The roar of the engine was something unholy. It wasn’t particularly loud; it just caught my attention, as if it had reached inside me and was trying to snatch a part of my soul. I was drawn to the sound even before it seemed like anything was wrong. A pickup truck raced toward the intersection and time stood suddenly still. Its driver had no intention of stopping.
It was the sort of truck you expected the owner cared very much about, a classic from the 1970s. It was green and shiny, glistening with recently polished pride in the sunlight as it sped toward me in slow motion, its gas-guzzling V8 engine growling like a demon over the other sounds of the city trickling through my open window. I hit my brakes instinctively. There were several cracks of gunfire that seemed spaced seconds apart, though they must have been closer. The windshield on the truck shattered and the driver slumped forward onto the steering wheel, but bullets only stop drivers. The truck sped on.
My hearing went completely deaf when the green monster struck my front fender. An unidentifiable man in a grey, hooded sweatshirt catapulted through the shattered windshield. All I ever really saw of him was his nose and mouth. He skidded across City Hall Plaza toward two officers with their weapons drawn on the steps of the building, but I didn’t have time to watch. Everything became a blur as my car spun around and around, and then the world went black.
I don’t know how long it was before I woke again. The sounds of traffic were gone, replaced by a lot of screaming and crying that danced in and out of the terrible ringing in my ears. Someone was trying to talk to me, but I had a lot of trouble focusing my eyes. A stocky, blonde girl, maybe a year or two younger than I was, leaned over me, silhouetted against the bright blue sky.
“What’s your name?” she asked in a thick Irish accent. Her face was pale with shock.
For a few moments of disoriented confusion, I didn’t know. A strange smell filled my sinuses.
“Can you tell me your name?”
“Annie,” I finally answered.
“Just lie still, Annie. Help is on the way, okay? Just lie still. Everything’s going to be alright.”
I realized she was holding my left arm near the shoulder with both hands and I couldn’t feel it. Blood trickled slowly down the side of my head. My mind raced back through what had happened trying to piece it together.
“How are you doing?” She was crying now from relief and I heard the tiny tremble in her voice.
I felt fine, what little I could feel anyway. The wail of the first siren in the distance reached my ears. “I’m guessin’ I’ve had better days?” I suggested.
A very good-looking young man in a uniform – not police – stopped to ask her questions in words that flew by too quickly to comprehend at first.
“I think I have it under control,” she answered bravely through her tears. “Pulse is weak, but it’s stable, and I haven’t been able to locate any fractures.”
“Can you stay with her?”
“God bless you, Casey,” the uniformed man said, placing a hand on her shoulder, and he hurried off.
I started to turn my head and she stopped me.
“Hey, hey! No moving yet, okay?”
“I don’t think I fractured anything except my butt,” I said.
“Does it hurt?”
“My butt? Yeah, but just bruised, maybe. I can’t feel my arm.”
“You have a really deep cut. It hit an artery. You’ve lost a lot of blood.”
“What happened?” I asked, rolling my head around to look for my car. Blood trickled up into my ear.
“I don’t know for sure. It looks like someone tried to blow up City Hall with a car bomb and you got in the way.”
I found what was left of my car not far from where I lay and grimaced. No human should have survived the battered wreckage I saw, and it was obvious there were others around who hadn’t been so lucky. There was almost nothing left of the demon on wheels that had prowled the street in my last memories before the crash. Wreckage was everywhere. Bodies on the street, many left covered and unattended in grim notice of their fate.
“Oh my God!” I gasped quietly.
“I think you might have had an angel watching over you today,” my helper agreed.
I looked down at where her hands were clasped over my arm to slow the bleeding. The two of us were in the middle of an alarming pool of my blood widening slowly onto the asphalt on Administration Drive. She was covered in blood and I realized some of it was hers. She had several cuts on one arm and I noticed some more at the back of her face and neck. I thought back to my first aid training and remembered the cautions she’d ignored in order to help me.
“I don’t have AIDS,” I told her.
She looked at my eyes in shock, and then suddenly she laughed. “I don’t either, Annie. Wouldn’t that be a bitch, now!”
“I hate the sirens,” I said. Several of them were growing ever louder. One by one they silenced as the ambulances began to arrive at the scene.
“Me too,” Casey nodded. “Fucking wail of the bean sí, right?”
“I guess. What’s the bean sí?”
“She’s an Irish legend, a harbinger of death. Keens when a soul’s about to be taken.” She paused for a minute to look around and I could see her tense. “By the looks of it, she’s a bit late.”
As the sirens dwindled, the cries of the surviving victims and those who had lost others grew louder in their absence.
“You ever had somethin’ hurt so bad you can’t feel it anymore?”
She smiled. “I got two babies now, don’t I? I suppose that counts.”
“I’ve never been pregnant, except in a dream once.” It was a terrible dream I had the first time I ever flew home from college. This girl who had done so much to help me deserved to be spared. “I heard something about sex being a prerequisite.”
Casey laughed. “No boyfriend? Cute girl like you?”
I wrinkled my face up. Her eyesight had probably been damaged in the explosion. “It’s a long story.”
“I’m stuck here a while longer,” she said.
“A story?” I sighed. My head was beginning to get dizzy from all the blood I’d lost. “Once there was a young Irish girl named Aine.”
My audience screwed her face up in a cute quizzical expression with her lower lip pushed out a little to one side.
“She wasn’t the most beautiful girl in Ireland, but she was a girl, and she was young, and there were boys. Any other girl would have been courted for sure, but Aine was different. People feared her because she could never stop the water that poured from her eyes. From the day she was born, she never once cried, but her cheeks were forever wet just the same.
“At first it was thought that she suffered from some kind of curse…” I stopped. It was getting very hard to stay focused.
“Hey, keep talking, Annie. Stay awake now, okay?”
“Sometimes, it’s the same thing,” I struggled on. “A gift, a curse, and it was hard to tell the difference with Aine’s gift. Her tears were magic, you see, but magic is seldom recognized for what it is. It wasn’t until she was a young lady of fifteen that even she understood their true nature.”
Some shouts from nearby caught Casey’s attention. She turned and shot a hand quickly into the air with a frantic wave. The sky didn’t look blue anymore. I wasn’t sure it had any color at all.
“A boy named Killian was the first to see the girl beneath Aine’s tears. And so he was the first to touch them, and he was the first…”
Two paramedics pushed my blonde friend aside and thanked her casually for her help. “Do you know your blood type, Miss?” one of them asked me.
I looked at the lake that surrounded us on the street. “Half full,” I said as exuberantly as I could and the world went black again.
When I awoke in the hospital, the doctor had been called at first signs my consciousness and he stood by my bedside. An IV dripped into a needle in the back of my right hand, and in spite of the morphine, my left arm hurt like hell.
“Welcome back, Flower Anne,” he said. “How do you feel?”
“It’s complicated,” I answered. “Nerve impulses, synapses, stuff like that. I thought they sent you to school for that.”
The doctor chuckled barely. “You’re a bit of a celebrity around here,” he said. “Something of a miracle. You were the only person near the blast who survived. Unfortunately, they didn’t send me to school for physics, so I don’t really understand, but somehow, the collision sending your car spinning away from the explosion was enough to spare you with only lacerations. Your heart stopped briefly in the ambulance, and we nearly lost your left arm, but you’re going to make a full recovery.”
“We nearly lost?”
“The point is, young lady, an angel was watching over you today.”
“So I heard.”
“Someone else said that?”
“Yeah,” my voice trailed off. “I think it might have been the angel.”
© 2013 Anne Schilde