When Maria turned to look over her shoulder for the third time in as many minutes, George did also. “What is it?”
“Nothing,” she said, too quickly. “Forget it. We’ll be late to the party.”
That’s when he heard it. Out of the darkness, a low growl marched up the back of his neck. They walked faster, but the sound intensified behind them. Up ahead where the streetlights had been knocked out, sudden flames appeared out of the darkness–glowing red eyes. A white body followed the eyes, teeth dripping strings of liquid.
“Cadejo,” Maria breathed.
Before he could ask, the creature flowed towards them in a sudden rush. From behind, the low growl became a ferocious snarl, and a black dog sailed over their heads to stop the white one in mid-leap. George grabbed Maria’s hand and they ran, the snarls of the fight gradually fading into the distance.
Blood pounded through his temples as they reached the third floor of their building and he fumbled with the key before slamming his way inside their apartment. “What was that?” He locked the door behind them and leaned against it, panting.
Maria paced away from him, crossing herself. “Two brothers cursed for all eternity.”
“What do you mean two brothers? They were dogs.”
“Magic. Black magic,” she said bitterly.
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
“Kidding?” She turned back to him, rubbing her hands up and down her arms, as if cold. The white makeup around her eyes seemed garish now instead of fun, especially after the attack. Maria was dressed in an angel costume, with glitter trailing down her cheeks like silver tears. “Local legend is that my ancestors cursed the brothers to this form. Each generation, on the anniversary of their transformation, they compete with each other to take a tribute from my family in flesh and blood. I never believed the story before this –”
“Your father,” George made the connection. “You said he was killed on Halloween.”
She glanced away from him again. “My family warned me not to go out after my thirtieth birthday–oh, God, I wish I’d never let you convince me to go to the party–”
“It’s okay,” he murmured, his mind racing. His fear was fading already–he always knew Maria was superstitious, but she spoke so little about her past. It was hard to know if she was just being hysterical or if there was a deeper problem at play. Did she really believe what she was saying?
He stepped forward and took her into his arms, gently rubbing her back around her feathered white wings. Her halo pressed against his shoulder as she dropped her head against him, her shoulders shaking with grief.
But as he soothed her with quiet nonsense words and she started to relax, he heard something he shouldn’t have, something incongruous, something impossible–he heard the creak of the front door, the door he had locked, being slowly pushed open behind him.