End of Days Page 74

The singer onstage keeps on singing as if neither hell nor high water nor apocalyptic angels descending on us will stop him from giving the best performance of his life. He’s finished his catchy pop song and is now singing a love song.

‘Three . . .’

I have to clamp down hard on the urge to run like everyone else. I keep my position and put heavy-duty earplugs in my ears, leaving my noise-canceling headphones around my neck. I see others doing the same around the edges of the stage, the rafters, and the suspension cables.

‘Two . . .’

There are too many people rushing in the same direction. The hideout lattices we set up can only handle so many people below the bridge. It’s utter chaos, with everyone running and screaming.

‘One . . .’

As the crowd drains, they leave behind camouflaged gunmen who scramble into position.

A cloud of locusts swoops in from the mist faster than I expect in a flurry of stingers and teeth.

Locusts?

Where are the angels?

59

Shots blast into the locust swarm, but we might as well be shooting at the clouds for all the good it does. The locusts must have been attracted to the lights and sound that were meant for angels.

They’re landing on all fours around us. Gunfire shoots off everywhere as the ground crew kicks into action.

I pull out my knives just as a locust drops down from the sky in front of me. Its stinger looms over its head and jabs at me.

My arms automatically come up. I slice and stab. I’d give anything for Pooky Bear right now.

That thought makes me all the more vicious. I voluntarily gave Raffe his sword back.

I slice again.

The stinger whips out of the way of my blade.

The scorpion in front of me is doing its best to kill me. It’s moving its stinger so fast I have to wonder if it was a tap dancer in its previous life.

I’m drenched in sweat in seconds as I evade and try to fight at the same time. These little knives aren’t going to do anything but annoy it.

I spin to the side and give it my fastest side kick. My foot slams into its knee with a crunch.

The locust screeches and leans to the side as its knee breaks.

I bend low and swipe the other leg. The monster crashes down.

‘Stop!’ My sister runs to the middle of the bridge flanked by her pet locusts, yelling at everyone around her.

It’s a war zone with bullets zinging by, and she still runs out in the middle of all the chaos with her arms out. My legs almost give out at the sight of her.

‘Stop!’

I’m not sure who stops first – our fighters or the locusts – but both sides pause to look at her. Hope and wonder rise in me as I watch my sister stopping a bloody battle with just her conviction.

I don’t know what she would have done next, because a huge locust lands beside Paige.

The white streak in his hair is unmistakable and so is his demented anger. This time, Raffe isn’t here to intimidate him. He grabs Paige’s pet locust and lifts him into the air above him like a squirming baby.

‘No!’ Paige’s hands reach up like a little kid trying to get her ball back from a bully.

White Streak slams the smaller locust down against his knee, breaking the beast’s back with a snap.

‘No!’ Paige screams. Her crisscrossed face turns red, and the cords in her neck stand out.

White Streak tosses the broken locust onto the concrete. Ignoring my sister, he stalks around the broken beast.

The injured locust pulls itself forward by its hands. It tries to get away from White Streak, dragging its dead legs behind it.

White Streak is making a show of it, puffing up and standing tall for all to see as every scorpion-tailed monster watches. He clearly plans to show that he’s the king of the locusts and no one else can challenge him.

That means he’s going to have to kill Paige.

I sprint toward my sister, weaving through the spectators. Although the air boils with locusts, no one else is fighting on the bridge. Doc had warned them that some locusts might be on our side. Now no one seems sure what to do. Everyone on the bridge – locust and human – watches the drama unfold.

Paige’s face crumples as she watches her pet locust drag itself helplessly on the asphalt, unable to move its legs or tail. She starts sobbing.

The sight seems to enrage White Streak. He swipes at her with his tail.

I scream. Every time I’ve seen my sister win a fight, she’s had the element of surprise on her side. But this time, White Streak knows she’s a threat and is out to kill her.

Then someone shouts over the loudspeaker, ‘They’re coming!’

The dark mass of locusts shifts and churns above the bridge, blotting out the sky. Between the stingers and iridescent wings, I catch glimpses of an ever-growing tide of bird-of-prey wings.

The blood hunt is starting.

60

I try to slam my fear and anxiety into the vault in my head, but they’re too big.

When I look back down from the sky, Paige is ripping her teeth into White Streak’s arm. She’s alive and fighting.

I run toward her, trying to be as small as possible in case there’s a stray bullet.

In the center of the bridge, White Streak swats and tosses Paige onto the ground like a rabid dog, then he stomps his foot on her chest, keeping her struggling form down as he looms over her.

My sister is unrelentingly furious and thrashing beneath him. Watching her pet be crippled and crawl helplessly must have triggered something in her, something so violent and intense that it might just choke her.

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