“Alright everyone, good work. Grab a drink and we’ll start the next set!” Today’s class was the last of the week, and Kelly liked to make those double sessions.
She’d found the feather in her bed, and checked her back in the mirror. There were tufts of deep red feathers between her shoulder blades, slightly raised. It didn’t take a genius to figure out those would become wings.
Kelly wasn’t sure how to feel about that. On the one hand, sprouting wings would be impossible to hide. There were limits to what she could do, and wings large enough to support her weight would definitely exceed those limits, exceed the limits of anyone. But for right now they could be easily hidden, and….and if they did become wings, she’d be able to fly.
Maybe. She needed to talk to Chemosh again. She wove through the throng of demons, pausing here and there to talk to them in turn, making sure to offer them praise where she could. Since they weren’t leaving, they were maintaining their demonic forms, which made it a bit more difficult. She almost stepped on one of Dammon’s tentacles, and had to slide under the trunk-like arms of Orcus.
“Chemosh. Hey. Got a moment? I’m going to step out back for a smoke.”
The red-suited demon nodded to her, and they slipped out the rear exit.
“So, did you find yourself with a new gift?”
Kelly nodded, then lit the cigarette. “Temptation. I get to see people’s deepest desires, and help them act on it. Although it seems to be not working today, so I guess it changed again?”
“Hmm, cycling through rather quickly. How’d you like that one?”
Kelly bit her lip in thought, then took a drag of her cigarette. “It was…interesting. Exciting, yeah, but didn’t quite fulfill the same sense of justice as the other one and oh my God what am I talking about?” She glared at Chemosh. “Are you doing something to me right now?”
Chemosh smiled and shook his head. “You’re just being honest. We like being honest among our own kind, when possible. Not much point to deception.”
“Yeah, about that.” Kelly’s eyes narrowed. “I’ve been doing research. Demons are pretty much all Fallen angels, right? The one third of the heavenly host that followed Lucifer in rebellion and all that?”
“Yes,” Chemosh said, smiling.
“Well, then how the hell can I become one? I’m not an angel. Unless I’m descended from a nefy…neffil…”
“Nephilim,” Chemosh supplied, nodding. “You are correct, you are not an angel, and like I told you, there was nothing special that lead to you being chosen. You’re just the lucky one.”
Kelly put out the cigarette on her wrist and took a swig from her water. “I’m growing wings.”
“Don’t worry – it’ll be weeks before they’re noticeable. If you sign on for an extended contract…well, our goal is not to prevent you from having a normal life.”
“Then what is your goal?” She glowered at him. “I feel like I should get some answers.”
Chemosh regarded her for a moment, then smiled. “It’s good to want things, Kelly. I believe the time for your break has expired.” Before she could respond, he had headed inside.
Kelly wanted to hit him, but not badly enough to want to alienate her one contact with the demon side of things that seemed to know the answers. She stalked inside, fixing her smile back on her face as she did. “Alright everyone, break’s over! Let’s get back to the mats now. Good job. Thorammah, you need to get in the corner with those legs. There we go now. Okay everyone, lets warm back up, start to twist that torso. And stretch to the right three, two, one…”
Chemosh’s refusal to answer had put her in a foul mood. She decided to jog home instead of her usual sedate walk. Seriously, who does he think he is? He’s not the guy from the dream, which I’m guessing is Satan. So shouldn’t he be able to give me some kind of answer?
“Kelly?” The confused shout drew her out of her reviery, and she half expected to see Shannon standing there. It wasn’t Shannon though. Her baby brother, Clifford, was at the coffee shop between her studio and her house, his eyebrows furrowed. “Man, Shannon wasn’t kidding about your hair!”
“Shannon talks too much.” She smiled at him, cursing her lack of contacts. “Heya Cliff, how’s it going?”
“Well, I was in the area, thought I’d grab coffee and wait for you to be done! Did you not get my text?”
She shook her head. “Must have come in while I was running.” The truth was cell service was spotty with the runes protecting her studio now, and it took her phone a bit sometimes to reconnect. But try explaining that to your perfectly ordinary brother. “What are you even doing in the area?”
“Oh, just was checking out the network at one of our buildings on this side of town. Finished the job early, remembered your class was around this time, figured I’d see if fate smiled upon me.” He gave her a big grin.
She returned it, although hers was more forced. “Wow, that was almost believable. You are so full of bullshit, though.”
He sighed, and held up his hands. “Fine. I was worried. C’mon, let me buy you a latte and make it up to you.” He motioned to the table, and she sat down.
If you hadn’t heard the connection, you’d never believe these two were siblings. Clifford took as much care with his weight as Kelly did with her video game skills, and Kelly hadn’t touched one of those since her ex had dumped her back in September of twenty sixteen.
“So, Shannon ratted me out?” Kelly said, keeping the smile up.
Clifford shook his head. “I FB messaged her, and it came up that you had dyed your hair and your eyes – you look like a…like…I don’t even know, Kelly.”
“You message Shannon? Why did you message Shannon?” Clifford flushed, and Kelly leaned over to pat him on the back of the hand. “Oh Cliffy, honey. Don’t, okay?”
“Why, because she’s out of my league?” Cliff snapped, and Kelly shook her head.
“You know I don’t buy into that. But because Shannon is…you two have literally nothing in common.”
Clifford frowned, and pulled his hand away. “Not important right now.” Kelly wanted to argue that point, but he pressed ahead as she took a sip from the latte. “Kelly…you’re different. Dying your hair, tattooing your eyes…what’s gotten into you?”
“Maybe I’m just tired of being boring?” Kelly couldn’t muster up the right rancor for that. There was something bothering her, something on the edge of her senses she couldn’t quite place. Like a high pitched whine on the edge of her hearing.
“C’mon, it’s me. You know you can tell me…where are you going?”
“I hear something.” Kelly was walking towards the source of the sound.
“I’m trying to talk to- Kelly, what the hell!” Clifford got up and started to push after her.
The sound was coming from between the alley of the coffee shop and the bridal shop next store. As soon as she entered it, the temperature dropped a good thirty degrees. She could see her breath.
“Kelly!” Clifford shivered in the alley. “What are you doing.”
He hadn’t seen it yet, but Kelly did. Behind the dumpster. A hooded figure, wearing the kind of black robe Kelly thought only existed in movies, was hunched over an old man who was laying in the alley. Something white and misty was passing from the old man’s mouth into the hood off the figure.
“Hey! Step away from him!”
It whirled on her, and Clifford made a sound like a strangled cat. That hood was empty, save for the white vapor trailing into it. Not that she could see the back of the hood. It was empty like a sore, so black it sucked at the eye like it had a gravitational pull. Light seemed to vanish as soon as it hit the interior of the hood.
It let out a scream that stabbed straight through to Kelly’s bones.
She raised her hands in shock, and a sword made of deep red hellfire formed between her fingers. Clifford made another choking sound.
“Okay, well, this is…new.” She steadied herself and stared directly into where eyes would sit on that empty void in the hood. “Back off?”
Shockingly, the hooded figure didn’t flee at her confused demand. Instead, it began to rush towards her, a floating dash. As it did, a blade formed in its hands.
A blade of glowing light.
Oh, man, Chemosh, if I survive this you’ve got some explaining to do.