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Butchered Wings MAG
Out of breath, I continue my strenuous flight, the thrill of being aloft almost making me forget my sense of looming guilt. My tiny wings make it hard to gain purchase on the air; they mean I have to work to keep climbing. Up, up the side of the building. It’s hard, but I love flying – like it’s the only thing I will ever love again. No one can understand how much.
I stand atop the building now, looking at the busy street far below. Night has darkened the sky but lit up the streets. The white of the street lamps and headlights. The red of taillights and stoplights. The green of the lights signaling go. Neon signs of every color hang in shop windows. The sight is beautiful, and the beauty is intensified by the chilly wind cutting through my backless dress, from which my pearly wings protrude. The wind whips my hair and stings. It’s a good sting.
I stand there for a long time, enjoying the height. Standing on the edge of the building, arms stretched out to either side to get the full satisfying sting of the cold wind, I tip my head back and drink in the stars. They seem to have moved since I last looked. I must have been up here for a long time.
I look down again. A cluster of beautiful lights, flashing ruby and sapphire, have swarmed at the base of the building. The lights shout up at me in a grainy voice to come down; I’m not supposed to be up here. I feel embarrassed. I just want to be alone with the wind and see the beautiful stars and the scene so far below. I never meant for anyone to take notice of me. Certainly not the beautiful lights.
I decide to go down. I tip forward and let the wind engulf me for a few seconds before straining my little wings against the air. My parents will hate me if I show everyone I can fly, and that thought ruins what would otherwise have been an enjoyable float to the ground, culminating in an admittedly unpleasant landing in some sort of giant pillow the beautiful lights have been kind enough to lay out for me.
I awake before I open my eyes. I’m in my own bed, dressed in my pajamas. The warm fleece hugs me and feels good, but I’m sore all over from the exertion of flight. Voices in the living room are talking about me.
“… can’t continue. She has to know. Ever since her friend jumped …” my father is saying.
“Oh, hush about Carrie. It wasn’t her fault.” This is my mother’s voice.
“It doesn’t matter if it was her fault or not. All I’m saying is our daughter has a problem. A serious problem, and she can’t do this to us again.”
I have heard this all before, but it makes my stomach tighten to hear it again. Flying is evil. Unnatural. Cover your wings. Stay on the ground. Other than that, I’m a totally normal human being. If I didn’t fly, no one would get angry. But I love to fly more than anything. And my parents just – my stomach clenches, and I try to stop thinking about it.
It doesn’t work, of course. With my mother and father talking about me right outside, there is no way I can ignore it. I feel trapped. I squeeze my eyes shut and curl up. My father is getting more and more adamant, growing louder and louder as he talks to my mother about – whatever it is. Probably that their daughter is evil. Not just a disappointment. Actually evil.
I stay in bed as long as I can, but have to come out eventually. My door squeaks open, and I emerge as my father is reaching a peak. “She needs to know she can’t fly!” he shouts.
The room goes silent in the instant he realizes I have heard. My eyes begin to tear, partly from the startling volume of his outburst, and I rub them casually, trying to pretend it’s because I just woke up. The room seems to spin and shake around me as I try to steady my breathing. I can tell my face is blood red, and that only makes me angrier and more embarrassed.
“I know, Dad. I’m really sorry. I just sometimes … I just need to –”
“No,” he interrupts. “You don’t understand. You can’t fly. You do not have the ability.”
I look at my father and then at my mother, who appears worried.
“What?” I ask.
“You cannot fly,” he replies. “You never could. You do not have wings. You have been lying to yourself, and your mother and I have been letting you. Ever since you jumped after your depressed friend, you’ve been telling yourself you can fly.”
Tears really begin to form now. “It’s not my fault I … could fly and she couldn’t. I tried to save her, but I couldn’t.”
“No, you think you can fly. Listen to yourself. You’re not addressing what I’m saying. You cannot fly. You fell trying to save her, remember? You survived the fall. Carrie didn’t. You were in a coma for a month, and ever since you’ve been telling yourself this … this fantasy, to keep yourself from feeling guilty.”
“This is stupid,” I say, looking at the floor. “I know you’re lying. Why did you tell me flying was bad? Why not just say I couldn’t?”
My father pauses for a long time. “Your psychiatrist insisted we not tell you because you would eventually ask questions that you couldn’t handle the answers to,” he replies.
“Dear, I think that’s enough,” interject my mother.
“No!” I yell, angry now. “I want to hear it!”
“Carrie fell,” says my father. “You jumped after her. You didn’t survive because you could fly; you survived because you landed on top of your friend.”
My whole face flushes with anger. Lying about my flying. Saying I killed Carrie – had he said that? Yes, he had. Like I don’t feel guilty enough for disappointing my parents every time I fly. Not just disappointing them – making them think I am evil. The room spins faster, and new tears start to form, ones I can’t hold back.
“I haaate you!” I scream, hot tears streaming down my cheeks and into my mouth.
I run out into a world of dark sky and brightly lit streets. I have no sense of time, though – it may be the same night, or one or two nights after.
My parents call after me, but I am too angry and sad – I just can’t listen. I run, not having the presence of mind to try flying until I am out of breath, once more at the base of that big building overlooking the lit street. This will be the second time I have ever flown that high. I begin the slow climb up the side of the building, wings pumping hard, climbing up, up, up, on and on until I reach the roof.
Through my tears and adrenaline and pounding heart and heaving lungs and loud wind, I am vaguely aware of my father behind me, shouting to come back. I look down at him. He is climbing the fire escape since he doesn’t have my gift. Mother is on the ground.
“I can fly!” I shout at him over the wind. At them both. At the whole world. “It’s not bad! It’s a gift! Because I tried to save Carrie!”
As I scream the last syllable, I prove it to the world. I leap off the building, the wind drowning out everything. Too late, I realize I’m not wearing my backless dress! My wings are useless trapped inside my pajamas. How did I get up this high?
It doesn’t matter now. The cold wind feels like it is cutting me, and the lights are approaching faster and faster as I struggle to get my top off. I can’t. Ohmygod, I am going to die. My tears come faster at this realization, only to be whipped away by the wind.
A girl, crying, struggling, falling to her death.
But I never hear the crack of my bones against the pavement. Just before I hit, I wake up, still screaming, my face wet with tears.
“Shh, it’s okay. I’m here,” says someone, hugging me tightly. “It’s okay. You’re okay.”
I’m in a white room. Like a hospital. Everything is immaculately white. She stops hugging me for a moment, just long enough to look at my face, and for me to look at hers.
“Do you remember?” she asks, her eyes wet as well. “You saved me. I tried to … kill myself, and you saved me. You jumped after me. It’s been a month. You were asleep. I was so worried. Ohhhh …” She trails off and hugs me again, wetting my shoulder with her tears.
As I hug her tightly, I notice she is wearing a halter top. And I see two small, pearly wings protruding from her back.
I begin to sob – with joy this time. I am home.