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Words with Wings
Ten years ago when I was five and only just learning to face my life you could’ve asked me where I thought I would be today and I would simply smile up at you. My eyes would fill with dreamy, confident stars and say I would be out changing the world, I would be like the character I created for myself in the forest- fairytales I composed, my pretend-me and who I longed to be more than anything: Arinell Tara.
I was always a dreamer, most children are I think, in the innocence we all posses until the fairytales fade into tragedies and we realize that our birthright and heirloom is a very cruel and unfriendly world. And it is then we start to lose those deepest dreams of ours and with them each of our Arinell Tara’s start to die.
It was not so long, really, after I graduated from my hopeful “five” that my answer to that question changed from hopeful to silent, but somehow my silence was not eternal and my flame not completely extinguished and years later when the world had convinced me completely of it’s horror and my tragedy was coming to an end, something changed that in turn changed everything and Arinell was born again.
This is that story.
It was a blood night, one of the worst yet. There had been far too many of them since three days earlier when I left my childhood home. I lay motionless on the rough carpet in this new, unfamiliar place, my eyes clamped together mercilessly as hard as I could manage, to keep the tears from falling... that is, if I had any left. My hands were damp with sweat held close to my chest and my knees were angled towards my forehead. Thoughts tore at me until I felt like everything inside me was bleeding and I drew myself further into a ball trying to shut out the pain. There were two things that rang most clearly through my disastrous, destructive mess of thoughts: “This is all my fault.” And “Why me?”
And then very suddenly it all stopped. Like turning on a light in a dark room when you were sure there were things stalking you through the darkness. I blinked hard trying to put my confusion at bay and figure out what had happened.
The first thing I saw was the light, blinding merciless light. A sudden lucent door from the misty, painful walls of the moment ago world and brilliant nails of the stuff pierced, one by one, through the unwelcome opening as I slowly tore my eyes open. I backed away from the brightness in pain, putting my cold wrist to my forehead to shield my eyes from it and I looked around.
It seemed like I was standing in a forest, where an overly big sun was shining slantedly through the tall canopy, but it looked so different, so wrong, and I suddenly realized that the sphere in the sky wasn’t the sun at all but rather looked something like the moon only much bigger and a thousand times brighter. There was something different about the forest as well and as I looked up I realized that the trees looked as though they were on fire. The trunks were all a pale pearly white, like that of aspen trees but the leaves were a firey, marmalade orange much more vibrant than any tree I had ever seen. I stood there silently gawking at the strange landscape before me, completely mystified.
Then a bird landed in the dry underbrush a few yards away, startling me out of my state of awe. I looked over at it briefly, identifying it as just a simple sparrow until I saw a bright sparkle of light and realized that it’s wings were tipped in silver. A memory crashed down on me then, like something from a far-away dream: “Marmalade leaves” “Three moons of the day.” “Words with wings tipped in silver.” and it took a long moment to realize that the memories weren’t memories at all but lines from things I wrote a long time ago. My heart clenched in fear and I staggered backwards as if I’d been hit. My sudden movement scared the strange bird and it spread its wings and launched into flight. Words were suddenly printed into the moon-lit sky, following the bird like a cloud from a shooting jet: “Emotions guarded tightly, a world in thoughtful wonder”
“Beating them down in their own silent way.” I continued, my voice softer than a whisper.” It was from a poem, a poem I had written two years earlier and never shown anyone. This is getting really weird. I thought to myself, but it was about to get weirder.
I watched the bird and my lines of poetry drift across the sky slowly, fading towards the horizon and I noticed a strange shape there, a silhouette where the sky looked as if it were in the midst of sunrise. It looked like it was moving quickly straight towards me and as it came closer I saw that it was a woman, a tall, young, beautiful women who must’ve been around 2o years old. She was clothed in a dark blue gown and a starkly white cape, her hair falling in waves to her shoulders. She bore such an air of power and grace that my heart beat fast with panic and my head swam. She approached and I noticed that there were marks across her forehead. I shoke my head slightly, trying to clear my mind and she approached and immediately starting talking to me like I had known her forever.
“You passed well.” She said.
“What did I pass?” I asked slowly.
“Although I’m not sure I can give you a hundred percent credit,” She continued ignoring my question. “It was extremely lucky that Silvring was one of yours and I can tell you still have no idea who I am… which I suppose I should find rather insulting.” she laughed then, a pure, whimsical laugh that kind of reminded me of the ring of a bell.
“Why don’t you tell me then?” I asked hesitantly.
“That would be cheating.” she said simply, her face suddenly grave, pondering. “Although this might help.” she kneeled before me brushing a stand of hair off her forehead to reveal the words written there which read: “She said no” It meant nothing to me. Seeing that I had no reaction she grabbed me by my shoulder and looked me straight in the eyes, I saw pain deepen in hers.
“You know how that feels don’t you?” She said, half asking, half stating. “To not say no.” I opened my mouth, about to tell her I had no idea what she was talking about and then I suddenly remembered. It was a week earlier…. the last time I saw my mother. I pictured the scene, her hands gripping my arm, desperately, painfully. Her eyes wide with a crazy panic, her lips repeating the same question over and over again: “Don’t you love me?” and then me tuning away. I didn’t say no, I didn’t say anything. My eyes filled with tears.
“What bothered me was that I never said yes.” I said quietly. She pulled me in for a short embrace.
“Exactly.” She responded…. “Which is why you made me say no.” My jaw dropped.
“Arinell?” I asked. She smiled.
“It took you long enough.”
Only minutes later I found myself ambulating beside my half-me, under the second, less-bright moon of the day in a world I had created. I had learned two things in the conversation following that first revelation; first that I came here to be both tested and taught two more things and second that I wasn’t allowed to ask any more questions until we arrived at the “second circle” as she called it. Her instructions didn’t stop me from trying though
“How do you even exist??” I asked for the forth time. She looked at me, wrinkling her eyebrows and then looked away, smiling slightly at my stubbornness.
“Can’t you at least tell me what you mean by ‘third circle’?” I asked.
“Don’t you remember Dante’s In-” She broke off “Oh yes, I forgot that you’re not in 9th grade yet.” She paused. “Vote against lady gaga when you are.” I had no idea what she was talking about. “Anyways” she continued “I guess we’re close enough that I can explain it now. You have three tests to overcome here, the first was that you made it here and your own Didatikis was already with you. She must’ve realized I didn’t understand the last part because she touched my forehead gently.
“I have one?” I exclaimed, surprised. “What does it say?”
“You’ll learn that later.” She replied calmly.
“ Does everyone?” I asked.
“Here? Yes. You made it that way.” I remembered then:
“If everyone had their heart
painted across their forehead
maybe we wouldn’t judge.”
She was staring at me as I thought, reading me.
“There are three circles of people here,” She said “the third is where it all starts, where every newcomer is judged and then has 200 moons to pay off their crimes and mistakes. At the end of the 200 moons they are judged again, if they pass they are inducted into the second circle, if not they stay behind for another round. In the second circle, you spend your time as you wish, until the congregation of the third circle chooses you to become the Crow. Your next challenge involves meeting the Crow.”
“And then what?” I asked.
“Then you teach her how to fly.” I paused for a moment and then laughed.
“Fly?” I asked exasperated.
At that moment the cover of the trees broke and I froze to the spot. Men and women and children were scattered through the air, each with their own pair of wings, some feathered or scaled and others smooth and translucent like a dragonfly’s. Each one with it’s own color and pattern, each one completely unique and shockingly beautiful.
There were indeed three circles, just as Arinell had described it but only two of them were ground level, the third was a castle suspended on the clouds, jeweled with twinkling stars and a tiny rainbow pouring out of the side like a waterfall. The two on the ground weren’t without beauty either, with a majestic cape of purple mountains rimming the first and a green-blue sea nestled into the heart of the second.
“Fly.” Arinell repeated. I gave her an amazed grin.
Moments later I was walking into the second circle towards the Crow, whose name was Haley as Arinell had informed me, she had also told me that to earn their wings a Crow must first discover their Didatikis and then overcome it, meaning that “seeing your life flash before your eyes.” was now becoming very literal. Because a Didactikis is the one thing, or memory that defines a person. My heart was pounding as I made my way towards her.
When she came close enough for me to see her clearly I saw that she was studying her wrist intently and that there were three long cuts running down the length of her forearm. I shuddered silently and swallowed back my fear, She didn’t look up when I arrived before her so I sat down beside her and joined her in looking at the bloody marks across her arm.
“Why did you do that?” I asked her softly. She looked up at me then and I was taken aback by the vibrancy of her watery green eyes.
“I was trying to remember why I did it before.” She answered. “What do you want?”
“I want to help you.” I responded. She laughed at me darkly.
“Tell me,” I continued ignoring her bitterness “do you think you know what your Didactikis is yet?”
“I would think it would be sort of obvious” she said still staring at her wrist.
“You used to cut?” I asked.
“No.” she answered quickly “I taught my 8 year old sister to cut.” I wondered how that was supposed to be obvious, swallowing again. I sat with her silently at a loss for words, tempted to give in and go back. Finally I thought of something.
“Think back for me, as far as you can, and tell me what your biggest dream was and how that dream died.” She looked at me and then squeezed her knees to her stomach resting her chin upon them.
“I wanted to be an artist like my mother.” She said, closing her eyes. “And then she got pregnant with my sister and it killed her. I should’ve loved her like my mother would’ve but I blamed her instead.” I paused, feeling even more lost than before. I pulled out a piece of paper from my pocket, a draft of a poem, and turned it to the blank side, handing it to her.
“Draw me a bird.” I said, still not completely sure what I was doing. She glared at me and opened her mouth to yell but then caught herself and took a deep breath. She took it and a pencil from her own pocket and started working. I felt completely foolish sitting there, my mind racing for something that could make her forgive herself.
“Then…” I started and then stopped feeling even more foolish. “Try to remember your best memory with one of them and write it down.” It was the best I could come up with.
Then she suddenly screamed and dropped the page. I watched with her as her sketched bird and the words in the corner came off the page and took flight. The words were in French and I didn’t understand them but it made her grin as they were printed across the sky. She reached back hesitantly and touched her shoulder blades where pale- feathered wings were fingering out and her grin widened. She embraced me, and then I walked away back towards Arinell, leaving her to use her new-found wings. I smiled at Arinell and she smiled back but with a hint of sadness. As I approached I called out to her.
“How’s that for flying!” she smiled and then sighed loudly and gestured for me to sit beside her.
“You can go home now if you want.” She said gazing off in the distance.
“Now?” I asked, surprised. “But you never even told me what the third challenge is!”
“You’ve already completed it.” She replied. “You were to find your own wings but you already have.”
“Wings?” I asked touching my shoulder blades just to be sure. “Even if you meant figurative wings you’d be wrong.”
“Look at that Silviring there. It’s one of yours, although you don’t know it yet, one you made when you were 15. Your words all have wings, and when you use them for people like Haley they fly.” The Silvering took flight then just as the third moon was starting to come over the pink horizon and as it flew I read my future words across the sky:
“Maybe we are only poets because we bleed
and maybe these wings hearts of ours only fly
so others would learn to sing
so broken people would set down their knife
and use a pencil or a brush
to bleed out with their heart
and maybe crows are only crows
until they learn that they’re not.”
I closed my eyes then, and when I opened them my world was lit with a single, beautiful sun. I sat up from the carpet and met my face in the mirror, seeing for the first time my own blue inked Didactikis: Alis volat propiis - She flies with her own wings.