Don’t make fun of my name. I know. It’s ridiculous. Privileged and high maintenance but I can assure you, that’s not me.
I stood against the vending machine full of stale coke cans, a fresh stick of Big Red in my mouth, and my eyes on the prize. The entrance to the Underground. Ever since I was little and I had my first encounter, I haven’t stopped dreaming of this very moment where I would have hardcore evidence that ghosts are real and they have wings.
“Elle, you watching?” Jay asked as I pressed the tiny wireless earbud against my ear.
“I peep,” I replied, suspicious eyes staring a couple down as they turned the corner. They were going to the Underground. They had to be. For us civilians, the place was closed yet somehow, people managed to disappear just beyond the corner, and never be heard from again but not tonight. Tonight was halloween. I had my camera around my neck, leather thigh high boots, my black lipstick and a tattered baseball cap turned backwards over my fro.
The same couple came back around for the second time and started for the entrance as I kicked off the machine and began to make my move. One finger swiping my nose to the left for the signal, I watched my team break off as I kept close behind the loving couple. The faster they moved, the quicker I picked my feet up until they stopped. I turned to look down at my phone, keeping distracted while slyly watching them donate change to the sleeping man on the ground. He probably didn’t notice either way and it was nothing for another bum to take his money here in Atlanta.
A few more lingering seconds and the couple was back holding hands as they continued to the blocked off entrance of Underground Atlanta.
This was my chance! This is it! I had to stop myself from running after them, bypassing the homeless man and turned the corner seconds after they did only to see nothing but construction signs and blocked off warning tape.
The couple, nowhere in sight. Not again. Not again! I pushed past the tape and forced my way down before Marta Police could find me. God, I hope it wasn’t that same rental cop with the gold tooth. I kept going, reaching the end of the walkway until I was officially in the Underground and sighed.
Empty. No stores, no shops. Just signs of what used to be back in the day where people would come and hang out. Now it was just bricks and columns, blocked off stores and old booths parked in the corner.
“Still, picture worthy,” I muttered as I pulled my Nikon D3300, focusing the lens on the emptiness of this place and the shadows tucked in the corners. There was always a certain beauty in the past that lingered in the present. Moving closer, I kept taking shots, seeing the flash brighten up the place if only for a moment until I heard someone clear their throat behind me.
“Look,” I popped without turning around, “I’m not harming nobody. I’m not here to steal because tuh, what is there to steal down here? I’m a journalist and there is a story,” turning around, “I’m…”
My words fell flat at the sight of the hall shirtless man with the million dollar smile. All he wore were jeans, showing just enough boxers to where it wasn’t obnoxiously sagging.
“What story are you writing about?”
I looked him over before shyly looking through my camera as if I was too busy.
“Angels,” I said with an attitude. His eyes perked up.
“Angels?” he repeated.
“Those winged freaks...yes, Angels. I believe they’re real and I believe they’re right here in Atlanta, in this very place at this very moment.”
His eyes twinkled with stifled humor as he coughed away his laugh.
“What do they look like?” he asked.
“Like you and me, but with wings. Obviously,” I popped with my gum before studying my pictures. “Like regular people you wouldn’t suspect...you could walk by and not notice a thing. They can sit next to you on the bus and even…” I took a picture of our feet standing together on the crumbling brick flooring, “they even have families...children, girlfriends and boyfriends.”
“So how would you know if you met an angel?” he asked.
“Simple,” I shrugged, looking back at the shirtless man, “bait them. You see, some angels like the opposite of themselves… Some are attracted to the dark, some angels that are dark are attracted to the light...the innocence, the whole virginal beauty bullshit… It’s why I have this on,” I said, looking down at my outfit, weight shifting from one hip to the other with a simple sway, knowing the shirtless man was watching but my mind began to drift into the past. “The night I saw an angel is the same night my mother disappeared. One day she was there at the house, washing dishes after cooking dinner… Next morning, she was gone. No one has seen her since. No sign of a break in, nothing. It’s like she just walked out…”
“You think by finding angels, you’ll find your mother?”
“What?” I cringed. “I didn’t say that. Just to know those evil bastards are real is all I need. I know she was taken by them.”
I looked through my camera again, studying the same pictures until I paused at the most recent one of our feet facing one another. I zoomed in on something behind his leg, just hanging in the back before my face and fingers went numb. I looked like a faint smokey vision of a wing, just the tip of it where it was pulled against his backside and just happened to drape down to his ankles.
Slowly, I looked up at the man who smiled as my heart began to race.
He’s… He’s one of them… I took a few steps back with him taking a step forward.
“I’m not afraid of you,” I said with a shaky voice before I whipped around, ready to scream until I felt his hand clamp around my mouth and nose. His other arm snaking my neck as the camera dropped down hard against the ground.
“If you scream, I won’t be able to tell you where your mom is, Elmira…I just need to borrow you for a moment...”
I started to fight back, jamming my elbow in his ribcage until his hand gripped my neck and with a hard jerk of a snap, I was out.
“Let the Lord say Amen...service can begin with a prayer of giving thanks to those who sacrificed their life to be here with us...Without you and your devotion, none of this is possible…”
The head guardian stood at the beginning of the quaint church in the Underground as I stretched my arm out against the bench with a proud smile. Elmira sat next to me with her lips sewn together, legs crossed showing just enough leg to keep my attention during service and although the fear in her eyes was something I hate to see, it was all part of the process to make her mine. As soon as she wandered into the Underground, I knew she would be mine and now all I had to do was seal the deal.
“Will all those who brought their souls with them please rise so the Guardian courtship can begin?”
I leaned over with my hand gripping her wrist to assure her.
“When all of this is over, I will take you back to your body and answer any questions you may have. My name is Nakir, I am an angel and tonight is my Guardian ceremony. I chose you to be the soul I protect, love, and serve. We will be lovers among other things,” I whispered, moving her hair back as I watched a single tear fall down her cheek. She was terrified but that’s to be expected. I took her hand and stood her up as we walked out of the seats and towards the front where the rest of my kin and their women or men were. Every soul filled with fear in this church as the head Guardian began to read scripture, and with each passing prayer he went around to place a spec of holy water and blood between the eyes. I held Elmira close, waiting for this moment my entire life as he pressed his thumb against her head, gave a protective scripture for a peaceful passing with no interruptions than stood before me with a proud nod as he pressed his thumb against my head, sending us off.
“Pulse! We have a pulse!”
The rockiness of the ambulance truck wasn’t enough to stop the medics from working on Elmira as she laid there lifeless on the bed attached to every machine possible. Just a few more seconds now. I glanced at my clock with a sigh before suddenly watching her sit up with a gasp and hard cough. Bruised neckline from my hands, she gripped her own neck, gasping for air as the medics panicked all over her.
“Just lay down! Lie still for me ma’am! We’re almost there!”
The sirens were only getting louder as the truck swerved to the right, hitting a corner. Elmira’s eyes met with mine as I put my finger to my lips.
“They can’t see me unless I want to be seen,” I told her in a loving voice, “I am your soulmate Nakir and we are now bound for life…”