It was not something Ava was used to feeling, but no matter where she turned she felt eyes on her. As a human, there was nothing else she could do but keep her head down and keep moving.
<How to humans live like this?> She hadn’t understood it before, but now she got a glimpse of why humans didn’t trust one another. She couldn’t get a glimpse of what someone was going to do before they did it. She couldn’t determine intentions by small alterations in body language, and worst of all, she knew she couldn’t defend herself if push came to shove. Technically she could, but there was no guarantee she would win.
All the fear, mistrust of others, and vengefulness humans were capable of made a little more sense now. She still didn’t agree with it. Dialogue would fix a lot of those problems instead of just guesswork, but she had a better idea where they were coming from.
<It might be good for angels to walk a mile in a human’s shoes when this is all over.> As their protectors, it was probably a good idea if they understood human nature better.
Ava arrived at an intersection and hugged the brick wall of a still-intact building. She’d been steadily making her way to the river with Gabriel, but it was slow going. Even at night, New York City was still the city that never slept.
She poked her head out around the corner and looked both ways. With all the building and street lights out, she could only see as far as the light from the fires let her. It wasn’t far, but she didn’t see much. Still, she didn’t rush out right away. She sat there for several minutes and strained her human senses to their maximum.
“Ok, I think we’re clear.” She grabbed Gabriel by the arm and started to drag him across the street. They were three quarters of the way across when a clang echoed from close by.
The sound soon revealed itself as a beer can being kicked down the street. Of course, only the best kicker in the NFL could kick the can as far as the woman walking down the street and laughing, and she only gave it a half-hearted punt. Ava couldn’t help but watch the can arc through the air as she hurried up her pace and dived behind a parked car. The car’s hood had caved in from falling debris, and what used to be fire-engine red was now dull gray, but it successfully hid them from the approaching Amazons. Or so she thought.
“Come out, sister. We won’t harm you.” There was a slight slur to the Amazon’s words.
<Great. They’re a little tipsy. You don’t let drunk humans drive tanks, so why would Hippolyta let her people drink. There could be a Divine counterattack any second.> Ava set tactics aside and tried to become one with the car.
“We know you’re there, sister. We can smell you. Don’t be afraid. We’re here to liberate you from the patriarchal rule of man.” There was a giggle identifying a second Amazon.
Ava looked at Gabriel. The archangel put his hand flat and wobbled it back and forth to show he wasn’t sure they could take them, and even if they did, an alert would get out. Ava was human and Gabriel was severely weakened. Ava was probably more of a liability than anything, but she was the person the Amazons had identified. She tried to convey her plans with her eyes and hand-and-arm signals. She planned to distract the two drunk warriors and pull their attention away. Gabriel would ambush them and try to disable whoever was the stronger of the two. Once they were out of the way it would be two against one and they’d have a better chance. If they won that fight, then they’d run like hell for the river and hope they made it.
Ava held up her fingers and counted down, <three…two…one…> She stepped out from behind the car and didn’t have to work hard to look afraid.
She opened her mouth to reply to the Amazons, but the ground rumbled beneath her and threw her onto her knees. An ear-splitting roar raced through the city, extinguishing fires, and drawing all eyes toward Central Park. The Amazons, who’d been pleasantly tipsy moments before, snapped back to full readiness. They ignored Ava’s weak human form and sprinted back the way they’d came.
“Huh,” Gabriel hauled himself to his feet once the Amazons turned the corner and were out of sight. “That was lucky.”
Ava agreed, but only in terms of their survival. The Amazons might have left them alone, but that was only because they had bigger fish to fry, and anything bigger than capturing an archangel wasn’t going to be good for the Divine Host’s plans to retake the city.
“Should we check it out?” Gabriel deferred to her judgement because this was her mission.
Ava consulted her mental map of the city. They’d gone three blocks to their destination judging by the location of the Chrysler Tower to their left. The roar they heard could have only come from one think, the leviathan in Central Park. The park was twenty-plus blocks away, and they’d have to get through an army of Amazons to even get close. As much as Ava wanted to gather intel there was no way it would end with them getting out of there alive.
“No, we need to get out of here. Whatever is going on is the perfect distraction, so let’s move.” She propped the archangel up using her shoulder and set off toward the river hoping she’d made the right decision.
Gerry had never been to the new New York City. He’d participated in what was eventually called the New York and New Jersey Campaign of the Revolutionary War. That was where he’d died, but back then NYC had been a town of twenty-five thousand people not over eight million. The sea of concrete, glass, brick, and asphalt was a little overwhelming. He’d been extremely impressed by Charlotte when Lord Seere first had him take over Infernal operations in the city, but New York was another beast entirely.
“I know, right.” Death looked around her and breathed in the scents of destruction. “People call me evil, but look at this. How many things did humans have to kill to build this city? Don’t get me wrong, it’s magnificent, but they’re a pretty hypocritical group, and my brother isn’t helping. Did you know he’s been telling his representatives on Earth for centuries to pass along the message that dogs don’t go to heaven. What kind of shit is that?” Death threw up her hands in frustration. “You’re going to call me evil, but big, benevolent God is going to give Skippy the boot at the pearly gates. Now that is fucked up.” Death continued to ramble as Gerry looked around.
It quickly became obvious they were standing in a depression, a big one. He had to crane his neck to even see the top of it. He’d seen pictures of the leviathan causing destruction and mayhem on television, but he wasn’t prepared for just how big the thing was up close. If the giant footprint was any indication, he wasn’t even sure Death could handle the massive beast.
“Size isn’t everything, darling,” Death had added an aristocratic drawl to her voice for some reason, and he was totally unprepared for her to grab his ass. She laughed when he jumped. “You’re so innocent. This is going to be fun.”
Death’s feet left the ground as she levitated out of the footprint, and Gerry jumped up to follow. The æther felt different here, so he conserved his strength and jogged along as Death hovered over the ground. Together, they quickly crossed Central Park toward a small mountain.
<Wait…what…?> Gerry didn’t remember a mountain in Central Park. Then the mountain moved.
A vividly-golden eye twice as large as Gerry was tall opened as Death approached. The mountain, a.k.a. the leviathan, shuddered as its enormous body began to move. It had been curled up like a dog and asleep, but it sensed something in Death that made it warry. Soil and a lot of debris fell from the creature’s hide as it unfolded itself until all five hundred feet of its glory was on display. Its tail lashed back and forth with agitation; swatting aside hundred-year-old trees and anything else that got in its way. As Death approached, it let out a challenging roar that shook the bedrock of the city. Its eyes never left Death as she casually floated toward the great beast’s head. Her own eyes were locked on the leviathans in an intense stare down of willpower. After several minutes, the leviathan looked away. The alpha had been identified.
“You’re a good girl aren’t you,” Death approached and ran her hand across the leviathan’s head. A ripple passed down the entire length of the creature’s back, like Death’s hand was actually much larger than it appeared to be. Gerry could see the intelligence in the creature’s eyes, the acceptance of its new position in the hierarchy, and even satisfaction as Death’s hand continued to stroke her head.
“Girl?” Gerry asked. He was keeping a safe distance.
“Of course she’s a girl. She’s such a pretty girl,” Death was using baby talk, but the leviathan didn’t seem to mind. “All we need is a boy and we can make some babies. That would be fun, wouldn’t it?”
Gerry imagined dozens of the five-hundred foot creatures wandering around the world and didn’t one hundred percent agree with Death. If she heard his thought, she didn’t care. Her eyes swung around to a side street leading to the park where dozens of armored women had gathered.
“We’re about to have company. Just stand there and look pretty.” Death commanded, and suddenly Gerry was several hundred feet closer to the leviathan without any idea how he’d gotten there.
The mighty creature looked down at him and sniffed. Whatever the test, he seemed to pass, because she turned her attention to the approaching army. At the head of it was a beautiful woman in a regal crown. That beauty was marred by the expression on her face, which turned downright hateful when she caught sight of Gerry. She barked some orders, pointed at Gerry, but when she turned around Death was inches from her face. The woman nearly fell over as she toppled backward.
“Don’t fret, Hippolyta. You’ll get wrinkles.” Death waved dismissively to the amazon Queen.
The anger on the queen’s face was snuffed out like a candle in a hurricane. “You!” There was only fear in her voice now.
“Me.” Death smiled a smile that was fitting on someone christened as death. “Boo!” The Amazon’s jumped and she laughed.
“What do you want, Eris?”
“Mmmm the old names,” Death smiled and looked behind Hippolyta. “Looks like you’ve been busy. Been doing a lot of man eating have we?” She sniffed the air and the women gathered behind Hippolyta flinched.
None seemed to have met Death before, but the name Eris seemed to stir some primal fear in them.
“We thought you were dead and gone along with our father?” Hippolyta had regained some of her regal demeanor, but she was still cautious.
“No. I’ve been around tinkering here and there. Found some people on a beach,” she gestured at Gerry, “nursed them back to health, saved their lives, and imparted the secrets of the universe. You know, all that jazz.”
Several dozen women, with very hungry looks on their faces, looked at Gerry like he was a tasty morsel ready to eat. Death had imparted no such secrets to him, she was just screwing with everyone.
“I will have to ask you all to not touch my little treat. The punishment for doing so is…unpleasant.” Death did the equivalent of peeing all over Gerry to mark her territory. Despite that, Gerry didn’t feel very safe.
He had to juggle a primordial, a leviathan, and now dozens of Amazons. What else could happen?
As if on cue, Death’s head snapped around and look to the south east. Her smile stretched across her entire face. Gerry had never seen her smile so wide, and wasn’t sure he wanted to know what was causing her reaction.
“I’ll be right back,” Death gave the leviathan a final pat and grabbed Gerry’s hand. “Hold down the fort, Hippolyta. Shit is about to get really interesting.” With a smile bordering on deranged, Death and Gerry vanished to reappear some twenty blocks away.