I glanced at the sky. The everlasting haze seemed to be darker today than normal and I knew that wasn't a good sign. I heard the zipping of a hover board before it passed me and a gust of wind with it, then I watched a child bring the board to an abrupt halt.

"Marama!" The child squealed. Her fair hair fell passed her shoulders and was tousled from her ride. "Seth was looking for you. He said it wasn't good for you to be out here."

I rose from my perch on a rock that rested in the rubble, and smiled. "It isn't safe for you to be out during the day either, Angel." I grabbed my hover board from its resting place, flipped a switch on it, and dropped to the ground. It hovered a few feet from the ground and waited for me to get on. The hover boards were made from a similar concept as snow boards, shame shape, same design, and responded to the same basic movements for guiding. They were invented a few years before the attack, and were a big 'must have item' for that shopping season.

Angel gave me a look that meant she was mocking me. "More so for you than me. You're on his most wanted list." She smiled.

I shook my head, and mounted my board. "We are all on his list, some are just higher priority. He likes children too, don't forget that Angel." I pulled my goggles over my eyes and leaned forward slightly to get my hover board moving. It hesitated a bit before launching itself forward. I moved ahead of Angel so I could lead her back home. We passed the ruins of the modern world. Some of the technology had managed to survive, but some terrible creatures made sure that the world was destroyed during the war.

It had started about two years ago, when these creatures showed up, some thought they were angels, others thought they were demons. When they started marking people they were dubbed as monsters. The mark was similar to a tattoo, but was a mark of their poison; the red marks would appear as the poison took over the blood stream and killed you. Unless one of the creatures came to claim you, and then no one knew what happened. The truth was no human had come back from captivity. The monsters had raged war on the humans, and we of course retaliated with our weapons. No weapon could touch the creatures, only destroy our world and almost wipe out our existence. There were very few humans alive since the war, and we were split into two groups, the rebels and the cowards.

The rebels wanted to annihilate the creatures that had taken over the world, and no one knew what would happen if we succeeded. There were plans to rebuild cities if we did. The cowards did nothing but hide. Unfortunately for us that's where most of the doctors were, and they would only occasionally help us. That was only if it didn't put them in danger. Either way both groups were in danger. We just didn't want to lie down and let the creatures find us.

The temple caught my eye as we passed it. At one point people were worshiping the creatures, thinking that they were sent by God. I didn't understand their obsession, but they had my parents convinced. There were temples built in honor of the monsters, and those temples hadn't been destroyed. There was a theory that they were actually indestructible. I zoomed around a corner, just in time to see a winged creature swoop down from the roof of the temple. I instantly flipped around, my first priority was to keep Angel safe, and flew towards the girl. The creature had his arms stretched out for Angel. I jumped from my board and landed on the creature's back, tackling him to the ground. His black wings fluttered against me, but I refused to let go of the creature, until he threw me off. "Angel run!" I yelled as I pulled my gun from my holster. The metal was heavy in my hand, and the shot forced me backwards.

The creature turned his red eyes toward me, and his lips turned upwards into a wicked smile. "'Ello love." His voice was almost a purr. It was no wonder we thought they were angels at first.

I held my arms steady with my gun still aimed at him, "Leave." I growled.

He laughed and landed, his arms coming to his hips in a Peter Pan-like pose. His chest was bare and covered in scars, probably from the war, and he wore soft black pants. His black hair was pulled 

back in a tight braid. There was something familiar about him. "Little human, you think you can defeat me?" There was power to his voice, and it seemed to pull on something inside me.

I tensed as I felt a pulsing down my back, and shivered. The creature noticed and started laughing, "How long have you been carrying the mark?"

I wanted to lie to him, but there was something that wouldn't let me. "Two years." I whispered and hoped that Angel wasn't still around to listen in on this conversation.

"And it hasn't killed you yet? I'm impressed. You must be strong." He held his hand out to me, "If you come with me, you will live and the poison will not kill you."

I could taste the truth in his words, and I wasn't sure why. It wasn't a normal thing to know. Occasionally I could tell by body language who was lying and who wasn't, but humans shouldn't be able to taste a lie. "I think I'll stay with my people." I looked him in the eyes, "I don't like to mingle with monsters."

"So be it, but remember, who ever marked you has the ability to find you." He turned.

I wanted to shoot him in the back, but I knew it wouldn't kill him, only anger him. "Good thing she's dead."

He flapped his wings and took off. I sighed in relief and went back to my hover board. Angel was nowhere in sight and I could only hope that she made it home safely. I leaned forward and got the board going, and a few minutes later I was hovering in front of the pile of rubble that I called home. There was an old door that served as the actual door that led to the hall. Before I opened it I jumped off my board and put my goggles on the top of my head, then I turned the board off and picked it up.

I looked down the dark hall. I could hear a few children playing down stairs, and it made me smile. I walked in and placed my board at the top of the stairs before moving down the hall. The hallway descended, taking me deep underground. I entered the main room where the group of children were playing, and then turned left down the hall where my room was. I moved the curtains aside and walked in to see Seth sitting on my mattress. My room was small, almost cave like, there was a mirror at one end of the room that was shattered, and spider web cracks spread from the middle. There were a few shelves that were empty and the small amount of clothes that I had in a pile by the bed. My bed was a simple mattress on the floor with brown, worn blankets that were neatly spread over the top. Seth looked perfectly at home sitting on it.

Seth had dark chocolate hair, and honey brown eyes to match. His face was nicely shaped, and his body lean. I knew that underneath his shaggy clothes was a beautifully toned body, and he had a personality that made him shine. "You know it was a bad idea for you to go out during the day." He stated.

"And you know it was stupid to send a child after me. Does Markus know?" I asked, and threw my coat down on the mattress next to him.

"He does, and his not happy with you." Seth stood, "He's talking about leaving you out of Haven." He looked up as my curtain swung aside.

I turned, facing Markus as he walked in. Markus towered over me, somewhere around six foot six, and he was built like a football player. He was the oldest of the rebels, and regarded as our leader. His dark eyes found mine, "How long do you have?" His voice was low, and was a mix of anger and concern.

"What is he talking about?" Seth asked and looked between the two of us.

I gave wide innocent eyes, "I have no idea."

"Don't play dumb Mara." He grabbed my shirt and pulled me close, "That mark you carry endangers us all and you didn't think to tell us!"

I could hear the horror in Seth's voice, "You've been marked?"

"I've carried it for nearly two years, and the creature that gave it to me is dead." I tried to remain calm, difficult when a football player had me by my shirt.



He shook me, "And the poison?"

I shrugged, "I haven't seen much of the effect of it." He let me go suddenly and I stumbled backwards into Seth.

"Show me the mark and I will decide if you need a doctor or not." Markus waved his hand, and when I didn't move he growled. "Now Marama."

I sighed and glanced at Seth before removing my shirt. The poison was leaving a pattern of rose vines down my back. I kept my back towards the two men, and wrapped my arms around my waist. I felt vulnerable in a room with two guys and without my shirt. I shivered as one of them touched it.

"It's progressed quite a bit. I think we should contact one of the doctors." Markus traced the marks and a twinge of pain went down my back.

"No, I'm fine. I've dealt with it for two years and I'll deal with it until it kills me." I snapped. "If I wanted help I would have gone with that monster today." Though it did freak me out that his power pulled to me, it seemed to have a level of control over me.

Seth sighed and handed me my shirt back, "Please Mara?" The "please" made me look at him.

His eyes held sorrow, almost as if he had already started mourning for me. "Mara, the doctor will at least be able to let you know how long until you die." His voice was soft.

I frowned at Markus, who had his arms crossed over his chest, and sighed. "Fine, call the doctor, but you still have to let me go out on patrol."

"You are actually grounded for leaving the area during the day." Markus's eyes followed me as I moved across the room.

I sat on my bed, "You're kidding me right? Markus, that's not fair—"

"Mara, you answer to me here." He cut me off, "You need to learn to follow my rules or you're going to end up dead."

I wouldn't meet his gaze, "Looks like it doesn't matter, either way I'll end up dead."

"Mara—"Seth started, but Markus put a hand on his shoulder.

"Don't Seth, she doesn't need to be babied. She's an adult." Markus left.

Seth walked over to me, and kissed my cheek, "It'll be alright."

"No, don't lie to me Seth. Markus is right. I don't need to be babied." I stood and removed my shirt again. There was a broken mirror against the wall, and I used it to show me the mark. "There are about two more inches of vines than there were yesterday." I moved so I could trace the marks myself. "The creature today asked me a question and I couldn't lie. You know how dangerous that is?"

"Extremely," He stood and wrapped his arms around me, "It means that they can find where we are."

I closed my eyes, "Exactly. Lucky that wasn't the question he asked, but still he could have, and then we'd all be dead." I couldn't do this. "Maybe I should just go to the creatures."

"No." Seth shook his head and stepped back, "That's not the answer here Mara."

I moved away from the mirror, "Once Markus finds out, he won't give me a choice. I'll be put back outside Haven, and the creatures will take me anyway."

He ran a hand through my red hair, "Mara, I don't think Markus is that cold blooded."

I sighed, and turned to the mirror again, this time facing it. My red hair was short and choppy , and my eyes were a strange shade of blue, the hue of it changed with my mood. Seth kissed my cheek again, "Get some rest, maybe Markus will let you go moon gazing tonight at least."

I smiled, I liked moon gazing, and all I had to do was sit outside to do it. "I hope so." He walked out.

I sat back down on my mattress with a sigh. I hadn't felt any effects of the poison. No weakness, no passing out, nothing; but why? What made me so special? I pulled out a photo from under my pillow. It was an old photo that had been printed on photo paper off a computer. There were three of us, all 

siblings, and I had been the only one who had survived the attack on the neighborhood. I tried my hardest to save James, my youngest brother, but I wasn't strong enough. I smiled at the photo before hiding it again. Few of us had any physical memory of our family because a lot of it depended on technology, digital photo frames, flash drives, disks and most of those were useless now. There was never electricity in the cities. Rumors had it that the cowards managed to have electricity at some points, and that the area where the creatures lived also had it. Of course no one had come back alive from there.

I stretched and lay back on the bed. My parents hadn't been home the night of the attack, but I never found out what happened to them. I occasionally hoped that they were alive and just hiding with the cowards, but that was a child's dream. They were probably dead and I knew that.

At some point I had fallen asleep, and when I woke I had problems trying to pinpoint what had woke me. I glanced around the room, and slowly took my gun out. I doubt it was a creature, because this was a well guarded area, but I wasn't taking my chances. A noise above ground clamored and it startled me. So that was it. There wasn't anything in my room, it was above ground. I put the gun up and ran out of my room to see a train of children running down the halls, being ushered by Seth.

I stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. "Seth, what's going on?"

"Come on Mara." He grabbed my wrist and dragged me down the hall with the children. "There's a battle going on right now. A few of the creatures found the place. Markus and a few others are fighting."

I yanked my wrist from him. "Then I should be outside fighting with them."

"You are too vulnerable with that mark on you. They could use you against us." He continued to pull me down the hall. "And that is something that we cannot allow."

I hated the fact that he was right. "So I hide with the children, and tell them what?"

He kissed my head as we came to a hidden door that the children had already gone through. "Comforting lies." He shoved me through the door.

I was never good at comforting lies, nor did I think it was fair to tell them to children. I watched as the door shut, and then turned to the group of children. Angel was one of them; she was curled up on the floor, her knees pulled to her chest. She was scared. I sighed. "Come on everyone, get into a group."

All the children gathered around each other and each shared their own comforting lie with the other. I sat down next to Angel. "It's alright, sweetie." I brushed her hair.

She looked at me. "You're one of them." She whispered.

I shook my head. "No I'm not, sweetie. I'm human just like you." I closed my eyes as I felt the mark in my back pulse.

"You're marked." She growled. "You've been hiding it from us all."

What could I say to that? It was true. "I didn't want to worry anyone." I went to brush her hair again and she jerked away from me.

"You led them to us." She whispered and moved away from me.

A whimper escaped my mouth as my back spasmed. I pulled my knees to my chest. Something was wrong. More pain shot through my body as if something was calling me, and it was not happy that I didn't answer. The pain continued to spread over my back. I could feel it follow the lines of my mark, and when it reached the end all went black.

I looked around me expecting to see the holding room, but I was in a very different room. There were silk curtains around the bed that I was lying in, and rich colors all around the room. A rug covered the floor. It was strange to be in an actual room instead of a cave-like room. I sat up and felt a stabbing pain down my back.

"How are you feeling?" A female voice asked. I searched the room for the voice and my eyes landed on a creature. She looked just like a human except for the black wings that came from her back. 

She looked no older than twenty, and beautiful. In her hands she held a golden tray with water on it. Clean water.

I licked my lips. "My back hurts, and I don't remember how I got here."

She walked toward the bed and put the tray down. She picked up the glass and offered it to me. "You've been through a lot," She helped me cradle the glass, "and Zerrick has been missing you. He was afraid that he lost you."

"Zerrick?" I asked softly. The name sounded familiar, but I couldn't put a face to it. I gulped down the water, enjoying the dirt-free taste.

She laughed slightly, "You drink like you've never tasted fresh water."

She had avoided my question and I didn't like it. "I haven't had fresh water since the last rain fall, and even then it's tainted with whatever happens to be in the atmosphere."

"Zerrick makes you drink dirty water?" She made a face. "I will have to talk to him about that."

Again I asked. "Zerrick?"

"Your betrothed. Do you not remember him either?" She asked, shocked.

I shook my head, and then looked up when the door opened and the creature who I had met with Angel walked in. He knelt by my bed and took my hand, "My betrothed, how do you feel?"

I couldn't stop the scream that climbed up my throat.

"Hold her down, she's going into a fit." A voice I didn't recognize was above me.

I struggled harder when the hands held me down, "No!" I screamed, trying to fight them.

"Mara," Seth's voice broke through my panic, "Calm down, they are here to help." He whispered in my ear. "The creatures can't get you here."

I forced my breathing to calm and then tried opening my eyes. There was a doctor standing above me, Seth and Markus. I gave a tired smile. "Hey."

Relief filled Seth's eyes, but anger took place of Markus' concern. Markus touched my head. "You've been out for three days. We thought the creature was trying to kill you, but he said that, had you come willingly, he wouldn't have had to do that."

I blinked. "Come again?"

Seth took my hand. "The creatures that attacked us were after you, and your mark. They said that your mark was progressing more and that they wanted you."

I knew what that meant. "I brought danger to us." I whispered and then looked to Markus. I knew the answer to my next question. "When must I leave?"

"You can stay here with the other survivors, if they allow you. If not then you are back out in the ruins." Markus turned to leave.

Seth put a hand on his shoulder. "You can't be serious, you're just going to abandon her?"

"Seth," Markus looked at him, "do you realize that bringing her back will lead the creatures back to us? Think of the children, Seth."

"He's right, Seth." I sat up. "I don't want to endanger the children ." The doctor helped me sit up.

Markus gave an approving nod. "See, Seth? She doesn't want to come back."

I wanted to come back, but I couldn't let the monsters find them again. I knew that as soon as things were somewhat settled they would move to a new location, and maybe the dream that I had meant something. Maybe going with the creatures wouldn't be a bad thing. I would still fight, but maybe I wouldn't fear as much.

Seth sat next to me, and took my hand. "I don't know if you'd survive out there, and I doubt the survivors here would want to take you in."



"I'll be fine." I forced a smile. "I survived out there for a bit, until you found me, remember? So how hard can it be to do it again?" Of course, there would probably be no food, and little water, but I would be fine.

Seth sighed, and kissed my head. "I'm sorry." He stood. There was something in his eyes that I couldn't read.

"Me too." I whispered as I watched him walk out. I lay back down and stared at the ceiling until the doctor leaned over me.

He took my pulse and checked my eyes. "How are you feeling?"

"How do you think?" I asked, sarcasm dripping in my voice.

He shook his head. "Markus said that you hadn't suffered from any effects of the poison, do you believe that is still the case?"

I thought about it. "My back really hurts and that's about it." I closed my eyes and remembered my dream.

"Judging by the way the poison has made its rounds, you shouldn't have lived this long, and I give you another month, possibly two before you start to die." He handed me a cup of water.

I sat up and looked into the cup of water. I could see little grains of dirt, but was used to it. I downed the water, and handed him the glass back. "How long do I have until I have to leave here?"

"The mayor," Right, like the guy was much of a mayor now, "Says you have to leave at night fall."

I stood carefully. "Why wait that long?" I took a deep breath and started towards the door. "Thanks for everything, but I think I'll go ahead and leave."

"It's too dangerous for you to go out, the sun is up. They'll spot you." He held a hand out as if to stop me.

I spun to face him, not caring about the pain that hit. "What does it matter doctor? I'll be out there when the sun rises tomorrow."

He remained silent and turned away from me. I walked out and looked at my surroundings. The cowards lived in a standing city. The creatures left them alone as long as they turned in any rebels that fought against them. Of course they said they would, and occasionally when rebels stayed longer than necessary they would turn them in to the creatures. They were supplied with food and water, and would rarely share their precious supplies with the rebels. Their doctors were the most willing to help us, and would sometimes travel to our hide out in order to treat us. It all depended on how bad the wounds were.

Outside the building I had been in were dirty streets, but there were children playing safely in them. They didn't have to worry about the creatures snatching them up, at least not randomly, I was sure that the creatures paid some type of visits and marked some of the people to claim later. I watched as a ball landed at my feet, I knelt to pick it up and looked at the child that came running towards me, and I nearly watched it. His hair was a reddish brown, and his eyes blue. He was the spitting image of my youngest brother. I swallowed and handed him the ball. "Hey kiddo, where are you parents at?"

He took the ball from my hands after hesitating for a few moments. "Mommy is working as a nurse in the hospital, and papa is gone." He cocked his head to the side. "Where are your parents?"

"Gone." I gave him a small, sad smile. "See you later." I stood and started to walk off towards the exit of the city. The place looked like an urban area from T.V., all cookie cutter houses, with yards that were exactly the same. The grass was dying, though, and there was more dirt than there was dead grass. Maybe an urban city from a horror movie would have been a better description. I made my way down the main street. Trying to walk with pride, but I knew there were people watching me, and that they knew what was going on.



I was now a marked demon among the faithful. If they weren't sure I was going to be killed by the poison then they would have killed me themselves. Those who still believed the creatures were angels would probably have sacrificed me to them. That thought made me smile as I found myself entering the ruined area outside the city. I gave one glance back to civilization and smiled. In the end, we were all doomed.