Chapter 5

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It's black and I'm falling, falling forever. And in that total void of darkness, I dream.

The scene swirls up before me out of the inky depths: my mother and I in a kitchen, a birthday cake between us and matching scowls on our faces.

Grief overwhelms me as I recognise the moment. This is the last time I saw my mother. Helpless, I watch, from both outside the scene and as a part of it.

"You owe me the truth. I'm eighteen now - I'm not a child anymore!" My petulant tone indicates otherwise.

She responds with frustration. "It's not an easy question, Keira."

"Yes it is! Are there others like me?"

"You don't know what you're asking!"

"Are there others like me?"

"Keira..."

"Are there?!"

She breathes a ragged sigh. "Yes."

My world changes. I watch myself grip the back of the wooden chair so hard it creaks. But when I speak, my voice is soft and dangerous. "All this time, my whole life, I thought I was just a freak. A mutant or a monster. I've never felt like I belonged. I felt like I never would. I've been hopeless." I look at her face, blanched and distraught. "Are you even listening? Do you know what that's like? To live, thinking you'll never have friends or someone to love? That you might never have kids of your own?"

"Keira, I'm sorry, but you don't know..."

I explode. "Of course I don't know! I know nothing! And that's your fault!"

The darkness begins to overtake the memory, sneaky black tentacles creeping in at the edges. I strain to see what I can as my mother reaches towards me for almost the last time. "Keira, I love you. You are my daughter and I've only ever tried to protect you."

I laugh at her and turn to leave. "From what? Finding my own kind would have given me somewhere to belong."

"Or gotten you killed."

Her words stop my dramatic exit. I turn around slowly and face her. "Tell me everything. Right now."

Inky tendrils snake over my mother's face and the scene is gone. I scream into the darkness for her but it's too late. Falling alone, I weep for everything I've lost until I am at one with the blackness again.

I woke up. It was morning and I was alone in a strange room. For a minute, I couldn't work out where I was or what had happened. The memory of my mother, of the darkness and the falling was too close. Then it all came rushing back: the winged men, the chase... my wing!

I pushed up into a sitting position, flinching as my broken wing attempted to stretch out behind me. Son of a... I'd never broken a wing before, but I knew enough to realize it would be out of commission for weeks. Dropping my head into my hands, a few tears escaped me. I was sore everywhere, I was broken, I didn't know where I was and there was at least one crazy man nearby who had tried to end my life.

I allowed myself to wallow in unabashed self-pity for exactly two minutes. Then it was time to concentrate on the practical. Suck it up, princess, I told myself. We don't have time for dramatics.

Roughly I wiped my eyes and picked up the little phone off the pillow. My fingers swiped up the keypad then froze; I didn't know who to call. A normal person would have rung the police, but how could I even convey the basics without sounding like a meth addict? Well, officer, when I was flying over the city, these guys chased me and pretty much kidnapped me and broke my wing. Any questions?

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