This story is by Sara Makris and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
“Stop the car!” I yelled at the Lyft driver, “Did you see the size of that meteor?” Of course he did, everyone in all of Chicago must have seen it.
“I’m getting out here,” I told the confused man eying me in the rearview mirror. I grabbed my backpack, and the medical kit I always had with me, and hurled myself out of the car; ready to run with the chaos. Oh, God! So many people would be dead.
I hurried around the back of the car, and glanced at the crowd walking to and fro along the street, knowing there had to be a stampede of people rushing toward it. I stopped short; everyone was acting completely normal. I glanced eastward where the meteor had been traveling, and I started to speed walk in that general direction. It had been so close, I had heard the whistle as it flew past the car. How were people not running and screaming for their lives right about now?
After walking for several blocks, my feet started to ache and my neck hurt from looking up. There was nothing; no burning or smoke anywhere when I scanned the skyline. Taking a deep breath, I pulled my phone out of my purse, needing to check the news, and call my boss. As I looked down and scrolled through the apps, something rolling across the ground caught my eye. It was a feather, black and burnt on the edges. Then another one, and another blew around my ankles. I walked around the edge of the building, following them as more and more rolled down the sidewalk.
It took everything not to scream when I found her. I dropped my phone, and ducked behind a parked car. Up against the side of the building across the street, I watched, sick to my stomach, as she dragged herself across the pavement; her limp wings and blood trailing behind her. She was burnt, naked, and half of her wings were singed and smoking. Pain was etched across her face as she crawled into the darkness of an alley, no one seemed to notice her at all. Not even looking both ways before I crossed the street, I hugged my purse to my body, and slowly walked toward the alley entrance. Edging close to the wall, the coolness of the bricks shocked me as I placed my hands on them and carefully peeked around the corner.
The lone streetlight at the end of the alley was barely enough to make her form out, and the smoke coming from her wings was darkly silhouetted as it flowed into the air. Blood matted her blonde hair, and it plastered to her lower back, sticking to her burns. My heart beat so hard that it vibrated my chest. Every instinct I had told me to run, but the ingrained need to help her made my feet move anyway, and I swung myself around the corner.
When I stepped on a plastic bottle, the sound echoed down the alley with a frightening crunch that made my heart rate speed up even more. Her head snapped my direction, and her eyes popped open. I sucked in a breath. I wanted to run, but I was so scared my feet were cemented to the ground, and I pushed my back up against the wall wanting to melt into it. Her eyes blazed into mine, violet light radiating from them that took the breath from me.
“You must find the end,” she said, voice like a soft song, smooth and high pitched.
I swallowed, “What are you?” I whispered.
Her hand slid along the ground, and she slowly turned her palm up, a quiet beckoning for me to come to her. I couldn’t touch her, could I? Her mouth opened and she laid her cheek down on the filthy cement, struggling to get a breath in.
“Rebecca,” her voice shook, “touch me.”
The fine hairs on every inch of my skin stood on end; she knew my name.
“We haven’t much time.” A cold breeze ran down the alley, and feathers blew from her wings in a whirlwind.
I glanced at her face, and a tear leaked from her glowing eyes. My heart contracted. I reached forward, the false comfort of the hard wall against my back, now lost. My knees hit the ground, and I extended my shaking hand. With the softest touch, my fingertips grazed hers. I gasped, with what looked like the last of her energy, she wrapped her hand around mine.
Violent shocks ran up my arm, and they grew down my ribcage stretching up my spine. Suddenly, images flashed in my mind like an old movie, flickering as the current pulsated through my hand. I saw it all, the history of humans; it was a history of war- blood soaked battlefields, men torn to shreds from machine guns, trapped people scratching their fingernails off on concrete walls, men killing themselves to kill others. These people, their images so horrific, almost broke my mind; their screams mirroring mine, echoed all around me.
Tears flooded down my face and trickled down my arm to where our hands met. She lost her grip, severing our connection. Then something hit me so hard, I fell forward. Blinding pain radiated up my back, and the sickening sound of each vertebra snapping reverberated in my ears, chorusing with my screams. It took a life time for the pain to stop, and I sobbed as I lay facing her.
Everything was clear, so very clear now as I stared into her eyes. I knew her intimately; she was death, justice, the mediator destined to save humans from themselves: Valkyrie, the Holy Reaper.
As my black wings folded around me, I stood, eyes smoldering with violet fire, body and every sense flooded with predatory grace. I bowed to her, surrendering to the power she gave me.
“Sister,” she said, her breath rattling, “ Help them.”