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To homeless children sleeping on the street, neon is as comforting as a night light. Angels love colored light too. After nightfall in downtown Miami, they nibble on the Nation's Bank building - always drenched in a green, pink, or golden glow.
"They eat light so they can fly," eight-year-old André tells the children sitting on the patio of the Salvation Army's emergency shelter on NW 38th Street. André explains that the angels hide in the building while they study battle maps.
"There's a lot of killing going on in Miami," he says. "You want to fight, want to learn how to live; you got to learn the secret stories." The small group listens intently to these tales told by homeless children in shelters.
On Christmas night a year ago, God fled Heaven to escape an audacious demon attack - a celestial Tet Offensive. The demons smashed to dust his palace of beautiful blue-moon marble. TV news kept it secret, but homeless children in shelters across the country report being awakened from troubled sleep and alerted by dead relatives. No one knows why God has never reappeared, leaving his stunned angels to defend his earthly estate against assaults from Hell.
"Demons found doors to our world," adds Miguel, who sits before André with the other children at the Salvation Army shelter. The demons' gateways from Hell include abandoned refrigerators, mirrors, Ghost Town (the nickname shelter children have for a cemetery somewhere in Dade County), and Jeep Cherokees with tinted or "black" windows. The demons are nourished by dark human emotions: jealousy, hate, fear.
One demon is feared even by Satan. In Miami shelters, children know her by two names: Bloody Mary and La Llorona (the Crying Woman). She weeps blood or black tears from ghoulish empty sockets and feeds on children's terror. When a child is killed accidentally in gang crossfire or is murdered, she croons with joy. "If you wake at night and see her," a ten-year-old says softly, "her clothes be blowing back, even in a room where there is no wind. And you know she's marked you for killing."
The homeless children's chief ally is a beautiful angel they have nicknamed the Blue Lady. She has pale blue skin and lives in the ocean, but she is hobbled by a spell.
"The demons made it so she only has power if you know her secret name," says André, whose mother has been through three rehabilitation programs for crack addiction. "If you and your friends on a corner on a street when a car comes shooting bullets and only one child yells out her true name, all will be safe. Even if bullets are tearing your skin, the Blue Lady makes them fall on the ground. She can talk to us, even without her name.
She says: 'Hold on.'"
A blond six-year-old with a bruise above his eye, swollen huge as a ruby egg and laced with black stitches, nods his head in affirmation.
"I've seen her," he murmurs. A rustle of whispered "Me too"s ripples through the small circle of initiates.
Original author unknown