Man with Wings
Cristal was the last one to enter the room. In the corner, Walid was holding onto his mother, who was wailing at the top of her lungs.
He turned to Cristal. “She says she saw strange men here in the room. There was a white light over there near the TV set.”
“No intruders as far as I can see,” Serena said. She proceeded to sweep the room for anything suspicious.
Walid’s sisters were standing in the hallway, peering in.
Shaima, the older one said, “I saw one of them on the stairs. A young man.”
“I saw him too,” the youngest said.
Cristal had not seen anyone pass her on the stairs. “Are you sure?”
The middle one nodded her head and pointed. “Yes. And the one with the wings is standing beside my mother.”
Serena shot Cristal a look. They both turned towards Walid’s mother.
Walid looked over to where his sister was pointing. “No one there,” he said.
Cristal wasn’t so sure. She approached the spot where the “man with wings” was supposedly standing. Every nerve in her body tingled as she sensed a weird vibration in the area beside Walid’s mother.
“Be careful,” Serena said, raising the pipe in her hand.
Cristal’s senses were picking up more energy around her. She pointed at Walid.
“Take your mother and Serena out of the room.”
Serena stepped towards Cristal, the pipe still in her hand. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Walid helped his mother up and escorted her out. His sisters followed behind them, looking back in hopes of catching another glimpse of the uninvited guests.
Serena took a step towards Cristal. “What is it? Do you see anything?”
See anything? The answer was “no” but there was no doubt about it. Something was in the room with them. She closed her eyes to concentrate on finding what that something was.
With her eyes shut, the sound of voices surrounded her but the words were distant and muddled. After a few more seconds, her heightened senses picked up something else. The only way she could describe it to herself was that it was a wave of emotions. Fear. Panic.
Her eyes flickered open.
Serena stopped and turned towards her. “Did you see something?”
Cristal shook her head slowly. “Stay still,” she said.
“What is it?”
Her eyes caught movement, glimmers of a shape of someone standing in front of her. Was she seeing things?
“Come on, what is it?” Serena asked.
Cristal reached out, freezing as the shape took on a more solid state. She sucked in her breath.
It was impossible and yet there he was, standing in front of her exactly as he looked on the day he died, dreadlocks pulled back in a short ponytail and wearing the same long sleeve white T-shirt and baggy blue jeans. She noted there was no sign of bullet holes or blood on his shirt.
Serena walked up beside her. “Cristal, are you okay?”
Cristal felt the vibration in her joints increase in intensity, her body humming in harmony with the energy. It was like watching Gabriel through a looking glass. He seemed to be looking straight at her but she knew he couldn’t see her.
“I see Gabriel,” she said.
“What? Where?” Serena said.
The room began to expand and contract like a womb ready to give birth. Serena didn’t react, oblivious of what Cristal was experiencing.
Cristal saw Gabriel’s eyes were wide open as an arm reach out and pull him toward her. More waves of energy rippled around him. The angle changed and she could see the upper body of the person who had pulled Gabriel. He turned his head in her direction. It was Harry!
“Cristal, tell me what you’re seeing!” Serena said.
Cristal felt her teeth begin to ache as the vibrations in the room became stronger.
“I see Harry,” she managed to say.
“What is happening? Where are they? Is Gabriel alive?”
Before she could reply, an intense bright white light exploded like a small bomb had detonated in front of them. The waves of energy sent Serena toppling backward.
Unlike Serena, Cristal was not shaken from the spot she was standing on. Her feet were rooted to the ground by a force similar to what happened at Akko, the day the white light blasted through her body.
Calmness swept over her even with the white light blasting from the floor to the ceiling. Her attention was focused on the dark shapes swirling in the center of the light.
Overwhelmed with the urge to speak, she said, “Come to me!”
Her voice boomed out like a thunderous roar.
As soon as the words left her lips, Gabriel stumbled into the room. Two seconds later Harry was standing beside him.
“Gabriel! Harry!” Serena cried out.
The white light began fading, making her wonder if the portal was closing. When Harry looked back over his shoulder she realized that the light wasn’t fading at all. The light was being blocked out by something, which looked like a large cloud of mist with wings, flying straight towards her. The silver wings spanned about half the width of the room. As it flew, its shape morphed into human form, the wings remaining spread open.
As its face began to change, it was the eyes that gave his true identity away. They were the steel grey eyes that haunted her every night in her dreams. Kerim.
Before she could react, Harry called out to her. His voice was muffled by the sound of the vibrating energy reverberating against the walls.
She focused her energy on his words to make out what he was saying.
“Close the portal.”
A dark shadow was emerging from behind Kerim, racing toward them.
“Close the portal!” This time the command was from Kerim.
Serena grabbed her by the arm. “Close the portal! There’s something else coming over from the other side!”
Cristal switched gears and focused her energy toward the white light.
Serena pulled her arm again. “Can you hear me Cristal? Close the portal!”
She threw Serena a glare and snapped. “Dammit! Can’t you see that’s what I’m trying to do?”
The room became very still while a cloud of darkness fell upon them. She spun back toward the portal.
Blocking out the light was something double the size of Kerim; its golden wings outstretched a good twenty feet, reaching from one wall to the other across the width of the room. She recognized its eyes, dark as pools of liquid ink even before it started to take its human form.
She realized that her life was in grave danger.
In a matter of seconds, the giant cloud of mist transformed into its human form – a short stocky Mediterranean looking man with dark wavy hair and a fierce expression on his face. His wings remained outstretched as visual proof of his power. Was it to remind them that he was Archangel Rafael? But to Cristal, he was still just Raffe—Kerim’s strange friend.
“Here you are, Cristal Hernandez,” he said, his voice booming like a thunderclap. “I knew that if I followed this band of buffoons, it would lead straight to you.”
Now he thinks he’s a comedian.
Cristal swallowed hard as she scanned the room. Did the Truth Seekers have an idea of what to do next?
She noticed that Kerim’s stare was fixed on her. Chances were he was reading her thoughts again.
She glanced over to see Gabriel hide behind Kerim, shielding himself from Raffe. She had played enough online games with him to know that he was sensing impending danger.
Serena poked her in the arm. “Zero is sending a message,” she mumbled.
Cristal looked over to see Harry tapping his finger on his leg. Morse code. It was how he communicated with her while playing online games.
.... . / -.-. .- -. .----. - / .... ..- .-. - / -.-- --- ..- / .... . .-. . .-.-.-
The message said: He can’t hurt you here.
At that moment, Kerim rushed towards Harry, grabbing him by his jacket and hurling him to the ground.
Did he hear my thoughts? she asked herself.
“Oh yeah?” Kerim said as he pinned Harry down with his foot. “Tell me, Zero. Does this hurt?”
“Get off of me!” Harry thrashed his arms and legs, trying to free himself.
Without warning, Gabriel came from behind and rushed towards Kerim with both his fists up.
Kerim twisted his body, avoiding the hit. With a swift move, he grabbed Gabriel by the arm and threw him across the room like a boomerang.
Gabriel slammed against the wall and landed on the floor like a rag doll.
Serena whispered to her. “Do something or I will.”
Let’s see how tough you are, Kerim, Cristal thought to herself.
Like a runaway train, she ran towards him and attacked him with a sweep kick, quickly twisting her hip and directing the side of her shin into his shin, throwing him off balance.
“Get away from here, Harry! I got this covered,” she said as she pulled her knee up and backwards, striking Kerim in the knees with the ball of her foot, toppling him to the ground.
Harry jumped up, his mouth open in shock.
“Damn! You go, girl!” Serena called out.
Cristal knew that she had to take Kerim out fast before he had the chance to regain his senses. Bending her knee, she quickly extended her leg up and downwards, giving Kerim a foot-thrust kick to his neck.
Kerim was disabled for the time being. She left him motionless on the ground, backing away with her fists held close to her face, ready to defend herself with deadly punches if needed.
“Very good performance.”
Cristal’s eyes snapped upwards to catch Raffe clapping his hands. He had watched their antics with a bemused expression. The sneer on his face seemed to dare her to punch him.
“Leave me and my friends alone,” she said.
The vibrations from deep inside the core of her body pulsated in controlled but powerful waves around her.
Kerim groaned as he scrambled to sit up.
Poor Kerim. Cristal had used her special powers to add force to her kicks. Who would blame her? This was war, and if you want to win the fight you have to fight with equivalent or stronger force. Serena had always told her to fight dirty if needed.
Raffe sauntered over to Cristal, his wings stretching out wider than before.
“Friends? Don’t friends sway their loyalty and become lethal enemies in, how you say, a blink of an eye?” His words swirled around her head, like a lizard’s tongue flickering, teasing and taunting her.
She could sense Serena and Harry beside her. Gabriel was unmistakably close by too. His aura was releasing surges of fear and anger. Something must have happened to him on the other side, but now wasn’t the time to ponder the details.
Harry made the first move, stepping in front of Raffe. “We are not afraid of you,” he said with a steady voice.
Raffe’s gaze raked over him with disdain. “But you should be afraid, little mortal.” His lips curled into a chilling smirk.
Harry’s left hand was shaking, which meant his bravado was all a dramatic bluff. She had noticed his hand shake the day Gabriel died, when he was holding out his phone for her to watch the video that revealed Kerim’s true identity.
Raffe sighed and turned towards Cristal dismissing Harry’s challenge as nothing more than a distraction, an annoyance.
“You are an interesting one indeed,” he said, advancing towards her.
Serena crossed into his path, raising the pipe above her shoulder ready to strike.
“Let us go,” she said.
Raffe raised an eyebrow, pausing to speak. “Tick tock. Time is running out for you, little lady. It’s running out for your friends. For mankind.”
Serena spread her feet apart; knees bent preparing for her next move.
“Everyone step back,” Cristal said.
Raffe clapped his hands together generating a deafening sound.
“You heard the girl,” he said. The wave of his hand sent an invisible force shoving Serena and Harry off to either side like glass doors parting open for him to pass.
Serena and Harry gave each other a “what just happened” look.
Raffe continued walking towards Cristal.
“You freakin’ jerk!” she said.
“Now, now, that’s not very nice,” he said. He lifted his hand, the palm facing her.
She focused her thoughts on the energy inside of her, not taking time to deduce whether he was going to shoot first, talk later. Knock this Raffe onto his ass. You can do it.
She pointed her hands towards him, the energy shaking every muscle in her body. Her arms began to throb and beams of smoking white light blasted out from her hands directly at Raffe’s chest.
The blast threw him a few steps backward and for a millisecond his eyes widened in surprise.
“Cristal!” Harry cried out.
Raffe lifted himself off the ground, flapping his wings and building up speed in her direction like an angry bull charging towards the matador’s red cape.
Cristal funneled the power from the core of her body and pointed her hands towards Raffe again, sending more energy—blast after blast.
Although each hit seemed to help decelerate his speed, it didn’t hinder him from surging forward, as if making up for lost ground.
The more determined he seemed, the more energy Cristal summoned. Her natural stubbornness mixed with her blind faith in Harry gave her the will to fight. He can’t hurt me here.
Raffe stopped and hovered, looming in front of her, his human form dwarfed out by the gargantuan wings behind him. It was an odd sight to say the least.
“Cristal!” The thunderous roar emanating from Raffe’s lips muted Serena and Harry’s screams, snapping Cristal back to the event at hand.
“In the name of the Almighty One,” Raffe continued, “I command you to…”
Before he could finish, Cristal was shoved to the side with a huge force, causing her to collide into Serena and Harry like a bowling ball catching a spare. She landed on the ground, skidding to a stop.
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