face with her arm.
As quick as it had come, the wind died down.
The flurry of feathers vanished. Not a single one remained, save for the one her fingers had pinned to the bed.
“Oh good! I made it in time. Stopping for that accident was a risk, but it paid off in the end.”
Alyssa spun, turning to find the overly chipper voice with her hand brushing over the hilt of the dagger she had grabbed. She didn’t actually draw it, freezing instead as she gaped at the scene before her, struck dumb by the sight.
A girl—A woman stood over the unmoving body of the intruder. That alone would have been surprising enough considering the lack of footsteps in the hall. With the size of the heels on the woman’s boots, she would never have been able to walk up a wood floor without making some noise. Even her dress that poofed out at the hips but was nearly skin-tight from the waist up with a heart-shaped cutout over her cleavage—a fantastical kind of thing that one might see in a cartoon—wasn’t that shocking. Her city was host to a costume convention once a year; people frequently came to her department store to buy supplies. The pasty gray skin with tattooed designs around her luminescent white eyes stood out a little more, but Alyssa found her eyes drawn to the woman’s wings.
Fluffy feathers spread out behind the woman, massive yet somehow still fitting within the relatively narrow door frame.
At first, Alyssa figured that it must be a costume. The rest rest of her appearance certainly didn’t detract from that theory. Some skin paint and glow-in-the-dark contact lenses could have been responsible for the odder features. The wings moved. And they didn’t move in a rigid manner that might have been the case had they been made from piping and wires. The little twitches, the graceful flow; these wings felt alive.
The woman’s eyes didn’t even flick towards Alyssa. Her attention honed in on the body between her legs and never left. It wasn’t the attentions of an anguished relative looking upon a deceased family member. Her eyes held a stare singularly unique to a child discovering a new toy.
As she stared, the tips of her wings brushed against the man. White mist flooded into the room from the body. A fog so thick that it may as well have been liquid. It lapped at Alyssa’s ankles, sending an unnatural chill through her legs.
For the woman, it didn’t just stop at her ankles. It rushed up, swirling around her legs and waist until it reached her dark lips. She opened her mouth and drank.
The fog receded, rushing across the floor in haste to reach the woman. In the near silence of the room, the rush almost sounded like faint shouts of a man in agony. Faint shapes appeared in the mist. Ghostly fingers grasped at Alyssa’s foot, but the ethereal fingers passed right through her without stopping.
It took a mere few seconds before the room was once again still and silent. Except for the woman. She writhed, squirmed in her high-heeled boots while wrapping her arms around herself in a tight hug.
“Ah, that’s it,” she said, more breath in her melodious voice than actual words. “Confusion and pain followed by more pain and just a bit of suffering until…” A long sigh escaped her lips as she pulled a little black book out from behind her back. She flipped open to a spot held by black bookmark and dragged a finger across the page.
Alyssa shook her head, finally dragging herself out of her stupor. “W-Who are you?” she said, unable to keep the tremble from her voice.
At first, the woman didn’t even look up. Then she blinked. She turned around to face out into the hallway and leaned to peer out, wings folding up behind her as she moved. Somehow, the mass of feathers fit into a space no wider than her slim profile. Apparently finding nothing, she turned back to Alyssa, quirking her head to one side while pointing a finger at herself through the heart-shaped cutout in her dress. “Me?” she asked, taking a step over the body towards Alyssa.
“Yes you!” Alyssa shouted. She couldn’t help herself. Backing away from the woman as she took another step forwards, Alyssa grabbed the machete from her brother’s desk and held it out in front of her. “Just stay back!”
“Aww, that is adorable,” the woman said, each word coming out like a church hymn. She pointed a finger at Alyssa and gave just the slightest tapping motion. An obsidian beam of light shot out from her black fingernail, crossed the short distance between them, hit the sharp edge of the machete, and knocked it out of Alyssa’s hands. It spun end over end until it embedded its blade into the drywall behind Alyssa. “But how can you see me?”
Alyssa, still standing with a shaking arm out as if she were holding onto the machete, couldn’t do anything as the woman took another step closer.
“You really shouldn’t be able to see me unless you’re dead. And you are not dead,” she said, holding out the open page of the black notebook.
Blocky symbols filled the entire page. Some strange language made up of squares overlaid on triangles, over circles. Nothing that Alyssa could read. Before she could try for more than a second, the woman flipped the book over to read for herself.
“See,” the woman continued, “it says so right here. You die in roughly a half-hour. After this guy’s dad comes in wondering what is taking so long with the robbery. He shoots you twice, stabs you thirty-seven times, then leaves you to bleed out.” The more she spoke, the wider her smile got, a faint glaze spread over her luminous eyes, and she started hugging herself again. Running a finger just under her lips to catch a thin trail of drool, she cleared her throat. “Ah, I’m getting excited just thinking about it. This man was just an appetizer compared to you,” she said, irreverently nudging the body with the heel of her boot.
“Wha-What are you?”
“Can’t you tell? I’m an angel.” As she spoke, she clasped her hands together as if in prayer and spread her wings behind her. “I even have a—” The woman cut herself off as she felt around above her head. Snapping her fingers, a bright golden ring appeared, nearly blinding Alyssa—she had to squint and avert her eyes—yet doing nothing to actually illuminate the woman’s dark hair or the rest of the room. “Doesn’t really suit me, does it?” she asked, vanishing it with another snap of her fingers.
Alyssa didn’t respond. She didn’t know what to say.
“Anyway, I’ll just wait right here,” she said, spinning around and sitting down on Clark’s bed. She crossed one leg tightly over the other in the same smooth motion. “You carry on with your panicking over killing someone. I don’t mind.”
At her words, Alyssa glanced back to the dead body. Then back to the self-professed angel, who had become intensely fascinated with her own fingernails. She only hesitated for a moment before taking off running over the dead body and down the hall.
“Where are you going?” the angel called after her. “You’re supposed to die in this room!”
In that case, sticking around definitely sounded like the wrong choice.
She ran past her own room and the bathroom, reaching her parents’ room at the end of the hall. The far end had a large walk-in closet. At the end of that, a safe as tall as Alyssa had been pressed against the wall. The front had a panel with a series of numbers.
Numbers Alyssa frantically pressed.
“One… Six… Four… One.”
Surprisingly enough, it hadn’t taken her more than one attempt despite her shaking fingers. The light turned green and Alyssa spun the three pronged wheel. With the door swung open, Alyssa had a series of guns in front of her; a variety of rifles, shotguns, pistols, and even several canisters of pepper spray. Most of the weapons in the safe were unloaded. But not all of them.
Alyssa slid a thin can of pepper spray into each of her pants pockets, glad she had never been one to wear tight-fitting clothing even at the gym. She did hesitate for just a moment before taking hold of the emergency gun. Though she had fired it a few times, she wasn’t sure of the make, model, or even what size of bullets it took. It was the only weapon that was kept loaded. For anything else, she would have to fumble around with cartridges in the dark.
But if she got through this alive, she promised to thank her mother the moment she saw her and to never complain about being dragged off to the shooting range again.
Clasping the pistol in both hands, Alyssa flicked off the safety.
“You can’t hide, you know.”
Alyssa screamed. She might have pulled the trigger had she not kept her finger along the trigger guard. Cutting her cry short with a hand over her mouth, she stared at the… the thing between her and the closet’s exit.
“Now, now, let’s head back to your brother’s room, why don’t we?”
“You’re going to kill me,” Alyssa spat. Her grip tightened around the gun, but she didn’t point it at the woman. If it got knocked out of her hands like the machete had been, she wouldn’t have anything left to defend herself with besides the pepper spray. For some reason, she had a niggling feeling that the spray wouldn’t do much to the woman.
But the angel didn’t advance. Her hands balled up into fists and pressed against her hips. The grin that had thus far been unwavering slipped. “What? No. I’m… That’s just… Well I am just offended that you would think one of His angels would slaughter a human. It is quite literally impossible.” Her hands clasped together again half-way through speaking as she turned her gaze towards the ceiling. “Besides,” she said, snapping her eyes back to Alyssa, “didn’t I tell you? Your—”
“Gilbert?” A voice shouted from outside the closet. “I swear, boy, if you’re eating all their food instead of grabbin’ shit, I’ll give you a whoopin’ when we get back.”
“Besides,” the so-called angel said again as Alyssa held her breath, “your executioner has arrived.”