What was it like, in that last moment, after all those years of waiting, to finally hold him in your arms? So many paths, so many choices, so many what-ifs and coin flips drew you both inexorably to that edge – was the beauty of it almost unbearable? Was it worth all the effort and risk? Was it worth the betrayal on both sides? They will always debate what actually drove you, whether it was love or madness or boredom, but I know the truth. I know love takes many forms, and not all of them fit for the light. 


​They say spirits cannot cross running water; so what happens if someone dies in between? What if some person still closer to boy than man, desperately fleeing a life he escaped once and to which he won’t let himself be dragged back, plunges into the river? The river that crashes forth from the mountains, tumbles through the foothills, and slips with placid power through the town where this not-boy, not-man came of age? What if he relinquishes himself eagerly to the black water’s undertow just as his pursuer, this one more man than boy but still young enough to think love can fix anything, reaches the edge of the sandy bank? What if something happens – maybe he dives purposefully, maybe he slips, maybe the bank gives way under his weight – and suddenly the river has claimed two lives, washing the empty bodies far downstream from where they met their end? What if all this happened in the span of a breath; what would become of these doomed spirits? Trapped within the very water they cannot cross, would they be fated to remain in the river itself, caught forever within the icy current? Would their voices cry out in the thunder of the rapids, unable to ever find the peace they were also denied in life?


Isaac slumped against the loft railing, staring down to the floor below where his companions worked to reinforce the boarded windows. He vacillated between admiring their stubborn determination to keep fighting and pitying them for not being able to accept the bleak truth of their situation. Mostly, though, he watched Michael move among the busy scene and wondered how things would be different if he had met the handsome doctor under better circumstances. When you couldn’t even leave the building without carrying a gun, or at least a crow bar or sturdy length of wood, romantic overtures were quite low on the list of priorities. Of course, it also didn’t help that you had zero privacy and were never more than fifteen or twenty feet from one of the other survivors. Was it wrong to wish a few of them might disappear, to whatever end, just to ease the crowded conditions?

“Isaac, you look like you haven’t washed in days,” Maria’s heavy boots thunked along the cheap plyboard as she climbed the loft stairs, a hammer hanging from her belt loop and spare boards tucked under her arm. She looked him over with a motherly frown of disapproval. “Your hair’s all greasy.” Isaac wanted to reply with, We’ll all be dead soon, why does it matter if I don’t look my best? or perhaps, That’s what concerns you? I guess you didn’t notice that I haven’t eaten in two days, but he held his tongue and answered instead with a careless shrug. “Maybe the dead won’t want to eat me if I taste like unwashed skin,” he added as an afterthought, but Maria had already turned away to block up one of the second story windows. She could be friendly, and her nagging was well-meant, but sarcasm had no place in her version of the apocalypse.

To be fair, Isaac had very little energy or desire left for sarcasm himself. He also didn’t particularly mind that no one had yet noticed his share of the rations went untouched, though just from feeling his own body he knew the effects were becoming noticeable. Whatever. He wasn’t trying to be a martyr or anything; he just honestly felt that what little food was left to their ragtag group should go to the people who still clung to hope and life. Sure, they’d be dead soon either way, but at least they would fight until the very end. Isaac had given up, plain and simple. At this point all he wanted was to finish this slow wasting away so they could bury him and forget he’d ever existed. That had already happened to a couple billion other people, after all. What was one more?

Isaac closed his eyes and rested his forehead against the splintered railing, letting the sounds of hammering and urgent discussion wash over him like a white noise machine. Exhaustion and hunger made his head spin and when he woke later he couldn’t tell if the memory of Michael kneeling beside him, his handsome face creased with concern as he checked Isaac for fever, was real or just a wishful daydream.


As the first wave of pain crashes over her changing body, her brief fourteen years of life flash behind her eyes like bursts of lightning. She sees herself as a young child, seeking the safety of her older sister’s room to escape Eldest Sister’s cruel torments. She sees herself comforted in her adopted mother’s arms one moment, a cosseted little pet, then fearful of her mother’s wrath just a few years later as the demoness grows tired of tending her fragile human daughter. In a flicker she is a teenager and her mother has just cast her aside, leaving her to face her fate like a lamb among ravenous wolves. As in the present she screams and writhes in pain, feathers bursting out of her flesh like razors, she watches as in the past Noah finds her just in time and tells her not to be afraid, that not all demons are as coldhearted as her mother. She watches her cousin spirit her away from that terrible world and into the realm above, leaving her to fend for herself among the angels. She relives the moment she is discovered by the orphanage and brought aboard the world-spanning train, and the unbelievable joy of being among other human girls. She closes her eyes to block out the horrible sight of her body’s transformation, and in the darkness behind her lids she watches herself fall in love, the kind only young women can feel for each other, deep and endless and passionate. But this memory is only days old and it flashes by too briefly, leaving her in the present where she trembles violently as her body rips and tears to accommodate the angelic metamorphosis. The tears running down her cheeks are partly because of the pain, but also for this fledgling love that now can never, will never, be. A tiny part of her mind wonders if it would have been better to let the demons devour her.



I dreamed last night you set yourself free
bursting through the door of your cage
(which had never been locked, only latched)
a phoenix rising from ashes to firestorm
and your glory melted that cage down to a puddle
so you could never be caught again.