Home > End of Days (Penryn & the End of Days #3)(15)

End of Days (Penryn & the End of Days #3)(15)
Author: Susan Ee

I put his head down, making sure there’s a folded jacket to cushion it. I can’t think of anything else to do. So I leave him to his business of dying.

14

I find the most normal clothes I can for Paige. A pink shirt with a sparkly heart, jeans, high-tops, and a zip-up sweater. I make sure everything but her shirt is a dark color so she won’t be seen at night. I also make sure that the sweater has a big enough hood to shadow her face in case we need to go unnoticed.

For me, it’s black boots, black jeans, and a maroon top that will hide the blood that’s bound to stain it. I just hope that blood will be someone else’s instead of mine. I might as well dress postapocalyptic practical. I also grab a down jacket that’s as light as a . . . I put it down and pick a dark fleece jacket instead. I’m not in the mood for angel reminders right now.

Raffe has found a baseball cap and a dark trench coat that covers his wings. He looks good in a baseball cap.

I mentally roll my eyes at myself. I’m such a dork. The world is coming to an end, my sister is a man-eating monster, there’s a dying man in the store with us, and we’ll be lucky to survive another night. And I’m here drooling after a guy who doesn’t even want me. He’s not even human. How messed up is that? Sometimes, I wish I could take a vacation from myself.

I shove his coat and cap into my backpack with more force than necessary.

By the time we get out of the store, the angels are gone. Raffe moves to hold me for flight.

I step back. ‘You don’t have to. I’ll catch a ride with one of the locusts.’ I have to force the words out. The last thing I want to do is be in the arms of a scorpion-tailed monster.

But Raffe has made it all too clear that this – whatever this is that we may or may not have between us – is a nonstarter. He’s made it clear that he’s leaving. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that trying to make someone stay with you when he doesn’t want to is a recipe for heartbreak. Just ask my mom.

I clench my teeth. I can do it. So what if it’s utterly creepy to walk into the arms of a nightmare creature with a needle-sharp stinger that almost killed you? A girl’s gotta have some scrap of pride, even in the World After.

Raffe watches me as if reading my thoughts. Then he looks at the locusts. His lip curls as he assesses them, his eyes scanning from their thick legs to their insectile torsos to their iridescent wings. He looks at the curled stingers last.

He shakes his head. ‘Those wings are so flimsy I wouldn’t trust them to carry you. And those overgrown nails – you’d catch an infection if they scratched you. You can ride one when they improve on the design.’ He steps forward and, in one smooth motion, lifts me into his firm embrace. ‘Until then, you’re stuck with me being your air taxi.’

He takes flight before I can argue.

There’s a wind blowing from the bay, and it’s pointless to try to hold a conversation. So I relax my muscles and tuck my face into the curve of his neck. Maybe for the last time, I let his warm body shelter me.

As the sun sets, I catch a few fire glows below us, probably hidden campfires that got out of control. They look like tiny candles in a shadowy landmass.

We have to land four times on the way south to avoid being seen by angels. I’ve never seen so many in the air before. Raffe tenses every time we spot the flying formations.

Something serious is going on with his people, but he can’t get anywhere close to them, much less get involved. With every passing minute, I can feel his urgency to get his feathered wings reattached so he can dive back into his world.

I try not to think about what will happen in my world when he does.

Eventually, we fly over the Resistance headquarters – otherwise known as Paly High. It sits like every other deserted group of buildings, with no indication that it’s anything special.

In the parking lot, every car faces the street so it won’t have to do a U-turn to get out. Assuming Obi’s escape plan has been executed properly, the cars are gassed and ready to go, with keys in the ignition.

As we descend, I see bodies hunched behind tires and trees and lying out in the open like the dead. A few people scramble here and there in the moonlight, but they look the same as people moving everywhere else in the World After. Obi has done a nice job of training people not to bring attention to their headquarters, even though the camp must be overflowing now that they’ve rescued the Alcatraz refugees.

We circle above the grove across the street from Paly. The moon is rising in the twilight shadows, letting us see without being seen. There’s still enough light to see a few shadows scattering into the bushes as we come down. I’m surprised there are people out here at dusk, considering how spooked everyone is of the monsters in the dark.

When we land, Raffe lets me go. The night air feels cold on my skin after being held by him for so long.

‘You stay here out of sight,’ I say. ‘I’ll see if I can find out whether Doc is here or not.’

‘Not a chance.’ Raffe reaches for my backpack and pulls out his trench coat and cap.

‘I know it’s hard for you to wait while I scope out the situation, but I can handle it. Besides, who’s going to watch Paige?’ As soon as I ask this question, I know it’s the wrong thing to say. You don’t tell an elite soldier to stay behind and watch the kids.

‘Her pets can babysit.’ He puts on his coat, carefully shifting his shoulders until the wings settle beneath the fabric. He slips on the backpack for good measure. His feathered wings are wrapped in a blanket and strapped to the pack, looking like an ordinary bedroll. His demon wings can mold themselves to his back, but the pack hides any unusual bulges that might catch someone’s eye.

Everything about this situation makes me nervous. Raffe is walking into a camp full of hostiles. Paige shouldn’t be so close to people who wanted to tear her to pieces. And the last time I saw Obi, he had me arrested.

There’s also a part of me that doesn’t want Raffe eavesdropping on people. Of course, I’ve repeatedly trusted him with my life, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s one of the enemy. Any minute now, we might have to choose our loyalties. When that happens, I’d be an idiot to think we’ll be on the same side.

But my instincts tell me that out of all the things to worry about right now, that’s low on the list. My sensei always told me to trust my instincts, that my gut knows things my brain doesn’t and can figure things out faster.

 

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