I WOKE WITH THE AFTERTASTE OF AL’S DAY. Pain pressed my throbbing temples like a clamp. Metal cut into my wrists drawn tight behind my back. But a feather pillow caressed a cheek.
Did the wraiths capture me?
I twisted hands within the cuffs, straining against a metal strong enough to secure even Nadirians. No use. Before I opened my eyes, I assessed my surroundings. Muffled voices just outside the house. A fish factory belched in the distance. Through an open window above me I could smell the mixed scents of rotting seaweed, spoiled fish, and redwoods. Indoors, coffee brewed mixed with faint juniper, ancient iron, and the most desirable scent—two humans.
When he turned his back to rummage in a desk, I sprang and grasped his neck, both hands making sure contact. He didn’t struggle but just looked at me with a slanted smile.
Great Sha, he doesn’t drop!
Instead, with arms stronger than any Nadirian, he shoved me to sit again, but this time he sat on me, corralling my hands behind me, binding me again, though it wasn’t necessary, for his uniqueness held me hostage. Electrical surges from his body rocketed my senses into high gear. His sweat invaded my nostrils. His breath raised hairs on my neck. Even curses sent a melodious thrill. I reeled from the headiness of it all. I wanted to give in but had to escape.
So I bit him.
I was just about to make my move when a whirring sound, like a miniature helicopter, traveled from a fireplace mantle and perched on the couch. I focused on the purple-throated bird the size of a bumblebee. He cocked his head, snicked his tongue, and delivered the rudest stare, “What the Nadir are you looking at?” I whispered.
The green iridescent bird hovered before me, wings beating at super speed, and within the whirr, I heard, “Voice recognition, eye contact, message accessed.” With my special vision, I noticed his metal beak, eyes a silver glint, and under his throat, an amethyst plate.
The hummingbird’s a machine!
I brushed Alani’s hair from her face. “You know what I am. Will you give me a Day?” Her eyes fluttered when I stroked her brows. “It won’t hurt. Blink once for yes.”
She slow blinked—once—twice. I knew Nadirians didn’t need to ask humans for a Day, but a voice inside me, an inner awareness or Sha herself, said to treat her with respect, so I did what I’m sure I didn’t often do—I begged, “Please, Alani, would you deny a starving girl a crust of bread?”
Her eyeslids fluttered, moistened with tears—tears I had to steal. I slipped them on a fingertip and into my eyes, for somehow I knew I needed them.