Pushing (Part 2)
To read Part 1, please click here.
The countdown stops and there is a moment of silence. We’re all holding our breaths, even table 14 girl. There is a sudden burst of cold air from the vents above and table 5 boy gasps. The cold air drifts down and little bumps spread over my skin. I clench my teeth so they can’t shiver against each other. My breath freezes in the air above my nose. I close my eyes.
“Phase one commencing. Please begin with your toes,” the metallic voice commands.
It tickles, pushing my soul out of my cells. My feet are especially sensitive. Laughing now would be disastrous so I bite my cheek until a coppery tang reaches my tongue. The tickle eases with the pain. My toes feel lighter, stronger, no longer burdened by the weight of my soul. I keep pushing.
Inch by inch, I make sure to remove every spec of soul. I don’t want to fail the scan. Up my ankles, calves, thighs, my soul moves before pooling around my intestines. The real pain starts as small prickles around my knees and increasing to bruising aches in my thighs. My chest is rising and falling heavily and beads of sweat are rolling off my forehead. I take a moment to catch my breath. My legs tremble with lightness causing a slight hum from my table. Other tables are humming too.
“Please maintain control and begin phase two.”
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“Angel of Grief” Part 2: The Breaking
The vulture’s claws scrape my arms like fire and find purchase on the grit of stone. There is a moment where all is quiet, and only the lush fall of wings breaks the silence. Their talons are made to dig deep, and they do. Small chunks of rock splinter off my shoulders like glass and if I could bleed I would be. The missing pieces burn like raw nerves. At least I know they can’t take stone Underground.
Salem glows a little in the fog down below. The Vulture’s wingspan can’t quite drown him out. His brightness is good, they’ll have trouble pulling him down with the energy he’s got. It buys me time. Salem flails, all fists and elbows, as if his suggestions of arms will make a dent in a Vulture. They won’t. His visage flickers like it’s not getting a signal, and I know it’s the pull of the Underground already stealing the tiny bits of his soul.
I look back to the church. Derik watches, and I know this is my test. Salem hangs in the balance. My skin still burns where his own brushed it.
This Vulture that holds me has made a mistake. They never grab us, mostly because we’re heavy but also because we bite. There’s something like venom in us, but we have to be strategic about it. My eyes pan below me, and the Vulture wheels for a crop of trees just as Salem reaches the church. He’ll be safe in there, but much less on the other side. Even if he sprints to the Gate, he’s an easy target if I don’t get out of the sky to cover him.
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