Just keep moving upwards. A mantra that had always served Lana well. Danger was on the ground, where she could be seen.

The girl dug her claw into the stone, and clutched the edge of the building. It wasn’t one of the great structures, but still a ten-story building, more than double what she had generally seen before Gratitude. Lana crawled onto the roof and away from the ledge before she let herself relax.

She reached into her tattered clothes, and pulled out a slice of a pie. She nibbled on the edges, savoring the peach flavor. She had seen it on the edge of a windowsill, and couldn’t resist. She had left a carved piece of soap that she had made on the trek over, but no money. Sela had had the money. And after the pie was gone, Lana was still feeling hungry.

It had been hours like this. Lana had tried sticking to the rooftops, out of sight as she searched for her friends. But the buildings were so high, and so uneven. When she tried to climb down, she could feel everyone’s gaze on her, picking her apart, hating her. Perhaps even ready to kill her.

Lana looked at her claws. She could feel the small frame, the leathery flesh. The wings that made shirts a challenge if not downright impossible. Her beady eyes that made others shrink back in fear. She was a monster, and now she was alone.

Tears ran down her face. Why couldn’t Mel and Sela just stay with her? The sky had broken open, yes. People had screamed, running around. Her robes had been ripped, trampled in the chaos and terror. And when she looked up, a great beast of gold and lightning looked down in contempt.

It wasn’t like there was anything going on that should have really separated the girls. They were a team. Friends. They were supposed to be, at least.

It was probably her fault. When that…winged thing, had taken to the air, her first instinct was to run. Lana had immediately raced for a low altitude, trying to get away from anything that was dangerous. It took her four blocks before she realized that, for her, “anything dangerous” included everything.

And now they were gone and she couldn’t come down and find them and… what was that? Lana moved towards the center of the roof. She reached out with her claws, ready for anything.

Something crowed out. Lana looked up, and saw something sail toward her from above. A dark shape, falling down from the tallest structures! Not another one of those things that spewed lightning and thunder, surely. Lana trembled.

But no, this being was much smaller. And clothed, in bright purple clothes. It looked like a man, or more accurately a boy. A boy covered in feathers, with wings and a face like a crow. With a full side of his face and beak dyed pink. Why was that?

He touched down on the roof. His head tilted one way, and another. His black eyes blinked, looking at Lana fully. Then he laughed, a high-pitched caw.

“Another one! A newbie, no less!” He stuck out a claw.

“Nahc, cutie,” He said with a wink. “Welcome to Gratitude.”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

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