So, sometimes characters come very easily for me, while others remain in the shadows for a while. When they finally decide to come out and play, the ones who have been hiding and have been totally obscure for the longest time tend to be my favorites. Sometimes it helps to kinda sketch them out, let them tell their stories, and let them start develop their own personality. It usually ends up being pretty dang cool.
Yep! That's me reading Angel's story on Friday night!
This weekend, I got a chance to participate in another reading at Denton Square Donuts’s Word in the Hole event. It was lots of fun and there were a few English majors there to make fun of to boot. Anyway, I was having a hard time trying to figure out what to share, and a new character from my dieselpunk novella series (still in development) decided to come out and play a few days before, so I thought I’d let her tell a bit of her story. I’ve been getting lots of questions about what I read, so I thought I’d share it here:
I cringed as my wings folded inward. I never got used to the sensation; it hurt every time. I closed my eyes to the pain; I could almost feel every single feather resume its shape, become the ink on my back once more. They felt like stabs from a knife.
I opened my eyes and let out a shaky breath. I stepped around the corner; I needed to find Eddie and get out of here. As I did, the bricks scraped the skin of my arm raw, but compared to the metamorphosis I’d just gone through, it was nothing. These bricks could draw blood and I wouldn’t notice it after that. The smoke from the stacks of a nearby factory curled into the sky where the sun was setting below the murky horizon. A man passed by me, surrounded by a cloud of black demons.
I wish I could blink my eyes and make them go away, but I can’t.
The vaccine affected us all, but it really hit me hard. Maybe I could see other people’s demons because I’d been combating my own for so long. I was just overwhelming thankful that I’d decided to get tattoos of angel wings on my back during a wild, drunken bout of poor judgment, and not something like barbed wire. It wasn’t until after the vaccine that I saw the demons. It wasn’t until after the vaccine that I realized anything drawn into my skin could be materialized. It wasn’t until after the vaccine that I learned what pain really was.
I had a dagger tattooed on the inside of my right arm fairly soon after that; a shield on the outside of my left. You can guess what I did with these. The wings are by far my favorite though. They’re black and tower over my head. With them, I can fly.
Eddie and Violet – the wonder twins, although they aren’t even related– they’re the ones that found me. It was Eddie who called me Angel first, because of the wings. It fits. He didn’t know I could see people’s demons then. I’ve always thought the name was ironic.
Eddie was the first person to actually see me. He saw me as a person; as a fellow victim of the government’s test. The Spanish Influenza was hitting hard, and the government ok’d a covert series of experiments on a bunch of orphans to see if they could cure the disease that was killing off scores of people. Something in the vaccine changed our body chemistry; gave us special powers. When Eddie and Violet found me, I thought I was going insane. Violet put her little arm around my waist and looked up at me with the most knowing smile I’d ever seen. She knew what I was going through. Eddie became my best friend over night. He was the first man to look at me and just see me. He didn’t see my figure; he didn’t see my blond hair and blue eyes. Hell, he didn’t even see my wings when they unfolded painfully away from my spine. He just saw me, and me alone.
Now you’re wondering about the demons, aren’t you? Everyone’s surrounded by them. I heard a story once about an angel who takes a man around and shows him people walking the streets. The man sees some people surrounded by demons and some with just one hovering around them. When the angel asks him who the better people are, the man answers that it must be the people with just one or two demons floating around them, instead of the ones with ten, twelve, even fifteen demons in tow. The angel chuckles and says, “No, no. The man with one demon is the worst. It only takes one devil to get him to do evil. The man who requires ten to be swayed to do evil is the better of the two.” It wasn’t until after the vaccine that I realized how true this is.
“Hey! There you are,” Eddie exclaimed out of nowhere.
I came to stand beside him, watching the people pass by. We needed to get back to the ship. A man walking by had three devils dancing around his shoulders. An elderly woman walking up the other way had seven or eight struggling for her attention. One of them caught sight of me – some of the damned things figured out I could see them – its black eyes smiled at me and the expression sent chills running up my spine.
“Uh…yeah,” I replied distractedly.
“Yes,” I answered firmly.
“See a bad one?” He knew me better than I knew myself sometimes.
I nodded and smiled at him, feeling relief spread over me. There were no demons around him. An interesting side effect of being able to see the devils is that they tend to leave you and your family alone. They want to push people to do bad things; they don’t actually want to be seen by them.
“Did you get it?” I whispered.
He nodded and opened his bag wide enough for me to take a peek. A rusted compass rested inside.
He grinned at me. His mood was damn near infectious. I chuckled and shook my head. I’d just taken out three of Colonel Hertzog’s troopers, all for a near-busted compass. I never understood Eddie’s plans until after they played out, but I trusted him with my life. He knew what he was doing.
The walkie-talkie on my hip crackled.
“Red Fox, this is Silver Eagle,” Violet’s syrupy voice called through the static.
“Go for Red Fox,” I replied.
“You’ve got some company on your tail; three coming up fast. We’re five clicks north of you.”
I slid the walkie-talkie back onto my belt and looked at Eddie. He didn’t say anything, but I knew what he was thinking – do we make a run for it, or stand and fight? We’re in the middle of a war. Our eyes met, and we immediately knew what we would do.
The vaccine’s side effects gave Eddie the ability to sway people’s thoughts; he could convince a man stuck in the middle of Death Valley to buy ten tons of sand from him if he wanted to. He never used this power on me; he didn’t have to. When Eddie decided he wanted to fight, I was with him one hundred percent.
I shrugged. “She said there were only three.”
His lips stretched into a smile and he pulled his modified Luger out of its holster on his hip. I closed my eyes and thought about the dagger that would soon be in my right hand. It felt like something was ripping my skin from my body, which it kind of was. Then a split second later I felt its hot metal in my hand. My arm throbbed like it had been burned. Every time.
“You ready?” he asked.
I shrugged, and we took off on foot in the opposite direction of Violet and the others in the airship. We headed south, toward Hertzog’s goons. The last thing we wanted was them following us back to the ship. Then we’d have real problems.
The goons were easy enough for us to find; for all of his evilly creative innovation, Colonel Claus Hertzog’s minions were as predictable as possible. They always looked for us in the same places: dark alleys, abandoned warehouses. It was funny, actually. It was like the concept of “underground fighter” was a literal idea for them. Stupid lemmings. These guys were bigger than the troops I’d fought earlier. They clearly weren’t soldiers, but they were huge and bent on our destruction nonetheless. It didn’t register until later that there were no demons hovering around these guys.
I’ve never seen a fight go down like they do in the new talkies you can catch at the theater. There’s never been any sort of showdown; there’s no posturing and quick-witted words exchanged. It’s just action and reaction. Eddie ran before me, Luger drawn out in front. One of the goons barreled towards him with a blank look on his face. Eddie hit him in the temple with the grip of the gun and the much larger man fell in a heap at his feet.
The other two drew their own guns – shiny, modified outfits I’d never seen before. They aimed them directly at Eddie. There was no way they were taking us out. I was airborne before I considered what was going on, the huge black wings unfolding from my back. That always caused enough of a distraction for us to get the job done. Eddie shot one of the remaining minions while my dagger plunged into the neck of the other as I landed behind him.
The goon convulsed under my hand with a sputtering of mechanical fluid and electrical sparks.
“What the hell?” I exclaimed.
Eddie watched as the one he’d shot just kind of shorted out. He looked at me with wide eyes. This was something we hadn’t seen before. Hertzog must be making robots that look like humans now. Fantastic.
The one that Eddie had just knocked out started coming to. I dropped the body I’d been holding up in wonder and ran after Eddie. He pulled the goon up by the collar of his jacket and glared at him.
“What are you?” he demanded.
“Soldier of Colonel Hertzog,” it replied flatly, its eyes staring up at the sky without expression.
“What’s your purpose?” I asked.
“To see that Colonel Hertzog’s mission is accomplished. To expand Hertzog’s empire.”
I pulled out the Luger that I kept tucked into my waistband and popped the machine in the head. Eddie dropped the convulsing, sparking body and looked up at me with mild irritation.
“I wasn’t done with it,” he said.
I shrugged. “I was.”
He shook his head at me.
“Nothing,” he replied. “Let’s get out of here. We’ve got real problems now.”
©Copyright 2012 Meg Winkler. All rights reserved.