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Published in Science Fiction & Fantasy
eBook Kindle Edition
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There is a reason we should never ignore the dark flickering shadows we see out of the corners of our eyes. The disembodied whispers. They are real. College Sophomore Starling Roberts has known this all her life. Tormented with dreams of the end of the world and being hunted by both shadows and dark fallen. Starling has yet to realize that she is one of among many chosen Divine ones. Divine warriors will fight against the coming darkness. Star's only hope to remain alive --Cam`ael, a renegade, dark fallen incubus who lusts for her and Drakael—an Angel determined to keep her from him.
The time was nine fifteen p.m. according to the scrolling LED at the bank across the street. I hurried across the parking lot from the Barnes and Noble where I apparently hadn’t bought anything, let alone remembered how, when and why I had gone there in the first place. Wait, why I was walking anyway? I had a car, but as I scanned up and down the curb amid the other parallel parked cars for my black Honda Civic, I didn’t see it anywhere.
I should be panicking, because I think I parked it here, but its absence strangely didn’t seem to bother me. The sidewalks were busy, and the stores continued to carry on with business as usual; alive with the sounds of mostly laughter, the chatter of conversations and the blaring of a car horn every now and then. The smell of exhaust, cinnamon rolls, Chinese and Italian food all intermingling together, created a unique nostalgic aroma that rode in with the breeze of the cool night air. This district was deemed the college student Mecca, but tonight —I didn’t recognize any of the people that I typically saw out and about.
I didn’t give the scenario much thought. In fact, I wasn’t really sure where I was going now. I glanced around at all the unfamiliar faces that paid me no special attention but there were definitely things that abruptly caught mine. There was only one other time that I had seen so many of them prowling in hordes like this.
I froze and gaped in shock and not so much in fear, but uncertainty because I knew the reason they were here, they were searching, and they were coming… for me.
Among the clueless, nameless faces of people, I saw dark shadows snaking in and out on the hunt. They were Soul predators…lots and lots of twisted shadows, moving like some covert malevolent army, liberally spreading what they brought best…disaster, violence, death and destruction.
There was a sudden flash of bright red that bathed the entire scene in a hellish, flickering glow and within a split second of time immediately after that; the familiar college town scene of deli’s, store lights and pedestrians out for a bite to eat, heading to classes or walking their dogs were left awed and in complete stunned stupors.
I remained paralyzed, my backpack sliding off of my shoulder and hitting the ground without a sound as ice needles stabbed at the surface of my skin all over. I dreaded that I knew exactly what was happening, and it was as if time, sound and all movements slowed to a crawl, and then ceased altogether.
Suddenly, nearly all traces of artificial man-made light failed and plunged us into darkness save for the moon and its freakish red glow. That was when chaos, confusion and fear broke out like a plague. Blinded, people were screaming, panicking, praying and hurting themselves in futile attempts to escape or hide.
There would be no point. . . I knew better.
Confirmation came when the last natural remaining sources of light fell from the sky in glittery trails, and the moon began to bleed. Beneath my feet, the earth rumbled violently, angrily splitting into one enormous rift that pulled everything in its path into its smoldering, reddish yawning mouth, and adding tangible, fierce heat to the already eerie and fiery red illumination.
The cacophonous beating of what sounded like a million wings, followed by the shrill, unearthly growling, howling and shrieking pierced the darkness — coming from inside of the rift and everywhere at once it seemed.
I lost my balance, fell and was stepped on more times than I could count until I spied a nearby car parked along the curb, using the red illumination of doom radiating from the new moon. People were crying and screaming, as I maneuvered my way through the mayhem of legs, feet, falling glass and debris in the darkness. I felt my way and crawled along as swiftly as I could pull myself on my elbows against the burning rough pavement that left my forearms raw. I ignored the pain, pushing my way towards the shadow of the Cadillac, and hurriedly rolled beneath it as if that would really offer protection and safety from what was happening and about to come.
It was dark under here, but I could clearly see around the outer edges of the Cadillac, through the glimmer of the raging fires in the distance. My heart continued to hammer wildly, being fueled by fear and adrenaline. The asphalt was hot beneath me, and the thunderous rumbling, which was growing louder, continued from within the earth and reverberated throughout my body. I cocked my head to the right. Someone was praying, but I could only make out a few words.
It was a mans voice; his words were choppy, “. . . forgiveness of my sins . . . faith. . .” He was abruptly cut off followed by diabolical, mocking laughter and after his short scream of terror, I heard something wet, like flesh being ripped, bones breaking and then…suckling
Bile burned my esophagus. I wanted to scream as my body went numb with terror. It was too dark to see what had happened to him, thank God, but I did see dark silhouettes morphing and dancing over his lifeless form— laughing in triumph. I had wanted to pray myself but would it even matter?
It hadn’t for him.
Mewling or what sounded like crying turned my attention upwards above me towards the front of the Cadillac. Though I didn’t want to see…didn’t want to know what was making that sound, I looked anyway, because I had to help if I could manage to this time. A stroller had been tipped over, and a baby screamed, wrapped inside the bundle of blankets that tumbled out.
My gut wrenched, but I didn’t even pause to let my fear paralyze me. I turned over onto my belly to crawl towards the baby, in order to grab and pull it towards me quickly; offering my own body as a shield…but I was too late.
Something dark and wicked, looking like a mutant vulture with glowing green eyes swooped down swiftly and snatched up the bundle just as my fingertips grazed the blanket to my frozen horror, and I couldn’t even make a sound to scream or cry out myself.
Terror and heartbreak were an understatement. I felt both guilt of failure and hopeless —now awaiting my own doom. Would I be snatched like that too? Would I be crushed under the Cadillac? Torn apart? Torn apart by what? What had that thing been?
The sudden, rancid combination of wet feathers, feces, rotten flesh and fur mixed with burnt earth made me retch, and I could taste it in the back of my throat. It was tortuous since I already couldn’t breathe amid the acrid smell of smoke and the reek of the dirty engine and old gasoline above me.
A sudden whoosh of fire brought on the sickly smell of burning flesh this time. Hearing all the tortured screams around me made me believe this was truly, Hell. The Earth had literally turned inside out. This nightmare was nesting the horrors of what lie waiting for us in its core since the dawn of time. I didn’t want to see or hear anymore as I shut my eyes and pressed my hands over my ears.
Blinking the wetness and irritating dust from my eyes I turned my head to the left, barely able to make out silhouettes of movement outlined by the distant flaming fires and thick smoke. What I did see stilled my breath, and my blood turned to ice. Against the background of more bloodcurdling scream, a pair of bare feet and calves stepped slowly, unblemished but streaked with a black substance and trailing behind — were the tips of what looked like a shadowy cape? No… I heard birds screeching and smelled wet feathers…black feathers…Wings?!
I tried to force my legs to move, but they betrayed me with a mind of their own, feeling like cold, dead and useless stumps. I was shaking, my heart thundering erratically, practically in my throat.
If I thought fighting to stay alive would be an option I’d at least try, but I don’t think I would have lasted long. I then began to ruminate over my lackluster life and all the accomplishments that would never be realized just as the Cadillac was flipped over in one swift motion— completely exposing me. My eyes widened in both horror and awe at what towered above me.
Seven feet of chiseled muscle, nearly naked, grand immense white wings spread wide open but ruined with black plumes of feathers marked with sinister streaks of blood. He wore a dark loincloth against his copper-colored skin and the wicked fanged smile on his animalistic, contorted, inhuman face threatened malevolent intent as if in victory down at me. The odor of sulphur, burnt earth, decaying flesh and moldy, wet feathers became more defined now, and it made me cringe and gag.
His voice was ethereal yet wickedly grave and resonating. He said something in a strange language that I had never heard before, but he clearly said my full name at the end as he reached out a large hand for me.
“Staaarrrlliiing?” He lingered the sound of my name in more of a question, and though it was hard to understand him through his vicious, shark like teeth— my name had been pretty damned clear. He lifted me up by the front of my shirt as if I were a broken doll. The rough, putrid smell of his flesh, right beneath my nose as his knuckles rested just beneath my chin, was sickening. His large fisted hand made my head tilt back forcing me to have to look up at his terrifying face.
Though I didn’t even try to fight or attempt to wriggle free of his grip simply because I couldn’t bring myself to touch his flesh willingly; I refused to verify or give away who I was, show fear or scream. Screaming was pointless once he raised me up high enough to level my face with his. He was huge.
The fear and the stink of him was so real and strong I nearly projectile vomited right into his face in reaction to the nausea that gripped my stomach like a vise.
Then again, he may just enjoy that as foul as he already was to me.
He was a giant, and every detail of his monstrous features were real enough that all I could do was stare at the dark angel in silence, the sound of my heart hammering its own death march song.
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