As Angelina’s fall slowed, a cobblestone street faded in around her. Her pain returned as her body reformed, her bruised hips, ribs, cheek taking shape.
She tried to sit up and found she was too weak even to move her arms.
So this was death?
In her religion class, her teacher had mentioned that before going to heaven, hell, or purgatory, peoples’ souls were supposed to go to some big sorting place where all their sins were tallied up.
She wasn’t sure she believed that, but she didn’t know where else she could be. Her memories were hazy, but she recalled the monster’s grin, the jaws and teeth closing around her. She couldn’t have survived.
“Hello?” she said. “Am I dead? Is anyone there?”
There was no response.
Come to think of it, she wasn’t sure who she was expecting to respond. Jesus was probably too busy to deal with her, so maybe there would be an angel or something.
She heard a voice, calling out to her with words that sounded garbled and strange, though that may have been because her ears weren’t working quite right.
Sure enough, an angel with bright red hair that shone like a halo stood over her, speaking softly to her in a strange, sibilant language.
Oh, wait, it was just English. Not that she had the energy to process it; she wasn’t even sure she would have been able to process Italian.
Angelina couldn’t really understand what the angel was saying, but her sweet voice filled her with peace and calm. She was beautiful and radiant, everything Angelina would have expected an angel to be.
But why did the angel look so worried? And why did she seem so strangely familiar? And wait, was that a kitten with bat wings clinging to her shoulder?
Chelsea looked down at the girl, who was lying on the ground beside a severed reptilian head the size of a barrel.
On any other day, the head would have merited a little more attention than she was giving it, but it wasn’t even close to the scariest or strangest thing she’d seen that day.
Besides, the girl seemed badly hurt, and needed undivided attention right now, especially in such a dangerous place.
The girl was awake, but nearly motionless. Her face and clothes were streaked with dirt, and a purple bruise was forming at one of her cheekbones. She was wearing a backpack, lying on top of it in a way that couldn’t have been comfortable. In one hand, she clutched something so tightly her knuckles were turning white, even as the rest of her seemed too weak to sit up.
She looked uncannily like Angelina, with the same full lips, the same rounded face and pointed chin, the same olive-brown skin with a dusting of freckles across her nose and forehead. Even her short, shaggy hair resembled Angelina’s, which was cut and styled in an approximation of Jessica Thompson’s haircut. But Angelina couldn’t be here. What would be the chances of that?
The girl looked up at Chelsea, mumbling something in Italian. Chelsea caught the words “angelo” and “bellissima”.
This poor girl was delirious, and definitely in no condition to be out here all alone. Chelsea had to get her to safety.
Chelsea lifted the girl bridal style, wavering under her weight for a second before regaining her balance. Belfry gripped Chelsea’s shoulder more tightly as she wavered, peering curiously down at the girl from his perch.
“It’s okay,” Chelsea told the girl. “I’m going to take you somewhere safe.”
The girl didn’t respond, but she seemed to relax at the sound of Chelsea’s voice.
“Can you put your arms around me?” said Chelsea. “It’ll make you easier to carry.”
The girl looked up at her blankly, not comprehending.
That was okay. The girl wasn’t very heavy. Carrying her the short distance into the house would be a little difficult, but by no means impossible.
Chelsea carried the girl into the house, struggling only when she had to turn the doorknob without dropping her. Belfry hopped down from her shoulder and held the door open as she walked through.
“Grazie,” said Chelsea.
She carried the girl into a bedroom and laid her carefully in the bed. Her back seemed to let out a sigh of relief as she set the girl down.
“Mi scusi. Non parlo italiano,” said Chelsea. “Um… inglese?”
“Inglese, si,” said the girl. “Eh, I mean… yes?”
“Sorry,” said Chelsea. “My Italian isn’t very good. Do you remember what happened to you?”
“There was a monster, and then I was dead,” said the girl. “Will I go to heaven?”
“I died,” mumbled the girl. “You’re the angel who counts all the bad things I did.”
Okay, this poor girl was definitely delirious. She seemed fluent enough in English, but what she was saying didn’t make any sense.
“My name is Chelsea. I heard you call out and found you on the street outside. Are you okay?”
“Chelsea…?” said the girl.
The girl stared at Chelsea for a moment, confusion flashing across her face, then surprise, then recognition. Finally, her tired, bruised face broke into an excited smile. She didn’t move from the bed, but a sparkle glittered in her brown eyes. Suddenly, she was unmistakably recognizable.
“C!” said Angelina. “I did it! I found you!”