By JR Turner
Half-angel Savannah Mantas smells the sulfuric stench of wrath when it enters her city, Iron Point. Resurrected by the archangel Michael, she’s hunting for redemption and half-demon Nico Montenegro is her prey. He comes from the Fringes, the border between the city and the toxic wasteland beyond. When they meet, Nico tells her a story, one of genocide and confiscated bodies. Not revenge, but justice is his purpose and his target is the most admired family in the world–Commander Hathaway and his daughter.
Hathaway’s soldiers are slaughtering Fringers and secretly feeding them to Revenants, mutants who survived the bio-bombing of 2120. They have a twisted idea they can train these clever creatures like dogs and keep them out of the city long enough to mobilize an evacuation for the wealthy and well-connected. Savannah knows better. Revenants are what killed her. When they attack, the last of humankind may be wiped out completely. Stopping Hathaway might just be enough to gain her redemption and escape a hellish fate.
The green eye overhead scans me for obvious weapons. My tawny hair glows emerald in the reflection on the glass, my pale skin an alien sea-foam green. Security clears me and the doors open. Instantly the smoky haze thickens and the music is deafening.
There are no words to this melody–it’s the sound of prowling for relief and release, the rhythm recognized by humans for centuries. I may have changed, but I’m not so different from the couples writhing on the dance floor. My human half responds to the seduction of losing myself in the throng, to pretend I don’t know what I do. The temptation is delicious.
His scent comes from my right, not far. I squeeze into the crowd, wondering if I should return once I’ve dispatched this man. Why I wasted most of my mortal life working so hard is a deep regret. Perhaps if I had indulged in more normal interactions with non-military personnel, or if… If, if, if. I’ve done this to myself a million times and I’m not going there now.
The music changes–new song, same beat. The couples, threesomes, and foursomes never pause, riding a wave of wantonness. Clean sweat, colognes, and perfumes assail me from every direction–a heady mixture not entirely unpleasant. My heart wants to fall into the faster beat, pick up this pulsing noise.
At the bar, I shove a token across the scarred top and watch my peripheries. Waiting. He will make himself known. This close to him, I gain another scent, one deep from within his veins. He will sense me, if he hasn’t yet and act soon. The wrath builds.
A girl, hardly out of her teens, maybe still a teen, all of five feet tall and weighing as much as a bottle of Amethyst (named after Commander Hathaway’s daughter) hollers above the music. “What’d you want?”
I shout, “Black on red.”
She turns, long black hair fans from a high ponytail as she fetches the bottles and pours a healthy base of Amethyst, then adds the colors. The black entwines with the red in a sea of plum liquor. Orgiastic figures form and fade within the liquid clouds. I watch the hypnotic blend, like I’m not seeking the source of the thick, wicked aroma. By the time she slides my drink to me and takes the token, I know where wrath stands.
He is behind me.
I spin the thin straw in my glass as if he and I don’t know we are there with a purpose: I and my need for redemption, he and his need for revenge. He is a Halfling–part man part demon. He can heal, but he can’t regenerate. A swift slice between certain vertebrae, severing the brainstem, and he is another death in a dying world.
My impatience flees and I’m willing to wait. Is he?
Am I choosing my moment or is this hesitation based on human vulnerabilities I no longer have? The relics of these mortal emotions are a struggle for me. Not so long ago I feared the same possibilities as everyone: injury, sickness, a return of The Wasting, and death. My determination is stronger than these fears, I tell myself. Yet without the duster, only my long hair covers the bare skin above my corset. Awareness of him and of my true frailties increases. Immortal yes, impervious to pain, no.
I sip my black and red, feel the tangle of opposites flowing down my throat, nearly hear the soft moans of pleasure–and he takes one step closer. A couple beside us are making out. His hand is beneath her spangled top, forcing her back against the bar. For one brief moment, as the drink hits my system, I feel his hand on my breast and then the sensation is gone. They are oblivious to everything, including the wrathful Halfling and the dark angel beside them.
“I know what you are.” He speaks loud because of the heavy bass, but the words come on a wave of warm breath against my neck.
Deep, his voice is filled with darkness and need, despair and determination. I want to close my eyes, indulge in more of the sense-heightening Amethyst and listen to the rich baritones smooth all the roughness from my edges, dampen all my thoughts like an exotic shroud over my mind.
J.R. Turner is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Writers Association. She writes in a variety of genres including middle-grade adventures, young adult horror, romantic suspense, horror, military action, and urban fantasy. In her spare time she enjoys arts and crafts, traveling, and movies. Few things in life compare to her passion for the written word, except perhaps the pursuit of chocolate.