The gravel under my feet crunched as I stumbled back. Screams of fear and agony filled my ears. I looked down to see a boy not much younger than me draped across my arms, a dead weight. The left side of his face was charred black and blood was saturating his shirt. I coughed up blood myself and heaved the boy away from the intense heat that felt like it was melting my skin like candle-wax. Flickering light blinded me and I fell. My leg burned with pain. Still the screams scarred the air. I couldn’t breathe. My lungs were stiff and unresponsive. A face loomed over me. It hovered there laughing, a manic gleam in its eyes.
I jerked awake, snatching at the butt of my pistol, I drew it from underneath my pillow, ready to kill the face that plagued my unconscious mind. My barrack room yawned back at the metal barrel of the gun which was glinting faintly in the moonlight that was seeping through the windows. The room was empty and silent except for a slow and even snoring from the bunk above mine. My head fell down into my hands. The cold metal of the pistol felt soothing on my now throbbing head. I needed to let off some steam. I ripped the covers off my legs and rolled silently off my bunk. And crept over to the window and opened it. The cold night air stung my skin and rustled through my feathers. Holstering my pistol I pulled on a shirt, scribbled a note for the others to meet me in the mess hall at seven and then slipped out of the open window into the pitch black night. I hit the ground softly and walked towards the courtyard.
A few minutes later I reached the expanse of concrete that lay sprawled out in front of me. Taking a deep breath I broke into a run. Pelting across the man made floor I flung out my wings and thrust downwards with all my might. I shot up into the air and soared up to the clouds. All my senses were tingling, my heart leapt and my head cleared. This was beautiful. I was floating up above the clouds, diving, rolling and spinning. All my worries left me as I became enraptured by the thrill of an aerial roller coaster that I alone could experience and control.
For hours I flew until the pink glow of dawn started to bleed through the sky. Checking my watch I saw that it was half past six. Tucking in my wings I dropped down to the earth like a stone. The base came rushing up to greet me. Unfurling my wings slowly I levelled out and backpedalled hard so I came to a soft landing in the courtyard once more.
“You know that is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen!” a quiet voice whispered across the concrete. I span round, my pistol materialising in my hand. But no one was there.
“Show yourself.” I called out. I saw a figure bloom from the shadows and glimpsed the long strands of blood red hair.
“Don’t shoot Captain. It’s just me.” she said. I lowered my gun and laughed.
“Please don’t give me a rank Nadina. It’s Zak.” I told her. I sat down on the floor and stretched my wings out to cool down. She walked over and settled down opposite me. She was dressed in full camouflage fatigues and carried a long rifle case strung across her shoulders.
“So what are you up so early for Zak?” she asked.
“It was just a bad dream. I needed to get some air.” I gestured at the case, “Your own?”
She nodded. Reaching back, she tugged on the pull cords that held the case shut, reached in and pulled a sniper rifle from its depths.
“My favourite.” she told me. I could tell why. It was gorgeous. Both deadly and somehow eerily elegant to behold.
“May I see?”
She passed it over. It was felt light in my hands. The barrel protruded from the main part of the rifle and the sight glowed a dull green. I nodded my appreciation and handed it back. She hugged it close to her as if for comfort. An image of dragging a body over gravel flashed in front of my eyes and I shook it away.
“So you’re a sniper, how’d you get mixed up in all this?”
“My whole family was in the military. I guess it was just what I felt I was born to do. I always had a talent for concealing myself so my father suggested that I became a sniper and I was hooked. What about you?”
“Well I’m not really sure to be honest. The first thing I remember is waking up in hospital with a scar down my back and my leg in a cast. Then I . . . umm . . . volunteered for a DNA graft and things kind of took off from there, if you’ll forgive the pun.”
“You can’t remember anything?” she asked. I shook my head.
“Not a thing. I sometimes get flashbacks but all I see is fire and smoke.” I lied.
“Must be frustrating not knowing what happened to you.” Her voice was sympathetic, “What about family?”
“None. They’re all dead.” I replied bluntly.
“Don’t be. I don’t even remember them anymore. I don’t know who they were. I have feelings for them and will always seek revenge for what happened to them but I can’t grieve for them because I don’t know them.” I replied, “I will simply hold them in my heart till the day I die.”
She gave a sad little nod and stared out across courtyard which was tinted slightly red by the rising sun. We sat there for a while and watched the sun peeking over the trees. I checked my watch. The little digital screen told me it was five to seven.
“C’mon we better go meet the others.” I told her and she nodded.