Taking Flight | Teen Ink

Taking Flight

December 28, 2015
By shinelikastar SILVER, Ann Arbor, Michigan
shinelikastar SILVER, Ann Arbor, Michigan
5 articles 3 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
Run my dear,
From anything
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings

Heavy footfalls pound behind me, a sick syncopated beat that makes my heart go ka-boom with it. My feet somehow fly across the trash-strewn pavement, not comprehending the pain as shards of beer bottles and gritty concrete dig into the soft skin on my heels. Left, right, right again, deeper, and deeper still into the alleyways. Intersections with traffic lights slowly meld into roads then worn paths lit with the occasional campfire. Air, screams my brain, I need AIR. Not yet. I bite my lip until the sharp tang of briny blood fills my mouth but the pain keeps me present. After so long of living in the inbetween reality of my prison, unable to differentiate between what was real or unreal, true or false, I welcome the the tangible jab of pain. Are they still behind me? I can’t quite hear them, or anything else really with my heart leaping out of my chest and feet drumming underneath. I throw a look behind me but it’s just the inky blackness of night sky falling over crumbling derelict walls. Still, the more distance there is between me and them, the better my life will be. My feet hit the pavement, my heart beats fast enough to make me fly, my lungs rasp horrifically, my vocal chords silently scream for a stop to all of this. But I refuse. Tonight, too much depended on flying away.

“Nat?” a voice whispers from the shadows. The same voice, the same whisper in my ear telling me--  I turn my head slowly, unsure whether I should throw a punch or smile sweetly. What was he doing here? I squint into the gloom, trying to discern shadowey boy from the true shadows.

“Carter?” I try to say but my voice cracks with my heart. Do I want to see him? Does he know what I am? What they made me into. Do I even know what I am?

The moon breaks from the haze of the ashen wisps of clouds, exhaling silvery beams that illuminate a silhouette I thought I would never see again. Where do I even begin?

“Nat?” he begins, voice breaking off, unable to finish, the same as the promise. I turn away so he won’t see how broken I am. How his reappearance finished the destruction six words he had carved into my heart. I’ll come back for you. He’s at my side, hand circling my wrist, as if to keep me from flying away. But it’s a lost gesture, because he doesn’t need to anymore. I don’t have the wings anymore. The cool silence between us trembles, a wobbling fragile thing.

I break it with a whisper. “It’s too late, Carter.”

“I know,” he says so quickly I don’t think he heard what I said. I say it again but he’s adamant. “Let me help you now, because I couldn’t help you before,” he pleads.

I nod because I have no one else. I nod because I’m not even sure I can save myself.


We sit facing each other, criss-cross-applesauce on the disheveled ground of an old abandoned warehouse just like old times, when we were quite the little thieves, divvying up what we had at the end of the day. The golden orb I took back from them that night I escaped sits between us, a bright little campfire of sorts. It’s what once was mine. What once could let them make me into a freak. What they later ripped away. Wings. It’s decided already that I’m drinking all of what’s in the vial. I didn’t try too hard to persuade him otherwise, but really, we might need him to warn the world if I become the creature they once made me, assuming I don’t finish him first. Hopefully. Besides, they are my wings. The golden sphere opens with a pleasant hiss, smokey mist rolling cooly over its edges. There it is. The vial. The wings.

“Let’s get this over with,” I half-whisper to Carter, half-murmur to the tangle of nerves and butterflies in my insides. Electrified and thoroughly terrified, I quickly unscrew the vial, prepared to bring my wings back, which could either make me once again the worst of beasts or free forever. Nothing in between. I put the cool serum to my lips, tip my head back, red curls brushing my arms, and swallow with a nervous gulp and a flip of my gut. I wait and wait… and wait some more. And then I’m shattered.

Fire courses through my veins, setting nerves and skin alike ablaze. I can feel the golden bubble of the serum pulsating in my stomach, emanating rays as searing as the noonday sun in a desert. I can feel Carter’s hands pinning my wrists down and voice in my curls telling me it’s okay. I am most definitely not okay. Then, the inferno is gone as quickly as it came, without even leaving a trace of smoke. I gasp, then, I’m on the ground again, howling, fingers curling in the dirt, knees digging furrows. This time, it tears and claws my shoulder blades apart so viciously, Carter doesn’t even try to hold me down. Something hot and heavy pours out of my back, my wings, the thought of them slices through the haze of red-hot pain like an icy knife. I try to sit up but my back is suddenly so itchy, as if something is rustling. The last thing I see before the inky night and swirling stars envelop me, is Carter’s face, as pale as a slice of moon, and a black feather twirling, falling into the dark night with me.

“Nat,” a voice murmurs, “come back. Please.” The words seemed came out with great deliberation, as if they were sharp and jagged. My eyelids immediately try to peel open at this statement. Did he sustain a head injury? Is he okay? Carter has never said please. The first thing that hits me is dappled sunlight, so much of it I can’t help but wonder since when was the last time I saw so much light… I’m up on my feet in a flash. No. There’s so much tangled jungle. No, no, no. I’m sprinting through the incomprehensible greenery, ripping vines, black wings dragging on the ground behind me. Where is the way out? Carter shouts for me but this cannot be. How could I be back? A rustle in the treetops above, my head instinctively tilts to listen. It all seems so familiar…

This is my cage, my beautiful prison. There is no time here, not now, not ever. I am a part of it, no matter how hard I try to run, I have been made and unmade into something I cannot fathom. This place leaves no room for being human, having tangible thoughts unrelated to survival, or anything else really. I have to fight tooth, nail, and feather for everything here: berry bushes, icy water gourds, trees to curl up in. I become an animal, one with too much power and too much raw instinct.

Another rustle above makes me draw my wings closer around me. I breathe deeply, bottling up the monster that leaps up inside of me. I hear a roar, from my lips or the forest, I can’t be sure. Bursting through the canopy, I’m ready to satiate the beast inside me. But it’s one of them. He’s clad in all black, like the rest, and holding a gun. A gun. I pause in the air, mid-wingbeat, wary of the cold metal in his hands. Then, following his line of vision, I glimpse a shift of glimmering blue in the dark shadows of a nearby tree. He means to shoot a dragon. Minna was the one who roared, not me. A fire leaps inside me, angry, hot flames licking my insides.

He has no right to stand on the crowns of the tall, proud trees that are only brushed by the gentle sky and graceful animals of the air.

He has no right to harm creatures for sport.

No right at all.

I leap, dark wings outstretched, heart coursing with anger. A glint of brilliant cobalt scales and a flash of white talon sweeps toward the man, joining me.

I’m on the ground, the soft dirt already deep under my fingernails. “Carter?“ my voice cracks, breaths rattling through me. I stretch my hand, this time fiercely wanting him to decide, to let him pull me out of the grasp of the dark things that came alive from my lost years. He’s at my side in an instant, fingers interlaced with mine. He doesn’t ask but the flashback seems to have broken the dam that was made of the tatters I left after… what had happed so long ago. The dark, swirling things, memories, some buried so deeply it hurt to unearth them, could no longer be held at bay. They catch in my throat at first, it’s been so long, but then the memories pour out in great sheets and collosal splashes.

I tell him of the prison woven with blazing dragons and blooming flora of the jungle. The suffocating, azure dome of sky I could never crack, the misshapen lumps of clouds I could never brush against, the trees that never seemed to end.

I tell him how I waited for him when they took me in the blackest of nights because they too wanted my wings. I’ll come back for you. But when I could wait no longer, their curved smiles said at last.

I tell him the swarm of endless white coats and needles pierced my skin so deeply, they seemed to suck away a little life each time. The way I’m left a shell, brittle and unforgiving, and empty inside because they had taken so much of me.

The price of walking out was the feathery appendages I once held so proudly.

I tell him I enjoy watching drowning him in my secrets. He gives me a wry smile but there’s something in his eyes I can’t quite pinpoint. It’s so unfamiliar it takes me a moment and a gasp to realize he’s worried.

I tell him I needed to be free.

He nods, tucking his chin into his collarbone, tufts of hair falling over his furrowed brow. And tells me of a place. He doesn’t even ask if he can come. Not even a quirk of an eyebrow. Just a hand…  this time, I can take it.


At the edge of the city, the crumbling stone and rusting metal gives to a waterfall that meets a pool of water the color of jewels that once graced the brow of queens who danced during a time long gone. No one has ever seen the end of the waterfall, let alone the fabled crests and swells of a sea, receded and dried out from the memories of the people.

I decide I would be the first to touch the iridescent sea and soft sky. When I did, I could be free at last.


I feel infinitely times lighter despite the wings… the wings. I hold my hands to the sky, twirling, laughing, weightless. I begin to run and I can hear footfalls behind me but of course, it’s just Carter struggling to keep up. Just like old times. The air streams past my fingers, little puffs of it rustling the feathers of my wings in anticipation of being able to finally touch the sky again. My veins seemed to thrum with something else, a silvery substance that makes me untouchable, a wisp able to evaporate into the dusty clouds at will. Then, I stop at the edge of the disintegrating pavement, the air thick with the salty spray of ocean.

I’m humming with so much energy that in my mind, wings are not required for flight. I take a step closer to the precipice, into the misty air swirling above the fall, the spray of water droplets taunting me to dive into the water. I stand there awhile, toes curled over the edge, waiting for Carter, waiting for something, eyes blurring with tears or water I can’t tell anymore. Go, says the the wind or Carter I can’t quite hear. Go, the voice urges. So I spread my fingertips and tip forward, falling into the freefall I’ve waited much too long for. I fall headfirst into the apartment, screaming for my mum and dad, insides raw, outside red from scratching and cursing, blue with grief. One careless drunk, a swerve on the bridge, and then they were gone. Too fast, too hard. I bring my arms closer to my side, wings tucked, tumbling down cold, hard, and so, so fast. Down into the past, down the waterfall, with the ringing sound of rushing air and years inbetween filling the space sliding through my fingers. Am I free yet? Through the pearly haze and spray of icy water- I catch glimpses of Carter as we danced through the streets, sparring our way to the next meal. His face etched with the last marks of a goodbye. I’ll come back for you- the chilling water droplets seem to cut into my skin. After what could have been mere seconds, twilight hours, or irrevocable years, at last, I glimpsed the spot where the sea of the sky met the sea of the earth, all froth and crashing elements. It all happened too fast. The icy iron bands. The jungle. The shattering of my heart. The white cot upon which I sacrificed all that I had. All to walk away. Then- I let them unfurl, the black tips brushing the jaws of the rapids, pulling out of the dive just in time.

The black feathers envelop me as the wings spin me higher and higher into the lucid sky. The dark jagged, flawed things inside me at long last are gone forever, left far below, smashed into smithereens upon the unforgiving rocks. Am I free?

I swoop down to the water. The immense expanse of fast, churning water across jagged rocks become an incoherent streak of raw sapphire beneath me as I try to outrace the fleeting wind. Fingers cutting through the raw glass of blue sea, veins thrumming with something lighter than air, wingtips brushing the billowing clouds of the sky, I am.

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