Inktober52 2023: Angel

“Where you going, pretty lady?” the tallest of the trio called out. One of the others laughed, one of those full-mouth-open laughs that sounded almost like a hacking cough. 

Angelica turned away from them, pressing her phone against her cheek. There was nobody on the other end, but these guys didn’t know that. Didn’t need to know that. For all they knew, she had a police dispatcher on the phone. 

She crossed the street briskly, not running but with her long legs she moved faster than a normal walk. Above, the night sky threatened rain. Maybe even a storm. Dark, angry clouds billowed together. She had forgotten her jacket back at the bar. She really liked that jacket. 

“Oh, come on, we just want to talk.” 

Angelica rounded the corner of the next street, hoping to see a passing cab to flag down or a brightly lit store to duck into. Some kind of beacon against the darkening night. But everything on this street and the next was empty, lost, swallowed whole. 

She cursed under her breath. How had she gotten turned around? She knew this city like the contours of her own face. Every blemish and freckle and crooked eyelash. But this street was unfamiliar. The row of apartment buildings, the abandoned shops beneath, even the graffiti splattered across walls seemed ancient and cracked. Like she had stepped through time to a far flung future of desolation.

“Hey, I’m talking to you.”

A hand grabbed Angelica’s shoulder and she whirled. The three men—boys, really—grinned back at her. Like marionette puppets, slightly unhinged.

Angelica tensed. It was too late to pretend she was on the phone. Too late to fumble through her pocket for her pepper spray or her self-defense keychain. Her free hand curled into a fist.

“What’s the matter, pretty lady?” the tall one said. “Why are you running?”

She didn’t hesitate now. She swung. Full force first toward his throat. 

But he caught her wrist. She braced her high heeled boots against the cracked pavement and yanked away from him. Laughing in her face, he easily pulled her back toward him. 

“Come now, no need to fight this. We just wanted to talk.” His voice whispered across her skin, and she shivered. The smell of sour beer and cigarettes wafted between them. 

Help! Please! Someone! The words rang through her mind, but she couldn’t find a way to part her lips and to actually speak. Her throat was clogged, the chest hitched as her lungs searched for fresh air. 

The man dragged her ever closer, pressing himself against her. 

Then, a flash of lighting rolled across the cloud-filled sky. Light as bright as flame exploded around them as something hurtled out of the clouds and landed next to them. 

A man—no, not a man—covered in fire and feathers rose from a crouch. Heat radiated off his body, leaving black scorch marks against the sidewalk. His skin was alabaster, shimmering like moonlight. His wings like starlight. 

He lifted his gaze, and Angelica felt the tall man shudder and curse under his breath. Actual flames blazed in the eyes of the man who was not a man. Fire so consuming it was hard to look at.

And then he moved.

One moment he was standing there in all his glory. The next he was striking as quick as a lightning bolt. Lunging and hitting and whirling. 

Fire and feathers, Angelica whispered under her breath as she was suddenly free of the tall man’s grasp. As the tall man was suddenly facedown on the ground. As all three of the men were suddenly unconscious, unmoving. 

Heart pounding, Angelica turned to where the man who was not a man stood over the crumpled trio. He wasn’t even winded. Not a feather or flame out of place. 

His blazing gaze met hers, and Angelica’s heart hiccuped in her chest. 

“Go.” His voice was a maelstrom. “Run.”

Angelica could do nothing but obey. She turned on the heel of her boot and raced away from the unfamiliar street and the men who had followed her.

From the man who was not a man. 

Angel, her mind whispered, though it seemed impossible. An actual, honest-to-God angel

And he had saved her. From these men. Her own personal guardian angel. 

As Angelica ran back toward the bar, toward lights and movement and all the things that should make her feel safe alone in the city at night, she couldn’t help but wonder why this angel had come to save her. Why he had fallen so gracefully from the sky for her.

And she also wondered how she could make him come for her again.


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