Read Angel Fire Online

Authors: L. A. Weatherly

Tags: #General, #Fiction

Angel Fire (10 page)

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“Go? You mean back to the hostel?”

“No – no, I’ve got to go.” And before she could answer he turned and took off at a run through the marketplace, leaving her startled face behind him in a blur. He had to get someplace private; had to look at this stuff again. He must be going crazy – this couldn’t possibly be true—

The hostel would be full of people. Veering east, he pounded down the streets and into the Plaza de Armas, with its small, pattering fountain, its mix of palm trees and spruce, and the white stone cathedral that looked almost pink in the sunset. There was a bandstand across from the cathedral – an elegant wrought-iron structure from a different age. Seb saw that it was empty and took its four steps at a single leap. Breathing hard, he pulled the photo from his knapsack and then hesitated, clutching it tightly, the image hidden as the small frame dug into his palm. It couldn’t be true. He had just wished for it so often that he’d finally gone insane. He was going to open his hand and it would just be a human girl, that was all – just a human girl.

Swallowing, Seb finally dared to unclench his hand and look down. He stared. Without realizing it, he sank to the worn wooden floor, still holding the photo.

From the time of his earliest memories, he’d been able to see auras – the angry, crackling red of his mother’s boyfriend’s energy as he beat Seb; the soggy blue of his mother’s as she’d put him in the orphanage, crying that it was Seb’s fault for not getting along with the man. His own aura, whenever he’d brought it into view, was the only one he’d ever encountered that was mostly silver, with forest-green lights shifting through it. The difference had bothered Seb deeply – he’d been convinced that his aura’s strangeness had been the reason for the beatings. That had been the start of his lifelong habit of shifting his aura’s colours, of learning how to blend in. He hadn’t known then that it was pointless around humans – that nobody except him could see the bright shapes of energy anyway.

But he didn’t just see auras when he met people face-to-face; he could see them in photos, too. And now... Seb gazed down at the framed photo in his hand, and it was as if the whole world had stopped breathing. It was true. He hadn’t been mistaken. The little girl peering up through the willow branches had an aura like his own: silver, with lavender lights.

Another half-angel.

It was her.

Seb’s heart thundered in his chest. Jesus god, he had to find her. Where was she, though?
Who
was she? “Them”, the guy had said, so she was travelling with someone. He’d seemed certain that they wouldn’t still be in Chihuahua, but—

Seb closed his eyes and sent his other self soaring, even though he usually kept his angel self hidden in cities – the violent encounter with the angel years ago had taught him that. Right now, he didn’t care. Lifting up through the bandstand’s roof, he stretched his shining wings and glided over the city, scanning its roads, its parks, the highway that stretched through town.

There was nothing, of course. Nothing.

His angel rushed back to him. Seb opened his eyes and stared unseeingly at one of the ornate iron posts. The possibility that he might have finally come so close to finding his half-angel girl, only to have
missed
her somehow, made him sick with dread.

His gaze fell on the knapsack near his feet. Suddenly he remembered the girl’s shirt – the feeling of familiarity that had swept over him in the marketplace. He pulled it out; the material felt soft against his fingers. With a steadying breath, Seb closed his eyes again.

It washed over him all at once. The sense of an energy so similar to his own was dizzying, and Seb’s hands turned to fists, grasping the thin material like a lifeline. His phantom half-angel girl, who he’d spent so many years of his life trying to find – she was real; she had worn this shirt. He could feel her so strongly, her spirit whispering through the fabric. Everything about her that he’d been in love with for so long – her kindness, her strength, her humour – it was all here, and more. Seb’s heart was battering in his chest.

When he could finally focus again, he realized that she was about his own age, and that she’d been worried about a dream. Pictures started appearing in Seb’s mind; he frowned in surprise at the familiar streets.
El DF.
She had dreamed of Mexico City, and of angels, and a sense of urgency that pulled at her like the tide. They had to go there, she and her human boyfriend – they had no choice. The details from the dream swirled over him; he could feel the girl’s fear, her anxiousness.

The final image jolted him with shock.

A boy in her dream stood watching her in a park; he held out his hand, called her
querida
. Seb could feel how much the girl wanted to go to him; the longing that came over her as their eyes met. And the boy’s face was the same one that he saw whenever he looked in a mirror.

The dream faded. Seb lowered the shirt, his mind reeling. She had dreamed of him – she’d longed for him just as he’d always longed for her. For a minute he couldn’t help it; still clutching the shirt, he slumped against the side of the bandstand, burying his head in his arms as he struggled against tears. Oh god, it was true – it was really true. She was real; he wasn’t alone.

The cathedral bells began to ring through the evening, tolling six o’clock. As the last note died from the air, Seb rose shakily to his feet. If the two of them were following the girl’s dream, then they were on their way to Mexico City. It didn’t matter how much he hated
el DF
; he had to get down there now, this second, so that he could find this girl – even if he had to search every square inch of the place to do it.

Folding the shirt, Seb tucked it into his bag, his fingers leaving it reluctantly. The photo he studied for a moment, drinking in the girl’s delicately pointed features, her smile and green eyes. He shook his head in wonder as he touched the upturned face. So this was what she looked like; he’d yearned to know for most of his life. So beautiful, even as a child. Was she with her human boyfriend for the same reason he’d been tempted by Lucy – just because the loneliness had become too much, and there was no one else? Maybe this girl had always felt alone too, the same way he had.

Seb tucked the photo into the pocket of his jeans, wanting to keep it close. Mexico City held twenty million people, but he’d find her, somehow. They had to meet, had to be together. The certainty of it was like a heartbeat drumming through him. No other option was possible – it was meant to be.

She had dreamed of him.

 

T
HE FIRST THING
I
NOTICED
about Mexico City was the traffic. It was endless, chaotic: cars, taxis, other motorcycles. Horns blaring; red lights being run; hardly any attention paid to the division lines at all, except to see how blatantly you could ignore them. When it stopped for even a second, shouting sellers appeared in the street, striding past with cigarettes and candy. I kept my hands on Alex’s waist as he wove us deftly in and out of it all, swerving and putting on the brakes as people tried to blindside us.

The second thing that hit me was the smell – a dizzying cocktail of exhaust fumes, the spices from sidewalk food vendors, dust from construction projects. And the sound: jackhammers, rock music, brakes squealing in protest. I couldn’t stop staring, taking it all in. As Alex and I made our way towards the centre of the city, I saw medieval buildings jostling for space beside modern glass structures and art deco ones from the thirties; others that were abandoned, with graffiti-ridden boards covering the windows. I blinked as I noticed something else – a lot of the buildings seemed slightly skewed, as if you were viewing them after a drunken night out. The whole place looked like the aftermath of a giant party.

And there were the angels, of course.

I spotted the first one soon after we entered the city, gliding serenely over a neighbourhood a few streets away. As we got further in, I kept seeing others here and there, circling and occasionally diving downwards in flashes of light. I even saw one feeding on a dingy sidewalk as we passed by, not ten feet away. My scalp went cold; I couldn’t take my eyes off it. The old man being fed from stood smiling dazedly; the angel was brilliant white, almost seven feet high, its wings blinding in the sun. It was surreal, the way people on the sidewalk were just shoving past the man; how none of them could see what was so painfully obvious to me.

The next light turned red and we came to a stop. Alex glanced over his shoulder, pushing his visor up. “We should start thinking about where we’re going. Any ideas?”

I swallowed. Not even Alex could see what I saw – not unless he shifted his consciousness up through his chakra points. Feeling very alone suddenly, I looked away from the feeding angel, thankful that the thing was too distracted to notice me. “No, no ideas,” I said.

Then, as the traffic started up again, I thought of something. I raised my voice over the noise. “Wait – can we go to that square, the one I dreamed about?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Alex called back after a pause. I knew he was thinking about the hunting angels I’d seen in my dream, and wasn’t crazy about the idea – but he didn’t argue.

It was nearing sunset, the sky spectacular with the pollution: wild streaks of red and pink that swirled across the grey dusk like oil on water. I’d have known the city was seething with angels even if I couldn’t see them – on almost every street corner, silver and blue Church of Angels signs were painted on the sides of buildings like giant billboards. And lots of people were visibly sick. As Alex stopped for another light, I watched a young woman pause on the sidewalk, gripping a street light for support. It could have been a coincidence, of course. She could have just had a dizzy spell or something. But I really doubted it. And if it was this bad here
now
, what was it going to be like in a few more weeks, now that the Second Wave had arrived? I bit my lip, hating the thought of it.

Slowly, a massive stone cathedral loomed into view above the other buildings. It had two ornate bell towers; they stood to either side of a central dome, where a golden angel perched on one foot, lifting a garland towards the sky.

I felt Alex’s muscles tense; when we stopped for another light, he whipped towards me again. “I don’t
believe
it – that angel’s the most famous statue in Mexico City! It’s always been on top of a column on the Paseo de la Reforma, and now suddenly it’s up there on the Catedral Metropolitana.”

“The what?”

“The Metropolitan Cathedral,” he said. His jaw was tight. “It’s the oldest cathedral in the Americas – it’s been here for, like, four hundred years. And I’ve got a really bad feeling it’s a Church of Angels cathedral now. It must have happened just recently.”

“Oh,” I said weakly. That...didn’t seem like a good sign.

“Anyway, it’s on the Zócalo – we’re almost there. And guess what?” Alex added, nodding at a brightly-coloured poster on a street lamp. “That sign says there’s a ‘Love the Angels’ concert going on in the square tonight.”

My eyes met Alex’s; I knew we were both remembering the dancing crowd in my dream. A terrible sense of inevitability came over me – déjà vu times a hundred. Just like when I’d realized that I had to go to the Church of Angels in Schenectady, to try to help Beth. The comparison wasn’t comforting, when the entire congregation had tried to kill me and I’d only barely escaped.

“So,” said Alex finally. He faced forward again, lifting his voice as the traffic started to move. “I guess we should go check it out.” I could tell he was thinking about his gun, and how many cartridges he had left.

I cleared my throat. “Yeah,” I called back. “I guess we should.”

A convertible filled with people wearing angel wings passed by, honking. We turned onto the same road they did, leading to one of the streets that bordered the Zócalo. I stared as the square came into view, taken aback by how accurate my dream had been. The Zócalo was
huge
, with people streaming by the thousands into its broad expanse.

And just like in my dream, a stage had been set up at the cathedral end of the square, bathed in floodlights. There were food stands, and vendors moving through the crowd selling angel wings, holding them up in feathery white clusters like giant dandelion heads.

It didn’t look as if you were supposed to park on the streets surrounding the square, but people were doing it anyway. Alex pulled over too, angling the Shadow alongside a car. We got off the bike. We were in front of the long, official-looking building from my dream, with the cathedral rising up to our right. I stiffened as I took off my helmet – there were three angels gliding over the square.

Alex checked his pistol, concealing it between his body and the parked car. I felt him shifting through his chakra points, so that when he turned around again his gaze found the angels as easily as I had. “Okay,” he said, regarding them grimly. “Any idea what we should do next? Was there anything else in your dream?”

The only thing in my dream I hadn’t told him about was the strange boy, and my reaction to him – it had just seemed too weird to mention. I shook my head, watching the angels as they hunted. I knew if Alex were here on his own he’d be slipping into the crowd to kill all three if he could, before they started feeding.

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