The Gift

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It was decided.

The wings were going to be wrenched out from them.


The boy had a hellish fire in his eyes. He glared like a vicious dagger at the bag with who knows how many grams of anesthetics and painkillers, with its cord in his arm. Morphine, ibuprofen, aspirin, opium, and something that looked like liquid gold made a smooth soup ugly and repulsive to his eyes.

The girl had gently closed eyes, still as a statue in prayer. She was not very heavily restrained to the bed she was lying on, and she had a fuller bag of soup.

The boy turned to look tenderly to his sister.

The girl finally opened her eyes, and upon seeing him, gave him the tiniest of reassuring smiles.

They wished to be quiet. Every word whispered, screamed, and spat out was recorded automatically and analyzed shrewdly by many faraway educated men and one genius little squirt of a girl.


The Underground Laboratory was very big and very white, silver, and sterile. The room the girl and the boy were trapped in housed also claustrophobia and (largely) whiteness.

The machine next to both siblings sat like any big white boxes full of power would sit. Still, married to work 'til death do it part, hiding sense in many colored dots of light. No switches or outlets—just two albino, scaleless serpents waiting to bite their victims. The genius squirt fondly called it “Peter.” A long white screen decorated a length of wall. It was the only view given to the boy and girl, a view that watched them instead of them watching it.

The thick steel door with no outside knobs or locks or windows clacked open.

“Hey, Squirt,” the boy said. “Lovely day, isn't it?”

The small genius possessed neatly combed platinum blond hair that was chin-length. Her wire-rim glasses were round and copper-colored. The pair cost a healthy prostitute's year's wages to maintain, for the clear glass hid a small computer. Without it, the little girl dealt with total blindness. Her eyes were the rarest blue. “Quite, Jule. It's raining cats and dogs. You'll see in approximately ninety minutes.”

“Hi, Virginia,” the girl said, quieting her brother. “What else are you here to tell us about?”

“Yes, hello, Alexandria. In ninety minutes the wing cords will attach to your foreheads. I'm here to make sure the IV drips are secured to your veins, then to leave. Any sudden, violent reactions—“ Squirt looked into Jule's eyes “—will trigger armed responses from the Guard—“ she flickered her glasses to the ceiling, then back to eye contact “—and release a gun from my glasses that will shoot a ridiculously effective tranquilizer. If the situation calls, a ridiculously effective bullet.” She waited for Jule's confirmation, for the warning had to sink in.

“You don't have to show off every time you visit us, Virginia dear,” Jule answered with a rotten honeyed voice.

Alexandria chuckled, and Virginia confidently stepped forward to secure the older girl's drip.

“Thank you.”

“Don't mention it.” She secured the boy, then left without a backward glance.

Jule grumbled, wriggling in his strong restraints. “She's a sociopath,” he said weakly. Bravado had abandoned him.

Alexandria wished she could unbuckle the belts around her waist, elbows, and knees and comfort her suffering brother properly. “She is.” No gentle justification, like “But she has feelings like ambitiousness and maybe helplessness. Like me and you.” No hug.

“I'm glad—I mean, I'm really, really glad you're here, Alexi.”

“I love you, too, Juleser. Never forget that,” she said firmly. “No matter what you go through.”

“Okay,” he whispered.

Suddenly a speaker crackled, and Virginia's voice emanated from the Guarded ceiling. “Subjects 12 and 13—no signs of attempts to escape. Boss in safe place.”

Jule blew up. “I hope you're FAR, FAR AWAY, you damn SQUIRT!”

A pause. “Maybe.”

Jule yelled in frustration. He wanted to cry. He just wanted to scream and tear down the whiteness. He yearned for Alexandria's arms to tightly embrace him.

Alexandria calmly spoke up. “I hope you are far away, Virginia.”

Another pause, longer. “...Why would you ever wish that, Alexandria?” the genius queried hesitantly.

“I expect our... transformation will get violent.”

“Oh,” Virginia said quietly. She and the only man she would ever trust traded looks.

“Are you really going to begin this so early?”

“It was planned this way. Yes, Leland.”


A river of soup drowned the gasping siblings. The snakes slithered surreptitiously to attach their jaws to the girl's forehead and the boy's forehead. They poised for a few minutes under the crying, near-panicking teenagers, then vengefully pumped their venom into their bites.

Tears poured from their faces. At first, the tears were only salt water. But then, as new cells forcefully generated on their vegetable-like bodies, white, white tears of pus fell.


It was very quiet as the silent sobbing went on. Then Jule's rebellious mouth crashed open, incoherent cries bursting out. The restraints were tighter than ever.


“Synthesis has started. Release Subject 13.”


HOME. I WANT TO GO HOME. WHERE'S MOM? DAD! ALEXI, YOU THERE?


The growing angel flailed around desperately in its frantic search. Its lost movements were terrible, instant, and powerful bolts of lightning.


“Subject 13 is growing in strength and power at the expected rate. Mount Zion lowering in position. Report on Subject 12?”


The other angel was still. The only apparent movement came from its endless tears of tragedy. The white serpent hungrily quested to engulf its subdued prey, though it looked as if it would never quite manage.


Slender, white, metallic, live wings sprouted from both their backs like seedlings of the fastest growing weeds.


Virginia, looking thoroughly weary, took off her glasses to pinch the bridge of her nose and rub her eyelids. “Okay, Leland. The wings shall get to an adequate size in ten minutes. You can stop it then, but you can keep it going... at maximum, for 5 more minutes.”
“Yes, Miss Virginia.”

“I need a break. Allow me to prepare the relief, my good man.”

“Of course, you are welcome to do as you wish, madam.”

Leland, once a very tall man, was confined to a tall wheelchair--the result of a motor vehicle accident, from which his madam had saved his life. Aside from this, he was a very practical servant. His suit was dust and lint-proof. His short brown hair was even neater than his master's short blond hair. He had a very animated face, radiant of both emotion and intelligent practicality.

His mustache trembled with pained sympathy for ten minutes. Then he firmly pressed the button that would slowly cease the venom and weaken the walls of the extremely claustrophobic white room.


Jule's squeezed-shut lids flew open, and he craned for any trace of his family. He roughly wiped away the gluey cobwebs and stared at the new, snowy blank mountain that separated him from whatever became of his sister.

Jule punched the expensively tough wall and tried ruthlessly to lay a scratch, a dent, a blemish, to absolutely no avail. He screamed himself hoarse, crying away his last reservoir of tears.

Finally, he crumpled to the floor of the room, hating but taking defeat. No more defiance, no more. What’s the point of defiance, without Alexi to smooth it all away with her gentleness? Jule shuddered in sorrow, and let the one great wall and the other three flimsy walls imprison him.


To Virginia and Leland, it took twenty-four minutes. To Jule, it was an infinity before the mountain turned into pure, baptismal water and flooded the floor of the ruined room, rinsing his shoulders, watering his wings, which stood high and dry.

Slender feet stepped delicately on the surface. They stopped before the stooped life form, then kicked at it. Jule allowed himself to be splashed, looking up dejectedly. He didn't find his family in his most intense searches, so what could this one last, half-hearted look bring? His head moved painfully, expecting futility.

“Hey. What took you so long?”

“Alexi.” His arms would have pulverized anything else, should he care to hug anything else to dust. Alexandria hugged him back, scratching his head and telling him that everything will be all right, everything will be just fine. For the moment, their wings were ignored.


For Virginia and Leland, it took an hour before the seraphic pair broke down the walls of the room. The brother and sister tore through powerfully, expecting more restraints.

Instead, they found Virginia nervously, vulnerably waiting, her glasses on a glass table where sat gingerbread and sugar cookies. Three beautiful cups of chamomile tea waited along with them, plus a bouquet of daisies. Rubble littered a wooden floor covered with an intricately patterned red and black Persian rug. Leland sat attentively near Virginia, waiting gravely for orders or angelic violence.

“You’re finally here. Please, please! Have a seat, Jule. Please have a seat, Alexandria. Leland heated a pot of tea and baked the gingerbread and cookies.” She looked worried, but invited them with calm and dignity. “I frosted them. See for yourself!”

Alexandria and Jule stared at the harmless-looking display, and then glanced at each other. They weren't human anymore, because of this girl and man. A cruel thing was done to them. What was happening here?

Alexandria finally answered. Jule gripped her hand. “Why this?” she asked warily.

Virginia sighed slightly, then smiled. It was the first smile they ever received from her. It was the beautiful smile of a beautiful little girl. “You're late, you two. Come! Let's enjoy Leland's tea and baking. I have some explaining to do.”

They slowly walked to their chairs and sat. Their wings flipped gracefully over the seat backs, which perfectly accommodated for them. Leland backed away in satisfaction, and went off for equipment to clean away the splintered wood and bits of mountain.

“I recall you saying,” Virginia said after she gulped down some tea. “I was a sociopath. Now, you aren't being recorded anymore. I promise that.” She smiled warmly again.

“Why did you do this to us?” Jules demanded. He took a cookie and sniffed it suspiciously.

“You have feelings, I’m very sure,” said Alexandria. “But what compelled you, Virgina, to let us go through such pain? Why did you make us become angels? Why did you give this… power to us?”

“Well, Alexandria, Jule. I was compelled to give you life. You lost everything you had in that awful fire: your parents, your home, the happy life you had, and your hope for a good life once more. After that, it was misery for you, yes?”

“Misery. Yes, Virginia, go on.”

“I heard about you in the news, and watched you two for a few weeks. Even though everything you had was gone, the love in the bond you have between each other was never diminished. Well, you're not powerless anymore.” Virginia's face became serious as she said this. “You can do anything now. Even I'm not sure about the full extent of your abilities. After this tea, you're allowed to do whatever the hell you want. Travel, shock the world, change it. Die, live, enjoy flight. No foster homes, for now you have complete independence.” She stopped speaking for a few moments, peering deep into her cup. “And something else.”

“Whad ith iff?” Jule asked, wide-eyed, his mouth crammed with gingerbread.

She poured herself a new cup, gulped it down, and choked on a little before she continued. “Sorry. Alexandria, Jule. I want to offer you the option of living with Leland and I.”

The angels recoiled, stunned. They knew it, it was too good to be true.

“I promise, you will not undergo any more experiments!” Virginia cried hastily. “Not unless you want experiments. Leland and I prepared two bedrooms and two bathrooms, entirely private and devoid of security cameras, like our own bedrooms, just in case you cared to stay after we—“

Virginia stopped, looking panicked as Alexandria stood up abruptly.

She hurried to put her glasses back on, but a firm hand stopped her. Another rested on her quivering shoulder, power emanating from every finger. “We would love to,” Alexandria spoke softly, her voice cracking with appreciation. “Wouldn't we, Jule?”

“Of-of course we would, um, Virginia!” He rushed to hold her, too.

“Virginia?” Virginia laughed, a little hysterically, very relieved. “Just keep calling me 'Squirt,' Jule. 'Virginia' sounds too creepy coming from you, no offense.”

“Creepy?! You’re the creep, creepo! All right, picky, you're Squirt again. I'm going to Leland for more gingerbread.” Jule shouted, pretending to be affronted. What he truly he felt, though, was ecstasy, disbelief and curiosity for their new-found paradise.





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