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Face Of An Angel


Submitted to:Write Link "Xmas Chillers" competition (story must start with the given first line).


Face Of An Angel

The night was so incredibly beautiful, but all I saw were the ruby drops in the snow and the broken wings of the murdered angel. Christmas carols filtered out from a nearby church, a surreal addition to the nightmare scene.

I had been using the park as a shortcut on my way home, when I happened upon the body. At first I had thought it human, but as I drew closer I saw it for what it was.

The angel lay front-down, head twisted slightly to one side. The face was beautiful but androgynous; a perfect beauty that was neither male nor female simply because it didn't have to choose. Only the eyes spoiled it - open even in death, they were distant and lifeless.

I knelt down, incredulous, tracing my gaze across the body where its simple white robe dropped at the back. Two bloody gashes marred otherwise flawless skin. I glanced across - the angel's wings had been cast onto the path next to it. And beside them lay a scimitar, crafted in shining gold. A thin streak of blood marked the blade.

A chill ran through me. Here was body and weapon; where was the murderer?

A sudden scream broke me from my thoughts, loud and sharp against the carols. It came from further down the path, hidden by the trees. In a moment of fear I paused, not breathing, listening for another scream. Nothing came.

I gathered my courage, grabbing the scimitar as I did so, and ran down the path. The blade was awkward as I ran and, I thought, would make a very poor weapon in my hands, but the look of it at least might give me something to bluff with.

I rounded a corner and found myself at the edge of the park. A woman was sitting against the railings, a brilliant red cut along her cheek, her black dress speckled with snow. She looked up as I approached, her eyes glancing at the scimitar.

I suddenly realised how I must look, running at her with a sword, and slowed to a walk. I knelt by her and said, "Are you okay?"

She raised a hand to her face, smudging the blood. Her eyes narrowed. "Sure, nothing I can't handle." She pointed at the path. "Can you pass my shawl?"

I looked around, saw a piece of black material in the snow and passed it to the woman. She shrugged it on around her shoulders and pulled herself to her feet.

"What happened?" I asked.

"I was attacked," she said, "by an angel." She looked at the scimitar again. "I see you found the other one."

My heart skipped a beat. Previously I had not considered the possibility that there was more than one angel here. Now it seemed alarming.


The woman held out her hand. I shook it cautiously. "Elizabeth Baker," she said. "I write for Subversion Magazine. We're anti-government, anti-establishment..."

"... and anti-religion?" I finished for her.

"Yes." She shrugged her shawl further up her shoulders and looked at me critically. "I've been attacked by all sorts, but not often by angels." She paused, then added, "A little tip. Attack their wings. It won't kill them, but the pain will keep them distracted."

A cold breeze blew and a few flakes of white fell around us. Clouds had moved across the sky, hiding the moon and stars, and bringing more snow. Elizabeth started walking. "We should leave." She didn't look around as she called, "Are you coming or what?"

We followed the path, walking beside the railings, the scimitar knocking against my leg. I hoped the blade would make me feel braver. It didn't.

Elizabeth stopped at a break in the fence and motioned towards it. "This way," she said, pushing through the gap.

I waited a moment, uncertain. The gap led into the back of the churchyard - not a place I wanted to be, but I had no better suggestions. I ran to catch up.

We picked our way between snow-capped gravestones and started following the narrow path around the ageing building. The congregation inside was being led in prayer and the sound filtered out, ghostly in the cold night.

As we rounded the corner Elizabeth stopped. She tensed, then sagged again. I stopped beside her and looked.

Ahead of us an angel stood on a gravestone, wings outstretched, face looking to the sky.

I jumped, then realised the angel was made of stone.

Elizabeth stormed forward, picking up a stone and hurling it. One of the stone wings snapped away amid a shower of snow.

"Evil, vicious scum!" she yelled. She picked up another rock and threw again, clipping the tip off the other wing.

I stopped her as she groped about for another projectile.

"Hey!" I grabbed her shoulders. "It's just a statue."

She shrugged me off. "You've no idea about them." She turned and spat at the statue.

Music came from inside the church again and the congregation started a chorus of "Away in a Manager". Elizabeth scowled.

"Bloody carols," she said.

I shrugged. "It's just music."

"To you, maybe. But when they hear it," she nodded towards the angel statue, "they get cocky. Start flocking to it." We started walking again, slowly rounding the church. "A little bit of praise and they -"

Elizabeth stopped abruptly. I expected another statue, followed her gaze calmly, looking through the falling snow to the front of the church.

Another angel was standing amidst the gravestones.

It hadn't seen us; its attention was focussed on the church door. It had a similarly androgynous face to the dead angel I had seen earlier and glowed slightly, as if bathed in light from the still-covered moon. One wing hung awkwardly - signs of an earlier encounter with Elizabeth, I speculated.

It seemed to be listening to the music.

As the song ended the angel turned. Too late I noticed we had been seen. For a second it stared, then suddenly the angel leapt into the air on spread wings. I tried to call to Elizabeth but didn't have time. The angel came with incredible speed, beautiful face curled into a silent battle cry. I raised the scimitar, an incredibly slow movement by comparison, and was flung backwards by a sudden impact on my chest. I crashed into a gravestone and landed in the snow.

I pulled myself up painfully. The angel had forced Elizabeth to the ground and they were wrestling for control of the angel's own weapon. The creature was vicious - punching and kicking with incredible strength. I knew Elizabeth's life was in danger.

Hefting my sword, I ran to the fight. I lifted the weapon over my head and swung downwards. My technique was bad; my aim, poor. But I landed the blade on the angel's damaged wing with enough force to slice into the feathered surface. The stunned creature dropped its scimitar and threw its head back in a silent cry, striking out in my direction. It caught me with a glancing blow, knocking me to the floor as it tumbled backwards, reeling in pain.

Elizabeth saw her chance and quickly scooped up the dropped scimitar. The angel knew its mistake immediately but could only cower as Elizabeth swung her arm - once, twice - and two wings fell away. The angel howled - actual, real sound - and the glow faded from its body. It lay writhing on the floor briefly, then with one final swipe light flared and the angel remained motionless.

Elizabeth stared at the dead angel as I pulled myself to my feet. Her shawl was lying in the snow. I picked it up and took a step towards her.

I stopped.

The back of her dress curved down, exposing her shoulder blades and two very clear scars. I dropped the shawl, my body suddenly weak.

"You're one of them," I said.

Elizabeth didn't look round. She just said, "I should feel sorry for you, I suppose, but in a way you've done me a great favour."

Realisation hit me. "They took your wings, didn't they? You're a fallen angel."

She looked at me then, over her shoulder. A wicked smile formed on her face. "No angel ever fell. They were pushed." She threw down the scimitar and walked over to me, meeting my gaze as she picked up her shawl. "They'll be coming for you now. Oh, they expect trouble from their own 'wicked' brethren, but when they find out a mortal was involved - they won't tolerate that."

She pushed past me then, throwing her shawl around her shoulders.

"But they won't know it's me, will they?"

Elizabeth said nothing. Without looking back she pointed at the sky.

I looked upwards as another hymn started in the church. The snow had stopped falling, leaving the sky dark with clouds. And there, up high, were a dozen approaching shapes radiating a moonlight glow.

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