Evil moves in the shadows at the corners of the world — forces of hate, who will cheerfully destroy anyone who doesn't serve their purpose.
But where shadows are cast, light banishes them. Heroes are made, not born; ordinary men and women who stand up for the innocent. Angels who move in the shadows and scatter them.
Join Aaron as he learns of the mysterious world hidden just beneath the view of our own. Fight the forces of evil, hold back an alien invasion, and discover your own courage.
Angels of the Shadows is a new video game adventure coming from the Fabulous Adventuring Company.
Aaron's eyes opened into the dim light that revealed a ceiling with ornate cornices and a chandelier — definitely not the alleyway he last remembered. The soft bed — was he in some kind of hospital? Moving his arm hurt. Everything hurt; scrapes on his face, back, chest; it seemed that his legs had been spared. Muscles refused to obey.
He awoke again — he must have passed out. The room was still dim, but he managed to sit up against the generous pile of pillows. Someone had brought him to this place — this palatial hotel room he could never afford — and undressed him, tucked in his dirty body under the white silk sheets and a blanket that probably cost more than his shithole apartment. Some stranger had touched his body … the idea was frightening. Gingerly, he touched his scrapes and bruises … not much blood, but he'd left some streaks of blood and dirt on the sheets; that upset him.
There wasn't much to the room; the ornate bed, a couple of armchairs that reminded him of a psychologist's office, big chairs studded with buttons to make diamond patterns in the leather. A closet — no, a wardrobe cabinet — was over in the corner, and a window covered by at least two different sets of curtains. The door was open into a dark hallway. What the Hell kind of place was this? Where were his clothes … and his wallet? Every penny he had was in cash in that wallet; if not for that, he would never have tried to fight off those men.
Who could have brought him here? This didn't look like the kind of place the cops would take him. Definitely not a hospital.
Testing himself, he slid gingerly to the edge of the huge bed and tried to pull out the dirty sheet, but it seemed to be tucked in too tightly. Improvising, he pulled a pillowcase off one of the larger pillows to wrap around himself like a towel.
There was water running somewhere; the quiet hissing had blended into the silence so well he hadn't realized it was even there. “Great,” he muttered to himself, realizing he had also been ignoring an urgent need to piss. Down the hall, light spilled through a double-wide doorway: the hallway opened up to a balcony. He was upstairs, somewhere — some fancy penthouse, maybe? In the two weeks he'd spent in the city, he'd never seen anything so elegant. The wooden floor had paisley shapes inlaid into it, and at least three — no, four, five — wooden doors opened into the hall.
The open doorway drew his attention. He could walk all right; that was good. The light was blinding; after the dim bedroom, it was like staring into the sun. A huge bathroom; row of toilet stalls, wide counter with sinks — maybe it was a locker room, or something. One problem solved, at least; the tile floor was warm under his bare feet, and he took advantage of the urinal.
“Great, you're awake!” came a cheerful baritone voice. Aaron pissed on his foot as he jumped back, startled, and started to fall, only to ram his scratched, sore back into a cold wall. The pain shot through him, as he tried to wrap the pillowcase around himself again. Embarrassed, frightened, the surge of adrenaline hit him and he stifled a groan.
How could he have not seen him? The pale blond man was standing a short distance away in the showers; hazy glass partitions did little for modesty, but in the blinding brightness of the room and clouds of steam, Aaron could barely make out the man's face; his body vanished into the haze.
Aaron woke up again; he was being lain down in the bed by strong arms. The blond man's face was inches away. The first thing Aaron saw were those eyes: an iris of bright gold rays shooting out through silver and ending in a ring of pale blue. The stranger's wet arm was still behind Aaron's shoulder, gently laying him down.
“All right, there you go, kiddo. Doc checked you out while you were out earlier. No concussion, but you've got to be starving.” The voice was calm, caring, and strangely androgynous for being so deep and inviting. The man himself was hardly androgynous … Aaron began to blush as he realized they were both naked, as the stranger stepped back from him. His eyes wandered down … no, don't look (but he already had) … the stranger saw Aaron's glance at his groin. “Oh, sorry; just a moment.” He sauntered back into the hallway, seemingly in no hurry.
From down the hall, a moment later, the water cut off. The stranger re-entered wearing a towel around his waist with a strange embroidered pattern, a circle with lines through it. He leaned casually against the side of one of the armchairs.
“Where am I?” Aaron ventured.
“Oh! So you don't remember much, do you? Sorry. You're here at Wilde House. Some — ah, people…” The way he said “people” made it sound like a lie. “Some people attacked you tonight, so we brought you here to make sure you'd be all right.”
“Wilde House? ‘We?’ Where…?”
“We're not in the city, boy-o. Tell you what, you're still pretty wobbly on your feet, so let's get some food into you, or Doc's gonna have to plug you into an IV.” He gestured toward the door, half-bowing, like a doorman at a fancy apartment building.
Food. Amazing. Aaron hadn't eaten since — wow. Was it yesterday? His stomach clenched. “Um, my clothes …?”
“Yeah, um … I hope you weren't emotionally attached to them, because I'm pretty sure they just need to be burned.” The room was so big; he strode casually across and opened the wardrobe, pulled out a bathrobe with the same embroidered symbol on it. “Here, throw this on. We'll get you some new clothes after you've eaten. And your wallet and things are over here, by the way,” tapping on a little chest of drawers within the wardrobe.
“I'm Ryan, if you've forgotten. And you prefer Aaron, or …?” The robe slung over his left arm, he stretched out his hand for a handshake.
“Yeah … yeah, I'm Aaron.” The handshake took him aback; the blond man, Ryan, reached up to grab him by the wrist instead of fingers, very old-fashioned — “Um, nice to meet you … sir.” How old was this guy? He had a body like a statue, easy muscles under smooth skin, but something about him let Aaron know that he was maybe a decade his senior — probably over 30.
Ryan held up the robe by its shoulders and stood by the side of the bed. “Oh,” Aaron realized belatedly — he was holding it out like helping someone to put on a coat. He blushed redder. His whole life, Aaron had avoided being naked around anyone else … already, despite the pain, he felt his body reacting to the angelic stranger's, and he did not want to be betrayed. Surely this Ryan would be disgusted if he knew Aaron's secret.
Holding himself under the sheets, he sidled to the edge of the bed, and tried to pull the sheet with him … Ryan smiled, his eyes laughing at Aaron's discomfort, and turned his head, pointedly staring away as he made a swift motion to slip into the robe and pull it around himself.
“A little shy? You've nothing to be ashamed of, here, trust me.” Ryan strolled back to the hall.
Easy for him to say, Aaron thought to himself. Six-pack abs and perfect skin and … don't think about what he'd seen hanging (so far) below the waist. Aaron's twiggy, pimply body was something he had “ashamed” of even before it had been covered with red scrapes and purple bruises.
The door at the end of the hallway led into a dining room; a long and formal table, bare of any decoration, surrounded by graceful chairs; dark wallpaper patterned with swirls; and more ornate chandeliers. Aaron subconsciously counted a dozen chairs — no, 11, there was none at the far end. He felt out-of-place and self-conscious here, wearing a bathrobe that probably cost more than all his clothes, following a half-naked man with the body of a god through the darkness.
As Ryan turned into a side door, he reached around the corner and flipped an a light. Aaron flinched at the brightness; the rectangle of light cast across the table and revealed a painting on the opposite wall. Men were diving off a cliff into the sea, caught in mid-air, each a bit nearer to the waves than the next, dark silhouettes against a sunrise over the ocean.
The kitchen was the first room Aaron felt welcome in. It was huge, like a restaurant's, with big counters in the middle of several stoves and refrigerators with glass doors that might have been more at home in a deli. Baskets of bread and fruits were littered around the room. Ryan was already taking down plates from a cabinet. “So, what do you want to eat? We have some good Thai leftovers here, and I can make you up some fresh rice … how's that sound?”
The clock on the wall read 4:30 or so. All this had happened in … what, five hours? Was it even 10 PM when he'd been attacked?
“Do you like Thai? The chili sauce is on the side, so you don't have to make it super spicy if you don't want.”
Aaron's fingers brushed a bunch of bananas in a basket; yes, they were real.
“Or bananas, that's good too. I'm still gonna make up some rice, though.” Oh! Ryan was talking to him. Focus, Aaron.
“Um, yeah. That's kind of you. I don't know what Thai is like.”
Ryan smiled. Was he laughing at Aaron? How childish and stupid he was? “Well, I'll heat some up for myself,” as he poured rice into a strange steel appliance, “and you can try it.” He added water, closed the lid, and a light came on. Aaron had never seen a rice cooker before, either, but he figured out what it was, easily enough. “Do you want to have a seat in the dining room?”
Want to? The room was a little intimidating, actually. Ryan reached past him to break a couple of bananas off the bunch, and handed one to Aaron. A gentle hand on his shoulder guided Aaron into the imposing room; Ryan turned up the lights, dimly, and pulled out a chair for Aaron to sit in. “How about some OJ, too? That OK?” He sounded concerned, idly peeling his own banana. Apparently interpreting silence as a “yes,” he went through the open kitchen door and Aaron heard glasses clinking.
The painting was all there was to look at; the sharp stones of the cliffs looked uncomfortable. Did the divers wear shoes?
Ryan leaned past him to put a glass of orange juice on the table, and set down a place mat — no, a fabric napkin — and a small, empty bowl. When Aaron turned to thank him, he was halfway into the kitchen. “Um … thanks.”
Ryan was pulling plastic bins out of the fridge; he turned to smile heartily. “You're more than welcome, man,” he said, overturning some blend of noodles and vegetables into ceramic bowls. “Drink up.”
The inadequacy of his “thank you” struck Aaron. He took a bite of his banana (when had he peeled that?) and still chewing tried to continue. “I mean —” dummy. Stop chewing. Swallow. Better. “I mean, thanks for everything.”
Ryan seemed to be microwaving the noodles. “You're really welcome. I'm just sorry that stupid shit happened to you.” God, he was beautiful; don't look at him. Eat your banana. Look at the painting. The black outlines of perfect bodies was almost as titillating as the all-too-real one in the next room.
Oh. The banana's gone. Um … peel … in the bowl, I guess? … The juice was good. Aaron don't know how long it had been since he'd had orange juice. It was good; his lips were chapped. It had been cold last night. Oh, not even last night. Earlier tonight.
His mind had wandered. He still hurt all over. The steaming bowl of rice came as a surprise; Ryan was pulling it off a platter, and sat down beside him in the big, empty room. Staring down, Ryan's thigh was so close to his, where his towel kilt was parted. Focus on the rice…
There was a fork and chopsticks. Chopsticks? For rice? Not in Indiana any more. Aaron grabbed the fork and began to eat the bland rice. Ryan had spread out bowls of — well, that must be chili sauce, and that was broccoli and baby corn and something, and some kind of noodles. Sitting so close. Aaron wolfed down half the rice before realizing that Ryan was chop-sticking noodles from a bowl while watching him eat.
“So, you had a kinda shit night of it. But you're gonna be OK. You hear me?” Aaron nodded, eyeing the bowls of mysterious food. Ryan slid them closer, and put a warm hand on Aaron's shoulder. The soft fabric of the bathrobe didn't keep him from feeling the touch. He managed a nod, trying not to meet those grey eyes as he reached for some vegetables. “Don't worry about a thing. You're going to stay here a while, get back on your feet. We'll sort out picking up your things in the morning.”
Aaron couldn't believe it. Stay here? He couldn't afford to dress well enough to take a tour of a place this nice. He had to tell the stranger, “no.” Look up. Those eyes — he looked worried, concerned.
“I, um. I can't pay for all this.” He was blushing, ashamed to be poor, ashamed to be a burden, ashamed of the very physical reaction to this man. “You've already done so much. I don't even know how I got here …”
“Nobody said anything about ‘paying’ for anything, Aaron.” Their eyes locked. Aaron's pulse raced. “And I flew you here after the fight, to make sure you'd be all right. You will be. But it's best for you to stay for a while. I'm guessing you don't have much to keep you in the city, though, not really.” He was right. No job, no money, he was running out of options. A few days off wouldn't hurt. Those eyes.
He didn't mean to do it. It surprised him that he kissed this strange man; it surprised him more that, after an interminable fraction of a second, he kissed him back; warm, welcoming, soft. Aaron's body tingled; Ryan's hand touched his elbow gently. The kiss lasted for seconds; he broke it off, and turned his head, flushed and flustered.
“I'm … sorry; I don't know …”
Ryan kissed him on the cheek; a gentle peck. “It's OK, boy-o. Believe me, I am not going to complain.”
So, that's it. Aaron's heart sunk. He didn't have to hide his shameful secret. Some rich weirdo was letting him move in because of it. He knew what he was going to have to do … he'd certainly dreamed of it for long enough, and this guy was beyond gorgeous, but now his life depended on it, and he was sickened at what he was about to do.
He reached out and began to slide his hand up Ryan's thigh, under the towel, reaching for — but Ryan's hand took him by the wrist, and placed his palm onto the fuzzy blond patch on his chest, cradled there, feeling the slow, warm heartbeat. “No.”
Not good enough? He started to get out of his seat, to kneel, but Ryan stopped him, took him by the chin and firmly looked in his eyes. “No, Aaron. It's not like that.”
“But … ” Aaron was lost. Was he too ugly for him? Obviously, the guy was queer. He must have expected Aaron to repay him somehow …
“No ‘buts’ about it. You're beautiful — ” (liar, Aaron thought, no one has ever called me ‘beautiful’ before) “ — but I would never let you go There because you thought you had to.” His eyes searched Aaron's face.
“Eat up. You can just leave the dishes here. Help yourself to anything in the kitchen. Then, go back to bed. In the morning we'll find you some clean clothes and I'll show you around.”
Ryan stood and walked out of the dining room. “Don't worry about cleaning up anything, tonight. You need your rest.” He left, the door closed behind him.
Aaron woke up. Bloody, dirty, sweaty, in the softest bed he'd ever laid down in. The curtains were open, showing trees and fields — he was far from the city. A strange little stand had been set up with clothes on it. He crawled out of bed, and pulled on the bathrobe from last night wandering into the hallway. All was silent.
The bathroom was as he remembered it; piles of clean white towels were on shelves by the showers. Shy at the walls of almost-clear glass, stepped into the shower and found himself sprayed from six directions at once. Bottles of soap and shampoo lined a shelf. The hot water felt so good …
Where was this Wilde House? Who was the stranger “Ryan?” Why had those men attacked him last night?
He stepped out of the shower and toweled off, and walked down the hall toward “his” room. The briefs fit him perfectly … designer, name-brand underwear, something new to him. A knock at the door — he dove to wrap himself with a towel even as the door opened. Not Ryan: the scruffy young guy had spiky black hair and was wearing a T-shirt and jeans. “Hey. You must be Aaron.”
Aaron nodded, tightening his towel. “I'm Ronny. I work Dispatch. Welcome to Wilde House.” He reached out a hand for a handshake as he walked into the room. Aaron gingerly and silently returned it. “I'm gonna put on coffee. And bagels? Maybe get you some fruit salad too?” Aaron nodded.
Ronny left, muttering something into a Bluetooth headset as he went. Aaron looked at the clothes laid out for him. A necktie? Did he even remember how to do that?