This is a chapter which just wont work for me, no matter how many times I rewrite it, mainly because I can't figure out what is wrong with it. And of course it would be the first chapter of the book!
Please by all means be very very blunt, I will not take offense, I will just be delighted with any input
Through the pane of glass the passenger viewed rushed blur's of building tops and parapets. The tops of streetlights swept past, their trailing orange light merging to the next. Had the train car been lower, he would have viewed browned and curling leaves taken without permission by the Fall winds which found their way from the Hudson. It was a world of brown and darkness, stone and iron, steel and glass. Metropolis's rise and waves of generations collide in this city. The viewer's eyes, a troubled blue, reflected in the glass, dispersed over the precipitation dealt out by his cold breath. In the distance for one hurried moment, between two buildings, down the street they guarded, he glimpsed the Empire State twinkling in the night sky.
The fluorescent above drew worried shadows across the face of the only other passenger. They gathered beneath her large eyes making her look almost sick. She was in her mid teens wearing a plain flannel shirt and runners, her blonde hair cut short. Her eyes gazed almost dazedly at the empty seat across from her, occasionally throwing a concerned glance in the direction of the other occupant who sat to her right focused on the world flying by outside. Of similar age he stared out the window, his body swaying with the motion of the carriage. On receiving no signal that her actions were ever to be noted anytime soon, her brow furrowed that little bit more.
“Nathan...” she began in a soft voice “would you please say something to me?”
Nathan seemed to snap out of his reverie at her words, turning around to catch her bemused expression.
“Sorry” he smiled weakly. “Just thinking”
The girl raised her eyebrows.
“Roads I suppose”
Nathan spun fully around in his seat so that he was facing in the same direction as her.
“More so in the metaphorical sense. You know, pathways in life”
The girl folded her arms looking miffed.
“The only pathways we have in New York are pavement and freeway Nathan. Forget the metaphorical type”
“But Sam, the metaphorical type are the most interesting.”
“And yet” Sam said pulling at a piece of rubber hanging from the sole of her sneaker “I dont find them interesting at all.”
The train car plunged into a tunnel and all light outside the windows was suddenly extinguished.
“How about parkways and driveways?”
“Yes this is the conversation I have been missing out on...”
“Your sarcasm is duly noted. But consider it, why do we drive on parkways and park on driveways?”
“I don’t drive”
“of course you don’t. Female drivers more often crash than drive. But the original question still stands.”
The girl sighed, throwing her head back in an exaggerated gesture of exasperation.
“Tell me then”
“Well I don’t know” Nathan said shrugging his shoulders. “I was wondering if you might be in the know”
“Where were you the last few days Nathan?” Sam demanded. Impatience was etched into her features as she turned in her seat to study Nathan from something of a distance.
She shook her head.
“Not good enough”
“Well it was enough for the others”
“I'm not the others. I want the real answer Nathan. Now”
“Knowledge is like a pathway you know. I don’t know which poet it was but-”
“Nathan! I-do-not-care-about-pathways” She drew out every syllable in a clipped and cold voice.
Nathan momentarily looked taken aback at her reaction. Framed in her face was a concern he rarely saw in another of his kind, and immediately he knew that his recent absence had frightened her.
“I need to get away from here...permanently.”
“As in the city?”
“as in my life Sam. I need to get away from this life I'm leading”
A few seconds passed during which Sam's breathing quickened, her eyes widened slightly and the train rose up out of the tunnel to breath in the open night air of the city once more.
“They would follow us Nathan. They wouldn’t let us be”
“they wouldn’t waste their time trying to follow us. Besides how could they follow us?” Nathan smiled, half mischievously “we would just disappear into the crowds. New York is a big enough city to hide. These days a city is the only true desert. The only place where a person can really lose themselves ”
“what about about money? And food? Shelter?”
“there is this thing called working you know. We get jobs, like everyone else, and pay the bills that way”
“bills” Sam said her face blank, but her eyes alight in anger.
Nathan winced, wondering how that word had managed to slip out.
“Bills?” Sam repeated for extra emphasis, knowing that Nathan's slip up was her instant victory.
“I forgot we're a married couple with 2.5 kids and a dog named Rex” She turned from him, her lips forming a tight line, her nostrils flaring slightly.
When the doors opened next, Sam's were the first sneakers to step onto the tiled floor of the platform, kicking aside an empty drinks can on her way to the steps, Nathan followed, a few paces behind. The can slid quickly along the floor before disappearing into the dark beneath a broken light fixture. Sam spun on the top step of the stairs, turning on the spot to wait for Nathan who she impatiently found, was taking his time.
“Lets just get this over and done with” Sam said in a resigned voice when he came up to stand beside her. She really didn’t want to carry out their task any more than Nathan did, but they had to be professional about it and get it done.
The street before them was poorly lit, with garbage bags strewn before meshed shop fronts. A silent group were bunched together in a park opposite the subway exit, the orange glow of cigarettes among them. A drizzle was falling, with a slight wind to make it fall horizontally.
“right, this way” Sam said grabbing Nathan's arm and hurrying their progress along.
They only had two blocks to walk before they reached their destination, which loomed up before them with it's large wrought iron gates, pillars capped with glowering mythical creatures. A large brick building three stories tall, walled off from the urbanity surrounding it by a ten foot perimeter wall.
“this is it then” Sam whispered as they approached the gates, gazing into the darkness beyond the windows.
“You're sure you don't want to rethink this?” Nathan asked, his gaze resting on her back.
Sam, as if to answer his question, walked a little to the right of the gates, crouched slightly, then in one swift movement leaped up clearing the wall. She landed with a light padded sound on the damp grass before the building, Nathan landed just behind her.
Gaining access to the building had been easier than they might have wished. Construction was ongoing on the east wing, and there was a large section of the roof removed, covered only by a thin plastic sheet. Sam took a running start to the scaffolding, lithely leaping from support to support. Dried on cement crumbled beneath her powerful grip, and a low note was played through the hollow bars as she moved, the whole structure sounding like a tuning fork. Once at the top, she flashed a small knife and the plastic fell away. Nathan was first to lower himself down through the hole, landing in the dark on the wood sheets the builders had covered the tiles with.
There was no light inside, but Nathan could see his surroundings well enough. Building equipment was everywhere, parts of the floor were torn up, plastic sheets hung, waving slightly in a draft. They were at the end of a corridor lined with open doorways leading into cell like rooms.
“spooky” Sam commented.
“Mental homes are made that way I guess” Nathan shrugged, moving onwards.
They proceeded down the corridor silently, heading for the T junction at the end where light from the streetlamps outside made it's way into the building. The plastic lifted, rubbing against their legs as they past. Each cell was black inside, the windows covered up by pieces of wood. Sam couldnt help but feel a little on edge seeing old bed-frames and chipped lockers lying sad and decrepit. There was a whole world in this building, completely separate from the outside. In prison you may be in similar circumstances but you cant be denied your right to see people from outside, or know what is going on in the world. Here, when the term insane is placed upon you, you haven’t a chance.
Nathan sighed in exasperation when they reached the prison-like door at the end. In his hand he gripped a padlock barring their entrance. “we're going to have to pick it, we cant make noise here”
“let me” Sam nudged him aside, taking a hair clip from her pocket, and bending down to get at the lock. Using her knife as a makeshift tension wrench, Sam quickly bent the end of her hair clip at a right angle before inserting both into the lock.
Watching her, Nathan noted how the tips of her wings,just visible at the bottom of her shirt, twitched slightly as she worked. He could easily see their white in the dark, and smiled at their action.
Sam twisted her wrist very slightly, and with a small clink, the lock opened up. As she swung around with a triumphant glint in her eyes she caught Nathan grinning.
“what?” She looked down at herself to see the source of amusement.
"nothing, lets keep moving" Nathan said grabbing one of the vertical bars in the door, and sliding it sideways.
Sam self consciously rubbed her end feathers, before following him.
"you know I cant remember the last time we flew together" she noted as they walked down another corridor. Her voice was barely a whisper but yet crystal clear. It seemed like the city sounds were nearly completely drowned out.
"I guess it has been a while hasn’t it? But then I don’t see whats so great about it”
"But everybody wants to fly!"
"that’s no reason" Nathan countered, running his hand along the wall to their right where cell doors, all closed and locked for the night, were numbered.
"fine then, for the freedom"
"there is no freedom when you cant leave the city"
Sam let her hand drop from her wing, and stopped moving.
"you are serious about leaving.." she said watching Nathan come to a halt. "even if I don't want to" The light coming through the window on the left, throwing her features into sharp relief, her slightly pointed nose, her lips which formed a near childish pout.
Nathan turned to face her, rolling back onto the heels of his runners "I want you to come with me. I want you, to want to go, but obviously I cant force you.”
Sam on the spot, her lips looked like they might reveal a wan smile. It was not like they had much choice she thought. They did not have a choice at all, and he acted like they did.
"which number is it?" Sam asked looking over her shoulder at the dozen doors which lined the corridor.
“twenty seven” Nathan replied, gesturing to the door right next to him.
Sam twirled her knife with her fingers before approaching it. In every door there was a small slider up at eye level only a few inches wide. Sam's fingers curled around the handle and drew it to the side, revealing the dimly lit cell beyond. Curled in the fetal position beneath her blankets their target lay asleep.
Sam took a step back, looking aghast.
“shes really young.,,” she muttered, as Nathan moved to the window to peer inside.
Sam saw the skin on his fists tauten, some of the colour draining from his face. Then faster than a snake could lunge, his hand grabbed Sam's and he forcefully started in the direction from which they came.
“What are you doing!” Sam hissed, trying to break his hold.
“I'm not going to have her blood on my hands” he continued leading her back the way they had come.
Sam, kicked him low on his calf before twirling out of the hold he had on her.
“Then I’ll do it! You don’t have to, but one of us must Nathan!”
At this his eyes turned colder than Sam had ever seen them.
“I will not let anyone kill her Sam. She doesn’t even know”
“and when has that stopped us before? I know it's hard for you...well...harder for you than for me, but this is the world we live in. If we don’t do it, he'll only get others to, and they might draw it out and...” Sam pleaded.
Nathan was trembling whether in rage or disgust Sam did not know, but when he spoke next his words had the same cold tone as his eyes now bore.
“Did you see what was beside her bed?”
Sam glanced back to the cell door, and after a nod from Nathan, went to look in the window once more. She saw it then, where a bedside locker ought to be. The girl was crippled, a red wheelchair lay beside her bed.
“I'm not going to let her die” he said, and Sam just nodded, she knew his mind was set.
“lets go then”
“what will we do?” she asked when they were climbing through the hole in the roof.“what will we tell him?”
“I'll do the talking, all you have to do is blame me. Say I stopped you”
They approached the edge of the scaffolding, there was a half decent panoramic of Brooklyn, and Queens in the distance, with the Manhattan lights just off to their right.
“like I’ll let you take all the blame” Sam said sitting down on the wooden platform letting her legs dangle over the edge.
“I don’t care.”
“well you should.”
Nathan sighed, sitting down next to her and throwing his arm around her shoulders. For a few minutes they looked out across the city, listening to a distant siren, and a jet somewhere in the sky behind them arching in for JFK. That was when they saw the dark outlines of figures jumping over the perimeter wall, just as they had. Nathan immediately jumped upright, and Sam's wings unfurled as she got to her feet. There were four of them crossing the grass heading right for the scaffolding they stood on.
Nathan jumped down, landing with a thud at the base of the building, Sam landing beside him. The figures approached until they were a few feet away.
Nathan recognised the leader immediately, he was rather tall, with an impeccably trimmed goatee and in his early twenties. He wore a plain black leather jacket, his skin and his fellow's were the very same shade as Sam's and Nathan's.
“I will talk to him about this Leon” Nathan said to him, putting himself a little ahead of Sam.
Leon spoke with a slight French accent “You know there wont be any talk on the matter Nathan. Once our Mentor's mind is made up, it is final. The girl must die”
“Leon she's only a year older than ((am I putting Leah in here at all?))!” Sam said rounding Nathan and walking up to within a few feet of him. Leon considered her for a moment before turning his gaze on Nathan once more.
“He sent us to finish what he knew you would not be able to. What age she is, is irrelevant. She is the enemy”
“She doesn’t know what she is” Nathan said, noticing that Leon's companions were starting to circle himself and Sam. He recognised two of the other three now that they were nearer. Florence huge and hulking stood off to Nathan's left, inching closer. The woman was Amelia, her thin body bedecked with jewels and shawls, her small wings spread out behind her. The third was a boy a few years Leon's junior. Scrawny with a messy head of greasy blonde hair, he seemed to be the only one from Leon’s group who didn’t look on the boy with some sense of respect. He was very visibly stepping closer, moving so that he was just behind Nathan to his right. Sam having noticed him, suddenly looked around at everyone alarmed, then back to the boy.
“what the hell are you doing Marlow?” she demanded.
Leon, accessing the situation with cold eyes, put a hand into an inside pocket in his jacket. “You, were you not as prestigious as you are, you would have been put on cleaning duty some time ago. When you started…stalling” he made eye contact with Florence before continuing “When you started questioning your orders. His motives” at this everyone looked away, even Sam. Leon noticing her, smiled a little. “Ashamed are you Sam?” He too started closing in on them.
“Never” Sam spat, a tear rolling down her cheek. Florence picked up stride from an inch by inch to foot by foot, to keep up with Leon. “We are Sam” Leon spoke for his group.
Leon was the leader and Florence knew well his position, as he strode beside him just a little behind. Amelia, sensing time was sparse, rushed up to the boy. Now with extra assurance of her safety. “prove your loyalty. Be who you were before. A symbol for us.” She placed her hands on Nathan's shoulders, whose head was now bowed. “there is a force within you, thumping in the direction of her cell. It senses that chasm her existence has formed in the world around her, and it wants to close it. That force is you Nathan. It's me, it's Leon, it's Sam” she breathed “and it wants to kill her. It is our nature, our purpose on this world. Where there is good, there is evil, and the two cannot live in harmony. There is no peaceful co-existence in this world Nathan” When Nathan still refused to look up, she grabbed his chin and forced his head upwards. At this action Leon and Florence stopped. The boy didn’t. He continued to stride purposely towards the boy. “Kill her Nathan” It was a demand. Amelia’s voice was now low, cruel, merciless. Nathan raised his eyes and his penetrating gaze made her recoil a fraction.
“you...” he looked from her to Florence, to Leon then the boy “you deserve to die” then his eyes found Sam's, “not her”
Leon rubbed his forehead with his free hand. “Well then…” He seemed to hesitate a little and fidgeted with his jacket pocket. Then his gaze turned to the boy. They stood for a still moment. His hand slowly came from his jacket pocket… With a bound, he shot forwards, beating his wings once before charging into the boy wielding, a blade three feet long.
Sam screamed aloud as the others attacked.