Word Count: 1,050
The silence rang out like a thousand alarms. It was deafening; the nothingness. The aftermath of the battle they had just endured was so still and unmoving that Tara almost longed for noise. She supposed she was in shock, numb. She could not really feel anything but an almighty lethargic weight pressing down on her from every direction, almost suffocating. She was tired of everything, of fighting, of running, of watching people she cared about dying.
‘You should eat,’ Judah said, a gentle insistence edging his tone.
She looked at him for a second before picking up the first thing her fingers touched. An energy bar. It was tasteless in her mouth but she forced herself to chew. She didn’t know her fingers were shaking slightly until she brought them up to her mouth to take another bite.
‘Look at that, I’ve developed a tremor. I guess the stress has finally gotten to me,’ she laughed without humour.
Judah simply stared at her, his grey eyes almost impassive, but Tara thought he was waiting for her to blow up, to explode.
‘I know you are.’
‘I’m just trying to make light out of a bad situation. Sometimes it just helps to smile, it can ease the tension.’ She hesitated. ‘Mikah taught me that. I used to be so serious, so hell-bent on staying alone. I figured it was the best way to be.’
‘I can understand that.’
‘But it’s not,’ she shook her head. ‘No matter how much you think that you can survive on your own, humans crave interaction. They’re sociable creatures. It’s just nice to smile every now and then, to remind yourself of what life used to be like.’
Silence descended on them once again and Tara watched something unrecognizable flit across Judah’s face. A small change in his features, a diminutive shift in his muscles that made Tara wonder if he was choosing the right words to say. His mouth opened once, but he closed it again. He let out a small exhalation of breath before speaking. ‘Are you fit to continue the journey?’
‘Yeah I’m okay. We should carry on; we’ve already spent too much time here.’ She stood up, ignoring the bolt of electric pain that exploded across her back. She was not weak. Before they went outside, Judah took his jacket off and passed it over to Tara.
‘I can’t guarantee your safety at all times. Demons have an impeccable sense of smell, particularly with humans. If we mask your scent it may help a little.’
She gulped before pulling the jacket on. It was too big for her, hanging over her arms, but she relished the way it felt, like she was shrouded in protection. His aroma clung to the fabric and Tara instantly felt a little better.
‘Think this will be enough?’
Judah hesitated, mulling something over, before stretching out and removing his shirt.
‘What are you doing?’
Tara could only watch in fascination as he began the seemingly painful process of exposing his wings. The muscles in his face twitched and his jaw clenched. He leaned forward as blood streamed down his back. She wanted to help him but she knew there was nothing she could do; it was a normal process that she was sure he was used to by now. She had never seen anything like this before; it was horrifyingly mesmerizing. Hauntingly beautiful. Massive feathered wings, covered in blood, stretched out high above his head. They ruffled slightly, shaking out the feathers. Tara’s breath caught in her throat. They were a deep tone of grey, a few shades lighter than his eyes.
Judah’s stretched one arm behind his back and he grasped a large feather and, with a quick jerk, prised it free of its home and handed it to Tara.
‘What’s this?’ she questioned, almost afraid to touch it.
‘Tie it in your hair,’ he responded. ‘It’ll help with your scent.’
She took the feather in her hand, weighing it in her palm and resisted the urge to stroke it against her skin. It was wonderfully soft. She pulled a band from around her wrist and began tying the feather to a strand of her hair.
‘Doesn’t that hurt?’ Tara winced as Judah pulled another one.
‘Just a mild sting.’
‘I feel like Pocahontas,’ Tara’s attempt at humour fell short; Judah’s face remained blank.
Once they were both satisfied that Tara’s scent was masked enough, they stepped out into the relatively fresh air. Tara inhaled deeply, savouring the way her lungs opened up and the simple fact that she was still alive. It was all thanks to Judah, without him she would have been dead long ago. She cast a surreptitious look at him as he strode forward at an unholy pace. How did he hold it together? How was he always so calm and level headed, even under great deals of pressure?
She knew that Mikah had been jealous. She saw it in his eyes, in the way he glared at him when he thought Judah wasn’t looking. Mikah had been jealous of how capable and composed Judah always was.
And yet, in the end, Mikah had wrestled the demon from doing more damage to Judah. Even if he didn’t like Judah, he wouldn’t let someone get hurt if he could help it. Tara didn’t think that Judah could get hurt easily, she wasn’t even sure if he could die, but she didn’t like to think that Mikah’s death may have been in vain. She preferred to think that he had died nobly, courageously.
They stuck to the shadows; Judah knew exactly where he was going and Tara trusted him to not lead them both into danger. She kept close, always alert, and always ready. Demons had nearly overrun the city but they were keeping to the outskirts, to the very edge, never going further in. It took a hell of a long time though and more often than not they hid. Whenever a group of demons slithered by, too many to take on, sniffing out the area, Judah pulled her into the darkness and pinned her arms by her side holding them tightly. They would wait until the demon had passed and they’d move forwards, carrying on with their journey.