End of days, p.1
End of Days, p.1Part #3 of Penryn & the End of Days series by Susan Ee
Susan Ee is the author of the USA Today bestselling books in the Penryn & the End of Days trilogy, Angelfall and World After. Her books have been translated into over twenty languages, and her short films have played at major festivals. She used to be a lawyer but loves being a writer because it allows her imagination to bust out and go feral.
Visit her at www.susanee.com, find her on Facebook at facebook.com/AngelfallOfficial and follow Susan on Twitter @Susan_Ee.
Originally published in the United States by Amazon Publishing, 2015. This edition made possible under a license arrangement originating with Amazon Publishing.
First published in Great Britain in 2015 by
Hodder & Stoughton
An Hachette UK company
Copyright © Feral Dream LLC 2015
The right of Susan Ee to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.
eISBN 978 1 444 77856 4
Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
50 Victoria Embankment
London EC4Y 0DZ
Dedicated to readers like Penryn who have it tough at home, who had to grow up fast due to life circumstances, and who have no idea how much potential they really have. You are being fire forged, just like Penryn. And like her, you can turn your greatest trials into your greatest strengths.
Find out More about Susan Ee
Find out More about Hodder and Chapter 5
Everywhere we fly, people scatter below us.
They see the great shadow of our swarm above them, and they run.
We fly over a cityscape that has been charred, broken, and mostly abandoned. San Francisco used to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with its trolley cars and famous restaurants. Tourists used to stroll Fisherman’s Wharf and cruise the crowded alleys of Chinatown.
Now the grungy survivors fight for scraps and harass terrified women. They scurry into the shadows and disappear as soon as they spot us. The only ones left are the most desperate who choose to stay out in the open, hoping to escape the gangs for the few seconds it takes us to fly by.
Below us, a girl hunches over a dead man lying with limbs spread wide. She hardly notices us, or she simply doesn’t care. Here and there, I see light glinting off something in a window, signs that someone is watching us through binoculars, or maybe aiming a rifle at us as we pass.
We must be quite a sight. A cloud of scorpion-tailed, man-sized locusts blotting out the sky.
And in the middle of it all, a demon with enormous wings carrying a teenage girl. At least, Raffe must look like a demon to anyone who didn’t know he was an archangel flying on borrowed wings.
They probably think he kidnapped the girl he’s holding. They couldn’t possibly guess that I feel safe in his arms. That I’m resting my head on the warm curve of his neck because I like the feel of his skin.
‘Do we humans always look like that from above?’ I ask.
He answers. I can feel the vibrations in his throat and see his mouth moving, but I can’t hear him above the thunderous buzz of the locust swarm.
It’s probably good I didn’t hear him anyway. Angels probably think we look like roaches scurrying from one shadow to another.
But we’re not roaches or monkeys or monsters, no matter what the angels think of us. We are still the same people we once were. At least, we are on the inside.
I hope so, anyway.
I glance over at my cut-up sister who is flying beside us. Even now, I have to remind myself that Paige is still the same girl I’ve always loved. Well, maybe not exactly the same.
She’s riding on the shriveled body of Beliel, which is being carried like a palanquin by several locusts. He has blood all over him and looks long dead even though I know he’s still alive. It’s no worse than what he deserves, but there’s still a part of me that wonders at the primitive cruelty of it all.
A gray island of rock appears ahead of us in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Alcatraz, the notorious former prison. There’s a whirlwind of locusts above the island. It’s a small part of the hive that didn’t come when Paige called for help on the beach a few hours ago.
I point to an island behind Alcatraz. It’s bigger and greener, with no buildings that I can see. I’m pretty sure that’s Angel Island. Despite the name, any place has to be nicer than Alcatraz. I don’t want Paige on that hellish rock.
We veer around the locust whirlwind and head to the larger island.
I motion to Paige to come with us. Her locust and the ones closest to her follow us, but the majority join the swarm above Alcatraz, swelling the size of the dark funnel above the prison. Some seem confused, following us at first, then changing direction and heading back to Alcatraz as if compelled to be part of the hive.
Only a handful of locusts stay with us as we circle Angel Island for a good spot to land.
The rising sun highlights the emerald greens of trees surrounded by the bay. From this angle, Alcatraz sits in front of the wide panorama of the San Francisco skyline. It must have been a breathtaking view once. Now it looks like a jagged line of broken teeth.
We land by the water on the west shore. The tsunamis left a rubbl
When we reach the ground, Raffe lets me go. I feel like I’ve been curled up against him for a year. My arms are practically frozen in place around his shoulders, and my legs are stiff. The locusts stumble around when they land like they’re having the same issues.
Raffe stretches his neck and shakes out his arms. His leathery bat wings fold and disappear behind him. He’s still wearing his mask from the party-turned-massacre at the aerie. It’s deep red shot through with silver, and it covers his entire face except for his mouth.
‘Aren’t you going to take that off?’ I shake the numbness out of my hands. ‘You look like red death on demon wings.’
‘Good. That’s how every angel should look.’ He rolls his shoulders. I suppose it’s not easy having someone cling on to you for hours. Despite trying to relax his muscles, he’s on full alert as his eyes scan our eerily quiet surroundings.
I adjust the strap around my shoulder so that my sword, disguised as a teddy bear, sits against my hip for easy access. Then I step over to help my sister off Beliel. As I near Paige, her locusts hiss at me, jabbing their scorpion stingers in my direction.
I stop, my heart pounding.
Raffe is beside me in an instant. ‘Let her come to you,’ he says quietly.
Paige climbs off her ride and pets a locust with her small hand. ‘Shh. It’s okay. That’s Penryn.’
It still amazes me to see these monsters listening to my baby sister. Our stare-down lasts a moment longer until the beasts lower their stingers under Paige’s gentle crooning. I let out my breath, and we back away, letting Paige soothe them.
Paige bends to gather up Raffe’s severed wings. She had been lying on them, and the stained feathers look crushed, but they begin fluffing almost instantly in her arms. I can’t blame Raffe for cutting them off Beliel before the locusts could suck them dry along with the rest of the demon, but I wish he hadn’t had to do it. Now we’ll have to find a doctor to reattach them to Raffe before they wither.
We start up the beach and see a couple of rowboats tied to a tree. The island must be occupied after all.
Raffe motions for us to hide while he heads up the slope.
It looks like there used to be a row of houses on one side of the hill. On the lower ground, only the concrete foundations remain, littered with smashed boards stained with water and salt. But on the higher ground, several boarded-up buildings are intact.
We skitter behind the nearest building. It’s large enough to have been barracks of some kind. Like the others, it’s sealed up with white painted boards. They look like they’d been shut up long before the Great Attack.
The whole thing feels like a ghost settlement except for the house on the hill overlooking the bay. It’s a perfectly intact Victorian, complete with a white picket fence. It’s the only building that looks like a family home and the only one with color or any sense of life.
I don’t see any threats, certainly nothing that the locusts can’t scare off, but I stay out of sight anyway. I watch Raffe as he leaps to fly up the hill, moving behind the cover of barrack to tree, barrack to tree, working his way toward the main house.
When he gets there, gunfire shatters the peace.
Raffe flattens himself against a wall.
‘We’re not here to harm you,’ he shouts.
Another gunshot answers from an upstairs window. I flinch, my nerves about as taut as they can be.
‘I can hear you talking in there,’ shouts Raffe. He must think we’re all deaf. I guess compared to angels, we are. ‘And the answer is no. I doubt that my wings will be worth as much as angel wings. There is no chance of you being able to take me on, so stop fooling yourselves. We just want the house. Be smart. Leave.’
The front door slams open. Three burly men step out, pointing their rifles in different directions as if unsure where their enemies are.
Raffe takes flight, and the locusts follow his lead. He sweeps the air with his impressive demon wings, looking intimidating before dropping back down beside the house.
The locusts fly toward him, diving in and out of the tree line with their scorpion stingers curled behind them.
As soon as the men get a good look at what they’re up against, they run. They crash through the trees across from the locusts. Then they circle around the rubble toward the beach.
As the men run, a woman scampers out of the house like a beaten dog. She races in the opposite direction of the men. She looks back to see where they are, looking more like she’s running from them than from the winged creatures.
She disappears into the hills behind the house, while the men take the rowboats and head out on the bay.
Raffe walks around to the front of the vacated house and pauses, listening carefully. He waves for us to join him as he walks in.
By the time we reach the Victorian, Raffe yells, ‘All clear.’
I put my hand on Paige’s shoulder as we enter the yard through the white picket fence. She clutches Raffe’s feathered wings like a security blanket as she stares at the house. The Victorian is butter colored with maroon trim. It has a porch with wicker furniture and looks a lot like a dollhouse.
One of the locusts drops Beliel beside the picket fence. He lies there like a piece of meat. The ropey flesh of his body is the color and texture of beef jerky, and blood still trickles from wounds where Paige bit chunks out of his cheek and arms. He looks pitiful, but this is one locust victim I don’t feel sorry for.
‘What should we do with Beliel?’ I ask Raffe.
‘I’ll take care of him.’ Raffe walks down the porch steps toward us.
Considering all the awful things that Beliel has done, I’m not sure why Raffe didn’t kill him instead of just cutting his wings off. Maybe he thought the locusts would do it or that Paige’s attack on him at the aerie would be fatal. But now that he’s made it this far, Raffe doesn’t seem inclined to finish him off.
‘Come on, Paige.’ My sister walks beside me up onto the wooden porch and into the house.
Inside, I expect dust and mold, but instead, it’s surprisingly nice. The living room looks like it used to be an exhibit. A lady’s dress from the 1800s is displayed in the corner. Beside it, museum ropes on brass stands are bunched together, no longer needed to keep the public away from the antique living room furniture.
Paige looks around and walks over to the window. Beyond the warped glass, Raffe drags Beliel up to the fence gate. He dumps him there and walks behind the house. Beliel seems dead, but I know he’s not. Locust-stung victims are paralyzed enough to seem dead even though they’re still conscious. That’s part of the horror of being stung.
‘Come on. Let’s check out the rest of the house,’ I say. But Paige continues to stare out the window at the shriveled form of Beliel.
Outside, Raffe walks back into sight with his arms full of rusty chains. He makes quite the intimidating picture as he wraps the chains around Beliel, forming loops around his neck, the fence post, and his thighs. He padlocks them together in the center of his chest.
If I didn’t know better, I’d be terrified of Raffe. He looks merciless and inhuman as he handles the helpless demon.
Strangely, it’s Beliel who keeps pulling at my attention, though. There’s something about him in chains that keeps catching my eye. Something familiar.
I shake it off. I must be on the verge of hallucinating from exhaustion.
I was never a morning girl, and now that I’ve had a few nights with no sleep, I feel like a zombie. I want to crash onto a couch somewhere and sleep for a week.
But first, I need to help my sister settle in.
It takes me an hour to clean her up in the bathtub. She’s covered in Beliel’s blood and gore. If the frightened people at the Resistance thought she was a monster when she was in a clean flower-print dress, they’d definitely turn into torch-bearing, lync
I’m afraid to actually scrub her because of all her stitches and bruises. Normally, our mom would do this. She was always surprisingly gentle when it came to handling Paige.
Maybe thinking the same thing, Paige asks, ‘Where’s Mom?’
‘She’s with the Resistance. They should be at the camp by now.’ I dribble water over her and dab gingerly between stitches with a sponge. ‘We came to look for you but got caught and taken to Alcatraz. She’s all right now, though. The Resistance came to rescue everyone on the island, and I saw her on the boat as they were escaping.’
Her bruises still look angry, and I don’t want to accidentally pop a stitch. I wonder if these are the kinds of stitches that dissolve or if a doctor needs to take them out.
That makes me think of Doc, the guy who sewed her up in the first place. I don’t care what his situation was. No decent human being would have mangled and mutilated little kids into man-eating monsters just because Uriel the megalomaniac angel told him to. I want to kick Doc to pieces when I see how bruised and abused Paige is.
So how crazy is it that I’m nursing a small thought that maybe he can help her?
I sigh and drop the sponge into the water. I can’t stand to look at her ribs sticking out of her stitched skin anymore. She’s about as clean as she’s going to get anyway. I drop her blood-stained clothes in the sink and walk into one of the bedrooms to see if I can find something for her to wear.
I rummage through the antique drawers, not really expecting to find anything. It seems like this place was some sort of historic tourist site rather than anyone’s house. But somebody has stayed here. Maybe even decided that this could be home.
There’s not a lot, but at least one woman had settled here, at least for a while. I reach in and pull out a white blouse and linen skirt. Thong underwear. A lacy bra. A sheer camisole. A cropped T-shirt. A pair of stretchy men’s boxers.
People were funny during the early days after the Great Attack. Even when they evacuated their homes, they took their cell phones, laptops, keys, wallets, suitcases, and shoes that would have been great for tropical vacations but not for running on the streets. It was as if people couldn’t accept that it wouldn’t all blow over in a few days.
End of Days by Susan Ee / Fantasy / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes