Authors: Sherri A. Wingler
Wings of Darkness
By Sherri A. Wingler
The characters and events portrayed in this book are
fictitious. Any similarities to real persons, either living or dead, are
coincidental, and not intended by the author.
Text copyright © 2014
Sherri A Wingler
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WORLDWIDE
No part of this publication may be reproduced, replicated,
redistributed, or given away in any form without the prior written consent of
the author/publisher. Nor may any part of the publication be stored in a
retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means; by electronic,
recording, photocopying, mechanical, or otherwise, without written permission
from the author/publisher.
For Steve, with all of my love.
Death comes for everyone,
eventually. There was hope in the young man’s eyes when he saw me. He had
been in and out of consciousness, already bleeding heavily by the time I
arrived. Fear and despair perfumed the air around him, almost as thick as
the smoke from the accident. Through the shattered glass of his
windshield, he saw me, and believed I was there to help him. In a way, he
I reached into the wreckage and
placed my hand above his struggling heart. It sped up, began to race with
fear, as knowledge lit his eyes and he finally realized who I really was; the
Angel of Death. I was there to release him from the damaged thing his
body had become. Fear turned to panic and the whites of his eyes showed,
like a frightened horse. “Be calm, friend. Be easy.” Death
does not have to be a terrifying experience. It is a rebirth, of sorts.
At my words, he did calm
himself. He even smiled slightly as a look of confusion crossed his face.
I wondered who he saw when he looked at me. An old friend,
perhaps? His grandfather? His mother? Everyone sees something
different at the time of their passing. I do not take it
personally. Whatever works to help them make the transition easier.
I take their pain away. I am not there to judge.
I waited for him to relax, and at the
moment of his greatest happiness I stopped his heart and drew his soul from his
body. It hung above the wreck for a moment, a misty, light green shadow.
A kind soul, he should have little trouble with his transition. The soul
wavered slightly and disappeared. My job for the evening was done.
Or so I thought.
There was another car off the road, not
far from the first wreck. It drew me, but not for the same reason.
I had no more collections to make at that moment. I felt no
Summons. That divine urge to Harvest was simply missing, and yet I found
myself staring into another broken window, at another badly damaged body.
The girl was injured, but not
completely beyond repair. Blood softly scented the air around her and
plastered her dark hair against her cheek. She moaned, as if she sensed
me. For but a moment, her eyelashes fluttered and jewel-green eyes
flashed at me. She sighed as if she were about to release a great burden.
I did not lay a hand on her, and
yet her soul floated free above her body. It hung there, a beautiful
shade of shimmering rose gold; an old soul in a young body. I shook my
head, as if she could see me. Her name came to me when I touched her.
Isabel. An old-fashioned name for one so young. “Do not be
afraid. This is not your time, Isabel. Soon enough, but not now. Be
a good girl and get back into your body.” No reaction. Stubborn,
I placed my hand above her heart;
not to harvest this time, but just the opposite. It was not her
time. I could have left her, but without my consent, where would she go?
Another lost soul wandering about? How utterly tedious.
The girl’s heartbeat was thin and
weak. One cannot expect much without a soul attached, I supposed.
Her soul clung to my hand, fine as spun silk and as fragile as a spider’s
web. A tiny push of my Will and she was back in place, as she
I stepped back, ready to wish her
well and be on my way. I had places to be and things to do. It
would not be long before some kind stranger saw the wreck and called emergency
services. The girl would heal, live her life, and in a few decades we
would most likely meet again.
Except, she would not
cooperate. Stubborn girl. Her soul floated free once more, almost
daring me this time to do something about it. I felt just the smallest
sense of irritation, which surprised me. After millennia as Death I had
grown numb to such things.
Fine. If she refused to be
sensible about it, I had other ways of getting her to stay put. I reached
into her car and removed her seatbelt. She moaned as I pulled her from
the wreck, even though I tried to be gentle with her. Humans are such
That beautiful soul played around
me, almost taunting me. A binding would have to take place if I wanted to
put her back together again.
I reached for the broken window,
and dragged my hand across the sharp glass. It stung, but my flesh
started the healing process almost before I finished making the cut. Blood
welled up, thick and dark, so unlike the thin human blood all around us.
I forced her mouth open and squeezed a few drops of my ancient blood onto her
Blood magic is always powerful, but to be
honest I did not know what effect it would have on the girl in the
long-term. Humans tend to cling to life, in spite of their pain or
misery. A binding had never been necessary before. Not for me, at
Again I placed my hand against her
heart and pushed my Will into her. This time her soul flew back into
place and her heart gave a great leap before it started to beat steady, and
strong. She was bound, and though I did not know it at the time, so was
I woke to pain. The nasty, all-over
kind of pain that only comes from serious injury. A constant annoying
beep played directly behind my bed. I twitched my hand across the blanket
covering me…scratchy and thin. There was a sharp antiseptic scent in the air,
and something else, something spicy-smelling…leather, maybe? I cracked an eye
open. Boring, beige wallpaper, and a tiny television mounted half-way up the
wall: I was definitely in the hospital.
My dad slept in the chair next to
the bed, long legs stretched out in front of him, taking up most of the space
between the bed and window. He looked rough, and sort of used up. At
least three days of beard covered his cheeks, and his hair was messed up, too.
It was black like mine, only his lacked the brilliant purple highlights that
dusted the ends of mine.
“Dad?” My voice sounded rusted and
unused, like an old hinge in need of oil. No wonder… I tasted metal in my
mouth, like copper pennies. I cleared my throat and tried again. He came
up with a startled snort. Blood-shot blue eyes met mine, panic clearly written
in the tense lines of his mouth.
“Isabel?” I must be in bad shape.
I’ve been ‘Izzy’ for as long as I can remember. “Isabel,” only gets busted out
under the direst of circumstances; usually when I’m in serious trouble.
“You’re awake!” He grabbed the call button on the side of my bed and hit
it before he even made it to his feet. Not satisfied with that, apparently, he
practically ran to the door and yelled for a nurse to come quickly. That
surprised me. My dad is usually so quiet, and never wants to make a fuss
I tried to call him back, but my
throat was on fire and my voice wasn’t working very well, just yet. When
he came back to the side of my bed, tears were in his eyes. Never in my life
have I seen my dad cry. Never. Maybe he did when he lost my mom, but I was a newborn
and had no memory of it, if he did. Those tears scared me more than words
“What…happened?” Ugh, I desperately
needed some mouth wash.
“Honey, there was a wreck. Try not
to talk till the doctor comes in, ok?” I nodded obediently. No problem,
there. My throat was killing me.
Two obviously overworked nurses
came in to check on me. Well, he couldn’t fault their timing. They
shoved my dad back towards the open door and drew the curtain around my bed
with a sharp metallic screech that set my teeth on edge. After much
poking and prodding, a lady doctor came in to read my chart and to order a
whole lot of painful sounding tests. Apparently, I’d suffered from a few
broken ribs and a ruptured spleen. I couldn’t remember, off the top of my
head, what a spleen was even good for, but it seemed to be something
important. Along with all of my other ailments, I’d suffered multiple
cuts and bruises.
I couldn’t seem to get comfortable,
no matter which way I moved. The older of the two nurses gave me a shot of
something through my I.V. that took most of the pain away, but I was still
incredibly uncomfortable. Curiously, instead of that horrible pain I’d
woken up with, I now suffered from a deep, annoying itch around the area of my broken
“Alright, Miss Maitland, I’m going
to speak with your father before I send him back in here.” The doctor
tucked her stethoscope back around her neck and hung my chart back on the end
of my bed. “Do you have any questions for me, before I go?”
I cleared my throat before I tried
to speak. “How long until I can go home?”
She smiled at that. “We want to
keep you for a few days to monitor your spleen. Once we’ve determined
that the damage is healing on its own you will be released. You’re lucky.
I hear the cafeteria is serving its famous green Jell-O today. You will
be on a clear liquids diet for a little while, I’m afraid.” She turned and
left. A light breeze of expensive perfume followed her out of the room.
Green Jell-O. Oh, joy.
I groaned and looked around my
room. Flowers and balloons lined the window sill. Even a couple of teddy
bears. Lots of cheerful “Get well” cards were propped up against the
window. I almost laughed. I didn’t know so many people would care.
My dad came back in a few minutes
after the doctor left. He was fidgety; fluffing my pillows more than once,
straightening a stack of magazines on the roll-out table. He’s not
usually so full of nervous energy. “Dad, sit down and talk to me.”
He dropped an empty soda can into
the trash. “Ok, honey, but you need to rest.”
I snorted. “Looks like I’ve been
resting. Why don’t you go home and get some sleep? That chair can’t be as
comfortable as your bed. How long have I been here, anyway?”
“You came in Saturday night, after
you left Gwen’s house. She’s been here every day, by the way. She’s worried
crazy about you. We all are.”
“What day is it?” I winced as I
shifted on my pillows. There were still many, many sore spots.
“Tuesday.” He glanced at his watch.
“Well, technically it’s Wednesday. We’re after midnight, now.”
“Go get some sleep, Dad. I’m ok. I
think they gave me something to make me sleep; I’m getting really tired, again.
I promise I won’t get out of bed or do anything stupid.”
He grinned at that, and the dimple
peeked out in his cheek. “The doctor says you’re doing well. Much better
than expected. I might make a quick trip home for some clothes.” He
needed sleep more than anything, by the looks of him, but nagging him wouldn’t
work. He was far too hard-headed for that.
“Good idea. Would you bring me
something to drink? Pretty please.” He poured some water from a small
pitcher into a cup and stuck in a bendy straw. I took a grateful sip. Normally
I would have preferred a soda, but that lukewarm water was the best thing I’d
ever tasted in my entire life. I drained the tiny cup and handed it back to
him. “Thanks. You wouldn’t have any mouthwash, would you? I’m tasting
metal. It feels like I licked the bottom of an old tin can, or
“That’s probably blood you’re
tasting. The doctor said when your spleen ruptured it started dumping blood
into your stomach. It’s healing on its own, thank God. They didn’t need to do
surgery. That’s something.” He gave me a weak grin. “You came close,
honey. Too close.” He turned away and got busy picking up my room suddenly, but
not before I saw the tears welling up, again.
Wow. I really had almost
died. That’s a freaky thought when you’re only seventeen. I had always
assumed I would live forever. Or at least get really old, and die in my sleep.
That was the plan, anyway.
“I’m good, Dad. Promise. Go home
for a while. Take a nap and get a shower. Oh, and feed Jazzy for
me. And can you call Gwen, so she stops worrying? Also, please
bring me some toothpaste and mouthwash.” I grinned as he brushed my hair back
from my face and kissed my forehead. “Oh, and maybe a hairbrush?”
“I’m glad you’re feeling better,
Izzy. I will be back in less than two hours. I’d sneak you breakfast, but
the doc said clear liquids for a few days.”
“Just be glad that I’m not mean
enough to eat in front of you,” he said, as he started towards the door.
I waved him out of the room
and leaned back into my pillows. I closed my eyes and tried my best to
remember, but it was still kind of patchy. I’d gone over to Gwen’s house to
hang out. I glanced down at my electric purple nail polish. I’d painted my
nails that night to match the highlights I’d had Gwen put in my hair the week
before. It had looked really cool at the time, with the purple just dusting the
tips of my long, wavy, almost-black hair. After several days in bed, the nails
were still good, but the hair was just a funky, matted mess. I needed a
shower in a bad way. There probably wasn’t a hope of getting one, either.
Ok, focus… so Gwen and I watched a
movie, did our nails, and talked about her latest crush for a few hours. I’d
gone home around nine. Then what? I felt myself drifting off. Maybe the
nurse really did shoot something into my I.V. I had that warm, floating
feeling like I was caught between sleep and waking. It wasn’t a bad feeling, so
I drifted along and dreamed a little.
Headlights flashed in my memory.
They crossed the center line and were coming straight at me. My heart
dropped into my stomach. I laid on the horn, but the car didn’t move. A split
second before the car would’ve hit me, I jerked the wheel. The car
clipped my front end but I’d avoided a head-on collision. I just hadn’t
counted on the embankment I’d gone sailing over. Time slowed down while I took
the world’s longest ride. Within seconds the air bag exploded and whiteness
took over my vision. I couldn’t see outside, but I felt the car flip a couple of
times. It was a tooth-rattling experience, for sure. The world turned
upside down and all around before everything went black.
I came to smelling bitter smoke and
what I guessed was burning rubber. The engine was still running. That was very
bad. Visions of a fiery death filled my head, thanks to last summer’s drivers’
education class. I tried to reach the ignition, to stop the motor, but my arms
weren’t working properly. Nothing hurt yet, exactly, but I was pretty
sure it would soon. There was too much pressure when I tried to get deep
breaths, like someone was sitting on my chest squeezing the air out. I
couldn’t find my cell phone to call for help. It was lost somewhere in the
broken glass and old fast food wrappers I’d meant to clean out of my car last
weekend. So much for having the stupid phone in case of emergency.
Surprisingly I didn’t panic. Not
much, anyway. Ok, a little, but I was entitled to panic. My phone was
lost, my car was smoking, and I was in some seriously deep shit. The only
thing I had going for me was the fact that I had been on a fairly busy highway
when I’d wrecked. Surely, someone would see my car and call 911.
I’d passed out again, only to come
to as I was pulled out of the broken windshield of my car. Someone spoke to me,
brushed my hair off my face. A soothing voice and strong arms. “Do not be
afraid. It is not your time, Isabel.” Hunh? Must have really hit my head hard.
Good Samaritan shouldn’t have known my name. Maybe he found my wallet? I
couldn’t see his face. I floated in and out of consciousness, but I caught a
glimpse of blonde hair and a whiff of something spicy. He smelled nice.
Overhead lights flared above my
head, startling me fully awake. “Good morning, Sunshine!” A grinning Gwen came
bouncing into my room; long, blonde ponytail swinging. She started to bounce on
the end of my hospital bed but swung around at the last possible second into
the chair next to it. Gwen is not normally what you might call the bouncy
sort. She looks like she would be, but usually she’s the sarcastic, kick
your ass and ask questions later, sort. “You look like shit, Iz.”
I laughed at her. I couldn’t help
it. Gwen always made me happy. We’d been best friends most of our lives. Her
dad, Timothy Rose, was a medieval literature professor. To his only daughter
he’d given the unfortunate name of Gwenevere: after King Arthur’s adulterous
queen. Gwenevere Rose. A beautiful and perfectly fine name,
really. Gwen, of course, hated it. I’d always thought it suited her. She
kind of reminded me of a medieval queen— if, said queen, had a potty mouth. She
was all long limbs and golden hair. Physically we were complete
opposites. In all other ways, she was the sister I never had.
“What are you doing here this
early? It’s a week day, isn’t it? Shouldn’t you be in school?”
“We are on fall break,
remember? You’re wasting a perfectly good school break in this hospital
bed.” Well crap. I had forgotten about break in the midst of all the
excitement of almost dying. She looked through the assortment of flowers
and stuffed toys sitting on my windowsill. “You’ve got quite an
assortment of goodies over here. Someone must like you.”
I laughed. “Yeah, you and my
dad. Everybody else just tolerates me.”
“Nope. What have we, here?”
She pulled a stuffed turtle off the sill. “Get well
.” She flipped
the gift tag over and her eyes widened, along with her smile. “From Alex
“Let me see that.” She handed
the turtle over. It was cute, with a multi-colored shell and a dopey
smile. “Why would Alex Winters send me anything?”
She snorted. “Probably did it
because he’s been pining after you since seventh grade, not that you’d notice.”
I gave her stink eye, which really
did hurt me more than it did her. My face was probably a little bruised
from the wreck. “Alex hasn’t been pining over me. He has plenty of girls
chasing after him. He doesn’t need me added to his harem.” I held
the turtle out for her to put back on the windowsill. “It’s a cute
“Yeah, very considerate, too.
Since you’ve got a collection of turtles. What a nice thing for Alex to
do.” Oh, man, she wasn’t going to let this go. Gwen had a black
belt in subtle sarcasm. I had to get her off the subject of Alex Winters.
Fast. The turtle sat smiling in a little patch of sunlight; mocking me.
“You wouldn’t happen to have a
cheeseburger on you, would you? No? How about a mirror?” While she dug
through her purse I did a mental inventory of my injuries. I’d woken up in the
middle of the night hurting, but I felt pretty fine only a few hours later, all
things considered. Whatever they’d shot into my I.V. was awesome stuff; they
should leave it out in candy dishes in the lobby.
My ribs itched like mad, and so did
a spot on the side of my head, just behind my ear. I supposed that was where
I’d hit my head against the window. Itching was a sign of healing, right? It
had to be a good sign. All in all, I really felt pretty good. Maybe even great,
considering I was almost road-kill.