I closed my eyes on the plain red bricks, the uneven cement, ignoring Cas’ nervous glances back to me as he kept watch. I focused on the tarmac below me, the crumpled take-away box under my left foot, the sounds, and the smells. Then I focused on nothing at all. Letting my mind relax and detach itself used to take me hours, now it took me seconds, seconds to block out everything, seconds to reach inside me for that rush of energy, that alien familiarity, seconds to grab it as it rushed past, seconds to release it.
I opened my eyes.
Cas was gazing at me, and I understood why. My wings are impressive, seriously. They are massive, completely disproportioned to my body, and they are the colour of the night sky. Not quite black, but actually a dark and inky blue with dark purple swirls mixed in. The scales are smooth and tough, the membrane stretched across the lightweight flexible bones. They are strong, fast, and agile. They are dangerous.
You see, the biggest mystery, the one thing all of us swear to discover, is how we are what we are. How did us four be the, as far as we know, only four people in the world with our powers? Cas and Mel could perhaps be just random freaks of nature with insane brains, but me and Pete? Not so much. Pete can change is appearance, however he likes. He can change the colour of his whole body, the texture of his whole body, with only the smallest amount of effort. And me? Well my skin I guess could be explained by the whole “freaks of nature theory” it being fireproof and all, but how about producing fire out of nowhere? And how about the fricken dragon wings that spring out of my back whenever I want them to? How the hell do you explain that?
We decided, the four of us, a little time before Metropolis fell, that we would try and work it out. We would find out what we were, where we came from, our parents, our backstories, how Metropolis found us when we were infants, why we’re all a similar age. We decided we would work it all out, when we were older and Metropolis decided we could look after ourselves. When TJP were less of a threat, or better, finished. For now we just had to deal with the unanswered questions, find a way to look at life without them ruining the picture. Now, I had to focus on getting me and Cas out of here alive.
Cas had seen my wings before, of course, hundreds of times, but I’m guessing the look a little strange in broad daylight, outlined against the brick wall behind me. He gaped like a fish for a minute, before looking once back over his shoulder and running to me. As we had decided, I climbed onto his shoulders to check over the wall, my wing folding at my back. If we were being watched form over the wall, the plan was foiled.
In the end, I had to stand on Cas’ shoulders to see over, but when I did, I was glad. The alleyway was the same. It ran all the way between the two buildings, and even though someone had built a wall across the middle, it was the same on each side. Tall, imposing brick buildings with no windows, the alleyway itself empty of people but filled with overflowing dumpsters.
I grinned down at Cas. “We’re good to go.”
He let me down, and touched my face slightly. “Pete is going to absolutely kill me for letting you do this. And if Jay was here, he would cut off my head and sick it on a pole, right next to yours.”
“Oi! Who says he would kill me first?” I say indignantly.
“Jay would murder you first, no questions asked.”
“I’m his favourite.”
“Even if that were true, he would still murder you first. Now stop changing the subject! You do realise that you are going to fly up a building in the middle of a town, in broad daylight, right?”
“Quit your worrying Cas. When have you been the one telling me not to take risks?”
“At least I can say I tried to talk you out of it now.” He grinned, mischief sparkling in his eyes. “Let’s do this.”
He turned his back to me and I carefully put my arms around him, hooking my hands under his arms.
He takes a deep breathe. “Re-“
Too late. I’ve leapt into the air, my wings adjusting quickly to the extra weight, and I’m flying upwards, slicing through the wind. I pull up over the edge of the roof, swooping low before landing, letting go of Cas. He stumbles and rights himself, and we look around. The roof is deserted. Flat, and empty, we both note the entrance- one small trapdoor. Cas tries it, it’s locked.
“Ok, what now?” My breathing is a bit heavy, I flew fast and I’m not used to the extra weight. My wings stir slightly in the breeze up here, and I smile. I haven’t flown in ages.
“We should head out of town. We need to get back to Mel and Pete.” Cas is breathing hard too. I hit him lightly on the arm and grin.
“Stop looking so exhausted! I’m the one that did all the work, and I had to carry your fat behind up here!”
He grins lazily. “I’m going to have you take me everywhere now, you can be my chauffer!”
“In your dreams Casper.”
“Uh-Oh, full name…”
“Shut it Cas”
“Much better” he grins, throwing an arm around my shoulders as we walk to the edge.
It’s not like hose films where everyone jumps from building to building. There’s an alleyway bellow us, a long way below us, and it’s too wide to jump. Sighing I move behind Cas again, and he laughs.
“Told you! You’re my chauffer!”
“Oh shut up, or I’ll drop you halfway.”
Before he can let out a heavy sarcastic gasp of ‘You wouldn’t!’ I take off.
The next roof is much the same, and we begin continue across it, but are stopped by the voices floating up from the ground in front of us.
“I swear I saw something!”
“Yeah right. It was probably just a big bird. You can see how mad they all are here, they probably feed the crows or something.”
“Look, no one has had a sighting since the false alarm by those new recruits. What’s the worst that could happen if we abandon our post for five minutes to see if it’s them! I mean, come on, something big with big wings in the air… what else could it be?”
“A fat crow!”
“Oh come on.”
Cas are staring at me, his pupils blown wide. I’m struggling to breathe. They saw us. My mind clicks into action and I start to drag Cas towards the edge, but he resists, pulling his arm out of my grip.
“Tallie, no. No way. We’ll never make it across the next alleyway, they’ll see us- again! Tallie I’ve got a bad feeling, a really bad one, we are not doing this.”
I look back at him. I think of his sobs earlier, the tears that spilled from the brown eyes I know almost as well as my own gold ones, those tears that spilled for me. Because he saw me dead. I shove the image away, now is not the time.
“We can make it- hurry! We can if we move now, now Cas!”
I grab his arm again and drag him, ignoring his protests, I spin round, looking straight into his desperate eyes. He grabs both my shoulders, shaking me.
“This is madness, if we stay, they won’t see us.”
“We can’t guarantee that! They’ve already seen us! We need to move before they can work it out, we need to warn Mel and Pete!” My thoughts are jumbled together. All I know is that I have to get us both out of here, as fast as I can, how else am I going to warn Mel and Pete? In the back of my mind is that continuous pulse of energy, the one that tells me my wings are out, the one that tells me to get in the air, to zoom and twist and fly as fast as I can. A dull pulse has started around my ears, all I can see is the sky, stretching out above me. And it’s mine. I am the sky, I am part of it. Air and fire, mixed together to create a weapon, to create me. But I refuse to be a weapon. I want to be the sky, I want to be fire, I want to be able to feel the air rush across my skin as the fire burns inside me. Cas doesn’t understand, I can do this.
“Tallie, see reason, please, this could get you killed, get us both killed, it could get everyone killed!.” I don’t hear him. Not over my pounding heart and rushing blood, drowning out the rest of the world.
I grin, letting the twisted thoughts become a twisted smile. I spin around behind him, feeling my wing unfurl and stretch tall, up to the sky. Wrapping my arms around his torso, I look down at the alleyway, then up to the sky, and jump.