For four years she spoke his name
each night before she drifted off to sleep and each morning when she awoke, but
he never came for her. There was a time when all Kleio had to do was think of
Calliel and he’d appear, a glorious winged warrior with piercing silver eyes
and hair as golden as the sun.
Even when he’d fallen, their
connection hadn’t waned. It had grown stronger.
But now, in this futuristic
world, where light came from glass bulbs and food could be warmed at the touch
of a button, whatever bond had linked them to one another had been severed,
setting her adrift.
So she’d adapted, learned these
people’s tongue, figured out how to operate their strange new-world machines
and live as one among them. They called her Daphne, like the tiny pink and
white flowers that had once bloomed in her courtyard. At first she’d argued
that her name was Kleio. Whenever she did, her new family would give her that
sad, mournful look and a smile meant to pacify, then go right back to calling
In time, she’d accepted the name
along with her new life, but not a moment went by when she didn’t wonder about
Calliel. What had become of him, of their son, Athanatos? She’d given her soul
to save her boy. Why then was she suddenly free?
She’d spent countless hours
catching up on her history, trying to understand what had transpired in the
past six millennia while she’d slumbered. What she’d learned both fascinated
and horrified her. Her entire civilization’s history had been wiped away, all
the progress her small village had made thanks to the angels erased and
forgotten. Historians called her time period the Neolithic era, neos lithos, the new Stone Age.
How insulting. Her people had
invented farming, weaponry, pottery, sculpting…and yet, according to the great
minds of today, they’d been no better than monkeys, running around swinging
She didn’t blame historians for
their faulty assumptions, though. She blamed the heavens. As Calliel had
feared, a Great Flood had come, wiping out most of humanity…and her history
along with it. It had taken thousands of years for mankind to achieve the
progress her small civilization had enjoyed in the so-called Stone Age, all
because the angels had thrown a temper tantrum.
Kleio couldn’t help but wonder,
had the flood wiped out the fallen and their cursed offspring as well?
She couldn’t bear the thought of
existing in a world without Athanatos, without Calliel. And yet here she was,
imprisoned in a home she could never call her own, living with a family who
insisted on addressing her by someone else’s name.
“Daphne, darling, are you ready?”
Joyce shuffled into the living room, a large purse strapped over her shoulder.
“We’ll have to leave soon if we’re going to beat the Christmas rush.”
Christmas, short for
Christ’s mass, meant to celebrate the birth of Christ, yet another pivotal
event she’d slept through. “Sure, Mom. Let’s go.” She’d promised Joyce she’d go
shopping with her, and Kleio wasn’t one to break a promise.
At first, pretending to be Daphne
had been both physically and emotionally draining, but in time it had gotten
easier. Joyce and Theo had taken her in, given her a home, helped her recover
from her injury. The least she could
do to repay them was allow them to believe their daughter had survived the car
crash and her subsequent coma.
They had just pulled the plug on
the machine that was keeping Daphne alive when Kleio had awakened in the
deceased woman’s body. No wonder they’d looked at her as though they’d seen a
Kleio pulled on her jacket and
followed Joyce to the car, tightening the scarf around her neck as a light
drizzle began to fall. The probability of a white Christmas in San Francisco
was low, but December was rainy season and considered one of the coldest months
of the year.
Once ensconced in the white Audi,
Joyce gave her a wistful glance. “We used to do this all the time when you were
little. You always begged me to take you to Union Square so you could see the
Christmas tree.” Joyce watched Kleio for a reaction, hoping against hope that a
memory would miraculously unfurl in her mind.
Kleio simply smiled, saddened by
the desperation she caught in the woman’s soulful brown eyes. She understood
better than most the agony of wishing for something that could never be. “We
can pass by and see it, if you like.”
A gleam of pleasure cut through
the pain, and Joyce beamed. “That’s a wonderful idea, darling. Maybe—” She
didn’t finish her sentence.
Then again, she didn’t have to.
Kleio knew exactly what the woman had been about to say.
the tree will trigger a memory, the past four years will melt away, and you’ll
be my Daphne again. Then I’ll stop seeing a stranger each time I look at you.
The rain picked up speed,
pummeling the windshield with violent fists. Dark, churning clouds gathered in
the distance, blocking all traces of the sun. Funny, the forecast hadn’t called
for a storm today.
“I’m starting to think this
wasn’t such a good idea.”
“Nonsense.” Joyce kept a firm
grip on the steering wheel as the car coasted forward. “It’s just a little
Cars. That had been the greatest
adjustment of all. Who would’ve thought that in the future people would travel
around in steel boxes, catapulting forward at inhuman speed?
When they neared the Golden Gate
Bridge, Kleio gripped the door handle, as though the futile act could protect
her from a two-hundred-foot plunge into San Francisco Bay. The
three-mile long suspended bridge always sent ice chips skittering along her
spine, and today was no exception.
Joyce assumed her fear stemmed
from the car accident Daphne had suffered, and Kleio didn’t bother to correct
the woman’s misconception. What could she say?
hail from a time when the only means of transportation were a stubborn mule and
a pair of scuffed sandals. Oh, and let’s not forget the angels.
She’d flown with Calliel a time
or two, before he’d been ruthlessly stripped of his wings. She remembered what
it had felt like to soar thousands of feet from the ground, the world below fading,
becoming a tangled blur of shapes and colors. With his arms fastened around
her, she’d felt safe and ridiculously happy, as though there wasn’t a force in
heaven or hell powerful enough to pry her from his grasp.
She’d been wrong.
The wind blustered, shaking the
vehicle until it groaned. The bridge seemed to rattle beneath them, and fear
snatched the air from her lungs. “Turn back.”
“I can’t.” Joyce gave her a
sympathetic grin. “We’re almost there. Don’t worry, honey. We’ll be fine.”
No, they wouldn’t. This was no
ordinary storm. Kleio felt it in her bones. Darkness swept over them, cold and
greasy and familiar.
The bay suddenly bubbled. Similar
to a leviathan rising from the depths of the sea, a giant wave surged,
accumulating in mass as the car arrowed forward. Surely, the swell couldn’t
reach two hundred feet in height, could it?
Kleio closed her eyes, uttered
another desperate prayer. “Calliel, where
are you? I need you.”
The darkness thickened, finding
purchase in her soul. With a thunderous whoosh, the wave crested over the
bridge, washing everything from its path. Joyce screamed as she lost control of
the Audi. The sedan flew sideways, sweeping across the blacktop in a graceful
glide reminiscent of Cal’s wings.
Then, with an ear-splitting clang,
it breached the metal barriers and plunged, nose-first, into the hungry bay.