“’So you’re half-demon?’ she asks.
‘Yeah,’ Cass says. ‘And so are you.’”
She wakes up and realizes that she is lying on the side of a road in a city. She doesn’t know which one. She pushes herself off the ground and onto her bare feet. The girl feels her head, which is covered with tangled, thick black hair. Her eyes glance around as she looks at the tall buildings around her small self. The girl then realizes her olive skin is covered with dirt. She wears a pair of baggy jeans that don’t belong to her and a red tee with the words “Susie’s Cafe” on it.
The girl has no memories of what had happened that put her in this place. All she remembers are the basic things like how to breathe, how to tie her shoelaces, how to read and write, and how to walk and talk. But she doesn’t remember her family or friends or if she has any at all. She doesn’t know where she’s from or where or when she was born. She doesn’t even remember her name.
The girl walks a few blocks and wonders where the cafe on her shirt is. Overwhelmed by all the confusion that faces her right now, she decides to ask someone to help her. She walks into the nearest building, which is a coffee shop, and walks over to the counter. But before she can reach it, a waiter accidentally pours a steaming cup of hot coffee on the girl. With a burning sensation on her torso, she screams in pain. The waiter apologizes to her and offers her a clean napkin to wipe off the scorching coffee on her tee. The liquid slowly falls down onto her bare feet. So the boy brings her to the restroom and helps her clean herself.
“I’m so sorry, miss,” the boy says to her as she splashes water onto her face.
“It’s okay,” she says.
“What can I do to repay you?” he asks her generously.
“I need directions. I’m kind of lost,” she says.
“No problem,” he says. “Where do you need to go?” He puts the coffee soaked napkins in the nearest trash can.
“Susie’s Cafe,” she says. The girl takes a deep breath and is afraid to ask the next question that rambles in her mind. “I also need to know where I am?”
The boy looks at her like she is a loon but he answers her question anyway. “You’re in Carrie’s Coffeehouse.”
“I mean what city?” she asks, afraid he might run away because of the unknown girl’s cluelessness.
“Oh honey, you’re in New York City,” he says, “If you want a more specific answer, you’re in Manhattan.”
All she says is, “Huh.”
“I figure you’re lost and all, but are you alright? Like, do you know where exactly you are going?” he asks.
“No I don’t,” the girl with no name says. “I don’t know anything about myself. I don’t know how I got here or why and I don’t remember if I have any family or friends. I don’t even know my own goddamn name.”
“Oh my god,” he says. “Let me show you the way to Susie’s.”
“Thank you so much, sir,” the girl says.
“I’m twenty-one, don’t call me ‘sir,’” the boy says. “My name is Vic, and my shift is almost over so I can take you to Susie’s right now.” He takes a deep breath. “There’s also an available apartment right across the hall from mine. It’s yours if you want.”
“But I don’t have any money.”
“I’ll pay for everything,” Vic says with a sweet and welcoming smile.
The girl is very delighted at the news of her being sheltered, but she is hesitant of Vic. She thinks of the fact that Vic might be a serial killer or an ax murderer. But she’s in desperate need of finding a place to stay so she decides to ignore those possibilities. The girl nods her head to Vic and they go off on their way to find Susie’s Cafe.
They find the cafe in no time. At the counter, she meets Susie, an old woman with graying hair and a scary look on her face. The girl asks Susie if she knows anything about her. Susie tells them that the girl will have to come back in a year to learn the truth.
Naturally, the girl is upset, but she goes off with Vic.
A year later, the girl and Vic are now much closer, best friends, even. They arrive at the cafe once again to see Susie about her old life.
“Come into the alley with me, children,” she says. They followed her into the alley. “I’ll tell you about your past, Honey,” Susie begins.
“Okay, tell me already,” she says impatiently.
“But on one condition,” Susie says.
“I get to kill him.” She points Vic with her wrinkly finger.
Vic and the girl exchange a look. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“I need my food, Honey,” Susie says with a rasp in her sickening voice. “You see sweeties, I’m a Vorago. One who needs humans to live. I prey on the weak, but strong-hearted. There are not many of those in this world.” She gave them an uneasy smile.
The girl puts her arm in front of Vic and says, “Never.”
“Fine, it’s your choice.” Susie stood there, and suddenly the petite, elderly woman grows fangs, like a vampire, and her face turns more wrinkly than before. Behind her back, Susie holds a knife. She runs towards Vic and attempts to stab him anyway. But before Susie can reach him, the girl grabs the knife from her hand and runs it into Susie instead. Her scream is ear-splitting. Her old body is lit on fire by a mysterious force and she burns to ashes right in front of them.
The girl hugs Vic and says, “I will never let anyone hurt you.”
He hugs her back and says, “Same here.”
She lets go of him and wipes some stray tears off of her cheek. “I guess I will never know who I really am.”
“You already know who you are,” Vic says to her. “You don’t need your past to make your future. Your future is what you make of it right now in the present.”
“But I don’t even have a name,” she says letting a tear fall from her eye.
“I can give you one.”
“Really?” she asks as she and Vic make their way out of the alley and onto the sidewalk. “What are you thinking of?”
“I was thinking you could take my last name, Madison.”
“I like that,” she says. “What about the first name?”
“Well everybody calls you Honey, so why not?”
“I love it!” she says. Honey leans over to Vic and gives him a kiss on the cheek. “My name is Honey Madison.”
So the girl who had no name a year ago and didn’t even know who she was, is now with a name and living across the hall from her best friend-turned-boyfriend, Vic Madison. But don’t worry, Honey eventually learned about her past by meeting someone from her past. So for now, the girl with no name is no more.
One year later…
She walks down the New York City street as if it is a normal day. She holds hands with her boyfriend, Vic, and glances over to him once in awhile thinking to herself how lucky she is to have him. His caramel-colored hair is being whipped around by the wind and the sunlight shining in his big brown eyes. It fills Honey with more joy than anyone could ever imagine.
Many people pass by them, big, small, short, tall and they all seem normal. But there is one woman who stands out. Her long, curly, strawberry blonde hair bounces up and down while the sunlight gracefully dances along her snow white skin. She wears a big smile on her face. Her pearly white teeth sparkle while her rosy red lips are shaped like a heart. Her outfit consists of a simple long-sleeve black tee with tight leather pants, black combat boots, and a black heart-shaped purse slung across her shoulder. The woman’s brown eyes linger over to Honey and Vic. She stops in her place and begins to quickly walk over to them.
Honey and Vic keep walking while trying to ignore the woman, making no eye contact with her. But something doesn’t feel right. The blonde woman seems very familiar to her. There’s something different about this girl that strikes her. She can hear the clicking of the woman’s heels plopping up and down. Honey grips Vic’s hand a bit tighter, showing fear. The woman gets closer. It seems like she is running now. Honey wonders who this woman is and what she wants.
“Mara!” the woman shouts over the roar of the trains above them. Honey and Vic continue walking as if the woman had never said anything. The trains are gone and again the woman shouts, “Mara!”
Honey begins to slow down but Vic keeps going at the same rate. “Stop,” she whispers to him as she stands still in the middle of the sidewalk. Vic, a foot ahead of her, looks back at her confused.
“Honey, come on,” he says hoarsely.
She just shakes her head and whips around, standing face to face with the woman. The woman stops in awe, trying to catch her breath. Vic walks over to the two women, bewildered by what’s happening. Honey stares at the girl, feeling a strange sense of familiarity.
The blonde woman smiles a bit and throws her arms around Honey. For some reason, she hugs her back. The woman releases her from her grasp and smiles again. A single tear slithers down her face, smearing her mascara. Both Honey and Vic are muddled. Honey shows no sign of emotion as she stares at the awestruck woman.
“What’s wrong?” the woman questions. Honey notices her English accent now that she’s talking to her. Her deep brown eyes were filled with mystery and something else that Honey couldn’t put her finger on.
“I don’t know,” she answers quietly, but loud enough so the woman could hear. “Do I know you?”
The woman looks hurt. Her eyes sadden and her shoulders, which were once high with excitement, fall. Her smile turns into a frown. Honey knows this is her imagination, but she thinks she can hear a heart beating quickly. A heartbeat that is not her own.
“What tricks are you playing on me this time?” the woman asks with annoyance in her voice.
“I’m sorry,” she says. “I don’t know who you are.”
The woman doesn’t look confused at all. She just looks sad and worried. Thoughts race through Honey’s head. Does this woman hold the answers to her past? How, in all of New York City, does she find the woman that knew her before she became Honey Madison, two years exactly after she woke up in that alley?
“Do you remember anything about yourself?” the woman asks. Honey shakes her head. “Do you even know your name?” She shakes her head again. The woman sighs. “Do you know who I am?” She shakes her head. The woman closes her eyes in frustration.
“What have you been calling yourself for the past two years, then?” she asks.
“Honey Madison, and this is Vic.”
“Well, that’s stupid,” she says with grin.
“Hey,” Vic pipes up. “I happened to think that is a wonderful and very creative name.”
The woman turns, scans him, and says, “I’m going to assume that you came up with it, then.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Vic questions, offended.
She lifts her brows and grins. “If her name is so stupid, then may I ask what yours is?” Vic asks annoyed.
“Cass Blackwood,” the woman says. There’s something in that name that wants to spark a fire in her mind. Vic doesn’t say a word. Cass rolls her eyes and faces Honey again.
“I know you don’t have any idea who I am, but trust me,” Cass kindly says. “I will restore your memories and get you back where you truly belong.”
“And where’s that?” Honey asks.
Cass wraps her long white fingers around Honey’s skinny wrists and whispers, “Home.”
Cass, Honey, and Vic agree to meet at Carrie’s Coffeehouse at seven that night. Vic isn’t too happy about meeting with a stranger from his girlfriend’s past. He wonders if her past is something that will make her leave him. He doesn’t want that to happen, so he tries to talk Honey out of meeting with Cass tonight.
“What if she’s just a con artist trying to take your money?” Vic asks Honey in her apartment later that day.
“What money?” Honey fires back. “Vic, I’m a waitress working at a crappy cafe. I don’t think Cass wants to rob a girl who can barely afford a nice dress.”
“I just have a bad feeling about her,” he says nervously.
She sighs. “Vic, you have to trust me on this. Cass Blackwood is from my past. I don’t know how, I can just feel it.”
“I don’t know,” she softly says, “but you have to trust me.” She grins, throws on her dark purple jacket and leaves.
Vic wonders. She doesn’t know what she’s getting into.
Honey arrives at the coffeehouse in a matter of minutes. She walks through the front door and spots Cass reading a book. Cass notices Honey and ushers her over to her table. Honey is nervous, but, still in doubt, saunters over to Cass. She plasters a fake smile on her face. Cass smiles back and pulls a chair out for her. Honey sits down. Cass picks up a glass of water and puts it up to her mouth.
“First things first,” Honey begins, “you’d better not be a serial killer or some kind of con artist or my boyfriend will find you and make you pay.”
Cass spits out the water in her mouth and laughs. “Funny.”
“I wasn’t trying to be,” she admits.
Cass puts the glass down and wipes her mouth on her sleeve. “That Madison boy is your boyfriend?” Honey nods. “No offense, but that boy is not going to make me pay.”
“He’s stronger than he looks,” Honey defends.
“Well,” Cass says, “so am I.”
Honey scans Cass. She’s tall, taller than Honey, but frail-looking. She has skinny arms and legs, and, honestly, she looks fifteen.
“What did you mean,” Honey begins, changing the subject, “when you said you can restore my memories?”
Cass takes a deep breath. “Well, I can’t do it myself. I don’t have that kind of power, but I have friends that can.”
“Then take me to them,” she demands.
“Slow down,” Cass says. “First, we have to prove that you’re worth restoring.”
“Worth restoring?” Honey asks. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Witches and Warlocks can be picky when it comes to favors,” Cass explains. “They only want to work with ‘pure’ customers. I’ve already been deemed pure by the Warlocks’ Council.” She pulls up her sleeve, revealing a burn that looks like a W with a vertical line straight down the middle.
“Warlocks? Witches?” Honey asks, baffled. “What are you talking about?”
“Oh,” she begins, “you really don’t know anything about the Immortal World.”
“I’m sorry, but you’re mad,” Honey says. She gets up from her chair and starts to walk away, leaving Cass behind.
But when Honey arrives outside, the world is frozen. Not winter frozen, or the Disney film, but frozen in time. Moving cars stop in the middle of traffic. Birds stand still overhead, wings spread out. People with one foot in the air, trapped in conversation, glued to their phones. Honey is the only one still moving.
A hand grasps her shoulder. She gasps, and spins around. Cass stands there staring at her.
“What did you do?” she asks, muddled. “More importantly, how did you do that? And don’t say ‘magic.’”
She huffs. “I’m part an order of half-human, half-demon warriors that fight to protect mortals from evil. Personally, I am half-Gorgon from my mother’s side. Instead of turning people into stone, I can freeze the Mortal World in time,” she explains. “Got a problem with that?”
She stays silent.
“I thought so,” Cass says.
“So you’re half-demon?” she asks.
“Yeah,” Cass says. “And so are you.”
“There are things you need to know,” she says. “But I can’t explain everything right now.” Her voice rises. “The entire Mortal World is frozen, and I can hear footsteps coming here. Fast.”
“What do we do?” Honey asks, as the sound of footsteps grows louder.
“What I always do,” she says. “Run.”
Cass unfreezes the Mortal World, and they run as fast as they can through the streets of Brooklyn. Honey’s heart races as her feet pound against the pavement, and she takes short, quick breaths to stabilize her jittery body. Cass is much faster than her, and it pains Honey to run faster than she has ever before. Cass makes a turn into an alley, and Honey follows her, not knowing what she’s doing. She pulls out a phone, dials a number, and puts it up to her ear.
“Monroe?” she says into the speaker. “Yeah, it’s me, Cass. I found Mara. Yes, I’m sure it’s her. There’s someone following us. I need backup. Come with the Idrises. Yes, immediately.”
Cass ends the call, and looks down the street. She gasps. She runs towards the end of the alley, and sprints up a wobbly, rusty ladder. As she approaches the top, she yells something that Honey assumes it’s an invitation to hurry up. Honey runs and hops onto the ladder. She climbs as fast as she can, but Cass is much quicker than her. Honey pulls herself onto the roof of the building and sees Cass looking up, not down like Honey would assume she would.
“What are you looking at?” she asks. Suddenly, a roaring sound of flapping pervades her ears. “Cass, what is that sound?”
“Backup,” she says.
Honey looks at the sky and sees four creatures flying towards them. As they approach closer, she recognizes the flying beings as horses. Horses with wings. The four black stallions flap their large, long, dark wings up and down, and it looks like they’re carrying people: two young women and two young men. The horses land gracefully on the roof of the building. They hop off and tie their reins on an antenna sticking out from the brick. The riders’ eyes widen when they see Honey. She wonders why they’re staring at her, but she just walks over to Cass.
“Why are they staring at me?” she asks.
“They’re surprised to see you,” she says as she leads Honey over to them.
As they approach them, Honey grows nervous. They look at her as though they’ve known her forever. She has an uneasy, familiar feeling about these people. She then notices they carry swords in their scabbards except for one of the women, she carries no weapon. The short woman with no weapon has short dark hair cut to her neck, flawless alabaster skin, deep brown eyes, and wears dark jeans, a black tank top, and a red leather jacket.
Cass points to the woman and says, “This is Brielle Idris.” She points to the other woman, who has long dark purple hair, tied in a ponytail, alabaster skin, hazel eyes, and wears almost the same thing as Brielle, but has a black leather jacket and blue jeans. Cass directs her hand to the shorter man with shaggy blond hair, brown eyes, alabaster skin, and wears ripped jeans, and a t-shirt. “These are the Idris twins, Garvin and Lilith.” Then Cass nods to the muscular man with the scars running down his face, who wears black jeans, a navy t-shirt, and combat boots with dark hair, dark skin, and brown eyes. “And this Kellen Monroe.”
Lilith is the one who speaks first. “Where have you been for the last two years?”
“I believe that a demon might’ve stolen her memories,” Cass says. “She doesn’t know any of us or anything of the Immortal World.”
“Dammit,” Garvin mumbles.
“Are you all like Cass?” Honey innocently asks.
“Everyone, except for Brielle,” Monroe says. “She’s a Witch.”
“Oh,” is all she can say.
“We can’t deal with this right now,” Cass says. “There’s a group of Voragines coming up the street right now, and I bet by all six of our demon blood and the pegasi, that they can smell us and will come up here. So I suggest we be prepared.” She takes a deep breath. “Arm Mara with a sword, and be ready.”
Garvin, Lilith, and Monroe pull their swords from their scabbards and raise them in a defensive position. Monroe tosses Cass another sword from his second scabbard, and she catches it. Garvin walks over to Honey and holds out a silver sword.
“Take this,” he says to her. “You will know what to do.” He smiles and places the sword in her hands. Honey can feel something when his skin touch hers, another spark of fire, but she still cannot find the substance that lights it.
“What’s my name? My real name?” she asks him, looking into his eyes.
“Your name is Mara Blackwood,” Garvin says. “You’re like me, a Champion of the Immortal World.”
“Blackwood?” she asks. “Like Cass?”
“She didn’t tell you?” he asks. “She’s your sister.”
Honey’s mind races, but she knows that this isn’t the time to take all of this in. All she knows is that she needs to help these people defend themselves from Voragines, the bloodsucking monsters that tried to kill Vic and her a year ago. These last two years are all she remembers. She wonders what life she must have had back when she was Mara Blackwood. Whoever she was, she is not that girl anymore. Through the deprivation of her memories, she has been reborn. Honey holds the silver sword in her hands, a sword engraved with beautiful symbols. She wonders if they mean something special to someone. She can feel the power in her dainty hands. The power coursing through her blood.
She knows now who she is, who she will always be.
She looks up at Garvin and sees him staring at her. She gives him a smile of reassurance and grasps the sword in her hands. She raises the sword up between her and Garvin.
“I don’t know who you are, Garvin,” she begins. “I might’ve long ago, but not anymore. I have many questions, but little answers. I do not need them right now because I know what I am, what I will always be: a warrior.”
She lowers the sword and walks away. She approaches the others and raises her sword like they do. Cass looks over to her.
“Are you ready?” she asks.
“Ready as I’ll ever be.”
About two dozen Voragines scale the building, their sharp teeth snarling and their razor-edged nails digging into the brick. They are pale beings with murderous eyes. Her muscles tighten and her heart beat quickens. She tightens her grip on the sword as they grow closer. She backs away from the edge. Cass and the others stay where they are, ready for battle. But she thinks she can defend herself by standing back.
Lilith swings her bronze sword and slices off the head of an ugly Vorago. Her stomach twists at the sight of the headless body, the severed head, and the sprayed blood all over. She wonders how no one on the streets can see the horror above their heads. Monroe impales another and it falls to the ground. In Brielle’s hands, a ball of fire forms, growing bigger and bigger. She throws it at a Vorago, and its body is consumed by the flames. He burns and plummets to the Earth. Cass slashes a Vorago, and Garvin slits another’s throat.
Strangely, she has no trouble believing that this chaos is her world.
Another Vorago sprints towards the girl and snarls his teeth at her. She raises her sword, and swings the blade straight through his heart. He falls to the ground. Blood spills everywhere. It feels so natural, the killing of demons. Her heartbeat quickens and the blood in her veins boils. Another attacks her, and she slices off its head. Energy rushes down her spine, an odd place where power would emerge. She slashes one Vorago, two Voragines, three Voragines. It’s so easy.
After so many Voragines dead, the warriors finally stop and lower their weapons. All eyes turn to the girl. Her clothes are covered in blood, her hair thrown all about because of fighting, and her body weakening right in front of them. She trudges over to the edge and looks down. The people keep walking. They don’t even notice the battle that roared above them moments ago.
Tears burn in her eyes and her knees buckle. If Cass is right, she is demon, but she is also human. That bit of human lingering in her body, her soul, keeping her bound to this Earth, this world.
Suddenly, the others are yelling at her, warning her. They’re telling her to turn around. She spins as quickly as she can, but it’s too late. The last growling Vorago is running toward her at what it seems like light speed. He pushes her, and it knocks her off the roof.
It’s very slow actually, contrary to what most people might think falling to your own death feels like. The wind rushes against her face, flapping her hair and her blood-sprayed clothes. There’s a scream, multiple actually, coming from above. She spreads her arms out like a bird and shuts her eyes. She is prepared to face the Grim Reaper. She doesn’t know why, but death feels natural, normal even.
There is another burst of energy emerging from her spine. She doesn’t know what it is, but she knows that there is something familiar about the power. A great pain spikes out from her back, and she opens her eyes. Instead of plummeting straight to her death, she swoops back up into the air, miraculously. She doesn’t know what is happening. It’s as if her weight disintegrates and she becomes as light as a feather. The wind gusts against her body. The buildings pass by her in a split second as she heads towards the sky.
She’s rising like the break of dawn, and the Earth is bowing down to her.
She stops and rises above every building in New York. She looks down and sees the roof she fell off of. Cass and the others are staring at her as if she is an impossibility. But their stares tell her everything that she needs to know. They aren’t goggling at her. They are gaping at what’s on her back.
Glorious, pure, white-feathered wings sprout from her spine and sprawl out like a newborn bird ready to take flight. They flap back and forth gracefully, but powerfully. Her breathing grows harder and her heart leaps into her throat. She kicks her legs in the air, trying to fly back to the roof. It doesn’t do much good.
Then, she realizes that the power isn’t in her legs, it’s her wings. An impossible saying in her mind. She pushes the energy from her feet to her spine. She screams in agony trying to bring herself to the force the vitality to take her home. Her blood boils and her heart feels like it is on fire. She shuts her eyes and pushes her wings. She can feel the world still shifting beneath her feet. She can feel herself advancing, but does not know where.
She opens her eyes and can see herself growing closer to them. She grins and pushes herself closer towards the roof. She kicks until the soles of her shoes touch the brick. Cass and Garvin reach out to bring her in, and once she firmly planted on the roof, the wings are sucked into her back. She reaches over to touch it and feels the holes in her clothes from the winged birth. Still such a strange phrase. “Her wings.”
Cass embraces her and smacks her lips on her forehead. She hugs her sister back and laughs.
“Are you okay?” Cass asks.
“Not completely,” she says as she releases Cass. “But when I get my memory back, I’m sure it’ll be alright.”
“I can help with that,” Brielle pipes up. “When we arrive at the Bureau, I can concoct a memory recovery potion, but we have to stop off at the Council first to have you deemed pure.”
“What’s the Bureau?” she asks.
“Champions’ base of operations,” Monroe says. “It’s where we eat, sleep, and plan missions.” He pauses. “Now we know what your mother is, Mara.”
“An angel?” she asks.
Monroe nods. “A rarity among Champions. Angels don’t spend much time in the Mortal World, and most of them believe anything with human blood is a disgrace. But I guess your father must’ve been something special.”
“I wish I knew,” she mumbles.
“It’s going to be alright, Mara,” Cass says.
The girl looks up to the sky, and wonders. Wonders what will be her fate. Wonders who she was, who she is, who she will be. She was once the girl with no name. A girl who woke up in an alley, and was found by a boy she truly loves, and he loves her back the same way. Someone who didn’t know anything about the real world, the cruel and unforgiving world. She is, and always will be, the girl who flew, flew in the sky with the wings of an angel. She was once the girl dying on the Earth, but now she is the girl in the sky, so very much alive.