Copyright 2016 Emmanuel Obi, Jr.
Published by Emmanuel Obi, Jr. at Smashwords
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[* This is a short story that I am thinking about making into a novel. I think it will work better as a novel. Not sure it works as a short story. What do you think? Twitter: @efaceless *]
James had gotten home a little late from work so there evening walk was a bit delayed. Angela walked next to James as he pushed the stroller through the park near their home. He always had to push the stroller. His argument being the fact that she got to have the little one all day, he at least deserved to push the stroller.
Angela looked down on Alex as he slept in the gently bouncing buggy. She smiled, hugged James’s arm and pushed her face against his.shoulder She closed her eyes and deeply inhaled the cool dusk air. A wave of contentment washed through her.
She felt James stop abruptly. Angela opened her eyes and looked up at him.
“Honey, why did you . . .” it was then she noticed his face. James was horrified. Angela followed his eyes to the stranger standing in their way of the trail. Then she noticed the gun. Terror gripped her, everything seemed to slow down.
This was all a dream. Please be a dream.
James immediately pulled Angela and the stroller behind him. His arms spread trying to shield them as best he could. The stranger seemed off-balance. He rocked side to side in an impaired uncertainty of his orientation. Something was wrong with his eyes. Something was in his eyes. Drugs . . .
“What do you want?” James asked. The strength of his tone was tainted with worry. “Money?” He quickly pulled out his wallet and threw it at the stranger’s feet. The stranger looked down at the wallet with disdain as though it were an insult to him.
Flames erupted from his weapon and suddenly James was falling. Angela thought her eyes were lying to her as she watched James collapse.
This was all a dream. It has to be a dream. Please be a dream.
She leapt in front of the stroller as two more flashes of fire ripped into the dwindling light of sunset. Angela felt a burning in her stomach and stumbled backwards but she did not fall.
Alex . . .
Her feelings of terror quickly shifted into feelings of rage. She could feel her blood rushing through her body. Her skin was burning; it felt like it would melt away. Her heart tried to tear itself from her chest. Something was different. Something in her wanted out.
Blinding pain surged through her body. Crimson erupted from her back as her heavenly white wings ripped through her skin. She stared at the stranger; yellow engulfing the iris of her hazel-brown eyes, her hatred overflowing.
She charged . . .
Angela watched from afar as he pushed the stroller along the sidewalk. Alone. She sat on the roof of a church about two miles away. Angela wanted nothing more than to hold her husband and son again. To kiss them. But it was too dangerous. It had just gotten to the point where it was peaceful in James’s life. After the attack in the park and her transformation several law enforcement agencies and branches of the government (from several governments actually) had been questioning James. Borderline harassing. He cooperated with all the information he had, which was nothing anyway. He had no idea how this happened, what his wife was, or where she was.
James had no idea that she had never left his side. For this reason Angela donned rags and tore clothing, doing her best to appear as though she was homeless, and kept watch over her family from a distance.
Tears rolled down her cheek. She missed them.
From the branch of a tree she eagerly watched as he stood, his hips wobbled with the uncertainty of not knowing where to be. His hand on the coffee table was his last bit of security before venturing off into this new world.
“Come on, Alex! Come on, baby! You can do it!” Angela whispered to herself excitedly. Her words were mirrored by James as he stood a few feet away, bent at the knee, his arms opened wide. Alex let go of the table and made his first step toward his father. His diaper covered bottom wiggled as his hips continued to search for their proper place in this insane experiment. The second step followed, Alex’s arms were spread. Anything necessary to maintain his balance. The third was a bit easier, the fourth a little easier than that. Finally he fell into his father’s arms on the fifth step. James lifted him into the air yelling in jubilation, brimming with pride and joy. Alex giggled uncontrollably. Angela tore into the sky. Her excitement overflowing. An indescribable sense of happiness from something so small.
Angela realized she was in the air and dove back into the tree. She was sure someone saw her so she would have to leave soon, but she wanted to see them one last time before she did. Angela looked through the window and saw James embracing Alex. She saw James say the words “Your mother would have been so proud of you.” Angela felt a tear at the corner of her eye. She leapt from the tree and soared toward the sun.
Angela had learned how to do many things with her wings. They had more dexterity than she thought. She lifted her arms and made her left wing wrap under her arms and around her body. She then made the right wing wrap over the left wing. She pulled on a brown trench coat over herself and now she appeared to a bit thicker. She pulled a blonde wig over her pristine brown hair and donned a pair of wire frame faux glasses.
She walked into the school as casually as possible. This was the closest she’d been to people in years. She felt extremely exposed.
“Hi, there…” Angela’s heart stopped. Someone was trying to get her attention. She slowly turned and saw what appeared to be an unassuming man desperate for conversation. Angela was afraid to even speak. She wasn’t sure she still knew how to anymore. She’d spent so many days alone . . .
The man was clearly taken aback by her golden eyes.
“Let me guess, the eyes” Angela responded to his reaction smoothly. “It’s a birth defect. I am truly one in a million.”
“I’m so sorry.” The words fell out of his mouth awkwardly. “I didn’t mean to . . . If I’ve offended you . . .”
“It’s okay, I’m use to it.” She lied.
“So . . .” he was trying to recover. “Which rugrat is yours?”
“None of them actually,” Angela smiled. “Kevin is my nephew.” Please God, I hope he doesn’t know that kid’s parent. Kevin was one of the neighbors’ kids. A little demon child actually.
“Ah . . . so . . .” Angela didn’t hear anything else the awkward man was saying. James had walked into the room holding Alex’s hand. Her heart raced as she smiled to herself. This was the closest she had been to him since that evening. His little green lederhosen made her heart melt.
Alex and James walked past her without acknowledging her presence, not knowing it was her. This was for the best but it still hurt. This wasn’t supposed to be her life. Alex was supposed to run and leap into her arms, hugging her neck. He was suppose to talk a mile a minute about how interesting his day was as James put an arm around her waist and gave her a kiss on the forehead. A tear rolled down her cheek. This wasn’t supposed to be her life.
Angela found a seat in the back of the auditorium.
“Family and Friends,” the music teacher spoke from next to her piano. “We would like to welcome you to the Mrs. Harrison’s kindergarten class’ presentation of Hansel and Gretel.”
Alex had a bully at school. A big kid that was two grades ahead of him. This little shit kept pushing Alex and picking on him, calling him Orphan Annie because his mother was dead. Angela was far from a violent person but this kid was pushing the limit.
Today Alex finally stood up to him and the kid punched him in the face, pushed him to the ground and kicked him in the stomach. Then he stepped on Alex’s lunch. Angela watched it all from the roof of a nearby convenient store. She couldn’t get the image of ripping the pre-teen’s head off and showing his friends what would happen if you fucked with Alex.
Alex ran back home. James hadn’t left for work yet. He had no idea Alex had a bully and was shocked to see him walk in crying and beaten. James sat Alex down and cleaned the cut in his lip and tended to his black eye.
“I’m proud of you for standing up to him.”
“But he beat me up and . . .”
“He did that to scare you. I’m sure if you show him you’re not afraid again he’ll leave you alone.”
I’ll make sure of that. Angela watched through the window from her tree.
“Let me call into work and then we’ll get you some ice cream.” She thought for a moment how wonderful a father James was.
Typically, this little Satan seed went to the skating rink after school. He always walked down the same sidewalk at the same time. He was walking down this sidewalk at this very moment. Walking in the opposite direction was a thick blonde woman in a trench coat with wire rim glasses.
Angela hesitated; a man was walking behind the kid. He was usually on this sidewalk alone. The man turned and stepped into the store just as Angela and her victim crossed paths in front of an alley. She grabbed the back of the kid’s neck and spun with him into the alley. Angela held him off the ground and against the wall. Her golden eyes seemed to pierce through him.
Her message was simple:
“Leave Alex alone!” She reached deep into her chest for a demonic voice that echoed through the alley. The bully trembled with fear, his eyes bulging with fear. “If you touch him again . . .” She let out an eagle-like shriek as her wings ripped the trench coat into pieces and spread through the alley. The bully’s pants were now soaked in urine. She pulled him close and whispered into his ear, “Do. Not. Touch. Alex.” Angela dropped the bully and leapt into the sky. She knew she should have felt ashamed of what she did to a child but it was strangely satisfying. A delighted smile drew across her face.
It’s funny how people meet. Alex and the bully, Kenneth, ended up best friends eventually. Apparently Kenny’s father was in prison. His mother was working two jobs at the time, trying to stay afloat. As time passed Kenny started spending the evenings at James’s house while his mother was at work. James (and Alex) really didn’t mind. James liked having the boys in the house. Alex looked at Kenny like a brother now. In fact, some of Alex was rubbing off on Kenny. Kenny’s teachers raved about his improved grades and better behavior. All of this, of course, helped Cindy, Kenny’s mother, tremendously because James constantly refused payment for taking care of Kenny.
“Kenny being here helps me as much as it helps you. He keeps Alex out of my hair so I can actually get some things done around the house.”
Soon Cindy found a better job. Secretarial work for an Investment Bank. 8 am to 4.45 pm and enough money to allow her quit both of her other jobs. But at this point the boys were inseparable. So rather than split them up in the evening she would join them for dinner or they would all have dinner at Kenny’s house. (Something Kenny was very proud of, he could finally welcome James and Alex into his home the way they did for him).
James and Cindy shared many pre- and post-dinner conversations. They seemed to really enjoy each other’s company. In fact, they enjoyed each other too much for Angela. Angela knew James was a good man and that he deserved to be happy with someone. He had been alone for nearly 15 years (he just thought things were simpler that way) and he had not even been on a date. Angela's picture was still on his nightstand. He had just taken off his ring a three years ago but he still wore it on a necklace around his neck. She genuinely wanted him to move on and be happy. But watching him smile and laugh with this woman, going to their sons' soccer games together, washing dishes together, clearly flirting with each other. It tore at her soul. It was devastating for her. She still loved him and she knew he still loved her. But there was something between James and Cindy. They didn't act on it but it was there, she knew it and they knew it.
One Saturday afternoon they were installing new lights in Cindy’s home. The boys had gone to the mall. Cindy slipped on the ladder and fell on top of James and they both collapsed to the floor.
“No . . .” she whispered to herself. She knew what would happen even if they didn’t.
James and Cindy laughed.
“No . . .”
Their laughter stopped once they made eye contact.
“No . . .”
They stared at each other with a sheepish intensity. Both were afraid and excited. They felt like teenagers before their first kiss.
“Please, no . . .” she whispered to herself, her heart breaking.
The kiss was tender. A kiss Angela knew very well.
Alex and Kenny had noticed that someone was following them from their soccer practice. Their stalker looked like a CIA agent from a movie; black suit with black sunglasses. He wasn’t very discreet; on the contrary, he made it as obvious as possible that he was following them. As the boy’s walked around corners he would jog a bit to catch up and resume his slower pace once they were in sight.
Angela had noticed the stalker two days ago. The previous days he was more elusive and therefore not noticed by the boys. Today he made no attempt to hide himself, which worried her.
“Hey, kid.” The boys turned around. The strangers reached behind his back and her eyes caught a flash of metal. Angela dove from her perch on the roof of a church and rocketed toward the earth. She landed on the ground between the boys and their stalker. Fear gripped Kenny as oppose to Alex’s amazement. Kenny remembered the monster that still haunted his dreams. Angela stood tall, bold; her wings spread wide. The man’s reaction surprised her. He didn’t appear afraid, in fact, a thin smirk crawled across his face.
It was a setup.
He fired and was able to get off three shots into Angela before she broke his arm. With one hand around his neck she lifted him into the air.
“Help!” She heard Kenny scream. Angela turned to see Alex on the ground writhing in pain, blood pouring from his body and mouth. Her eyes widened with horror as her heart jumped into her throat. A squeeze of her hand and the stalker’s larynx was crushed. In one fluid motion she leapt toward Alex and scooped him into her arms as she launched herself into the sky.
Angela’s heart raced, tears were pulled from her eyes by the wind as she flew as fast as her wings would push her. Which didn’t seem fast enough. Seconds seemed like hours. Alex clutched at her arm, apparently in too much pain to even take note of the situation. His muscles were tense as he cried in agony. Angela hadn’t believed in God for a long time and she hoped He would forgive her for that.
Alex suddenly became eerily still. As she approached the hospital she pushed against the air one final time and wrapped her wings around herself and Alex as they barreled toward the seventh floor window. Angela crashed through the window and managed to land on her feet.
Everyone in the hall of the hospital froze and just stared at her. Their fear was apparent. No one would dare go near her.
One nurse fought her instincts and ran toward Angela.
“He was shot.”
“Where? How many times?”
“I think his chest and stomach. I . . . I don’t know how many? Three. Four.” The nurse signaled for an orderly. He snapped to his senses and rushed over. Angela handed her son to him.
“Have you been hurt?” The nurse asked. Angela didn’t acknowledge her. She just stared as the orderly placed her son’s limp body on the gurney. “Hey! Are you hurt?”
“No.” Her bullet wounds had already healed. She looked down at her blood soaked, tattered clothes. She realized that all eyes were on her. Angela stepped back and dove through the shattered window.
James sat next to Alex, clutching his hand. He’d just got out of surgery and the doctor told him the next 48 hours would be the most crucial.
James noticed a shadow outside of the fourth floor window.
“Did you bring him here?”
“Yes. How is he?” She replied. The first words she had said to James in 15 years.
“The doctors said it doesn’t look good” a lump caught in his throat as he struggled to maintain his composure. His body trembled. “But if he makes it through the next 48 hours then there’s a good chance.”
“James . . . I am so sorry.”
“Who’s James?” He looked confused.
“Um, you are.”
“My name is Matthew, Matt.”
Now Angela was confused. “No your name is James Monroe. I’m your wife Angela; this is our son, Alex. There was an incident about 15 years ago.” She stepped through window. Matthew was taken aback but not afraid. You were shot and this happened to me. Don’t you remember?”
“No, my wife’s name was Rebecca. She died giving birth to my son, Marcus.”
“What?” She looked closer at James. He had brown hair and blues, but his face was different. This was not James.
As though a dam exploded a flood of memories overwhelmed her mind.
Angela held her baby after killing their attacker, sobbing wildly. The bullets that hit her travelled through her body and pierced the stroller, killing Alex.
Angela sat outside of James’s hospital window as he sat quietly crying. He didn’t speak.
Angela watched Alex’s funeral from within the bell tower of the church. James stood to give a eulogy, but didn’t speak. He stared into the crowd of faces, stepped down and left the service. Once everyone was gone Angela flew down to the grave and hugged the tombstone, her agony was overwhelming, her crying was uncontrollable.
She felt a pinch in her shoulder and a sudden rush of nausea and drowsiness. Angela looked at her shoulder and saw a dart. She looked over her shoulder and saw several men in suits, black suits, running toward her. She launched herself into the air.
Angela found herself in a different city watching a man push a stroller. She thought to herself that he looked a lot like James . . .
“Oh God! No!” Angela felt a sudden loss of balance. She couldn’t stay on her feet. It felt as though her world was collapsing around her. Nothing was real. “No!” Alex was dead, she didn’t know where her husband was or if he was even alive. And she had spent years watching, protecting a family that wasn’t hers.
The hospital room came to life as instruments all gave their own warning. Marcus was seizing. Angela’s worry immediately shifted back to Marcus. The doctors and nurses hesitated as they saw Angela standing in the room, they slowly came to the realization that the creature before them was not there to interfer and that their patient was dying and needed them.
Angela noticed a man watching from the hall through the window. A man in a black suit.
The door ripped off the hinges as she exploded toward the man. Angela’s hand was around his neck before he knew that she moved. He had an accomplice, another man in a black suit about twenty feet away. His fear could clearly be seen through his dark glasses. He dropped his coffee, too petrified to move.
“Paddles!” Angela’s attention turned back to Alex . . . Marcus. How do you stop the feelings for someone that was so precious to you? She watched him grow. She’d feared for him, worried about him, celebrated, cried, laughed, loved him. He was her son. How do you stop loving your son?
The doctor looked at James . . . Matthew and shook his head. Angela’s heart crumpled as she fell to her knees. Matthew fell to his knees as well; he clutched Marcus’ hand, his wailing echoing through the hospital.
“Alex . . .” Angela whispered to herself.
Angela’s breath was gone. She felt like she was drowning.
“Alex, please come back . . .”
The nurse slowly pulled the sheet over Marcus’ face.
“Please . . .”
He was gone.
Angela’s eyes focused on the man still in her grasp. A primal cry erupted from her lungs. The hospital fell eerily silent as though the very building feared her. She looked back at Alex and met eyes with Matthew. Their eyes shared the deepest sorrow.
“I’m sorry.” She said softly. Matthew didn’t hear her but could see what she said. He shook his head as if to say, it’s not your fault.
Her head knew that it wasn’t her fault but her heart didn’t. Either way, she would find who was responsible.
Moments later she held both men in black upside down by their ankles on the roof of the hospital, over the street, one in each hand.
“Who sent you? Who do you work for?”
“Fuck you, freak! Put us down! We won’t tell you shit!”
“I wasn’t talking to you.” Angela let go of the one that spoke. His screams were silenced by the crunch of his skull against unforgiving pavement.
She moved her attention to the remaining suit.
“Okay, okay! Jacob Colston! Medstrong Inc. He’s wanted you since the first day you were discovered. He wanted to do research or something. Study you.”
Angela’s eyes narrowed. She let go of the second man. His screams brought her no comfort either.
Colston lived on the 45th floor of Colston Tower. The biomedical field had been exceptionally lucrative for Mr. Colston. One of the 10 richest men in the country. The pharmaceutical branch of his company alone had offices in over 15 countries. Some thought he had more influence than most presidents.
Apparently this gave him a sense of invincibility. Immortality. Because when Angela tore into his penthouse apartment he didn’t even show any fear. His security detail had already made it into the room. Angela used Colston as a shield, her back to the broken window. He had remained silent, a smug smile on his face. Not a care in the world. In his mind, this wouldn’t be a problem at all.
As they screamed from behind their guns for Angela to release Colston she could only think of Alex, of all the memories that were false. Gone.
Learning to ride a bike . . .
His first kiss in the driveway from Jennifer . . .
His first soccer goal . . .
His first time ice skating . . .
Holding him for the first time in the hospital . . .
Her son was gone. Nothing would change that. The boy she watched grow into a young man had been stripped from her. Even if he had not been her real son, the result of a broken mind’s delusion, he felt like her son. She loved him like her son. She loved him, that’s all that mattered.
He was her son . . .
And he was gone . . .
And at that moment, with several men holding assault rifles fixed on her as she held the man responsible for her son’s death. She could think of no better alternative. Angela leapt backwards out of the window, embracing Mr. Colston. She folded her wings back and fell and fell and fell. She closed her eyes and thought about the first time she held her son for one last time.
[* This is a short story that I am thinking about making into a novel. I think it will work better as a novel. Not sure it works as a short story. What do you think? Twitter: @efaceless *]