Hana sat in a locked utility closet on the first floor where her brother had shoved her. Sleet pattered on the roof of the building two stories above her. Footsteps echoed in the hall, growing louder. A key slipped into the lock on the door, and the hinges creaked as the heavy metal door slipped light into the cave. Michael peered into the closet, his face bruised, gouges running across his left eye and cheek.
Hana sat spinning the chipped wheel on a cracked mop bucket. Furrowing her brows, she refused to meet her brother’s eyes.
“Haniel?” He opened the door a little wider. She didn’t look at him, but she stopped spinning the wheel, waiting patiently. He slipped into the closet and shut the door, the latch clicking. “Look, Haniel, the Flock has been desperate to have the Seventh Trumpet back. For the sake of the Promised Land, we all need you to support us. The devil has played with your head. I can only thank you for bringing his spawn here so that we can purge them from the Land.” When she made no reply to him, Michael pushed through. “Raphael – Raphael is dead, Haniel,” he stuttered.
Hana shrugged, her voice cracking, “You told me Elly’s gone already.”
Michael flinched under her cold scrutiny. “Well, I guess I should explain myself?” he ventured cautiously. Hana regarded him suspiciously. “A messenger from Hell’s throne, like that wolf of yours, defiled her. Went and got himself hit by a bus the same night he left her. She bore this abomination. It was dead, and she bled out for her sins.”
“There is a definable difference between your concept of ‘defiled’, rape and murder, brother. Let me attest to that difference as someone who came close to that encounter on more than one occasion since leaving here. At least with murder, you’re dead. With rape, you wish you were. Your concept of defiled is so warped and misogynistic. Sins? Are you hearing yourself?” she snapped. “Why didn’t she know that her baby was stillborn before going into labour? A c-section would have saved her life.”
“We couldn’t afford the ultrasound bills. She said she would be fine and she’d give birth in the house so that it wouldn’t cost money at the hospital. She went into labour in Central Park. I had been out to get food. I got back to where she had been sitting, and she was gone.” He wiped away a burgundy tear.
“Bullshit. You didn’t get her the help she needed because of your twisted brain. That man may have committed a vile act, though I’m reserving my judgement from your warped brain cells.” Hana spat at her brother. She had left because of his screwed-up cult mentality, and she was not scared to lay into his side about it now that she had put distance between them long enough to see his messed-up ways for herself. “He didn’t kill her. Your unwillingness to seek proper medical treatment and your fucking bigoted incompetence contributed to her death.” She choked back a sob.
“It wasn’t an act of nature, Haniel. Those,” Michael steadied himself, trying not to cuss, “those wolves. We aren’t meant to mix with others not like us. Mother and Father had designed us to be better, higher than the others.”
Hana caught his eye. “Mom and dad fucked us up, and you’re going along with their supremacist ways. You know, if they hadn’t tangled with the avian DNA and made us into ‘angels’, we would be normal. Elly probably wouldn’t have died. Grow a brain and quit with this messed up cult, Michael. You’re poisoning yourself with this type of thinking.”
“Come on, we should get you out of here and find you a more comfortable room to stay in,” Micheal bit out between clenched teeth. He caught her beneath the arms and pulled her up. Dragging her from the closet, he led her down the hall.
“Why did you bring the Flock back to Ioda, Michael?” Hana dragged her feet.
“Mother and Father always talked of this place being the promised land, far enough away to not be bombed or intervened with by the militia. “I returned to Neo York to collect Raphael when you left. We needed a Seventh Trumpet here, and with you gone, the Flock was losing faith.”
“Why did you never send someone to get me?” she asked.
“I did, several times. No one could find you. We stopped searching when the last sentinel came back with the news that the old house mom and dad had out in Oregonia was gone to a bomb. I was surprised to find you in the clan territory,” Michael admitted.
“Thought this place looked familiar,” grumbled Hana. “Who is Uncle Gershwin? Did I ever meet him?” she switched topics.
“How’d you know about Gershwin? Guess it doesn’t matter, really. No, you never met him. He wasn’t your uncle.
“He was a friend of our godfather. He worked with Corbin and Sophia. Left Neo York with them to Florgia near St. Petersburg, something close to that, I think, where they have some big storage facility. He said Mother and Father had lost their way. Last thing that he told me was that he was going to help Corbin and Sophia make history outside of this world. Crazy loon.” He led her to a stairwell and up the flight to the second-floor landing. Doors stretched on in front and to their left. They padded down the carpeted hall until stopped at a door marked 308. Michael took a key ring from his pocket and pulled a key off. He placed the key into Hana’s palm. “Don’t lose that. We don’t have any other copies.”
Four bare grey walls and an iron cot. A table and chair sat pushed against a corner. Dingy drapes hung from smoked windows. A puff of air chugged out of the vent, followed by a cough and splutter as dust fell from its casing.
“I’ll come back for you at dinner. You’ll be conducting the prayer of exorcism. Make sure you’ve purified yourself. You remember where the holy baths are.” Michael turned and left.
Hana stared at the dreary room for a solid minute. She caught her breath and listened for Michael’s footsteps as they descended the stairs. When she couldn’t hear them anymore and had waited for another five minutes after, she eased herself out of the room, locked the door, and palmed the key before slipping it into her pocket.
She snuck down the hall and crept down the stairs. Freezing, the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. A cat ran past her and shot up the stairs. She made her way outside and around the building until she came to the pin where the wolfmen were being kept. She could see.
Nat lay curled in Yeller’s lap. There was no safe area to rest in the mud. His shoulders had stopped bleeding, but the blood loss had left him weak and unsteady. Too much movement or being upright left him dizzy and vomiting bile.
Hana eased to the shadowed fence posts on the forest side, hiding from the Flock’s line of sight. She listened as Nat outlined an escape plan from the cage. His voice dragged the ground, weak and desperate. “We have to get Hana out of here. Sick freak is going to do something terrible to her. We already know what he’s done to dominate the other people here.” His words dripped in the pouring sleet.
“Think all of the Flock can fly? He’s got his entourage that follows him around. Would he send them after us?” Zola brushed back her sopping curls to study the grey skies. A sleet drop plopped on her nose. She wiped it off and looked at her cousin. Yeller shrugged his shoulders as he wiped a few drops off of his arm.
“So, Nat, can you think of an easier way out of this cage?” Hana asked. The group jumped in response to her question.
“Oh, thank heavens. You okay, Hana?” Sun Hee reached through the bars to hug her.
“Michael’s gone off the deep end, and I need to get you out of here, like now. He’s planning on killing you all tonight as some kind of religious exorcism.” Hana returned the hug, patting Sun Hee’s back.
Deck interrupted them. “You got a way out? They’ve got a massive chain on this thing that bolt cutters would cry over.”
“Think one of your wolves could smash this thing?” She pointed up at the spikes.
“Mine’s been begging to come out and play,” Yeller’s teeth gleamed under a lightning flash. “Willing to let it try.”
Hana backed up a step while Yeller handed Nat off to Deck. Golden fur rippled along his back, and his bones cracked in the wash of rain and sleet. The creature dropped to its feet to study the posts. It attacked, kicking and biting at the space between the sticks, fighting to dislodge the buried poles from the mud. A couple of minutes of snarling struggle left him panting, legs splayed wide as he regarded the structure with fury.
Benj approached the posts and tapped the wolf on the shoulder. He motioned up. Yeller took back his human form. “Let me give it a try. We’re going up.” Benj pointed toward the sky. Yeller raised an eyebrow to watch Benj fade into his coal grey counterpart. The beast stepped back, swung his head around the ring of posts before launching. He dug claws into the tree ten feet up and scrambled the rest of the way over.
Dropping to the ground in front of Hana, he shifted. “Where do they keep the keys?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t been here in a few years. Michael had keys to the rooms, but I don’t know if the padlock key would be with him.” She glanced back at the group waiting expectantly on the other side.
“Think you can carry Nat?” He asked her as Zola’s wolf scaled the wall and joined him.
“I’m not that strong.” Her wings drooped.
“Can you keep him from falling off me?” Yeller asked through the posts.
“I can try.”
“That’s all we’re asking.” Yeller nodded. Sun Hee cleared the posts. Hana pumped her wings, pushing herself over the top of the bars and dropped in next to Yeller.
“I’m letting the wolf out; you just have to make sure he doesn’t slip off, got it?” Yeller whispered. They ducked at the sound of footsteps. A pair of bird men passed by, ignoring the pen.
“This is dangerous,” Deck hissed as Yeller reached for his shift.
“Sorry. I got a bit hot-headed.” Nat settled on the golden wolf’s back.
“They dosed us after lunch. We’re only lucky you didn’t get caught up in it all by going and sulking off in the woods. You did right going after Michael. Let’s get out of here. Hana, you’ve got his back.” Deck stood back to watch.
Nat held on, his shoulders screaming at the position. Nauseating vertigo hit his system, and Hana’s hands drew cold lines down his spine. He tumbled into the dirt. Looking up into the branches of the tree, the world spun.
Deck dropped down next to him and helped Yeller tug him into the undergrowth with the rest of the group.
“Ifreann na Fola!” Yeller hissed.
“Le de thoil.” Nat leaned his head on Yeller, fighting the ringing in his ears that told him he was going to pass out again.
Yeller grunted. “Can you shift?”
No. Your body hurts too much, and if I take over, I will shred what remains of your muscles.
Nat shook his head mutely.
“Can you hold on?” Yeller tried a different tactic.
Nat glanced up at the blond. Concern crawled across his face. “Is dochá,” he gulped, not entirely sure if he’d be capable.
“Bain triail as go crua,” urged Yeller. He dropped into a stoop, prompting the man to piggyback. Nat cringed, having difficulty pulling his arms up far enough. Deck came back to help him get positioned. Nat cursed at the pain under his breath.
Deck and Benj supported Yeller as their wolf forms flew across the forest floor. They had lost their supplies, confiscated by Michael and the Flock. The wolves raced and raced well into sunset, Hana flying over the treetops behind them.
Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.
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