End of Days Page 76

By now, the great white sharks of Northern California should have found their way to the bloody bait we cast into the bay during the show. Here, sharky, sharky . . .

The feedback from the speakers changes and begins blasting death metal music so loudly into the sky that I swear the bridge suspensions are vibrating.

The twins were in charge of the music selection.

I catch sight of them on the side of the bridge, each with an arm raised, holding up their forefingers and pinkies in a devil sign, head-banging to the beat. They’re mouthing the words to the garbled voice screaming over the intense electric guitar and drums blasting out of the speakers. They might look pretty badass if it weren’t for their hobo clown outfits.

It’s the loudest party the Bay Area has ever heard.

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Those of us on the ground crew help reload the bullets for the gunners. The goal is to try to knock the enemy out of the sky and into the shark-infested waters, but if some of them happen to fall onto the bridge, we’ll be ready for them.

I hope.

The lights turn off all together, plunging us into darkness. Doc and Sanjay insisted the lights flash to keep the angels from adjusting to the light and to continue to keep them blind. So the lights are on timers to turn off and on according to their guesses as to the angels’ ability to adjust.

Our snipers have infrared goggles to see in the dark, but there weren’t enough to go around to the ground crew. With all the death metal blasting through the air and my double-layered soundproofing, I can’t hear anything either.

We’re in the middle of a battle for our lives – blind and deaf. I freeze, desperately trying to sense something. It feels like we stand vulnerable in the dark forever.

Then the lights turn back on, blasting our eyes with their intensity. I squint, trying to see through the blinding glare.

Angels begin to fall onto our bridge. We work in groups to shove them off the edge while they’re still debilitated. Let the sharks sort them out while they thrash in the water.

I’m hoisting a net with a team of guys, ready to toss it over an angel, when I see my mom wandering around in the middle of all this, shouting to herself. I drop the net, letting the three other guys handle it, and run over to frantically try to get her under cover.

She’s too busy to listen to me. After a few seconds, I realize she’s shouting commands to the shaved cult members.

The cult members are tackling the newly landed angels off the edge of the bridge. Their robes flutter in the air as they wrestle and fall over the edge with them.

They also swan dive from the bridge as the angels fly low and get near. They grab onto the angels in midair like human projectiles. The angels, not expecting the extra weight of someone dragging on their wings, plunge into the water – pinwheels of arms and legs and wings. I hope those bald people can swim.

My mom shouts out commands like a general in battle, even though no one can hear her. Still, her message is clear if only because of her arm motions as she rhythmically dispatches her people into graceful swan dives off the bridge.

For those who dive, there’s good motivation in catching themselves an angel, because the angel will slow down their fall, and they will have a chance of surviving the dive. The ones who miss their aim are on a suicide mission.

I worry about my mom diving as well, but she seems to have no shortage of volunteers waiting for her command. The woman has a job to do in the middle of all this battle, and she doesn’t look like she’s about to abandon it.

Hopefully, her job will keep her from obsessing over what’s happening with Paige. As worried as I am, I know that if my sister weren’t fighting to win over the locusts, they’d be attacking us right now along with the angels.

We’re doing way better than I imagined, and I’m beginning to let myself believe that we might have a shot at winning this battle. I can almost hear the people cheering in my imagination when I see the sky darken with more angels.

It’s a new wave of them. And it’s a much larger group than the one that’s already here.

On the way toward us, some of the angels swing low over the water, capsizing boats and giving their drenched and wounded comrades a hand. The winged warriors in the bay climb onto the capsized boats as the humans frantically swim away. They cling on awkwardly like drowning hawks, shaking their wings out and spraying the bloody water off them.

The gunners follow the new angels with streams of bullets. Angels continue to get shot out of the sky and into the shark-infested bay, but the new group hovers out of reach like spectators. They see what’s happening with their fellow warriors, and they stay back.

I’m wondering what they’ll do next when I notice that the angels are split into three groups. The first is the one that came right after the locusts. I catch glimpses of Uriel shouting in that group. The second is the mass of wings hovering at a higher altitude than Uriel’s group. I can almost feel their cold eyes glaring down at us, watching and judging.

Then there’s the smallest group. Their wings are dark and tattered. They could hardly be called angels. A white-winged Adonis swoops across them.

It’s Raffe with his Watchers.

If one group is Uriel’s and the other is Raffe’s, then who are the others? Are they spectators here to watch the blood hunt?

It hits me that the real battle is only just beginning.

Even if Uriel wanted to back off and try again another time, he can’t now, not without everyone in the host knowing that he backed down. What kind of blood hunter would he be?

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