From “City of Screams”

Under them, movement …
It was travelling with them as they flew across the open plain, the ground a seething mass of green feather and scale, of snapping beak and clutching hands and cracking claws.
Flying above, taunting the young male Green Raptors, Air Agles on the wing. White against the violet sky, they flitted like Angels, with their leader, Gabriel, laughing demonically as the roaring Raptors leapt and fell.
His kind, Air Agles, lived neither in the city like the heavy Ground Agles and the sloping-faced albino Rodents, nor in the countryside like the lizard legged, bird-faced Raptors. For Air Agles – fliers – flying was like breathing. If they didn’t do it, they’d die. They were made for it. Evolution had produced them. They were Nature’s chosen ones, the winged beings, the Angels.
Laughing along with the Angels was a single Ground Agle. Evolution had denied Phoenix her wings. She sailed supported by three fliers, soaring with them, laughing down at the snapping rage of the gang of wild Green Raptors below.
‘Take me down!’ Phoenix shouted out to Gabriel and Jay-Jay, the Angels on her left and right hands.
Gabriel’s pale green eyes looked down at the ground.
‘Take me lower!’ Phoenix cried to him.
Gabriel, the Angel leader, could have spotted an insect moving far, far below. He could see half way round the world, over the city to the Rainbow forest, beyond that, across the plains to the mystery of the sea. Gabriel glanced into Phe’s face – his eyes could not miss the flight-hysteria on her, the wish to slice through the sky that turned Phoenix round and round on herself every day in the ground-level streets of the city.
‘Fly me!’ Phoenix screamed at Gabriel. ‘Show me what it’s really like! Fly me down! Show me, now!’
Gabriel looked at Jay-Jay. Together, holding Phoenix by the arms and the back of her plain dress, they looked behind at Jay’s Special, Ember, the beautiful Air Agle at the Ground Agle’s feet.
Ember shook her head. She looked uncomfortable, worried.
Phoenix watched Gabriel looking at Jay-Jay. She smiled as they grinned at each other.
‘Fly me!’ Phoenix was mouthing to Gabriel. If she had wings, she’d never falter, not for a single second. If she had wings she’d be the best, with Gabriel, the ultimate flying Agle.
The descent took Phoenix’s breath away. The roaring, flailing green of the huge male bird-lizard people below seemed to rush up at her. They leapt up as she and her fliers plummeted. There was a clutch of grasping man-hands out of the green feathers as Phoenix and her fliers curved away at the last possible moment.


Earlier that day, Phoenix had looked at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. Her Ground Agle hair was sticking up. When it moved, she felt things through it.
At that moment, she felt sick, but hadn’t been, so far. So she put the stick she always used far back inside her mouth. Up came all her food. It still looked like food. That was good.
Her eyes went back to the mirror again. Her sensitive hair shifted. What she had felt through it then was nothing but her own disappointment, her anger. She was too heavy, too lumpy.
Phoenix, with her thick-set short legs and chunky arms, would never look like an Air Agle, an angel like Gabriel or Ember, so slim and pale, so sinuous and strong. She could never look that beautiful.
She could never fly – unless …
Now Phoenix left her stomach behind once again, lifted into the air on Angel wings. ‘Fantastic!’ she screamed at the Air Agles. ‘Skywards, entirely!’
Gabriel and Jay-Jay laughed.
Phe couldn’t see Ember at her feet. She could only feel her there.
The milk white wings and bodies of the fliers flitted all around as Phoenix imagined herself as one of them. She pictured herself with a slim, lithe body like theirs as she watched their back muscles flexing as they flew all round her. It was possible to see the mesh of fine hollow bones branching out from the shoulder blades to support the stretched, semi-translucent skin of the wings. Air Agles were beautiful, every one of them. They had on just frayed shorts and tiny tops, so unlike the plain dresses over the plump bodies of Ground Agles and Rodents. Fliers wore almost nothing in order not to impair their motion through the air.
And what movements they made! Such grace and poise. Such strength and stamina.
Phoenix looked into Gabriel’s ice-cool green eyes. ‘Again!’ she cried. ‘Take me there again!’
She was heavy in their arms, she knew. They were light and graceful, she, as Phoenix saw it, heavy and cumbersome. But she loved the feeling of flight so much, the way the Angels looked against the burn-bright sky, flitting and turning, sailing and swooping.
‘Again!’ she cried once more.
Phoenix felt Ember drawing away, dragging at her feet. She begged Gabriel. ‘Please, just once more. Please, Gabriel. It’s the skymost!’
She knew she’d get to him. He could never resist her, the way she admired what they did, the way she loved what they were. Gabriel believed that being a flier was better than anything. He loved it when a heavy dark Ground Agle like Phoenix believed so too.
‘With me!’ he yelled.
He led the plummet downwards. Taking Jay-Jay and Ember with him. All round them the angel Agles dropped out of the sky.
Phoenix screamed at the pure rush of adrenaline hitting her in the face like the fast flowing air.
Directly below them, the angry Raptors sprang from the ground on their powerful lizard legs. The green of their feathers, the flashing flesh of their heavily muscled arms came at Phoenix as she dropped towards them.
‘Faster!’ she screamed.
The noise of the roaring Raptors met her with a crunch on the moving air. Phoenix’s own sound was drowned as the Air Agles accelerated faster than gravity would have taken them alone. They flew towards the ground, angering the Raptors still further.
At the very last moment again, they turned free-fall into swoop, their bodies arching gracefully just above the clutching hands and clacking bird beaks below.
But Gabriel and Jay-Jay, spurred on by Phoenix’s screams, had fallen just that much further than before. The huge arms grabbed for them, for Phoenix as they turned their fall away into rise.
Phe had never felt so frightened, or so excited. The green mass of Raptors churned just beneath her, their hands almost catching her dress. The change from down to up took away the breath like a rush of excitement she might just die of.
But behind her, Phoenix felt Ember being forced down even further by the whiplash effect from Phe’s heavy Ground Agle body and legs.
From one side, a huge Raptor leapt up. He looked familiar. Phoenix thought she recognised him.
But he seemed to drag her back. Phoenix looked round. The Raptor had caught hold of Ember by the wing. He dragged her down.
Phoenix’s feet fell, as she was lifted skywards by Gabriel and Jay-Jay.
‘They’ve got her!’ she cried out. But the other couldn’t hear her. They were too busy flying upwards, away from where Ember had fallen, where she ran and stumbled and fell and was engulfed by the ruffled green of over-agitated feathers.