End of Days Page 79

Jumping up, I rush over to the ladder that was pulled up to try to keep the talent show audience hidden beneath the bridge. A thought pops into my head – what if Doc was wrong and humans are not immune to the sixer’s plague?

I can’t let all those people die just because there’s a chance of something going wrong. I unlatch the ladder and drop it down the side. They need to get out of there. They are now almost literally the low-hanging fruit in this war.

Our people scramble to the edges of the nets, some of them climbing over each other. There are as many people who fall into the water trying to escape as there were people who were taken by the monster.

The water churns again, and another sixer jumps up from the water. The distance they can jump is astounding. It greedily grabs people with its six jaws and drags the screaming, squirming people down below, into the depths.

‘Come on! Get back up here!’ I wave to the nearest people on the nets. They may be safer on the battlefield than where they are now.

As people begin climbing back up, I run through the chaos to the other escape routes around the bridge and lower the ladders. People begin streaming up the ladders as soon as they’re in place.

The music stops.

We all look up. Even the angels and locusts pause midfight to look. What now? When this is all over, I never want another exciting moment in my life ever again.

Someone in a white suit flies above the stage. It’s Uriel. His wings look off-white in the bright artificial light with a web of stark shadows.

My ears ring from the lack of sound. I peel back my headphones.

‘The trial by contest is over.’ He speaks in a regular voice, but in all this silence, it sounds like he’s shouting. ‘Raphael has proven himself a traitor. I am now the undisputed Messenger.’

Just as he says that, someone screams. A sixer climbs over the edge of the bridge. People back away as soon as they see the six heads with the seventh lying limp on its shoulder.

An angel near the sixer crashes onto his knees. His face is turning red, and he’s sweating. Blood dribbles out of his mouth.

Another sixer climbs over the other edge of the bridge.

More people scream as they frantically try to get away from the sixers, but we can’t go far on our bridge island. We herd together like frightened animals.

Two locusts near the sixer begin coughing. Then choking. They try to flap their wings, but they tumble to the concrete.

Blood begins dripping out of their mouths, their noses, their eyes. They make pitiful mewling and choking noises as they writhe on the bridge.

It’s the apocalyptic pestilence.

66

‘Raffe!’ I try to get his attention. ‘Get off the bridge! These monsters have angelic plague!’

A low-flying angel falls out of the sky, moaning like his insides are churning. Blood drips out his mouth, ears, nose, and eyes as he writhes on the concrete.

Angels take to the sky, avoiding the sixer. The words angelic pestilence are whispered in the air along with the whoosh of wings.

Every winged creature flies off the bridge, away from the infected angels and locusts. But only the winged ones can get away from the sixers.

If Doc is right, we humans are immune to this plague. But we’re certainly not immune to a sixer killing us by force.

‘Penryn!’ Raffe calls to me from above, floating on his snowy wings. ‘Jump off the bridge. I’ll catch you.’

I rush over to the edge of the bridge where my mom is. Maybe the Watchers can catch her and whoever else is willing to jump. Luckily, my sister is in the air, far enough away to be safe.

An angel who hovers too close to the bridge screams. He convulses in the air as he begins crying blood tears.

Another sixer climbs over the edge of the bridge near Mom. She runs toward the center of the bridge like everyone else. How many of these monsters are there? I scramble to the side, yelling for my mom to head for a different part of the bridge.

‘And his number is six hundred threescore and six,’ says Uriel from the air, his voice booming through the panic. If he’s surprised by the plague, he’s not showing it.

As I near the edge of the bridge, I see more of the bay. The bloody seawater is peppered with sixers swimming toward us.

Two more climb over the edge. All around us, more sixers reach up and climb on top of each other to get on the bridge.

Six hundred sixty-six. It’s not just the number tattooed on their foreheads. It must be how many of them there are.

I look up.

Raffe floats above me.

The angel just below him begins to writhe in pain. His nose begins bleeding.

I wave to Raffe to get away. ‘Go!’

Raffe hovers. Two of his Watchers grab his arms and drag him up.

All around, people run every which way. Guns fire. Screams everywhere.

‘I’ll save your Daughter of Man’s head to graft onto one of the beasts,’ says Uriel to Raffe. He’s flying well above us where he has a good view of the slaughter.

Sixers pour in from every edge of the bridge.

We humans back into the center as they lumber toward us. I have my knives out, but they might as well be toothpicks pointed at an army of grizzlies.

‘Penryn!’

I look up to see Raffe watching me with anguish in his eyes as his Watchers hold him at a safe distance from us.

Raffe grabs the dried fruit hanging off his neck and brings it to his lips.

He bites into it.

It bursts between his teeth, oozing what looks like thick blood down his lips.

67

The bitten fruit smokes.

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