The Wild Angels were out hunting.
Sensible people closed their doors tightly and stayed hidden behind them. The Angels never broke in anywhere, never entered without being invited first. There was the occasional rumour that the Angels were actually vampires but that was ridiculous. Vampires don’t exist.
It was nearly dawn and I should have been behind a closed door myself. I should actually have been in bed sleeping, shivering under a thin blanket and hoping that when I woke up there would magically be more food in the cupboards than I knew there was. It wasn’t that I couldn’t afford to buy food, it was just that I could find anywhere to buy food from. For the five days previously the estate had been on lock-down because the Shakespeariana (highly-educated in the literary arts and more bitter than quinine about their job prospects in the Recession) had staged an attack on the Pantone kids and managed to kill an entire number group. The Authorities, by which we mean the people with the weapons who think we should stay quiet and die peacefully and picturesquely so we can be recorded in history as a desperate and tragic underclass, immediately put the estate under lock-down to avoid retaliation. Which worked, but there was no sign of the lock-down ending, and we were effectively besieged.
I was woken by the strange high cries of the Wild Angels, and realised almost immediately that they were celebrating. That could only mean that they’d made a kill, and a righteous one at that. The thought struck me like a nail: a righteous kill at the moment for the Wild Angels must mean that they’d breached the perimeter of the estate. The lock-down must have a hole in it until the incident was discovered. There was a chance to get out of the estate and find food.
I didn’t want to go, but I wasn’t really under my own control. My brain switched off input from the rational side and launched me out of bed and into the wardrobe like a marionette with cut strings. I was wearing the most ridiculous mish-mash of clothing, much of it from two decades earlier when we still had a Press to produce fashion advice and fashion magazines, instead of today’s bland, televised fascion with its obsession with jackboots and close-fitting, military style garments. I staggered, half-dazed from the wardrobe and managed to remember to lock my front-door behind me before I set off in the direction of the whooping cries. The rational part of my brain was screaming at me that it was suicide to try and find a Wild Angel, but the starved, animal part of my brain was willing to try anything to get food.
I saw the bodies first. There were three of them, slumped over a howitzer that looked like it had ammunition enough to bring down an entire tower-block, and that would destroy over half of the estate when it fell. Their clothes – black, form-fitting, functional fascion – were torn almost to strips, revealing that their underwear (also torn to strips) was as uninteresting and uncomfortable as their outerwear. The howitzer was jammed with something, and as I tottered past I realised that it was the heads of the soldiers that had been forced into it. I hoped that the heads had been removed first, but either image made me feel ill.
Something howled behind me like a fox on heat. I froze, even the animal part of my brain responding instinctively to a noise that primal. There was the whisper of soft fabric, the snick of a knife and the kiss of a breath of cool air on my cheek. Then a hand cupped my jaw, and turned my head.
“Angels, look!” The voice was high and beautiful and I wished it were mine. The breathe was hot and foetid though, and I tried not to swallow. “Angels, the Eloi have awoken! They run to join us!”
I hoped that the Eloi were less bloodthirsty than the Wild Angels, or, if not, less inclined to play with their food.
“Tell me, Eloi,” and the Angel shook my head with its hand, “where are the rest of you?”
I was the Eloi?
“Just me,” I managed, though it hurt to speak with my jaw held so firmly. “Just me. I went for food.”
“Brave Eloi,” said a voice behind me that sound so deep and full and gorgeous that I could feel the first tingle of an orgasm from listening to it. I knew that they used technology to augment their voices, but it made no difference when you heard it. You could know that they ate babies and it wouldn’t stop you loving the sound of them. “Let it run, sweet Angels. The siege is broken, let it carry the standard.”
A flag was pressed into my hand, and my fingers gripped it numbly. It sounded like I was going to be let go, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. Better to resign myself to death amongst the Angels.
“Run now, and proclaim that the Angels have judged,” said the deep voice again, and I quivered all over. I did run though, when they let go of my head.