Chapter 7 - Danai

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Danai woke, stomach rumbling and head aching. It was still bright behind her eyelids, and Danai held her eyes shut, terrified that when she opened them, she'd still be blind.

But something, or someone was in the room with her. Tense, her breath caught.

"You're awake," said someone with a deep, rumbling voice said. "Good."

Danai opened her eyes. It was bright, almost like she was outside, but she saw things too. A large window. A night table with a lamp on it. Her gums were sticky, and a circle of orange tinged drool had seeped into the light blue pillowcase. Danai ran her tongue over her teeth. Honey. Whatever memories had been in it were faded at this point.

Where was she? The mattress she slept on was wide enough she could extend both arms and barely touch the edges with her fingertips. She lay atop a soft, light blue comforter that radiated memories of contentment. For a moment, Danai reveled in the sensation as she rolled over onto her back and sat up.

"So are you the Uniq that Isaiah's looking for?" A rail thin teen stood with his back to her at the foot of the bed, painting. The baggy plaid shirt and black slacks couldn't hide the narrowness of his fingers or neck.

"I hate that name," Danai said.

"Better than Chastity."

He did have a point. She explained, "Danai. I mean, that's the name I use."

"Rio," he said and painted a line of red on the canvas. "Like the song, but I don't dance in the sand.  My full name is Rio Hernandez del Armas, but Rio is fine."

"Are you friends with Gabe?"

"No. Not really. He thinks I'm crazy. Hard to be friends with someone who thinks you're nuts."

"People think I'm crazy too."

"Are you?"

"I don't know anymore."

His body hid about a third of what he was painting. What she could see was beautiful though. It looked like an eagle pushing above through a watery blue sky to what looked like a sheet of brightly colored fire. There were the usual reds, yellows, and tinges of blue, but also colors that had no business in fire: shades of purple, green and pink. Beneath that swirled navy and black with scattered stars.

Danai lifted her glasses to get a closer look. Suddenly disoriented, the ground beneath her seemed to fall away and she was catapulted upward like a bird desperately flying to reach the light that in turn moved ever farther away.

"What is it?" she asked.

"Heaven."

With her glasses off, Danai could see the teen boy's wings. They were like feathers of water that reflected the colors of the painting, refracting them so that the wall, ceiling and window seemed dusted with color.

The wings were beautiful, but faded. The moved sluggishly. As beautiful as his work was, the boy himself like a shadow within it.

What's wrong?" Danai blurted out. "Are you sick?" She kicked herself. He'd already said people thought he was crazy, and now she was treating him exactly the same. With no evidence. Considering everything that had happened to her, that hardly seemed fair.

He turned around. Seeing him head on only called attention to his gauntness. The baggy plaid shirt and black slacks couldn't hide the narrowness of his fingers or neck. Or the sunken hollows of his eyes. "I'm so close," he said.

Or maybe he was insane. There was nothing that said an angel, or whatever these people were, couldn't be crazy. "You've got wings too," she said.

His eyes narrowed. "You can see them?"

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