Gray Angel

I

It was black, that maelstrom of a void, and threatened to swallow her whole.  It was a lost seagull finding the eye of the hurricane in the middle of the night – dark, calm, but calamity roared everywhere else.  It felt like being drowned in a pool of ink, eternally pitch-black and smothering.   There was so much noise, and so much commotion, but the vortex was utterly black and deviant of sound. 

What she saw took half a second to see, but an eternity to witness. 

In the corners of her eyes she saw faint whispers pass her by.  They were silvery forms born from the edge of her vision but were chased away by the infinity of the darkness.  Human forms, some type of spirit, with faces of anguish and pain and despair contorting their silvery faces.  But when she tried to study them more, each one was swept underfoot the black winds.

Then, vibrant purple wisps flew from the far center, traveling with the current as it dissolved into the darkness.  They flew like leaves in the wind, colored like violet toxicity, dashing by her in splotches and tangles.

Joining the violet wind, dark blue electricity cackled spontaneously.  Now the void was alive with blue lightning, snapping thunderously, and threatened to smother her conscious with their overwhelming energy.  It whipped around the tunnel like thick ropes, snaking around her, jarring her vision. 

The light blinded her.  Blinded.  The light that was as dark as the presence of midnight but intense ever still.

She was violently dragged back into the real world, gasping for breath.  Her eyes were still squeezed shut against the intensity she had just witnessed.  Her hands, which were clenched so tightly that they threatened to break her bones, were bound by chain and attached to a bar on the table.  She laid her forehead on her knuckles, striving for breath and calm.

 She sobbed.  She didn't want this burden.

She supported herself by bracing her elbows against the table, but her head hung down as her shoulders shook.  How was she ever going to do this?

Five figures stood around the table, crossing their arms, watching her from their position in the shadows, and seriously doubting her.  She wasn't even sure of her skills.

"Come on," drawled the vampire, stepping into the light and offering her a slim smile.  His pristine fangs gleamed derisively.  He was not an evil demon, but he was a melancholy one.  "How in the world do you think you can help us when you can't even See?"

"I can See," she said stubbornly.

"Are you sure?  You don't even dare open your eyes to the other world.  You don't even open your eyes for us to see their true color."

"I'll try again," she said, gritting her teeth.  She held up her head, brown eyes wet with the pain it caused her. 

The vampire stepped back into the shadows, compassion etching his forehead, mouth pressed in a skeptical feature.  She closed her eyes, clasped her hands, and searched for the empty tunnel that lived inside her head.

She dragged herself through that tunnel, cold and sticky.  Cold that was unlike ice, but the kind that filtered through souls and lived in bone marrow.  Stickiness that wasn't felt on the skin, but were sappy barriers that gently clawed on her inner core.  Remember to keep your eyes open

She continued to craw through, blindly, but following the tunnel.  She knew that most people, at least the certain masters who proffered in what she was trying to accomplish, would pass through this tunnel in a blink of an eye – keep your eyes open – so easily as if it didn't exist.  This tunnel didn't exist to them – there was no barrier between them and their vision.

Pausing at the end, she heard the roar of the vortex welcome itself into the ears of her mind.  She was terrified of the silence, that tortuous silence that rocked her bones.  She didn't know why she was afraid – she saw it just as a dark hurricane.  What was there to be scared about a swirl of black, blue, and purple?  Somehow, she knew that if she opened her eyes, she would be letting the complete spectra into her eyes. 

She was afraid of the spectra.  A full spectra meant white light.  White light was so unbearable, that it was unheard of.  How terrible would it be?  She had a fearful premonition of how it would blind her so immensely; low blues and purples were nothing compared to the intensity of the other colors

What must she do?  Open her eyes and see into the vortex. 

She emerged into the vortex, again.

It sucked at her, pummeled her, trying to terrify her.  It laughed at her fear.  It taunted her courage.  She steeled herself.  She wasn't about to let an imaginary vision take control of her wits.

The purple came, and the blue came.

It was intense as before, so she tried to half-close her eyes to subdue the intensity.  Then she remembered that she was seeing with her inner eye so she couldn't use her eyelids.  She concentrated on clouding the inner eye – perhaps that would work.

But the green came too soon.  It came in needle-like streaks, rushing at her as fast as bullets and veering past her at the last second.  The intenseness of the arrival paralyzed her.

A yellow glow formed around the edge of her vision.  This wasn't so alarming.  If the light hadn't reminisced her of the sun, it would've been bearable.

Orange flew past her, but in the opposite direction, charging from the yellow and flying around and through the purple and blue, and dashing into the vortex to be swallowed up.  Being passed by orange streaks was like flying among the fires of a devastating explosion.  Being rushed past her and not to her didn't lessen the panic.

Open your eyes!  Someone in the back of her head screamed.  She didn't really hear the voice though.  It was insignificant.  What's the point of opening your eyes, she thought dreamily.  There was no way to escape this hellhole, there was no way out, and you couldn't even move an inch.  All that was happening was plasma of agonizingly bright colors shooting around her.

All that was left was the red.  Was it coming?

Then the pinpoint center of all this nearly white commotion began to throb.  She knew that it was impossible to see black things move, but it was definitely throbbing, pounding with the feel of her heartbeat, her heart that was million of miles away.  Vum, vum, vum.  Red came to appear in peaceful hues that calmed her eyes for the first time.  She wondered how long this peacefulness would last.

It didn't last long.  The reddening center became a sort of sun, growing, and growing.  Needless to say, it pushed away the purple wisps, the blue lightning, the green arrows, the yellow halo, and the falling orange.  It swallowed her vision.  It swallowed her whole.

Red surrounded her.  It was swirling.  She felt like she was swimming in the viscosity of her own blood.

In one spontaneous instant, pure, glowing white that was brighter than the core of the sun, smacked her in the face.  It slapped her mind, throwing her into shock at seeing something so powerful, something that was too much for her the see.  She lost herself, she lost her core, she lost the anchor that held her to her own body.  When one didn't have the anchor to their own body, there was no way to return there.

The colors had melded, colors of the rainbow, into definite white light.  All that was left was a hazy indigo that poisoned her mind.

II

"Well?"

The doctor, resembling a koala head with a turtle's face, sniffled nervously and looked past the vampire's shoulder on tiptoes.  He was peering at the emergency crew who were tending to one of them 'Frankensteins', test experiments gone wrong.  He seemed to hope to avoid the question.

The vampire allowed the doctor some of his patience.  A green-skinned blue-horned demon bustled into him, and he snarled warningly.  The demon scowled in return, but swaggered away without a care in the world.  He turned to look back at the doctor, but he was gone; he had walked over to examine another patient on the other side of the room.

The vampire frowned impatiently.  He weaved through the traffic of the disarrayed demons and patients that were charging through the hospital.  It was a very hectic place – people of all shapes and sizes, and not to mention demons of all types and colors were massed in that single complex.   He shouldered through a pair of arguing Bisses who snarled bad-naturedly at him, as the doctor threw him a terrified look.

The doctor was a chicken.  He was preparing to run away.  The vampire descended his claw-like hand on the doctor's white lab coat.

He sighed expectantly.  "Come on Doctor Chicken," he said in a way as if he were almost bored, looking the other direction.  "Dish it out."

The doctor pursed his lips like a gaping goldfish.  "Yes, yes, we need to have a specialist look at her."  He scurried to the next curtain.

"Ah but--" he paused at the grandiose stomach wound of the banshee lying and moaning in the bed, "Tell me what happened to her."

Impulsively, the doctor peered intently into the vampire's face, searching, and his own twitching in likes of a bird's.  "She saw the white light," he whispered. 

"How do you know?" he inquired.

"The indigo irus – not violet, but indigo," the doctor whispered, as if this was a fatal secret.  "She saw that white light – that only means she moved up the spectrum."

Move up the spectrum?  He'd figure that out later.  "How about the next color?  People get blue eyes plenty of times."

"Ah, but they not be seers," said the doctor.  "Them blue eyes be trackers.  Green eyes the necromancer, yellow the mage, red the witch, yes, yes.  But what of orange, the only other unassigned color of the spectrum, eh?  Orange is the only other one like the indigo, when one falls too far in the …" he searched for the word, "dimensions of their power.  Orange would belong to the mage who has delved too deeply – too deeply to be recovered fully – into the well of spells.  As this girl has into the vortices of time and space," he finished.  A doctor's contorted look of pity grew on his features as he gazed at the girl in the bed across the room.

The vampire turned away to stride through the traffic and back to the first hospital bed.

A tube of air was attached to her mouth and pulsated air in and out of her lungs.  Her lips were blue, her eyelids were blue, and her fingernails were blue.  There was no need to say she was deathly pale.  He looked around to see if anybody was watching him, before he reached out with one equally cold and white hand.  Hesitating with his hand trembling slightly, he delicately touched the skin on her fingers.  He gently fingered a cut on her knuckle, alien emotions fluttering through his head.  Finally, he rested the full weight on his hand on hers, simply.

She was a rather plain-looking girl, with dull and ragged brown hair with pointy features.  The vampire knew her as the orphan girl who tried to steal food from his department's kitchens.  They had put her in a holding cell since then – he doubted that they had remembered to feed her after what she had first attempted to do.

An eternity seemed to pass.  The vampire was vaguely surprised that not one person came to disturb him.  Finally, he stood up, giving the sick girl one last gaze.  There were things to do.  People to talk to, and stories to discover.  He exited Mortai Hospital.

The first stop he went to was Mr. Clan Bear.  Mr. Clan Bear was a local prophet who dwelled in the County Library.  There the prophet worked to train a group of young people – humans, demons or a mix of both – to become revolutionaries in their troubled worlds.  He traversed several dry and abandoned streets, crossed a dead-traffic intersection, and entered the gloomy stairwell up into the main library.

The children were the first to see the visitor – Mr. Clan Bear mostly likely delving into a row of books – and ran to greet him.

"Hey, Mr. Catch," cried the half-breed Exenta.  Exentas were an extraordinarily slim, water-dwelling, amphibious race.  The subtle blue glow, covered by the human genes of her skin never ceased to stun him at first sight.  "Whatcha up to?"

"Not much," he said lightly, herding them back to the center tables.

"Naw, seriously, what do you have for us?" a human boy asked eagerly.

"Nothing," he insisted innocently.  "Rather, I believe I have to share a few words with your master.  Ah, there he is."

Mr. Clan Bear emerged from the labyrinth of bookshelves with a book under his arm.  The twig-like old man with the round belly encased by bright green suspenders that matched with his head of neon-green hair, removed the large glasses from his eyes.  "Why Catch.  There you are, I believe."

"I am here," the vampire replied absently.

Catch never liked Mr. Clan Bear as much as he did some other wizened men for reasons he chose not to bring up.  But, he did respect old man who was indeed quite the resource.  "I have a little case of Narmaceils that I need to talk to you about."

"Quick question, yes?  The kids are about to start archery practice," he queried. 

He set the books down and proceeded to his office.  Catch took the hint and followed him there.

"What are Narmaceils?" he began rhetorically, without prologue, "They're a race defined by spirit, and not blood.  The blood of a Narmaceil can run in the body of any sentient species, humans, werewolves, vampires – anything.  They represent certain elements in life--"

Catch was about to interrupt him to say he already knew all this background information.  Mr. Clan Bear glared expectantly.  The vampire decided it would be better to hear all the information he had to offer, and innocently raised his eyebrows; Mr. Clan Bear continued with his lecture. 

"Elements in life: that would be spirit, body, death, desire, and thought, which are represented in forms of: mages, who forge magic through the Ultima Well; trackers, who seek to cherish the lives that they live; necromancers, who live part-time in death; witches, who manipulate two worlds to form something new; and seers, who seek to learn of things that are to come.  Narmaceils used to be a single-blooded race until they brought some sort of--" he blew his nose, "destruction on themselves.  Don't ask me what asinine thing they did.  But in the process, they spread the makings of their people among the millions of other sentient species, while their bodies were eliminated – under mysterious circumstances."

He withdrew a cigarette, lit it, and inserted it between his lips.  "Never to return again," he added slyly, smirking at the vampire.

"I have a question.  They say there's yellow – the gold – blue, green, red, and purple.  Is that the spectrum?"

"The spectrum available – pff – yes."

"But there's still indigo and orange left."

"Correct."

"What becomes of them?"

"Well, they don't live very long," drawled Mr. Clan Bear.  "The mage will surely become the most violent portal a soul could see if he ever fell too far down the Ultima Well – his eyes will turn orange, and then they'll decay... somehow.  I don't know – I've never seen it happen."

"And the other?" he pressed.

"The seer will surely be lost in the vortex," he mused.  "A most frightful thing, that vortex.  In all my time as a prophet I have never had to face it, thank god.  I've heard stories though – painful and terrifying stories that send their tellers who are the most stoic of seers to their knees… in tears.  I'm just a prophet, see.  True seers get the chance to see the violet, and that's why their eyes are that color.  They aren't supposed to see any of the other spectrums – none at all.  If they do, they would theoretically go back reflect the next color in the spectrum… that would be indigo only.  I'd say if you'd seen the white light…." He stopped wondering, and stated, "If the eyes are indigo, I suppose that means they've been there and back again."

He stopped abruptly.  " 'There and back again'.  That's the term for your orange-eyed and indigo-eyed Narmaceils."

Mr. Clan Bear assumed that they were finished, nodded once, and left to leave Catch alone in his dusty old office.

Catch pondered over their conversation.  He didn't get much new information as he did from the doctor.  But there wasn't anything else that he could learn.  Indigo and orange was already indefinitely rare, and Mr. Clan Bear couldn't be expected to know the outcomes of such anomalies.  Such risky unknowns which constantly frustrated him on his missions were too common – his world was an erratic place with more rules – and more exceptions – than any other.  But he hoped that he could find a way to save her.  He hoped that there were exceptions to exceptions.

But in the back of his mind, Catch believed he knew what was going to happen to her anyways. 

Catch's next stop before returning to the hospital was the 'club room'.  It was located in a basement (out of all places), a very spacious and expansive basement, and perfect for its means.  He ringed into the abandoned and once-magnificent hotel, checked in with skeleton who managed the front desk, and proceeded down the elevator to the meeting room.  The ceiling was dotted with classic hanging lamps lit by flittering light bulbs, there was a thin wooden floor that was barricaded by randomly placed moth-eaten sofas, and there was even a pool table.

"Well?" said the werewolf, who looked wearily up at the vampire from his position in the sofa.

"Well?  Well what?" Catch answered, frustrated, plopping down onto the sofa next to his friend.

"How is she?"

"Dead.  Or near dead, I should say."

"Eh, not so far from where we are now," remarked the pitch-skinned dwarf-demon.  He aimed against a ball on the pool table, but the reptilian demon at his side elbowed him.  He turned, annoyed.  "What."

"No making fun of such thingss," the reptilian scolded.  They returned to focus on their game.

Catch spoke.  "She's seen the white light.  According to Mr. Clan Bear, that's falling too far into your power.  And for a seer, seeing the white light is basically losing yourself to the vortex.  Something like that, so that's what happened to her."

"So was I right?  Was she a Narmaceil?" inquired the black dwarf-demon.

"She is.  I mean, I suppose she is.  There's no way to make sure, she's going to die one way or the other," said Catch, rubbing his mouth.

The reptilian threw out a sympathetic remark.  "What a pity.  She could've helped us muchss."

"She could've – she could've done so much!" the vampire objected.  "She could've had her last bite to eat, she could've had a better life, she could've – she could've had so much more than we had to offer.  She was just a little girl."

"They all die, Catchss.  There are too many of them for us to save."

The vampire knew this.  They all did.  They had learned to restrain their remorse over the years, but sometimes it still shone through.

A string of silence drifted by.  They were all lost in thought in some way or the other, the purpose of it all.  It was not something they pondered about infrequently.

"The Narmaceils," the werewolf said suddenly, sitting upright.  "There's something – something…."

"What is it?"

"Agh, I don't know, Catch.  It probably won't work--"

"But--"

"I'll give it a try.  You go on head to Mortai – I'll see if I can meet you there."

He didn't know what this feeling was.  He believed it was something like pity, or remorse.  He understood death, but he didn't understand sadness.  The closest thing he could relate to was being cheated out of a deal.  Of course, this would normally make him angry.  He supposed he could be angry on this day, for this reason.  The girl had been cheated out of her life, so he had a right to be angry at the fate.  But he found himself quietly angry.  He found that he felt some guilt, some of the guilt he'd experience when he killed an innocent.  This was something of a cross between anger and guilt, but in a quiet and peaceful way.  Was this the feeling of remorse?

Catch found himself fondling the stone-cold hands of the dying girl, once again. 

He waited for hours.  He sat there, eyeing the miniscule movements of her breathing.  He stayed by her side until even the most rowdy of hospital patients had settled down.

Finally at three in the morning, the werewolf Argas came along.  When he arrived, he seemed to expect the worse.  The expression on his face was contorted with pity, but it transformed at the light of his friend's hopeful response to his arrival.

Catch darted and his feet and hurried towards him.  "Well?"

"I brought a witch with me, to see to the Narmaceil," Argas answered, gesturing to the pretty gothic girl who had hurried alongside him.  Her hair was dyed brilliant red, and she wore dozens of red rings on her face and ears.

"The Narmaceil?" demanded the witch.  "I thought you said it was a seer who was in a coma."

"Well, we don't know for sure if she's a seer, Nann," offered Argas.  "And we don't know if she's actually in a coma – she might be brain-dead."

"Brain-dead?" she reiterated.  "If you thought I was a necromancer, would you have whisked me here any faster?"

She wasted no time, and began to set up her healing rituals around the girl's bed.  There were herb wreaths, scented candles, colored smoke, relics and charms, and bones settled around the girl's bed.  There wasn't ample room in the bed's curtain area for a regular witch's ritual, but the objects found their way on the cabinet and on the bed sheets of the dying girl's cot.

Argas and Catch sat a little distance away.  Argas, being a werewolf, was easily fatigued and fell asleep quickly in his chair.  Catch, a vampire with considerably more stamina, stay awake and locked his eyes on the ritual being performed on the girl.

The witch, Nann, was threading her way into the mind of the girl. 

She wove through the delicate strings that held the girl's outer spirit together.  She ducked and weaved through the patterns of her core.  Finding her way into the girl's mind was like ducking through a repeating wall of bubbles.  It was highly delicate process, navigating through someone's mind.  It was also strange, unsure, and quite dangerous.  If she wasn't careful, she might never find her way out.

Then she saw – rather sensed – a foggy purple-blue blob in the corner of her vision, through the delicate wisps and curtains.  It was an abnormal blob hanging off the mind of the girl.  There were hypnotic patterns tracing the pulsating hazy thing.  It was indigo.  She advanced towards it.  It had been very small and insignificant, but now it was growing.  A crease formed down the center of the blob.  A hand swiftly extended from the crack and pulled out the body of a girl.  The black eyes locked onto Nann.  A jolt of realization shocked her – it was that very girl.

Her black hair dangled in wet shreds down the side of her white face.  She was wearing a white nightgown, but it was soaked completely through.  Her eyes were the eyes of a dead one, unblinking, dark, and cold.  They were fixed on the witch, as she crawled out of the sickening indigo mass. 

She couldn't escape quick enough to save herself.  There was no way out.  She was trapped inside the mind of this monster.

Nann knew that something was going to happen, at that very instant.

The girl pulled up her torso, like a zombie, like a puppeteer that had his hand in her back, without a sign of effort.  Her elbows were slightly bent with her hands resting on the bed and fingers gently caressing the bed sheet.  Her hair hung darkly behind her shoulders, her eyes were cesspools of black.

She was a zombie.

Catch only had a moment to know that he was alarmed –

BAM!

He jumped around – there was a clear hole in the wall of the hospital.  It was like someone had clammed a cookie cutter through the wall.

The witch – Nann – it was her body had slammed with explosive force into the wall behind him. 

A security guard that Catch could see around the corner was calling for back up.  Security in this world was quick – the guards and the soldiers would be here under a minute. 

Catch kneeled and tried to attract her attention, hoping to calm her down.  She was staring blankly into space, with the same awed expression as if she were looking to the sky.  He climbed to his feet, but Argas pulled on his hand. 

"No," the werewolf warned.  And like too many times before, the vampire paid no heed to his warning

He advanced, and the girl did notice.  He walked a little closer, second by second.  The last thing he wanted to do was to be thrown through the wall.  He was now standing right next to her, but she didn't seem to be aware of his presence.  He peered into her eyes of black pool.  Indigo-colored irises were beginning to form around her alien eyes.

A moment later he was thrown upon the ground – not by the telekinetic force of the sick girl, but by the hands of three constables.  He slid across the floor, his head sliding clunking to a stop at the wall. 

"Don't hurt her!" he called desperately.  They had guns, knives, and readied spells ringed around her throat.  But she was again ignoring the threat of danger around her.

"Come on yew little--" one man grabbed her arm.

And that was when she broke out of her spell and exploded into a fit of hysterics.  Panicked cries emitted from her throat, but she didn't sound dumb now.  She seemed to fully understand what was happening to her.  She screamed, she flailed her arms, and clawed violently at the men around her.  They cringed from her ballistic attacks, from the rage and style that emanated from fighting for her life on the streets.  When they realized that she was not exerting dangerous psychokinetic forces, they grabbed her hands, feet, and her hair, and dragged her away.

"Help me!" she cried. 

She twisted violently and made eye contact with the vampire.  He identified with her panicked understanding of the situation, and the horror in her expression.  "It's alright darling, it's alright!" he managed to say over her screaming before she was carried through the hole she'd made.

III

Blinding white fluorescent lights seared her senses.  She blinked exhaustedly.  This had been going on forever – minutes, hours, days.

Then they were gone.  She felt lost in the darkness around her.  After a while, she found comfort in the darkness, and curled up to rest.

But the lights came back on, for the thousandth time, cutting into her, shattering her core, her sanity.  She grabbed her hair and buried her head in the ground.

The lights went out.

Again they came back on.

Off.

On.

Off, drenching what shreds of energy left.

On, piercing her vision.

Off, sapping away her surroundings.

On, this time so magnificent that she couldn't tell down from up.  It was disorienting. 

Off. 

And they stayed off.

Somehow, she found a corner.  A corner among the flat, icy surfaces of concrete.  She pressed her back against it, pulled her knees up to brace herself, and covered her eyes with fluttering hands, even though there was no light to shadow.  She tried to relax – all this tension was using up energy, energy that she knew she didn't have much of left.

She found her way back to the disorienting and agonizing memory of the fluorescent lights turning on and off.  They were just lights.  But they had thrown her vision into such a state of confusion that she was getting headaches just from the thought of –

The white light.  There was a white light, some eons ago in her memory.  It was far more blinding than these lights.  These lights were mere fireflies compared to the conquering sun she had experienced.  She couldn't remember what happened, at least not yet, but she knew that she had seen a light far more painful than this.  The White Light.

Next, she was introduced to jolts of electricity.

She screamed and screamed with agony in the first few minutes.  After a while she was too close to death to react to the currents tearing through her body, threatening to kill her with each step up the notch.  She was semi-conscious, tossing her head, sweat running down her hair, mouth clasping dry breaths. 

But after a few hours, she was not dead, but as a matter of fact, fully conscious.

It surged into her like a violent hurricane, but somehow she welcomed it into her body.  She found ways to hold it without it harming her, and became utterly tranquil.  It hurt her nerves more than she thought humanly possible, but she found peace within all this dangerous energy.  She held it close to her, and it fed her strength.

And they starved her for weeks in order to drain the energy they had fed her in hours of hundred-volt therapy.  They gave her water to keep her alive, and it was enough to sustain her.  She still had energy each day to keep her alive, even though her stomach was dying of hunger.  But eventually, weeks and months later, they both knew that she would somehow run out of energy.  And when she did, they put her in a very cold chamber.  Ice.  Wind.  Water.

There was no need to say this was the worst yet.  Her body temperature sunk to beneath the eighties.  She was starved, mentally disoriented, and empty of an ounce of energy.  The cold that tortured her always slipped beyond the numbness in her skin.  It always gnawed her to the core.  It always found a way to ice her heart and steal her breath.  She was locked away in this chamber for what seemed like the eternity of her life.  Every time she touched an icy cold surface, her skin would cling painfully to it as the coldness bit at the raw nerves of her skin.  The water she drank hurt her in the way that it deepened her pain. 

In insignificant recollections that came to here – these were nothing to the dull torture she was feeling now – pages of her experience in the black hole found her.    The bloody red.  The glow of the yellow.  The intense blue and purple.  It was all there, all so truthfully real to her mind, but she didn't care.  She was numb to all this thought and memory.

Finally, the faint fleeting memory of the silver ghosts and their faded voices found her.  They plagued her.  She was constantly being spoken to.  Sometimes they comforted her and sang to her.  Sometimes they drove her to insanity. 

But one day, a single form fluttered before her, and dictated a message.  She didn't forget the message, but it affected her as numbly as the colors of the rainbow, however intense they were meant to be.

The door opened, ice cracking and tinkling to the ground as the hinges tested their weight.  A pair of boots stood before her curled and shivering form.  She gently closed her eyes.  They were going to kick her, straight in the face.  She fingered strands of her straggly hair.  Bring it on.

But no, knees met the puddle ground, and a warm hand touched her face.

Warmth.  What beauty, what life.  She yearned to caress the warm hand, immerse her whole body in that warmth, the comforting heat.  She knew what it was for she always had some, but not enough.

"Come here, darling.  It's alright.  It's alright darling, I'm here."

The two of them found a way to hold her steady on her feet.  He hugged her shoulders, and encouraged her just to hold out her legs so she could simply hold her weight.  He told her to close her eyes, and stay close to him.  She didn't object – she would stay as close to the warmth as possible.  There was no way she was going to lose that taste of life.

They left the cold chamber, and the outside air that was normally cold and dry in most people's opinion, cushioned against her face and hugged her skin, welcoming her back to the world of life.  She was starving to death, weaker than a newborn pup, but had never felt more grateful or comfortable in her whole life.  He hugged her shoulders as he said he would, and led her out of the building.  She could remember a few cries of agony following the sound of torn flesh, but with her eyes closed she regarded all of that trivial matter.

IV

Nearly three months later she was back in that hospital bed, this time with symptoms were treatable with feeding tubes and modern equipment.  A group called Ajark, a relatively unknown but powerful foreign group of intelligent humans, was the ones who imprisoned her.  Catch had spent those three months tracking down every single trace that he could find, bribing criminals for information and fighting for a way in.  A month-long trek brought him to a valley in the Himalayas, where he infiltrated the building and rescued the girl.

"Mm, I am not going back there again."  Nann, sitting on a high cot with her bare feet dangling, slurped noisily on the straw of her soda pop.

"Just to find her name?  Please?"

"No," the witch said firmly. 

She had only partly recovered from the injuries she received from the violent impact with the wall – injuries that had been countless and very tender.  If she had up her defenses when the girl encountered her, then she wouldn't have received even a scratch.  But here she was, warily watching the frail girl in the next bed while nursing her ribs.

"Don't you know her name?" Nann challenged.  "After all you were the ones who interrogated her and got her into this mess."

A slight shadow of shame befell the five. 

"Well, she volunteered to help us in our cause," offered the black impish demon, Nork.

"For food," Argas supplied simply.

Nork mumbled in agreement.

They talked.  They talked about the upcoming political race between two presidents in the real world.  They talked about the newest guerilla group in the city, by the name of the Markers.  They talked about the upcoming fight between good evil.  The newest face in town, wondering if it would be a threat to their existence.  Such was the pointless talk that reflected the lack of direction in their life.  Even though they held themselves important roles, there was a weary side to their purpose in life.

The nameless girl stirred. 

Catch jumped up to hustle the curtain closed between Nann and themselves.  "Quiet there, Nann.  Everybody else stay back."  He placed the chair closer to the bed, sat himself on it, and watched the girl intently as she stirred awake. 

This was not the first time that she had woken.  In the past, she would stir feebly awake, be fed some water, and glance frequently at the faces watching her.  The first thing she always saw was the pale pointy face of a vampire.  Then after a while, her vision would blur and she'd fall back to sleep. 

Her eyes slipped open.  They looked more alert than they had in months as she surveyed her surroundings.  Everyone held their breath.

"Hi there," said Catch, finally.  He was very anxious.

The girl murmured a question.  Catch moved forward to catch her words. 

"Am I a vampire?" he said.  "Yes.  My name is Catch.  What's your name?"

"I'm the Gray Angel," said the girl. 

The vampire blinked.  "The Gray Angel?" he repeated.  He looked around at his peers, but they were as clueless as he was.

"What's that?"

She turned her head to look at the vampire.  "They – the shadows, the spirits – they told me.  They told me that I was the Gray Angel," she said simply, meaningfully, staring clearly into Catch's eyes.

Even though he himself knew not of such a thing, he believed that she was indeed the Gray Angel.  Her eyes were perfectly gray.  Perfectly.  Not a shade too light, not a shade too dark.  She even looked like an angel, with smooth pale skin, ebony hair, and an utmost peaceful expression.  Her eyes were now the color of steel, but when the element rose in her they would flare a blinding indigo, for she was a Narmaceil.

"And do you know what a Gray Angel is?" he asked.

She regarded him with the same tranquility that he was coming to admire. 

"No."