What's with all the cheering over the apocalypse, anyway? Oh, yay, we get to kill poor helpless humans." "The excitement over the apocalypse had nothing to do with humans." "Could have fooled me." "Humans are incidental." "Killing and destroying an entire species is incidental?" I can't help but sound like I'm accusing him (Raffe), even though I know he wasn't part of the plan to wipe us out. Or at least, I think he wasn't personally involved, but I don't really know that, do I? "Your people have been doing it to all kinds of species." "That's not the same." "Why not?
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If the only one who can kill an angel can't do it, then who can?' It's a good question, one that takes me a minute to come up with an answer. 'Obadiah West can. Him and his freedom fighters. I'm just a teenager.' 'History is filled with teenagers who lead the fight. Joan of Arc. Okita Soji, the samurai. Alexander the Great. They were all teenagers when they began leading their armies. I think we're back to those times again, kid.
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Who knew?' he says. 'I had no idea that someone could be such a thorn in your foot during a death march and still be irresistibly attractive in some magical, undeniable way.' 'So is that what people call sweet nothings? Because somehow, I expected it to be a little more... complimentary.' 'Don't you know a heartfelt declaration of love when you hear one?' I blink dumbly at him with my heart pounding. He caresses a lock of my hair out of my face. 'Look, I know that we're from different worlds and different people. But I've realized that it doesn't matter.' 'You don't care about the angelic rules anymore?' 'My Watchers have helped me realize that angelic rules are for angels. Without our wings, we can never be fully accepted back into the fold. There will always be talk of taking a newly Fallen's wings and transplanting them onto us. Angels are perfect. Even with transplanted wings, we'll never again be perfect. You accept me just the way I am, regardless of whether or not I even have wings. Even when I had my demon wings, you've never looked at me with pity. You've never wavered in your loyalty. That's who you are - my brave, loyal, lovable Daughter of Man.
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Dee checks to make sure his mic is turned off. 'It's not about common sense.' Dee surveys the crowd with some pride. Dum also checks to make sure his mic is off. 'It's not about logic or practicality or anything that makes a remote amount of sense.' He sports a wide grin. 'That's the whole point of a talent show, ' says Dee, doing a spin onstage. 'It's illogical, chaotic, stupid, and a whole hell of a lot of fun.' Dee nods to Dum. 'It's what sets us apart from monkeys. What other species puts on talent shows?
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So that's your sister?' asks Dee in a quiet voice. 'Yeah.' 'The one you risked your life for?' 'Yeah.' The twins nod politely in that automatic way that people do when they don't want to say something insulting. 'Your family any better?' I ask. Dee and Dum look at each other, assessing. 'Nah, ' says Dee. 'Not really, ' says Dum at the same time.
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My mother hasn't asked the questions that a normal person would ask, and I'm grateful for it. It's like the world has become so crazy that it makes sense to her now. I turn on the engine and drive us out. 'Thanks, Mom. For coming to rescue me.' My voice comes out reedy and a little wobbly. I clear my throat. 'Not every mom would do that in a world like this.
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My litter sister looks up at me. Mom was right. Her eyes are the same as they've always been. Brown eyes fringed with long lashes and steeped with the memory of sweetness and light, laughter and joy - trapped in this mangled corpse-like face. "It's all right, baby girl, " I whisper into her hair as I hug her. "I'm here. I came for you." Her face crumples and her eyes shine. "You came for me." I stroke her hair. It's as silky as ever.
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The feedback from the speakers changes and begins blasting death metal music so loudly into the sky that I swear the bridge suspensions are vibrating. The twins were in charge of the music selection. I catch sight of them on the side of the bridge, each with an arm raised, holding up their forefingers and pinkies in a devil sign, head-banging to the beat. They're mouthing the words to the garbled voice screaming over the intense electric guitar and drums blasting out of the speakers. They might look pretty badass if it weren't for their hobo clown outfits. It's the loudest party the Bay Area has ever heard.
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My head seems to be rumbling. Then I realize it's the sky. It's thunder. Suddenly, warm raindrops fall on us, spraying us until we're completely wet. Raffe ignores it and continues to kiss me. We hold each other, pressing tighter and harder together. We fly in each other's arms in the rain over a smoldering hell.
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What's up with your hair?' I ask. 'Aren't you worried you'll be spotted by angels flying above with all that blue?' 'War paint, ' says Dee, fastening his seatbelt. 'Except it's in our hair instead of on our faces, ' says Dum, starting the engine. 'Because we're original like that.' 'Besides, are poisonous frogs worried about being spotted by birds?' asks Dee. 'Are poisonous snakes? They all have bright markings.' 'You're a poisonous frog now?' I ask. 'Ribbit.' He turns and flicks out his tongue at me. It's blue. My eyes widen. 'You dyed your tongue too?' Dee smiles. 'Nah. It's just Gatorade.' He lifts up a bottle half-full of blue liquid. 'Gotcha.' He winks. ''Hydrate or Die, ' man, ' says Dum as we turn onto El Camino Real. 'That's not Gatorade's marketing, ' says Dee. 'It's for some other brand.' 'Never thought I'd say this, ' says Dum, 'but I actually miss ads. You know, like 'Just Do It.' I never realized how much of life's good advice came from ads. What we really need now is for some industrious soul to put out a product and give us a really excellent saying to go with it. Like 'Kill 'Em All and Let God Sort 'Em Out.'' 'That's not an advertising jingle, ' I say. 'Only because it wasn't good advice back in the day, ' says Dum. 'Might be good advice now. Attach a product to it, and we could get rich.
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When he cuts a swath through the wave of monsters, that part of the dream stops. Then the sequence repeats. This is like an instructional video of the organic kind. I must have been seriously frustrated by my lack of sword-fighting skills to make all this up. My dream head hurts just thinking about it.
One second, we are surrounded by angels holding their swords. The next second, one of their arms drops and his sword thunks to the grass like a lead weight. The angel stares at his blade uncomprehendingly. Another sword drops. Then another. Then a whole bunch, until all the other unsheathed swords fall, thudding on the grass like subjects bowing down to their queen. The angels stare at the swords at their feet in utter shock. Then everyone looks at me. Actually, it's probably more accurate to say they're looking at my sword. 'Whoa.' That's about the most intelligent thing I can say right now. Did Raffe say something about an archangel sword intimidating other angel swords if she could gain their respect? I swivel my eyes to look at the blade in my hands. Was that you, Pooky Bear?
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You don't even like me, remember?" That's what I try to say. What actually comes out of my mouth is closer to a baby's first attempt at babbling. "Shh." He runs his fingertips along my cheek, caressing my face. "Hush. I'm right here." He looks at me with deep anguish in his eyes. Like there's so much he wants to tell me but feel it's too late now. I want to stroke his face and tell him that it will be okay. That everything will be all right. And I wish so badly that it would be.
I'm fine, Mom. Thanks for asking.'... 'Of course you're fine.' She keeps walking. 'You're the devil's bride and these are his creatures.'... 'I'm not the devil's bride.' 'He carried you out of the fire and is letting you visit us from the dead. Who else would have those privileges except his bride?
I watch the beautiful performance with an ache in my chest. Then, just when I can't stand the sadness anymore, a dancer floats out from the side of the stage. A dancer in ragged clothes, filthy and half starved. He's not even in ballet shoes. He's just barefoot as he glides out to take his place in the dance. The other dancers turn to him, and it's clear that he is one of them. One of the lost ones. By the look on their faces, they weren't expecting him. This is not part of the practiced show. He must have seen them onstage and joined in. Amazingly, the dance continues without a missed beat. The newcomer simply glides into place, and the final dancer who should have danced solo with her missing partner dances with the newcomer. It is full of joy, and the ballerina actually laughs. Her voice is clear and high, and it lifts us all.
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So does anyone have a good survival strategy, or is there no hope for getting out of this nightmare?' asks the Colonel. 'We came up with a big, fat zero. I don't know how we're going to survive the blood hunt, ' says Dee. 'That wasn't the nightmare I was referring to, ' says the Colonel. 'Death by stupid comments is what I was talking about.