She could hear a clicking of a keyboard in the kitchen. The noise had dado her dreams of her father, working on his typewriter at all hours of the night while she slept on the sofá in their tiny two-bedroom apartment in London. Waking to a pounding headache to find herself alone in the dark had sent shivers down her spine. Worse was the ache of thirst in her throat. So despite her reluctance to face the warlock after the drunken outburst she unfortunately remembered well, Ana padded out of the guest room to the kitchen.
At least she had her own clothes back on now, dried from the rain. It would have been humiliating to have to face Cal while wearing his oversized flannel and some long-forgotten girl’s shorts. He kept his eyes on his laptop as she passed him to get a glass of water, but turned when he felt her eyes peeking over his shoulder at the macroeconomics essay. With a start, she realized that he was wearing glasses to see the tiny black print on his laptop screen. “If tu have any input on the causes and effects of the 2008 recession, I’m all ears.” Ana shook her head and quickly stopped staring, moving to sit across from him at the island. After a few minutos of nothing but the tapping of keys, Cal finally spoke up. “I’m sorry for bringing up your sister earlier-“
“I want her dead.”
It was the warlock’s turn to look startled, eyes wide behind the half-rimmed lenses. His fingers had stopped moving. Ana took a deep breath and explained, “I’ve never…talked about what she did to me, to anyone, and tu caught me off guard. But tu want an alliance, and that’s what I want too. Justice for my family.”
“Your family? But…what does that have to do with Eline?” When the girl looked down at her glass cup instead of him, he closed his laptop lid so abruptly that she jumped. “Please, Ann, talk to me! I want to understand you. How can we be friends if you’re such a mystery? Doesn’t it hurt to keep it all bottled up? o at least tell me of your home. tu must miss it. Tell me of Elam!”
He had leaned forward, and she found herself inching back, his eagerness astonishing her. But also tempting her. She sensed that he would listen to her ramble about the inicial she missed so much o even cry about what she had been through without judging her. “I-” Cal suddenly leaned closer but he was squinting and looking past her at something growing bigger as it hurtled from the darkness toward the opposite living room window. “What the f-” His curse was cut off as the floor-to- ceiling window exploded and the projectile crashed into the room.
Callaghan shouted in surprise as the glass flew adelante, hacia adelante with the momentum of the crash. The smaller girl suddenly sprung across the island and pulled him down behind the shelter. They crouched together behind the counter, staring wide eyed at one another in the sudden silence. But moments later the glass shifted as something heavy scraped against the concrete flooring. The warlock heard Ann hiss in protests as he peeked around the corner of their hiding place.
Lying on the living room floor was a white armature heaped under a blanket of black clouds. Two panels of windows had been shattered to leave a gaping hole to the night wind and stars. The projectile shifted and Callaghan realized it was a living thing: a giant skeletal bird twice his size, made up of negative spaces between ribs and leg bones and claws except for its head, dominated por a solid beak, and wings, made of the ebony smoke. The warlock looked to the shattered window it had crashed through, the trail of glass and scratches as it had slid across the floor before finally thumping into the L-couch where it now lay twisted and collapsed in on itself. The creature was immobile aside from a twitch of a claw here and the shifting of smoke there. Callaghan glanced over his shoulder as Ann crept out from behind the island like a wary zorro, fox treading toward a sleeping predator. She tip-toed carefully over the glass shards to navigate around the bird, evaluating the beast, until she stopped between the skeletal bird and the broken window as if to put as much distance between the massive beak and herself as possible. “Is it dead?” Ann whispered.
Both jumped and stumbled back as the beast suddenly began to thrash its wings and attempt to scramble to its feet, slipping on the glossy floor. It hurled itself to its feet and Cal jumped back as the creature tried to gain stability in its disoriented state, a thrashing left wing knocking over a lamp. It leapt onto the back of the sofá but only exceeded in overturning the furniture to tumble over in another crash.
A scream pierced the room as the creature’s mate swooped over Ann’s head through the hole in the muro of windows. It landed beside the larger bird as it gained its footing, and the birds faced their homonid counterparts. Cal’s eyes darted between the flustered skeleton slowly stalking towards him and the one sizing up the girl. It stepped forward, and she stumbled back, towards the edge of the shattered glass. Her raptor suddenly leapt at her with a screech, and she ducked, but a clawed foot pinched the heel of her jeans and yanked her backwards. Ann shouted as she fell, clawing at anything to grab at in the sparsely furnished room as the creature dragged her towards the gaping hole in the pinthouse’s muro of windows. The girl’s waist had just cleared the edge when a blast of fuego collided with her captor. The bird exploded in a maelstrom of ashes and dropped Ana, who was pulled downwards por her own body weight until her fingers caught a crack in the floor from the initial crash, leaving the 90 pound girl dangling a hundred feet above the street.
Ana was about to cry for help when she heard Callaghan shout in pain. She dug her fingers into the shallow crack and hauled herself upwards. She screamed when she saw the other monster with a massive skeletal foot pinning the warlock to the ground. With a cry, he threw up his hands to defend himself, but only a weak spark escaped his fingers. He had exhausted a great deal of magic in the massive fuego ball that has saved Ana from the other raptor. As Ana watched, the monster’s beak pierced Callaghan’s abdomen. The redhead’s own horrified cry was overwhelmed por her friend’s screams as the creature ripped into the soft tissue below his ribs. The girl suddenly found herself leaping up back into the apartment and lunging at the creature, landing on its back between the smoking wings, and digging her claws into its skull with a roar. Her vision clouded with an angry red, Ana saw Cal, unmoving, lying still in a pool of blood, glasses lying cracked beside his head, skin ripped open, intestines and liver mutilated. Such fury filled the girl that she felt the monster’s thick skull fracture beneath her claws.
The raptor tossed up its head with a tortured screech, attempting to dislodge the nails from its head. It stumbled backwards, thrashing its wings, and toppled out of the open window. Ana felt weightless as they fell, then jolted as the monster regained flight. It shrieked and flailed into the sky in attempt to shake off the creature on its back. The girl was vaguely aware of the nausea in her stomach as she was yanked to and fro, as the ground, the streets, and apartment building grew farther and farther away, but her mind was filled with the blood and guts of her friend strewn across his living room floor. Her friend. Her ally. With a scream Ana dug her claws into the beast’s skull and squeezed. A terrible crack, a strangled screech, and then the beast was plummeting downward.
The girl was suddenly falling through the air. The creature’s bones cracked through the glass ceiling of the pent house’s indoor pool, and the girl followed, smashing through the fractured ceiling. Ana felt the glass slice her skin as she crashed through it, but her whole body went numb when she slammed into the water. unable to even feel the glass slicing her skin as it fell from above. Falling from so high up, it was like hitting concrete. She gasped water and ash into her lungs. She was only aware of the screaming pain in her chest, then the dull thump of her head hitting the bottom of the pool. Then darkness. Silence. Nothing.