You remembered it felt like the breath was stolen from your lungs. You fell to your knees and squeezed your eyes tightly, but the pain was still unbearable and you thought you might split from the inside. You felt it first, and heard it later, the feeling of the flesh tearing and your back ripping in two. The scream caught in your throat and the stars appeared vibrant and bright before your eyes and the last thing you remember was the fade to black.
You woke up slowly, as you always do, but instead of your bed you were on the floor. And something was different, something your brain took into account immediately. You stood slowly and saw your reflection in the bedroom mirror. Wings. You had wings. Hey, what the ? Wings? You reached back and felt them, soft and smooth and white and perfect, and you tried to shift them, as you would your arms, but it seemed unnatural. Complicated. You finally noticed the pain then, after the initial shock. You could feel the blood running down your back and the ache that had started. Your breath was shallow and uneven and the sting brought tears to your eyes.
You wondered if everything this beautiful hurt this much.
In hindsight, you thought not much had changed. It was harder during school, of course, because you had to fold the wings into turtlenecks and gym uniforms while they itched and scratched at your back. They would spread and flutter without your permission, and although no one ever noticed you, you thought they might notice them. You thought it was cruel, having just evolved out of that awkward stage of growth where your limbs were too long and your front teeth too big, having these wings stuck on your back because weren’t you insecure enough, without the feathers? After school, you would escape home as soon as possible, avoiding your mother at all costs, to allow the wings their openness in the privacy of your bedroom. They would flutter,
content for the moment, and you realized that you were wrong. Everything had changed.
You remembered your dreams more now, and they were harsh and bitter and you woke feeling more exhausted then when you first closed your eyes. In school the static would start, buzzing and ringing and pulsating through your head, making your eyesight blurry and your steps disoriented. Your schoolmates would flash and change into a sea of colors, mutating into a giant rainbow of blues and greens and oranges. You were shocked at first, thinking you had stepped into some freakish Technicolor nightmare. Their feelings made their colors change, you realized, some sort of aura-reading mood ring and how weird is that? But you were used to weird by now, wings taken heavily into account. You learned to stay away from the dark ones, dark red and black and other bitter, angry colors. Their anger made your senses clog and the static flash until you almost collapsed under the weight of it against your heart. But the grays and browns were worse, their depression making every sound and color soft and muted, like you were sinking slowly, drowning.
It was only later that you realized that here was where faith was lost.
Even when you were younger you thought about elsewhere. Ireland, perhaps, or Egypt, even Montana seemed appealing. But you knew without saying, without asking, you would stay. Born here - raised here, live here - die here. Like your siblings before you. Because family, or its illusion, was most important.
You were bound before you were born.
Sometimes, the enclosed bitterness you associated with the wings would rise to the surface, sharp
and precise, before settling in the pit of your stomach. So when your mother asked again, why your grades were slipping and why you were alienating yourself and why you seemed to stop talking altogether, you screamed in irritation but extended the wings and wrapped them around your body like a shield. She stared at you with large, disbelieving eyes and placed a hand over her mouth, struck speechless.
You realized it felt good to breathe again.
Slowly and cautiously, she approached you and ran her fingers through your glossy feathers, and you started crying. She held you and whispered soothingly, like you were five again and afraid of kindergarten, and called you an angel. You stopped and shook your head, quickly dismissing the idea. Angels were good and pure and perfect and dead and last time you checked you were none of those things. And suddenly you didn’t want to think anymore. But then she was talking about God and church, and you didn’t think you could step foot inside a church again. Because somehow sprouting wings made you examine yourself, and your sin, more closely.
You wondered if it was a sin to impersonate an angel.
You became restless soon after and Ireland (or Montana, possibly) became less of a fantasy and more of a reality. You suffocated under your mother’s insistent watch and the wings still itched to open, becoming the only part of you that didn’t like to hide. School came to an end and the bite of spring relaxed into the lazy heat of summer. And all you could think about was escape. You had to get away from this town and clear your head. You made the decision final and you packed what little you had slowly and deliberately, to somehow prolong the inevitable.
And you had to remind yourself, as you strapped the remaining suitcases to that poor excuse for a hunk of metal, never mind a car, that this was all you ever wanted, anyway.
You wrote the last postcard to your mother while atop a cliff in Montana (you had finally decided) and remembered wondering if it would reach her. You spread your wings, still soft and smooth and white and perfect, unlike the rest of you, to their impressive length right outside in the August air. You stood and watched as the sunrise swallowed the remaining shadows and the morning heat consumed you. You felt it burn through your insides, igniting sparks and flames and fires while you glowed sunbeam bright from the inside out. A burst of blinding light and you leapt from the edge, leaving the static and your Technicolor world behind, and felt the energy split and crackle around as you flew.
And you realized, as you soared through the air and fell into the sun, that everything this beautiful, this perfectly angelically beautiful, hurt this much.