Mrs. Gonzales’s eyes were locked on Camael, but she didn’t seem to see him standing there. Her gaze went right through him, directed first toward Jonas, then to Max sitting on the windowsill, and finally to Ness and Landon on the couch. “Jonas…Max, everyone…come and eat. You have to be hungry.”
“Not now, Mom,” Jonas protested, his eyes darting back and forth between Camael and his mother.
Landon slowly reached out his mind and touched Mrs. Gonzales’s with a single tentacle of a thought. He searched her mind for any sign of seeing Camael so that he could quickly take it from her, but there was nothing to show that the angel had ever entered into her field of vision.
“No, Jonas. I made wonton! Eat—now. Let’s go. All of you, you’re too skinny.”
“Alright, Mom, we’ll be down in like, five minutes.”
That seemed to satisfy Mrs. Gonzales, but she walked down the hallway muttering about her son and his skinny friends. The thoughts Landon was receiving told him that Jonas’s mom really did think that their parents didn’t feed them.
“How did she not see you?” Ness asked Camael when Mrs. Gonzales was out of earshot.
“The same way that no one else can see the blinding golden light coming from the four of you. Now that, let me tell you, gets really annoying, really fast,” Camael told them.
“What, it’s just not visible to them?”
“How can I explain this without insulting any of you? Well…humans are just stupid. They don’t notice anything they don’t want to see. I mean, I could go up behind them and tap them on the shoulder…and they would just keep on walking if they weren’t paying attention—and they usually never are. It’s quite ridiculous after awhile…I mean, you could really open yourselves to the world.”
Landon snickered. “Yeah. Make ’em all telepathic.”
Camael glared at him. “Anyway. What did you find out about the Candle? Do you know where it is, or how heavily it’s guarded?”
The four teenagers were quiet until Landon spoke up. “Well. You could say we know a few things so far.”
“Yeah, like it’s nearly impossible to get around in that place,” Max joined in. “They’re everywhere. That’s how heavily it’s guarded…you can’t walk into a room without them being there—Ness saw it.”
“They’re like ants, or something,” Ness remarked.
“You’re pathetic. Out of all the teenagers on this damn planet, and God had to pick you four,” Camael muttered.
“Of all the angels in the universe, we get stuck with you,” Landon retorted.
“We haven’t even been on this job for two days. I don’t want to hear it,” Jonas told Camael, sliding down the wall and sitting on the floor. “You’ve showed up a total of three times and you’ve barely helped us since.”
“Yeah, the only thing you’ve told us about was the Candle and Mensa Corpus, or whatever that thing is,” Max said.
Camael looked up at the ceiling. “Oh, look at that, I’m being called…”
“Like Hell you’re being called,” Ness said under her breath.
“You have to go and eat dinner, anyway,” Camael told her as he snickered. “His mother is getting restless.” The angel vanished in a flash of golden light.
“He is too weird,” Ness said to the others, resting her chin on her knees. “He doesn’t really seem like the angel type to me.”
“I don’t think so, either,” Landon replied. “But he has to be for real. Can you think of any other explanation for what’s going on?”
“Maybe it’s all a dream. Think about it—all of this…it’s impossible,” Max thought out loud.
“But Landon’s right. There’s no other way to explain this.” Jonas held up his hand and stretched out his fingers. A tongue of fire erupted from each tip, hovering a quarter inch above his skin. “God—or whatever’s up there—is probably the only one who could let someone do something like that.”
“I guess we just have to have faith, that’s all,” Ness suggested. “That’s what the priest said during the homily in Mass at school last week.”
“Jonas!” Mrs. Gonzales yelled from the stairway. “I’m not going to tell you again. Come eat!”
* * * * *
That night, Ness tossed and turned in her bed, trapped in a fitful sleep that she couldn’t escape. Something was hanging on to the edge of her consciousness, trying to pull her in to it. It held the cloudy edges of a dream, yet it seemed so realistic…
She wanted to see it so badly. There was something folded into the clouds—a message. However, it felt forced upon her. That thought made her laugh to herself—she was unnatural. It was amusing that it took something like this to be unnatural now. But, it was true: when her visions came, she was fast asleep. This one was practically asking her to look at it as she lay awake in bed.
She couldn’t keep her curiosity in check any longer. Slowly, she opened her mind to the vision, even though her gut screamed against it.
The mists enfolded her mind and drew her gently into them. Her arms and legs tingled wildly; the feeling shot up her limbs and washed over her entire body, removing all feeling and control that she had over herself. Panic set in: this had never happened before! Her body was like lead—her eyes wouldn’t open—this had been a bad idea, letting strange visions enter her head. She could only sit there, immobile, and watch what was being pressed upon her mind.
Then, suddenly, she could move. The world was pitch-black around her, but she could move. In fact, the air whipped around her, embracing her…
Falling. She was falling, tumbling through a black abyss with no idea where she was going. The wind screamed out to her, telling her to release herself to its control and dissolve into it. That was the only way she could save herself and her friends…
The three boys fell around her, just as dazed and confused as she was. The wind was right—it was the only choice she had. Thinking fast, Ness quickly found her power within her and let her molecules blend with the wind. She reached out to Landon, Jonas, and Max, grasping their bodies and merging them with the stagnant air.
The ground was right below them. Ness gently let go and felt herself returning to solidity; if she had caught on to the three boys just seconds later, it would have been too late.
They stood in a room that was so dark that it was impossible to see anything around them. Landon cupped his hands, making a crackling ball of yellow electricity burn above his palms. Though a small source of light, it showed the boundaries of the room and what lay within it.
A long hallway was straight ahead of them, and the four progressed through it blindly. The hallway was more like a tunnel, complete with dirt walls. Water trickled and puddled along the floor and worms crawled in and out of the soil. It felt as though they were walking for hours before an unnatural light showed itself at the end of the tunnel.
“That has to be where the Candle is,” Jonas said, quickening his pace. “We wouldn’t have had to pass through all that to find nothing, you know?”
All that? Ness thought to herself. They hadn’t done anything except walk in a straight line down a creepy hallway! Compared to everything they’ve been through, this was a piece of cake.
The dirt tunnel opened to a large, cavernous room with absolutely nothing in it…nothing, that is, except for a stone floor and a large, marble pedestal with a glass ball sitting atop it.
Ness and the boys walked closer to it, slowly. “There has to be something more than just going up and grabbing it, you know?” Landon thought out loud. “I mean, this is something that can change the course of the world…and it’s this easy to get to at the end?”
“We had to fight through all those demons back there, and we barely made it. What are you talking about, too easy?” Jonas argued.
There they went again, acting as though they risked their lives in the tunnel. “Demons? What are you guys talking about? It was a hallway…the only threatening things in there were the worms. And even they weren’t that freaky, if you ask me,” Ness said, puzzled with the way the boys were acting.
However, they ignored her completely. All of them were captivated by Eve’s Candle, simple as it was. A green flame flickered in the glass ball that was no bigger than a Christmas tree ornament—and that was it. Eve’s Candle: something so simple, yet so powerful…
“Max, look out!”
Jonas’s voice suddenly rang through the high room, echoing and vibrating the delicate glass ball. Max must have triggered his power, because a figure shot right through him and ran headlong into the pedestal.
It was the Bloody Guy—or Mensa Corpus, as Camael had formally called it. He held a jagged dagger in one of his decaying hands, and it was pointing directly at Max.
Behind the blonde boy, black smoke was gathering. A noise like a cannon shot through the room and hundreds of darkly cloaked figures exploded from the cloud. Some of them were riding on the backs of black horses. The noise and sudden energy rush of extra bodies distracted Max, and Bloody Guy took the chance to lunge…
The dagger went straight through his heart. His strange blue eyes widened with an expression of surprise and horror; he clamped them shut in a final attempt of concentration. His power was activated again; the dagger dropped from his body and clattered to the floor. He fell on his hands and knees, gasping and choking for breath.
Landon dropped to the floor next to Max, turning the other boy over and placing his palms a few inches above his heart. A silver glow the same color of Landon’s eyes began to show itself from under his skin—the healing energy. Max’s wound was something Landon could fix easily with his third and final power…
One of the demons on horseback smashed Landon on the side of his head, and he collapsed. Ness saw his crimson blood spilling onto the stone floor next to Max’s. He was out cold.
Jonas reached out and grabbed her arm. Ness’s breath caught in her throat as she felt Jonas’s power rip through her and prepare her for a journey through time. The hands on his watch slowed themselves to a stop…but Ness wasn’t the only passenger that had grabbed on to him. One of the demons was clutching at Jonas’s ankle, not rendered immobile like the rest of them.
He pulled Jonas down, and the black-haired boy’s concentration was completely lost. Motion erupted in the room again, and Ness was left alone. She retreated to a corner—at this point, it was the only place she could protect herself.
The room where Eve’s Candle resided had erupted into total carnage. Ness watched from the corner—watched as Jonas’s blood spilled. She could feel Landon’s energy reaching an all-time low, barely there…and then, it was gone.
The demons were focused on her now…all of them. They seemed to be jostling for position, fighting for the honor of killing the last Mortal Angel…
It was all over now. There was no way she could do this alone, without the power of Landon, Jonas, and Max to back her up. She was nothing without them…if only they had been prepared…
I’m sorry, guys…so sorry…
That was the last thing that ran through her head when a ball of crackling black energy hit her.
* * * * *
Ness woke up with such a sharp intake of breath that her lungs started to burn. She began to hyperventilate, the air coming in such hard gasps that she felt lightheaded. Panic shot through her body, spreading to her toes and fingertips.
Jonas, she thought. Landon. Max.
The vision had been so realistic that it seemed impossible for the three boys to still be alive. Maybe she herself was dead; maybe this blackness was limbo of some sort, or maybe it was where all Mortal Angels went when they died.
However, that wasn’t true. She was alive; she was in her house in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, sitting on her bed, breathing like any other living person. Well, maybe like any other asthmatic, but breathing nonetheless.
She grabbed the phone on her bedside table and punched in Landon’s number, not caring that the clock there read three-fifteen. She waited through five rings before he picked up the phone. “What?” he answered groggily. “Whoever you are…it’s three o’clock in the morning…go to sleep, damn it.”
“Landon, it’s me. Ness. Oh, thank God you’re alright.”
“Ness?” Landon’s voice suddenly lost its sleepy tone. “What’s wrong? What happened?”
“I had this vision…but it didn’t feel like a normal one, it was so real…” It was hard for Ness to hold back tears—she hated to cry, and almost never did. But right now, she needed to. She just watched her three best friends die in the most realistic dream she’d ever had in her life.
“Ness, it’s okay, it was a dream.”
“No, it was a vision…and they can come true, Landon…”
“We all died. All of us. They killed us…Bloody Guy got Max, and the demons got the rest of us.”
“Look, we’re okay. Don’t worry; not all of them have to come true. We’re going to be more careful than that; they won’t get us. And now that you’ve seen it…we know.”
“The Candle was right there,” Ness said into the phone. “Right there! But we couldn’t get it…if only we could have taken it, made it change to white…we could have killed them, but they got us first.”
“It’s okay, Ness. I can see your dream from here…God, that was strong…”
“You can pick it up from there?”
“It’s only across the street, and we’re both pretty magnified right now. It’s not that hard.” Landon paused, taking time to review her memory. “I can see why it affected you like that…but don’t worry. Really. We’ll be more careful than that…it won’t happen to us.”
Ness sniffed, trying to keep her tears restrained. “I hope you’re right.”