Dusty stood alone, wondering if the man--the
angel--would come tonight. Soft lights glowed in apartment buildings around her; the
living, settling into comfortable chairs, eating late dinners, falling in love. She
thought she had known love once--but it ended too quickly--like life itself often does.
Snow drifted, fell on sidewalks, swirled in the chilly early evening wind. Eyes shimmered
within intricate flakes; spirits of those long dead. Feathery hands reached out to her.
Phantom choruses serenaded. If she looked hard enough she could see them and their
celestial cathedral--a gateway
between Heaven and Hell--a place she could not reach. They stood within gables, lined
altars, knelt in pews--souls of both dark and light.
She was bound to the Earth. Dusty--little girl--little waif. A ghost--wearing a skimpy
torn jeans. Dark hair hung in limp ringlets down her back, sleepy eyes stared at traffic
easing by. She gazed at pedestrians, bundled from head to toe in winter garb. The living
couldn't see her. They couldn't see any of the ghosts who haunted the city.
Arturio ached for the ghost girl, Dusty. He had
watched her since her death. But he knew that her time had not yet come.
Ashes fell around him--ashes of the dead. He long ago had grown tired of his penance on
earth, his duty as a gatherer of lost souls. He longed to be released from his prison as
other fallen angels had been. He knew it would be years before he could claim Dusty as
his--years before her spirit--her wispy life would free him. He needed her to end his
sentence--one who was born, and who died on the winter
solstice. But he would have to wait--until she realized the truth.
Until then he watched her each night--each passing year, unable to reach out and touch
her. He could merely walk by, never allowing his eyes to gaze into hers. "Until
then," he whispered as ancient phantasms of the city gathered around him, praying to
the dark angel, whispering his name in vain.
Dusty, invisible in death as in life, one of
five children. Her mother always too busy, too involved with
some guy or another, too drunk to notice Dusty, never realizing at the age of fifteen her
daughter had fallen head over heels in love with a boy named Antonio.
He introduced her to drugs, thievery and physical abuse. On the night the police found
Dusty's battered body in the alley--around the corner from where she now stood. Her mother
was half way to California, a bottle of whiskey in one hand, the other tucked inside her
latest boyfriend's jeans--too far away--too busy to notice Dusty.
Her spirit left her broken body as Antonio ran away, money stolen from an old man tucked
in his pocket--the man's body in a parked car a few feet away.
A stray cat sniffed at her for a moment, then slipped away into a maze of garbage and
rusted pipes. She rose upward where figures flickered by, none of them seeing her. The
cathedral stood in the distance, wavering, cloudy. And even the gods, goddesses and saints
who waited in the light only looked past her--to others making their way to the ethereal
gates they guarded. She turned around, believing that she had been meant for the darkness.
Falling like a cracked and withered Autumn leaf.
Demons brushed by, indifferent to her presence,
too busy to welcome the waif of a girl named Dusty. The specter walked behind her,
blending with the shadows until she came back to earth, to wander in confusion--her
As time went on she learned there were others like her; Gelica and the boy named Billy,
who drifted to her side when the sun sank behind the towering mall. He pressed close to
her, as if trying to find the warmth death had stolen, whispering, peering at her with
dull blue eyes.
Gelica wavered above them, yellow hair glowing beneath the winter moon, eyes laughing as
music floated from bars by the water. She recited the same litany each evening. "I
died in my dressing room. Took too many pills and never made my next number."
"Why didn't you go to heaven or hell?" Dusty asked the same question.
"Nobody came to claim me. I never tried to get into either place. I stayed here. It's
where I want to be--for now anyway." She spun around as the music changed, an
old disco tune, upbeat, lively. "Always loved the music." Her white face twisted
in a macabre grimace.
Billy sighed. "I'm waiting for my Dad." Tears glistened in his eyes. "The
cops called him after the car accident. I heard them say he'd come for me, to bury me near
Mom, to take me home."
Dusty touched his face. "That was a long time ago. Isn't it time you tried to move
"I don't know. I lost track of time. But it hasn't been that long--I think." He
looked up at the moon. "My dad should be coming."
Dusty knew Billy had died thirty years before, in the famous car accident over by Sable
Hill. Billy had been the victim of a hit and run by the drunken mayor. It happened when
Gelica had been alive. One night she gave Dusty an account of the accident, how
they‚d found Billy's body twenty feet from the car he'd been driving.
Billy's image flickered as he moved gently away from her, rising above the city, then out
Gelica shook her head. "If you kids want to have a good time, take a walk to the pier
some night." She spun around again, her sheer dress rose above transparent
thighs. "You just don't know how to have fun. I love it!" She sailed away,
towards the laughter, the music and the life she once lived.
Dusty smiled weakly at the happy-go-lucky ghost, knowing in time she'd grow too weak to
hear the music, to appreciate the thrill of the night life she loved when alive.
A vision of the night she died flickered. Blood splattered the windshield where an old man
slumped over the wheel of his car.
Arturio looked to the stars, to the crescent
moon hanging above. Sighing, he noted another decade had passed, another slice of eternity
lost without Dusty's touch. Tucking hands into bottomless pockets where lofty spirits
congregated, where the Realm of Shadows existed for that moment in time, he thought of her
slight form, of her lips, the way she rode the wind through the city--graceful,
sensuous--vital to his redemption.
Dusty was alone again, the snow intensifying,
wet sloppy, flakes slapping into windows, brick and cement. The traffic had nearly stopped
and the dull rumble of trains running beneath the city mingled with distant music by the
Each night at this time, when the shopkeeper across the way shut off his lights and closed
the blinds, the man, the angel--the one who'd followed her the night she died--strode out
of the darkness. His face luminous white, eyes seemingly smudged with ash, lips stained
with red. His steps sure, confident, strong, seeming to search the night for some sacred
treasure, perhaps a wish made long ago on a
mystical moon. He seemed to look right at her, eyes piercing through the invisibility,
penetrating her cloak of death--remembering his vigil on the night she died. And she
wondered if he saw her again--if just for a moment--a flicker of light flashing before his
He rounded the corner, long hair catching on the wind, diamond earring glowing beneath
neon lights. Perhaps next time she would follow.
And then a soft masculine voice whispered, "Fallen Angel know neither heaven or
She remembered Antonio, his knife, the look of terror on the old man's face, and how her
own hands shook.
The angel sighed as the ghost named Gelica
followed him, floating, longing to touch him. Quickly he turned, opened his arms to
welcome her. Smiling into her transparent face he said, "Walk with me, savor the
earth for while more, and I will tell you of the Realm of Shadow."
Gelica touched his cold face. Visions of angels, wings fluttering as dark faces with
gleaming eyes, appeared in the velvet sky--with the stars and all creatures of darkness
"Will I become like them." she whispered as he took her hand.
He didn't answer, only held her close. "Walk with me a while."
When the sun showed its orange face over
buildings, casting rays on dirty store windows, making snow shine like white glitter,
Dusty drifted like mist, through the city. Like a puff of smoke, a soft breeze, She walked
by the living, feeling their warmth for a moment, hearing their words ring--prayers,
curses, promises--songs of life. She wondered where he could be, the angel who
strode out of the darkness, the one who pierced her heart with his eyes. Then she saw him,
seated by the window in Luciano's, the Italian restaurant at the corner of Grant and
Fairway. He smiled at a woman--Gelica-- seated next to him. He leaned over, kissed her,
wrapped her in his black cloak.
The waiter brought two steaming plates. The scene grew dim as mist moistened the window,
leaving only faint images behind it, blocking Dusty's view.
She kept moving through the city, watching the clock on the tower of city hall. Time kept
moving. She thought about him.
Later she passed the Italian restaurant again. Now the window was boarded up. A sign on
the door said Luciano's had moved to Alms Street.
"Perhaps more than hours have gone by. I've lost track of time, the same as
Billy," she whispered. The sky darkened, snow flurried, wind whipped at her face. She
still wandered as people made their way into other restaurants, crowded into booths, ate
salads, drank wine and discussed the busy day at work.
Shadows grew longer. She thought about the man with the charcoal-lined eyes. The living
made their way home when the clock struck five--others stopped for drinks in dimly lit
cafes. Women rushed into department stores to buy perfume or hosiery for late night dates.
She wondered how many hours, days, years it had been since her death.
As Billy cried, pounding his head against cold brick, calling for Gelica, Dusty wondered
about if she would ever know a heaven--or a hell where her weary soul would spend
Billy reached out for her, "Dusty I think I'm drifting away. You seem so dim
Dusty shook her head, "I think I'm the one who's drifting away, Billy." A tear
trickled from her eye.
Billy's voice became an echo, silver chimes in a dream.
She remembered the old man's raspy voice as he begged for his life--as she too pleaded
with Antonio. The knife gleamed beneath a full winter moon--the solstice moon.
The angel spread his dark wings, casting a great
shadow over the city, blocking the moon from view. He chuckled softly as he glimpsed
buildings--life--death, concrete and souls that were all a part of the place where he had
lived for decades--nearly a century of watching structures rise and fall, witnessing the
births and deaths of many. Tonight he'd be free, leaving the city to others of his kind.
"For Dusty will be mine," he said, letting out a cry, a bellowing sound like
When the shopkeeper across the way shut off his
lights and closed the blinds, the angel strode out of the darkness. His coat was open,
whipping in gusty air. He walked quickly, his gaze seemingly fastened on Dusty. He brushed
by her, a tiny smile curling at the edges of his lips.
Another vision of the night she died wavered. Blood trickled from the old man's neck. She
pointed the knife she held at Antonio, hands shaking. With cat-like swiftness he lunged at
The vision dissolved and she followed the angel. The top of his head was visible through a
crowd of young people who made their way to a punk rock nightclub. She floated, concealed
in shadows. And
when he glided down deserted subway stairs, a place where trains had ceased running years
before, she hovered above him. She gasped as he looked upward, spread wings of shimmering
black feathers, tipped with gold. Then, smiling, he raised his hand to her.
She reached out for him as smoke rose from cracked pavement and orange flames licked at
his feet--consuming her spirit. He smiled again, clutching her hand, eyes swirling with
silver and red. Fire swallowed Dusty as the world became invisible.
Angels beat their wings; fragile white faces, hands reaching out. Blood drenched the
marble staircase where they stood. Their sighs mingled with the snow.
And when only ashes remained where the little waif spirit had stood, Arturio reached down
and brushed his hands through the dark remains. He then ran his finger around each
eye, intensifying the black that already lined his eyes. "Charm of life and
death," he whispered. He stared at her remains, sniffed at the acrid smell and waited
for what seemed another lifetime.
A wispy breeze ruffled his coattails, picked up the edges of his hair. He spread his great
wings, taking flight, tasting freedom. He rose high above the cathedral. Phantom faces
upturned; watched him. Elongated fingers pointed. Dusty's lips quivered, as she too
watched his ascent from the gable where she stood. Then she opened a door to the world
where she would reside for eternity--with other
murderer's and thieves...and began her climb downward.
The fiction and poetry of Sandy DeLuca has
been published in numerous small press publications, including the Divas of Darkness
Anthology, Mindmares, and The Edge~Tales of Suspense. This coming year she will have work
appearing in such places as Space & Time, Welcome to Nod, The Urbanite and Whispers
From the Shattered Forum. Sandy is editor of Goddess of the Bay Publications. She is
currently working on a novel.