There was something going on below her.
She preened, setting the feathers into place, but part of her attention was focused on the men.
One made a grand gesture, but the other wasn’t intimidated and stepped forward, shouting. There was a flicker of sliver in the light, and then a splash across the wall. In the silver of the full moon there was no color to it, but she could smell the metallic tang of blood like she was on top of it.
She thought he would run after that, but he didn’t. He spoke into his phone, and then leaned against the wall, cleaning the knife.
It wasn’t that he was brave, because she could smell his fear when he’d spoken on the phone. It was even stronger than it had been when he’d been threatened.
He didn’t have long to wait before the car arrived. The driver got out and opened the back door, and a woman got out.
The woman didn’t look right, or feel right. She wore a dress, but not one of the little dresses that the streetwalkers wore. It looked more like a sundress, and over it she wore some sort of shawl. She was very thin, and her skin was stretched so tightly over her frame that it made her seem younger.
What happened? she said, and then, Obviously, so explain it to me.
That was odd. Usually in the dreams the words didn’t make sense to her. The dreaming part of her wanted to listen to the man too, but the part that was awake still couldn’t make sense of him. He groaned and lamented, but all she understood was the feeling: abject terror.
The woman listened—untouched by the cold and the darkness—and when the man was done she reached out and laid her hand on his shoulder.
In the dreams, she was usually isolated behind the black eyes, but now she was afraid. The woman’s hand burned with bitter frost, and the man couldn’t help but to release a keening cry of pain. He tried to pull back, but the woman’s grip held him fast for a moment until he threw the whole of his weight into pulling away.
He fell against the wall where he had been leaning, but instead of leaning he slid to the ground. The shoulder of his jacket was white, and as he reached up with his hand it flaked away under his touch. He was crying now, quietly, but the pain was partially distracting him from the fear.
The woman turned to the mess and gestured and said Be consumed, but she spoke it to the ground and the walls.
The body seemed to relax, which was odd considering that it had already been splayed out dead, but it shrugged a moment as the earth opened up and swallowed it, drinking the blood and chewing on the bones. Then it was over, and the there was no sign of the dead man.
She’d kept her perch throughout this, but now the woman looked around, and that terrified the part of her that was awake. She took flight.
She was no owl. Her wings beat loudly against the darkness, but not as loudly as her pounding heartbeat.
She flapped and flapped, until she was in another part of the city altogether and her wings burned from the exertion. She relaxed, and spotted a wooden fence between the yard separating two parking lots.
As soon as she landed though, she knew that she’d made a mistake. There was no car, no humans that her eyes could find in the dark, but something was still watching her.
Between one breath and the next, the woman was there. Not close enough to harm her, but standing in the dark. Her face was white, and she clutched the shawl tightly.
Who, who, who? the woman asked. Who, who, who?
If there was some response, it was garbled. She wasn’t sure who she was supposed to be in this dream. The woman didn’t seem satisfied and she frowned.
Then she opened her eyes so wide that the white surrounded her irises, and they changed from brown to a brilliant yellow with red flickering at the edges.
Come, she implored. There is so much that you can do for me. Come and be mine. Give yourself entirely to me.
It washed over the dreamer, and it was so absolutely reasonable and desirable. It made so much sense. She opened her wings, and it felt like sparks of love and respect flowed down them into her. The woman stepped forward, singing Come, come, come.
She sprang from the fence, flying right into the embrace of the woman, and when she reached the heart of the golden sea of devotion and contentment, the part of her that was awake vicious attacked.
The woman screamed as claws and beak tore into her. The taunt skin snapped back and the smell of blood surrounded them. She raised her hands, but there was nothing that she could do against the huge flapping black wings. She struck out, missed, and tried again.
This time she caught on the edge of the wing, and the bird broke off, flying away. She didn’t flee this time. Whatever disturbed the waking bird had been washed away by the blood on her talons. A little victory, but a victory.
When Lia awoke, there were a few black feathers in her bed. It wasn’t the first time, but there were more than normal.
She shivered at the strange dream, and then she gathered up the feathers, and threw them in the trash in the bathroom before Lex could find them.