Maddy was asleep, a smile on her face. Cliff slid out of bed and padded, naked, to the hall. Curiosity always got the better of him in a new place, and most girls didn’t seem to mind. He had already seen every room of Maddy’s small apartment except the spare room. Maddy was … perplexing. Tall, dark, her face oddly proportioned, as if she had been made by someone who had had women described to him but who had never seen one. Different in bed too. Earlier he had felt like his entire body were about to explode. Afterwards he had patted himself down, just to make sure he was all there. Her décor…. Her books had never been opened, the TV was dusty. Only the bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen had seen any use at all. He eased open the door of the spare bedroom and slipped inside. The only light came from the hall.

He took a few steps in, waiting for his eyes to adjust. There was not a sound except his own breathing, but he felt as if the room were crowded. This might have been a bad idea. The door closed with a snick and the light came on. Maddy pressed herself against him from behind, pinning his arms with hers. He was staring at a stone idol that almost brushed the ceiling. It sat with legs crossed and arms curved forward as if to catch whoever stood in front of it. Its teeth were large and sharp. Eight eyes, or, rather, empty sockets where they should be, seemed to stare right at him. Masks, censers, diverse weapons, and other paraphernalia lined the room, but he could spare no attention for it. The idol seemed to be flexing its muscles. Maddy was flexing hers too. She whispered in his ear.

“It’s me or the god,” she said. “Join me, worship him, or join him a different way.” She turned him around and stared into his eyes. “Choose.”

“You’re freaking me out.” He pulled back and she let him go.

“Goodbye Cliff,” she said sadly.

“Wait.” He licked his lips. Rough hands seized his shoulders. The nails were sharp and long.


4 mi clas praject I M riting a thing laik they uze to in teh urly dayz uv teh intert00bz. In teh urly dayz uv teh intertubez evrybody rote thingz w/wrds insted uv alweyz uzing videoz and ipodz laik we do 2dey!!!1! It wuz verE hard 2 comunic8 bcuz u alwayz had 2 spel thingz teh saim wey evry time!1! & there wur no emoticonz and so u nevr new wat sumbody wuz thinkN LOL.
In teh urly dayz uv teh Intertubez evry1 red brainE clasik litterachur laik steevun king & dr soos. :o Everybudy waz a real Einstine but they wer borde bcuz tehy alwayz had 2 wurk & lern thingz but insted uv 2 munths uv skool laik we hav tehy had mayB a yr or mor!!1!!
That iz wy I M glad robotz run evrything & we no longR hav 2 stop uzing teh intertubze 2 do sum werk. :))))
by N8 Jonez

I look at the dead man and try to make up my mind. Callie’s still at the entrance to the alleyway telling me to get back there, that it’s too cold a night to play boy scout, that I’m gonna get myself mugged. She stamps her feet and the echoes play down the walls.
I didn’t drink anything tonight. Callie’s pregnant. It’s getting uncomfortable for her to drive and I’m doing the gentlemanly thing. So I’m sober. My eyes aren’t playing tricks.
But the man has… I mean… The man has wings. He’s lying face down, his bloody shirt ripped away from the body. I see where the flesh and muscle bind in his back. I reach down and touch them. Those are real feathers. Those are real wings. Real goddamn wings.
People don’t have wings.
I mean, Jesus, that’s something you can rely on, right? That people don’t have wings. That is a fundamental truth. There’s not much you can say, I am certain of this, one hundred percent, but that’s one: people don’t have wings.
Except this guy.
What if I call Callie to come see? What if I call the press? Even if people see this, even if this is real, they won’t believe me. Because people don’t have wings. Only the crazies, only the guys rejecting their meds and reality will believe me. I’ll be crazy.
I stare at the body and try to make up my mind. Callie is shouting at me. Callie’s pregnant. We’re going to have a little girl.
I keep on staring at the body, ignoring Callie for just a little while. I keep on staring until I can believe the truth again. People don’t have wings. And then I walk away.

We drove. No light outside but eye-reflections of hedgehogs in the road, around which Sotehn swerved. No light inside except the speedometer and the yellow-dim beam of the flashlight I held on the copy of the Psalms of Enoch which my master, Lulnon, read aloud.

We didn’t want any other light. On the dashboard stood a figure of the Baptizer made of pale plastic that glowed in the dark. It was nearly three in the morning, and its glow had faded hours ago. If it brightened again, that meant a nephalim really was pursuing us, as Sotehn had said, and it was gaining.

I leaned from the back seat to keep the light shining over my master’s shoulder. The car smelled of sun-cracked vinyl upholstery. Most days, I was content learning distilling, compounding, and the rest of the alchemist’s craft. Ever since that bridge over the dry streambed, and the voice that came out of the water that wasn’t there, I’d wished I’d been apprenticed to a cobbler or a wool merchant like my brothers.

An hour later, while Lulnon read haltingly from a copy of the Psalms of Noah with very small type, I thought I saw the figure begin to lighten.

“There,” said Sotehn before I’d found my voice to speak.

We’d be fine once we reached the city. The priests had renewed the designs on every road leading in just last week, retracing the protective geometry with chalk I’d helped my master compound from the bones of animals sacrificed at the temples.

Setehn touched the sigils painted in a ring around the Baptizer, invoking each planetary angel by name as he touched its sign. The yellow-green glow went cloudy for a moment, then came back bright as before. Maybe brighter.

“A strong one,” Setehn said. “Probably newly wakened.”

The glow intensified as the city drew closer. Even with sodium lights along the road now, I could see it. Ahead of us, the chalk designs just visible against the road black.

We passed over them. I slumped back in relief.

“No,” said my master, “we are betrayed.”

The figure still glowed. The bones hadn’t been blessed after all.

“I’ll lose it in the market,” said Sotehn, and, knowing how familiar he was with the maze of alleys there, I had no doubt he would.

But an unholy creature walked the city, and someone had opened the way for it.

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