Ironically, since the attacks, the sunsets have been glorious. Outside our condo window, the sky flames like a bruised mango in vivid orange, red, and purple. The clouds ignite with sunset colors, and I’m almost scared those of us caught below will catch on fire too.
With the dying warmth on my face, I try not to think about anything other than keeping my hands from trembling as I methodically zip up my backpack.
I pull on my favorite boots. They used to be my favorites because I once got a compliment from Misty Johnson about the look of the leather strips laddering down the sides. She is—was—a cheerleader and known for her fashionable taste, so I figured these boots were my token fashion statement even though they’re made by a hiking boot company for serious wear. Now they’re my favorites because the strips make for a perfect knife holder.
I also slip sharpened steak knives into Paige’s wheelchair pocket. I hesitate before putting one into Mom’s shopping cart in the living room, but I do it anyway. I slip it in between a stack of Bibles and a pile of empty soda bottles. I shift some clothes over it when she’s not looking, hoping she’ll never have to know it’s there.
Before it gets fully dark, I roll Paige down the common hall to the stairs. She can roll on her own, thanks to her preference for a conventional chair over the electric kind. But I can tell she feels more secure when I push her. The elevator is useless now, of course, unless you’re willing to risk getting stuck when the electricity goes out.
I help Paige out of the chair and carry her on my back while our mother rolls the chair down three flights of stairs. I don’t like the bony feel of my sister. She’s too light now, even for a seven-year-old, and it scares me more than everything else combined.
Once we reach the lobby, I put Paige back into her chair. I sweep a strand of dark hair behind her ear. With her high cheekbones and midnight eyes, we could almost be twins. Her face is more pixie-like than mine, but give her another ten years and she’d look just like me. No one would ever get us mixed up, though, even if we were both seventeen, any more than people would mix up soft and hard, warm and cold. Even now, frightened as she is, the corners of her mouth are tipped up in a ghost of a smile, more concerned for me than herself. I give her one back, trying to radiate confidence.
I run back upstairs to help Mom bring her cart down. We struggle with the ungainly thing, making all kinds of clanking noises as we wobble down the stairs. This is the first time I’m glad no one’s left in the building to hear it. The cart is crammed full of empty bottles, Paige’s baby blankets, stacks of magazines and Bibles, every shirt Dad left in the closet when he moved out, and of course, cartons of her precious rotten eggs. She’s also stuffed every pocket of her sweater and jacket with the eggs.
I consider abandoning the cart, but the fight I’d have with my mother would take much longer and be much louder than helping her. I just hope Paige will be all right for the length of time it takes to bring it down. I could kick myself for not bringing down the cart first so Paige could be in the relatively safer spot upstairs, rather than waiting for us in the lobby.
By the time we reach the front door of the building, I’m already sweating and my nerves are frayed.
“Remember,” I say. “No matter what happens, just keep running down El Camino until you reach Page Mill. Then head for the hills. If we get separated, we’ll meet at the top of the hills, okay?”
If we get separated there’s not much hope of us ever meeting anywhere, but I need to keep up the pretense of hope because that may be all we have.
I put my ear to the front door of our condo building. I hear nothing. No wind, no birds, no cars, no voices. I pull back the heavy door just a crack and peek out.
The streets are deserted except for empty cars parked in every lane. The dying light washes the concrete and steel with graying echoes of color.
The day belongs to the refugees and raid gangs. But at night, they all clear out, leaving the streets deserted by dusk. There’s a strong fear of the supernatural now. Both mortal predators and prey seem to agree on listening to their primal fears and hiding until dawn. Even the worst of the new street gangs leave the night to whatever creatures may roam the darkness in this new world.
At least, they have so far. At some point, the most desperate will start to take advantage of the cover of night despite the risks. I’m hoping we’ll be the first so that we’ll be the only ones out there, if for no other reason than that I won’t have to drag Paige away from helping someone in trouble.
Mom grips my arm as she stares out into the night. Her eyes are intense with fear. She’s cried so much this past year since Dad left that her eyes are now permanently swollen. She has a special terror of the night, but there’s nothing I can do about that. I start to tell her it’ll be all right, but the lie dries up in my mouth. It’s pointless to reassure her.
I take a deep breath, and yank open the door.
I instantly feel exposed. My muscles tighten as if expecting to get shot any moment.
I grab Paige’s chair and wheel her out of the building. I scan the sky, then all around us like a good little rabbit running from predators.
The shadows are quickly darkening over the abandoned buildings, cars, and dying shrubbery that hasn’t been watered in six weeks. Some tag artist has spray-painted an angry angel with enormous wings and a sword on the condo wall across the street. The giant crack that splits the wall zigzags through the angel’s face, making it look demented. Below it, a wannabe poet has scrawled the words, Who will guard against the guardians?
I cringe at the clattering noise my mother’s cart makes as she shoves it over the doorway and onto the sidewalk. We crunch over broken glass, which convinces me even more that we’ve stayed hidden in our condo for longer than we should have. The first floor windows have been broken.
And someone has nailed a feather on the door.
I don’t believe for a second that it’s a real angel feather, although that’s clearly what’s being implied. None of the new gangs are that strong or wealthy. Not yet, anyway.
The feather has been dipped in red paint that drips down the wood. At least, I hope it’s paint. I’ve seen this gang symbol on supermarkets and drug stores in the last few weeks, warning off scavengers. It won’t be long before the gang members come to claim whatever’s left on the higher floors. Too bad for them we won’t be there. For now, they’re still busy claiming territory before the competing gangs get to it first.
We sprint to the nearest car, ducking for cover.
I don’t need to check behind me to make sure Mom is following because the rattling of the cart wheels tells me she’s moving. I take a quick glance up, then in either direction. There’s no motion in the shadows.
Hope flickers through me for the first time since I made our plan. Maybe tonight will be one of those nights when nothing happens on the streets. No gangs, no chewed-up animal remains to be found in the morning, no screams to echo through the night.
My confidence builds as we hop from one car to another, moving faster than I’d expected.
We turn onto El Camino Real, a main artery of Silicon Valley. It means “The Royal Path,” according to my Spanish teacher. The name fits, considering that our local royalty—the founders and early employees of the most cutting edge tech companies in the world —probably got stuck on this road like everyone else.
The intersections are gridlocked with abandoned cars. I’d never seen a gridlock in the valley before six weeks ago. The drivers here were always as polite as can be. But the thing that really convinces me that the apocalypse is here is the crunching of smartphones under my feet. Nothing short of the end of the world would get our eco-conscious techies to toss their latest gadgets onto the street. It’s practically sacrilegious, even if the gadgets are just deadweight now.
I had considered staying on the smaller streets but the gangs are more likely to be hiding where they are less exposed. Even though it’s night, if we tempt them on their own street they might be willing to risk exposing themselves for a cartful of loot. At that distance, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to see that it’s only empty bottles and rags.
I’m about to pop up behind an SUV to scope out our next hop when Paige leans through the gaping car door and reaches for something on the seat.
It’s an energy bar. Unopened.
It is nestled among a scattering of papers as if they’d all fallen out of a bag. The smart thing to do would be for us to grab it and run, then eat it in a safe place. But I’ve learned in the past few weeks that your stomach can pretty easily override your brain.
Paige rips open the package and snaps the bar into thirds. Her face is radiant as she passes the pieces around. Her hand trembles with hunger and excitement. But despite that, she gives us oversized pieces and only keeps the smallest for herself.
I break mine in half and give half of my share to Paige. Mom does the same. Paige looks crestfallen that we’re rejecting her gifts. I put my finger to my lips and give her a stern look. She reluctantly takes the offered food.
Paige has been a vegetarian since she was three years old when we visited the petting zoo. Although she was practically a baby, she still made the connection between the turkey that made her laugh and the sandwiches she ate. We called her our own little Dalai Lama until a couple of weeks ago when I started insisting she eat whatever I manage to scrounge off the street. An energy bar is the best we can do for her these days.
All our faces relax in relief as we bite into the crispy bar. Sugar and chocolate! Calories and vitamins.
One of the pieces of paper flutters down from the passenger seat. I catch a glimpse of the caption.
Rejoice! The Lord is Coming! Join New Dawn and Be the First to Go to Paradise.
It’s one of the fliers from the apocalypse cults that sprang up like pimples on greased skin after the attacks. It has blurry photos of the fiery destruction of Jerusalem, Mecca, and the Vatican. It has a hurried, homemade look to it, like someone took still shots from the news videos and printed them on a cheap color printer..
We gobble up our meal, but I’m too nervous to enjoy the sweet flavor. We are almost at Page Mill Road, which would take us up to the hills through a relatively unpopulated area. I figure once we near the hills, our chances of survival will dramatically increase. It’s full night now, the deserted cars lit eerily by the half moon.
There’s something about the silence that puts my nerves on edge. It seems there should be some noise—maybe the skittering of a rat or birds or crickets or something. Even the wind seems afraid to move.
My mother’s cart sounds especially loud in this silence. I wish I had time to argue with her. A sense of urgency builds in me as if responding to the buildup before lightning. We just need to make it to Page Mill.
I push faster, zigzagging from car to car. Behind me, Mom’s breathing gets heavier and more labored. Paige is so silent, I half suspect she’s holding her breath.
Something white floats gently down and lands on Paige. She picks it up and turns to show me. All the blood drains from her face and her eyes are enormous.
It’s a fluffy piece of down. A snowy feather. The kind that might work its way out of a goose down comforter, only a little larger.
The blood drains out of my face too.
What are the chances?
They mostly target the major cities. Silicon Valley is just a plain strip of low-storied offices and suburbs between San Francisco and San Jose. San Francisco’s already been hit, so if they were going to attack anything in this area, it’d be San Jose, not the valley. It’s just some bird flying by, that’s all. That’s all.
But I’m already panting with panic.
I force myself to look up. All I see is endless dark sky.
But then, I do see something. Another, larger feather floats down lazily toward my head.
Sweat prickles my brow. I break out into an all-out sprint.
Mom’s cart rattles crazily behind me as she desperately follows. She doesn’t need explanations or encouragement to run. I’m scared one of us will fall, or Paige’s chair will tip, but I can’t stop. We have to find a place to hide. Now, now, now.
The hybrid car I was aiming for suddenly crumples under the weight of something crashing down on it. The thunder of the crash almost makes me jump out of my boots. Luckily, it covers Mom’s scream.
I catch a flash of tawny limbs and snowy wings.
I have to blink to make sure it’s real.
I’ve never seen an angel before, not live anyway. Of course, we’ve all seen the looping footage of golden-winged Gabriel, Messenger of God, being gunned down from the pile of rubble that was Jerusalem. Or the footage of angels plucking a military helicopter out of the sky and tossing it into the Beijing crowd, blade-first. Or that shaky video of people running from a blazing Paris with the sky filled with smoke and angelic wings.
But watching TV, you could always tell yourself it wasn’t real, even if it was on every news program for days.
There’s no denying that this is the real deal, though. Men with wings. Angels of the Apocalypse. Supernatural beings who’ve pulverized the modern world and killed millions, maybe even billions, of people.
And here’s one of the horrors, right in front of me.
I almost tip Paige in my rush to spin around and change direction. We skid to a halt behind a parked moving truck. I peek out from behind it, unable to stop watching.
Five more angels swoop down on the one with the snowy wings. Judging by their aggressive stances, it’s a fight of five against one. It’s too dark to see any details on the landing angels but one of them stands out. He’s a giant, towering over the rest. There’s something about the shape of his wings that strikes me as different. Their wings fold too fast when they land for me to take a good look and I’m left wondering if there actually was anything different about that one.
We hunker down and my muscles freeze, refusing to move from the relative safety behind the truck’s tire. So far, they don’t seem to notice us.
A light suddenly flickers and turns on above the crushed hybrid. The electricity has come back on and this street lamp is one of the few that hasn’t yet been broken. The lone pool of light looks over-bright and eerie, highlighting contrasts more than illuminating. A few empty windows light up along the street as well, giving enough light to show me the angels a little better.
They have different colored wings. The one who smashed into the car has snowy white wings. The giant has wings the color of night. The others are blue, green, burnt orange, and tiger-striped.
They’re all shirtless, their muscled forms flexing with every movement. Like their wings, their skin tones vary. The snowy-winged angel that crushed the car has light caramel skin. The night-winged one has skin as pale as an egg. The rest range from gold to dark brown. These angels look like the type to be heavily scarred by battle wounds, but instead they have the kind of perfectly unmarred skin prom queens around the country would kill their prom kings for.
The snowy angel rolls painfully off the crushed car. Despite his injuries, he lands in a half crouch, ready for an attack. His athletic grace reminds me of a puma I once saw on TV.
I can tell he’s a formidable opponent by the way the others warily approach him even though he is injured and far outnumbered. Although the others are muscular, they look brutish and clumsy compared to him. He has the body of an Olympic swimmer, taut and muscled. He looks ready to fight them barehanded even though almost all his enemies are armed with swords.
His sword lies a few feet from the car, where it landed during his fall. Like the other angel swords, it is short with two feet of throat-slitting, double-edged blade.
He sees it and shifts to lunge for it. But Burnt Angel kicks the sword. It spins lazily across the asphalt away from its owner, but the distance it moves is surprisingly short. It must be as heavy as lead. It is still far enough away, though, to ensure that Snowy Wings doesn’t have a prayer of reaching it.
I settle in to watch the angel execution. There’s no question of the outcome. Still, Snow puts up a good fight. He kicks the tiger-striped one and manages to hold his own against two others. But he is no match for all five of them together.
When four of them finally manage to pin him down on the ground, practically sitting on him, Night Giant walks up to him. He stalks like the Angel of Death, which I suppose he could be. I get the distinct impression that this is the culmination of several battles between them. I sense history between them in the way they look at each other, in the way Night yanks at Snow’s wing, spreading it out. He nods at Stripes, who lifts his sword above Snow.
I want to close my eyes against the final blow but I can’t. My eyes stay glued open.
“You should have accepted our invitation when you had the chance,” says Night, straining against the wing to hold it away from Snow’s body. “Although even I wouldn’t have predicted this kind of end for you.”
He nods again to Stripes. The blade whips down and slices off the wing.
Snow shrieks his fury. The street fills with echoes of his rage and agony.
Blood sprays everywhere, showering the others. They struggle to hold him down as the blood makes him slick. Snow twists and kicks two of the bullies with lightning speed. They end up rolling on the asphalt, curling around their stomachs. For a moment, as the remaining two angels fight to keep him down, I think he’ll manage to bust loose.
But Night stomps his boot on Snow’s back, right on the raw wound.
Snow hisses in a breath filled with pain but does not scream. The others take the opportunity to slink back into position, holding him down.
Night drops the severed wing. It lands with the thud of a dead animal on the asphalt.
Snow’s expression is furious. He still has fight in him, but it’s draining fast along with his blood. Blood soaks his skin, mats his hair.
Night grabs the remaining wing and yanks it open.
“If it was up to me, I’d let you go,” says Night. There’s enough admiration in his voice to make me suspect he might mean it. “But we all have our orders.” Despite the admiration, he doesn’t show any regret.
Stripes’s blade, poised on Snow’s wing joint, catches the moon’s reflection.
I cringe, expecting another bloody blow. Behind me, the tiniest sympathetic sound escapes Paige.
Burnt suddenly tilts his head from behind Night. He looks right at us.
I freeze, still crouched behind the moving truck. My heart skips a beat, then races triple time.
Burnt gets up and walks away from the carnage.
Straight toward us.
My brain clamps shut in fear. The only thing I can think to do is to distract the angel while my mother pushes Paige to safety.
My mother’s face freezes wide-eyed in horror. In her panic, she turns and runs off without Paige. She must have assumed I’d push the wheelchair. Paige looks at me with terrified eyes dominating her pixie face.
She swivels her chair and rolls as fast as she can after Mom. My sister can roll her own chair, but not nearly as fast as someone can push her.
None of us will make it out alive without a distraction. With no time to consider the pros and cons, I make a split-second decision.
I sprint out into the open straight toward Burnt.
I dimly register an outraged roar filled with agony somewhere in the background. The second wing is being cut. It’s probably already too late. But I’m at the place where Snow’s sword lies, and there’s not enough time for me to come up with a new plan.
I scoop the sword almost from under Burnt’s feet. I grab it with both hands, expecting it to be very heavy. It lifts in my hands, as light as air. I throw it toward Snow.
“Hey!” I scream at the top of my lungs.
Burnt ducks, looking as surprised as I feel at the sight of the sword flying overhead. It’s a desperate and poorly thought-out move on my part, especially since the angel is probably bleeding to death right now. But the sword flies much truer than I expect and lands hilt-first right in Snow’s outstretched hand, almost as if it was guided there.
Without a pause, the wingless angel swings his sword at Night. Despite his overwhelming injuries, he is fast and furious. I can understand why the others had to dramatically outnumber him before cornering him.
The blade slices through Night’s stomach. His blood gushes out and mixes with the crimson pool already on the road. Stripes leaps to his boss and grabs him before he falls.
Snow, stumbling to regain his balance without his wings, bleeds rivers down his back. He manages to swing his sword again, laying open Stripes’s leg as he runs off with Night in his arms. But that doesn’t stop them.
The two others who’d backed off as soon as things got ugly rush to grab Night and Stripes. They pump their powerful wings while running with the injured, leaving a trail of blood dripping to the ground as they take off into the night.
My distraction is a shocking success. Hope surges in me that maybe my family has found a new hiding place by now.
Then the world explodes in pain as Burnt backhands me.
I fly backward and slam onto the asphalt. My lungs contract so hard I can’t even begin to think about taking a breath. All I can do is curl into a ball, trying to get a sip of air back into my body.
Burnt turns to Snow, who can no longer be called snowy. He hesitates with all his muscles tense, as though considering his odds of winning against the injured angel. Snow, wingless and drenched in blood, sways on his feet, barely able to stand. But his sword is steady and pointed at Burnt. Snow’s eyes burn with fury and determination, which is probably all that’s holding him up.
The bloodied angel must have one hell of a reputation because despite his condition, the perfectly healthy and beefy Burnt slams his sword back into his sheath. He gives me a disgusted glare and takes off. He runs down the street, his wings taking him airborne after half a dozen steps.
The second his enemy turns his back on him, the injured angel collapses to his knees between his severed wings. He looks like he’s bleeding out pretty fast and I’m pretty sure he’ll be roadkill in a few minutes.
I finally manage to suck in a decent breath. It burns as it goes into my lungs, but my muscles unclench as they get oxygen again. I revel in relief. I unwind my body and turn to look down the street.
What I see sends a jolt through me.
Paige is laboriously wheeling herself down the street. Above her, Burnt stops his ascent, circles like a vulture, and begins to swoop down toward her.
I’m up and running like a bullet.
My lungs scream for air but I ignore them.
Burnt looks at me with a smug expression. His wings blow my hair back as I sprint.
So close, so close. Just a little faster. My fault. I pissed him off enough to hurt Paige out of sheer spite. My guilt makes me all the more frantic to save her.
Burnt yells, “Run, monkey! Run!”
Hands reach down and snatch Paige.
“No!” I scream as I reach out to her.
She’s lifted into the air, screaming my name. “Penryn!”
I catch the hem of her pants, my hand gripping the cotton with the yellow starburst sewn onto it by Mom for protection against evil.
Just for a moment, I let myself believe I can pull her back. For a moment, the tightness in my chest begins to relax with anticipated relief.
The fabric slips out of my hand.
“No!” I jump for her feet. My fingertips brush her shoes. “Bring her back! You don’t want her! She’s just a little girl!” My voice breaks at the end.
In no time, the angel is too high to even hear me. I yell at him anyway, chasing them down the street even after Paige’s screams fade into the distance. My heart practically stops at the thought of him dropping her from that height.
Time stretches as I stand panting on the street, watching the speck in the sky shrink to nothing.
Long after Paige disappears into the clouds, I turn around, looking for my mother. It’s not that I don’t care about her. It’s just that our relationship is more complicated than the usual daughter-mother relationship. The rosy love I’m supposed to feel for her is slashed with black and splattered with various shades of gray.
There is no sign of her. Her cart lies on its side with its junk contents strewn beside the truck we were hiding behind. I hesitate before yelling out.
“Mom?” Anyone or anything that might have been attracted by noise would already be here, watching in the shadows.
Nothing stirs in the deserted street. If the silent watchers behind the dark windows lining the street saw where she went, nobody is volunteering to tell me. I try to remember if I had maybe seen another angel grab her, but all I can see is Paige’s dead legs as she is lifted from the chair. Anything could have happened around me at that time, and I would have been oblivious to it.
In a civilized world where there are laws, banks, and supermarkets, being a paranoid schizophrenic is a major problem. But in a world where the banks and supermarkets are used by gangs as local torture stations, being a little paranoid is actually an advantage. The schizophrenic part, though, is still a problem. Not being able to tell reality from fantasy is less than ideal.
Still, there is a good chance that Mom made herself scarce before things got too ugly. She is probably hiding somewhere, most likely tracking my movements until she feels safe enough to come out.
I survey the scene again. I see only buildings with dark windows and dead cars. If I hadn’t spent weeks secretly peering out of one of those dark windows, I might believe I was the last human on the planet. But I know that out there, behind the concrete and steel, there are at least a few pairs of eyes whose owners are considering whether it is worth the risk of running out into the street to scavenge the angel’s wings along with any other part of him they can cut off.
According to Justin, who was our neighbor until a week ago, word on the street is that somebody has put a bounty on angel parts. A whole economy is being created around tearing angels to pieces. The wings fetch the highest price, but hands, feet, scalp, and other, more sensitive parts, can also fetch a nice sum if only you can prove they’re from an angel.
A low groan interrupts my thoughts. My muscles tense instantly, ready for another fight. Are the gangs coming?
Another low moan. The sound is coming not from the buildings, but directly in front of me. The only thing in front of me is the bleeding angel lying on his face.
Could he still be alive?
All the stories I’ve heard say that if you cut off an angel’s wings, he would die. But maybe that is true in the way that if you cut off a person’s arm, he would die. Left unchecked, he would simply bleed to death.
There can’t be that many chances to get yourself a piece of angel. The street might be flooded with scavengers any minute. The smart thing to do would be to get out while I still can.
But if he’s alive, maybe he knows where they took Paige. I trot over, my heart beating furiously with hope.
Blood streams down his back and pools on the asphalt. I flip him over unceremoniously, not even thinking twice about touching him. Even in my frantic state, I notice his ethereal beauty, the smooth rise of his chest. I imagine his face would be classically angelic if not for the bruises and welts.
I shake him. He lies unresponsive, like the Greek god statue he resembles.
I slap him hard. His eyes flutter, and for a moment, they register me. I fight the panicked urge to run.
“Where are they going?”
He moans, his eyelids dropping down. I slap him again, as hard as I can.
“Tell me where they’re going. Where are they taking her?”
A part of me hates the new Penryn I’ve become. Hates the girl who slaps a dying being. But I shove that part deep into a dark corner where it can nag me some other time when Paige is out of danger.
He groans again, and I know he won’t be able to tell me anything if I don’t stop his bleeding and take him to a place where the gangs aren’t likely to swoop down and chop him into little trophies. He is shivering, probably going into deep shock. I flip him over onto his face, this time noticing how light he is.
I run over to my mother’s upended cart. I dig through the pile looking for rags to wrap him with. A first aid kit is hidden at the bottom of the cart. I hesitate only a second before grabbing it. I hate to waste precious first aid supplies on an angel who will die anyway, but he looks so human without his wings that I allow myself to use a few sterile bandages as a layer on his cut.
His back is covered with so much blood and dirt that I can’t actually see how bad the wounds are. I decide it doesn’t matter, so long as I can keep him alive long enough to tell me where they took Paige. I wrap strips of rags around his torso as tightly as I can, trying to put as much pressure on the wounds as possible. I don’t know if you can kill a person by making the bindings too tight, but I do know that bleeding to death is faster than death by almost any other way.
I can feel the pressure of unseen eyes on my back as I work. The gangs would assume that I’m cutting out trophies. They’re probably assessing whether the other angels are likely to come back and whether they have time to run out to wrestle the pieces out of my hands. I have to bundle him up and get him out of here before they grow too bold. In my haste, I knot him up like a rag doll.
I run over and grab Paige’s wheelchair. He is surprisingly light for his size, and it’s far less of a struggle than I’d anticipated to get him into the chair. I suppose it makes sense when you think about it. It’s easier to fly when you weigh fifty pounds rather than five hundred. Knowing he is stronger and lighter than humans doesn’t make me feel any warmer toward him.
I make a show of lifting him and putting him into the chair, grunting and staggering as though he’s terribly heavy. I want the watchers to think the angel is as heavy as he looks, because maybe then they’ll conclude that I’m stronger and tougher than I look in my underfed five foot two frame.
Is that the beginning of an amused grin forming on the angel’s face?
Whatever it is, it turns into a grimace of pain as I dump him into the chair. He is too big to fit comfortably, but it’ll do.
I quickly grab the silken wings to wrap them in a moth-eaten blanket from my mother’s cart. The snowy feathers are wondrously soft, especially compared to the coarse blanket. Even in this panicked moment, I’m tempted to stroke the smooth down. If I pluck the feathers and use them as currency one at a time, a single wing could probably house and feed all three of us for a year. That is, assuming I can get all three of us back together again.
I quickly wrap both wings, not fretting too much about whether the feathers are being broken. I consider leaving one of the wings here on the street to distract the gangs and encourage them to fight amongst each other instead of chasing me. But I need the wings too much if I am to entice the angel into giving me information. I grab the sword, which is amazingly as light as the feathers, and stick it unceremoniously in the seat pocket of the wheelchair.I take off at a dead run down the street, pushing him as fast as I can into the night.