Julius stood, head craned over his shoulder staring at his back. The slits for his wings were red and inflamed, painful to any type of touch. Even a small breeze made him wince and bite his lip. He hunched his shoulders forward and then straightened out his back trying to force the tiny shreds of feathers to poke out more. They remained immobile, just barely sticking out torturing him.
It had been two day since the incident with Scarlett. Two days since he had taken off his bright white T-shirt and traded it for a grey one that had hung in the very back of his closet. He had accepted his fate, knowing that he was doomed as soon as the words had refused to pass his lips. As she had wrapped her cold arms around his stomach and laid her head on his back, he knew he had nowhere to turn. He had lost everything in order to save her.
After fighting his battle with every ounce of energy his possessed he had stumbled and fell losing everything in the process. Scarlett had looked into his eyes and had wiped his mind of everything but her and only her. Those so important words that he had promised himself he would never ever forget had completely disappeared in his moment of need.
For the first day of his transformation he had been incapacitated not only from the pain that was radiating up and down the muscles in his back but from the pain of his defeat as well. What had she done to him? How had she taken control of his mind like that, making him lose everything he had fought so hard for?
Scarlett was a tricky woman to care about. She had come to him when he had needed her the most, being his companion in his hour of need. But over time the world became more about her and only her. Every time he tried to walk away she had whispered a plea or looked at him with those lost eyes and he had walked right back into her arms.
The questions and reminiscing stopped running through his head quickly though once the pain of the emerging feathers took complete control of his mind. For an entire day he had laid in a collapsed heap as the pricks and stings came and went. They would stall and he would move pushing on one of the tips and wave after wave of agony would ripple up and down his back. He lost the ability to see as well as the ability to interact with the world around him; let alone ponder how he had ended up in this place.
Today he woke up, the pain still there but bearable. Scarlett was nowhere to be seen. She had left him. She had walked away when he had needed her the most, as she was known to do. His back still ached this morning, but the pain was numbing now. Maybe the initial shock was over or he was just getting used to the stings. Either way he had been terrified to turn his back and look in the mirror but he knew he had no choice. He had to see what was now apart of him.
He had made it until the sun started set until he had given into curiosity. He had to see the beginning of the wings. The beginning of his life shifting from his complete control to a life where he barely played apart. He had to see the evidence that life was no longer his own.
He now stood in front of the mirror confused, as well as slightly scared. He went to touch the pieces of feathers he could see when a knock sounded at the door. He stopped, completely still. Who was that? Scarlett? She wouldn’t knock. He was not in the mood for visitors at the moment, or really ever again if he was being honest with himself. The second knock was harder and more persistent. Again he stood completely still, the angry red marks on his back shining brightly in the dim room. He heard the door knob rattle but no one entered the house. Why not?
He checked his watch, it read 8:45pm. They still had fifteen minutes to come inside. But after a few seconds he realized no one was coming inside. Maybe they got bored, or were too polite or too scared or just crazy. He really didn’t care. As long as he didn’t have to deal with them right now.
He returned his attention to his ruined back. He just stared at it, at a loss for words. Why were they so small? Where were the full feathers, and the appendages to hold them? Why was there no evidence that they were going to get any bigger? It just looked like someone had ripped open his back and had gotten debris inside the cuts. As if he could pour water down his back and wash out the pieces. He knew that wasn’t true though. After two days he should have something beginning to take shape, maybe even full wings. What was wrong?
He heard a door close and soft footsteps make their way into the living room. Scarlett was home, or else the visitor from earlier had come back through the back door. Honestly he didn’t think he wanted either case to be true.
Scarlett entered the room her black boots criss-crossed tied up to her knees and her brick red hair thrown over her shoulder, only a few strands clinging to the front of her neck. She gave him an almost relieved smile when she saw him standing in the living room.
“What is wrong with me?” he asked, spinning to face her. He didn’t have the energy for pleasantries. He needed an answer. Why he thought she would have them he had no idea? But there was no one else to ask, to bark questions at or rage at. This was all her fault after all.
“What do you mean?” she asked gently, coming quickly towards him hands outstretched. He took two steps back, he needed distance between the two of them.
“I don’t have any real feathers. It is like they are stuck, or something,” he turned his back to her so she could see properly how much of a mess it was. He couldn’t watch her face distort in horror, but he had hoped to hear her whimper or scream at the sight. Maybe she would even run from the house and leave him alone. He hoped she would maybe even whimper in pity, knowing that she had done this to him.
“Oh honey,” she cooed, like she was seeing a small inconsequential scratch. He felt her hovering near his back, a cold nail touching the very top of one of the openings. The rational part of him knew he should back away and run from her. He should put his shirt back on and get the hell out of the house, find someone who could give him answers, who wouldn’t betray him sooner or later.
He didn’t move, just let her slide the nail down his back right next to the marks.
“I don’t know,” she whispered, sounding confused but also a bit scared. Scared for him or for what might end up happening to her.
“What do I do?” he asked her. Again why was he asking her, like she had any real information? Yes, she ran around the cities getting into trouble and hanging with the wrong people but he doubted she knew the secrets of the Winged One world. If she did and had never told him, he didn’t think he could ever look at her again.
This wasn’t her fight. Yes, she had caused this to happen to him but she wasn’t part of this now. She shouldn’t be forced to suffer with him. He had to find answers, in the hopes he could help himself so in turn he could help her when her own transformation began.
“I have to find Jack,” he said turning around and breaking their contact. He pulled his T-shirt back over his head, wincing slightly at the tug at his skin. He made his way towards the door.
Scarlett reached out and grabbed the tips of his fingers. “Don’t,” she pleaded. He looked her in the eyes, saw the tears glistening there. He felt his heart ache. She was just as lost as he was, but it was even worse for her. She had been running around her whole life looking for a safe place to live out her life. Now she stood in his house, watching him breaking down and knowing that soon it would happen to her as well. He had saved her only to destroy her.
“It is going to be alright,” he pulled her into his chest and wrapped his arms around her back. He placed a gentle kiss on the top of her head. He knew soon she would begin suffering as well. He didn’t want her to hurt, but right now she was whole. Right now he was the one falling apart and he needed to find his own answers in order of having a hope of helping her at all.
A part of him wanted to stay here and protect her, to not let the world destroy her like it was destroying him. Another part of him wanted to shake and scream at her, begging her to tell him how she had made him forget what he promised himself he would never forget. Another part of him just wanted to collapse into tears and beg for this all to stop. He felt his head spinning as the emotions swirled around and around. He didn’t know what he was going to feel next, let alone what he was going to do.
“I gotta go,” he pushed her away from him, making her stumble back on her heels. Jack would have answer for him. At least that is what he silently prayed to himself as he slammed the door. Because if Jack didn’t have anything; Julius wasn’t sure what he would end up doing to himself and let alone Scarlett.
A/N: This came about while I was rereading my Unfeathered story and I want to try to keep adding to this tale. I am not entirely sure where it is going, if anywhere, but I do want to see what I can do with it.
“If you walk out that door you will never see me again,” she stood arms crossed, eyes trained on his right hand. His fingers held the door knob gently; all he had to do was twist and take two steps forward. He would be out the door and forever out of her life. If he moved an inch, she would not shed a single tear. She would not beg him to turn around and look her in the eye and say goodbye. If he left, she was done.
“Good,” he said as he twisted the knob and left her apartment. She felt the prickle at the corner of her eyes. She felt the tightening in her chest and the shaking in the tips of her fingers down to her knees. All the signs were there for a major breakdown. If she relaxed even a little bit she would crumple onto the ground and he would have won.
She took two deep breaths and released them slowly. She closed her eyes and released all the tension and agony creeping around inside of her. She had known he was going to leave. He wasn’t worth her tears or time. He was weak and she was strong. She just had to keep repeating that to herself over and over.
Once the tension in her chest eased and she felt her eyes dry up she went to her bathroom and finished getting ready for the day. As she finished curling her hair she looked over her outfit. She wore a bright white T-shirt and blue jeans, the safe outfit. An outfit he had insisted she wear day in and day out. He had never listened to her protest or theories. But now he was gone.
She finished her hair and went to her closet. She moved to the back of the space. Here was the spot where she kept everything he thought wasn’t appropriate. Back here was her normal clothes; T-shirts and dresses. So many colors and styles just like it used to be before this all started. Back before the Winged One curse made everyone paranoid automatons. She pulled out a little black number that hit her mid thigh. The neck was low giving a hint of what was beneath but only a hint. Two sheer slits ran along the sides, again hinting at something but not truly giving anything away.
She quickly undressed but just as she was about to pull the dress down over her head she caught a glimpse of her back in her floor length mirror. Right at her shoulder blades was two slits, and coming through them was a few stray feathers. She stared at them for a long time, watching the tiny strands flutter in the wind.
She should find her discarded white shirt, put it on and stop this whole process before it was too late. So many wore the shirts everyday, barely taking them off even to shower. She on the other hand had learned early on the shirts were only for the danger moments. Sure, constantly wearing them kept the danger moments basically nonexistent, but it wasn’t alway a necessity.
She should walk away from this new outfit and go back to blending in with the rest of the Unfeathered. Becoming a Winged One wasn’t reversible. Once you let go, you were taken for life. You were the elite, soaring around the sky and staring down at the little people below you. You lost all strong emotions and ties to anyone you once knew. Once you soared into the sky the rest of the world began to mean less and less.
The winged ones were revered and feared. They didn’t care about anyone else. Didn’t think about the well-being of the world at all. No one and nothing mattered to them anymore. To many that seemed like a curse but to her it sounded like a blessing. What did she have in this world? Nothing, that was the answer. Her parents had flown away years ago, in the first movement. They had been curious and she had never seen them again.
She had never been a social butterfly. In school she had had a handful of friends but life had pulled them apart. She might talk to one or two of them once or twice a year if she found the time. They never had meaningful conversations, mostly the basics, “What are you doing?”, and “How is life?” Nothing more.
Her only boyfriend had walked out the door moments ago leaving her completely alone. So what did she have left? She didn’t care about anyone or anything right now anyway, so what would change other than the way she traveled?
She pulled the black fabric down over hear heard. She straightened it and admired herself in the mirror. She looked hot. She spun and felt her face grow into a smile Today was going to be a great day.
The day turned out to be quiet dull. She got a few side glances at her outfit but nothing exciting. No one hit on her and she had no reason to assert her new sense of self worth onto the world. She returned home less excited and enthusiastic then she had been when she had left earlier.
She undressed for a shower and once again admired her growing feathers. They were more than wisps now. She could actually see full sized feathers poking out. With a little difficulty she reached back and stroked the new additions. They were soft and light below her fingers. The dark grey stood out well under there bright lights of her bathroom. She imagined her full set, open wide and filling the room. Giant slate grey wings with dark black veins criss-crossing over the surface. She imagined them opening wide and the wind lifting her high into the air. The world below her was nothing more than pinpricks of color, below was nothing to her. Above was what mattered. Above where there was no boundaries, no obstacles or roadblocks. Above was where she was completely free.
It took one week for her wings to fully form. Slowly they expanded out over the days getting wider and stronger. As they grew larger it became nearly impossible for her to leave the house. She didn’t care.
On Sunday she knew they were completely formed. She no longer felt any pricks of pain as new feathers pushed themselves out into the world. She was finally a Winged One.
She didn’t know quite what to do now though. Did she just open the window and jump out? Did she wait for some type of welcoming committee? Were there any rules to this new life?
No one knocked at her door and she didn’t actually feel much different. She felt exactly the same, except that now she was anxious. She wanted to go into the air, see a new view of the world. But how did these things work? Did she have to consciously think to move them? Did they just instinctively work on their own? What was the secret?
“Can’t know until you try,” a little voice whispered in the back of her mind. And it was right. No one was going to come to help her. This was all about her, as everything from now on would be about her.
She opened the double doors to her balcony and stepped out. The sun was on the verge of setting. The world was awash in a warm golden glow. Now was the best moment to try out her new wings.
She opened her wings wide, climbed up onto the railing and without a second thought or moment of preparation she jumped. She fell fast, the ground racing up to slam into her face. She screwed up her eyes, ready to meet the concrete but she never did.
She flapped her wings once, twice and slowly rose back into the sky. Within minutes she was high in the air and the world was quickly getting smaller and smaller. The buildings were no longer large and imposing. The cars looked so much like little toys she itched to reach down and move them around the city. Up here she felt like a god, able to change and manipulate anything and everyone. Up here she ruled the world.
She soared above the city past the city’s imposing wall. A wall designed to keep them inside and separate from the rest of the world. There would be Less chaos that way they said. She flew over the city besides theirs and it was as much asleep as her own behind the wall. She flew over countrysides full of nothing but blackness. The sun was down now, nothing but the moon and stars to guide her through the world. A world that was featureless but not intimidating. She soared left and right, dived to the ground and rose to the clouds.
She went higher and higher until she felt the atmosphere get cold and restrictive. At the highest point, at this time of night, the world became nothing but shadows. Shadows she began to feel apart of. This indistinct, dark world was her home.
It was almost two in the morning before she arrived back at her apartment. It took her a bit to find her way but she enjoyed every minute of the hunt. As she flew she glanced into windows curious to see what the sleeping world looked like at this hour. There were no restrictions and no rules. Those awake from nightmares or insomnia shied away from her when she passed by their windows but she didn’t care.
She slept more peacefully then she had in ages the rest of the night. No negative thoughts plagued her. She worried about nothing and no one. All she could think of or wanted was to be back in the sky, exploring.
Three weeks later and she was getting antsy. She still enjoyed soaring but it was the same view most of the time. She flew at all hours of the day but night was still her favorite. It was mysterious, anything could be hiding in the blackness. Though even that mystery was starting to get monotonous.
The Unfeathered avoided her while other Winged Ones were kind but aloof. She had no new friends and no old acquaintances came looking for her. She was still alone and that was becoming less and less exciting.
She had thought becoming a Winged One would have meant no more questioning, no more boredom. She had thought she would feel light and free every hour of everyday, not a worry or concern making itself known to her. It only took her a few days to learn that was all complete B.S. She was bored and didn’t have any idea what to do with herself.
Night would be upon her in a matter of minutes. Maybe tonight instead of just flying through the clouds and over hills and valleys she would stay closer to the ground. Look for something new and exciting to do. Maybe there would be a mystery to solve or a life to watch. There had to be something interesting going on the streets at this hour.
Once she saw the first specs of light sparkling down from the black sky she opened her wings and took off. Instead of soaring straight up into the clouds and getting lost in the darkness, she went straight down. She flew mere feet above the streets, which were almost completely empty.
A few brave souls scurried over the sidewalks on their way home. Everyone knew being out after dark, unless you were a Winged One, was dangerous. Officers prowled the streets eager to add more souls to their quotas. If you were Unfeathered you risked abduction or attack once the sun went down.
She flew through the dim streets not a sight or sound popping out at her. Nothing broken for her to fix. No one looking to be in need of help. Nothing lost for her to find. There was almost nothing going on. The streets were as blank and dull as the sky above her.
She was just about to return to her clouds when she heard a scream. She quickly backtracked and headed down a side street into a small suburban neighborhood. She hovered a house down from where the scream had originated.
Crouched between two burly Winged Ones was a small pathetic looking woman. She was just a limp body between them, crying but doing nothing more. Standing before the group was a simply handsome man in a bright white T-shirt. He was gesturing at the woman. Finally they let her go and passed her on to the man.
The man let the woman fall to the ground. He didn’t kneel down to comfort the woman or to make sure she was alright. He just turned away and head beck into his house. The woman quickly followed behind him. She walked tall no slumped shoulders or look of distress about her person. She walked as if proud, almost triumphant. The door closed and the house went dark.
She hovered, waiting. No lights came on and she heard nothing more from the pair but she couldn’t shake the incident. Something was off about these two. He tried to rescue her but didn’t act like he was glad that he had won. She seemed to be barely scratched by her encounter. Yes,people rescued those caught, but they were almost alway family members, never were they complete strangers who had no attachment to each other. Usually there was a show full of crying and pleading followed by joyous hugs and kisses when they “won.” Not this pair though. The man seemed angry and the woman was excited.
She turned to head home, making a mental note of the location. She would return the following night and watch the house. She was going to find out what was different about this place. Mystery found.
He laid flat on the concrete, arms spread out along the hard cold ground. His knees were bent up, obscuring his view of the world in front of him. He only saw the wide open sky above, nothing more. Just a long black expanse with only a handful of puffy grey clouds.
As a child those clouds were animals, household objects or weird shapes that he had made up names for. Now they are mounds of water that he could never hope to reach, never understand and never wanted to be a part of. Feet flat on the Earth, that was his place. No matter what she said.
He let out a slow breath, slowing his heart rate and closed his eyes. Here he was safe. Inside his head he was free. Inside his own thoughts no one could come after him. No one could tell him he was wrong. Tell him yet again he had broken some stupid rule. He was a failure in the outer world. In this one he was just a man. Just a man who wanted to end up on the side where good was still a way of life. If good was even still a knowable concept.
A pitter-patter of footsteps pulled him out of his thoughts. He opened his eyes, the sky was still mostly black. He had been a child the last time the night had been anything but a suffocating blanket.
“You have wings?” the voice was gruff and angry.
The man on the ground didn’t bother to answer. He just acted as if he had not heard the speaker at all.
“I said,” the speaker kicked the man’s side. “You have wings?” He wasn’t asking now, he was demanding an answer.
The man set up, giving the intruder a clear view of his unobscured back. No slits, no scars and no feathers.
“That answer your question?” he snapped, looking up at the person who had disturbed his minute of solace.
“Name,” the tall man demanded. He was dressed in a black coat and black pants. His feet were covered by granite grey combat boots. With only using half his strength he could break ever finger in the man’s splayed hand.
“Julius,” the man answered, pulling his hands into his lap for safety.
“Julius, go home,” the man bent down and stared into Julius’s eyes, completely black and pupil-less. “You don’t belong here. You and your white shirt,” he plucked the shirt from Julius’s chest. “You’re lucky I’m at quota for the month.”
Julius gave him a scowl and nodded. He could argue but that would only end up with him in the constantly restless ocean behind him. Where he would be forced to tread water until he passed out. Tomorrow he would end up in the pile that burned. No one would know he was gone and no one would care, except maybe her. If she still had the capacity for any real emotion.
The officer strode off, hands in his pockets. Julius watched him get swallowed by the darkness before he pushed himself to his feet. He looked out across the inky ocean, wondering if drowning was really as horrible as everyone said.
He decided not to test the idea tonight. He had already played fast and loose with his life enough for one night. He turned his back to the expanse and faced his home. A city of tall, square identical buildings stared back at him. Every single one was grey, with the exact same brickwork and number of windows. Addresses were the only identifying markings on the buildings. Finding where you were going always took an extra twenty minutes and ended up with you wanting to punch something. He stood on the perimeters guard wall. It towered above the rooftops, giving a clear view of the entire settlement. No one was out, no lights shone.
He started down the stairs he had come up. Stopping on the first landing he looked up at the set of wings that adorned this side of the wall. They were made of steel, cold black steel. The detail work would make any artist feel like an amateur. Each wing had intricate lines and veins criss-crossing the sculpted feathers. From here they looked so real. He wanted nothing more than to hold them and disappear into the sky with them on his back.
But he knew better. Those were cold and hard, created by machines. They matched the pair on each side. There were exactly five hundred of them spaced intermittently over the whole wall. Like the real thing they held no warmth and no worth. Just pretty images to please the eye and excite the heart with falsehoods.
He turned away from the facade and slowly picked his way down the cold stone stairs. It was stupidly dangerous to be up here, he knew that. Only the winged ones were allowed on the wall. The winged ones could enter every building and walk every street. Those like him, the unfeathered, were restricted to their specific streets and their own homes. Nowhere else.
He made it back to his hovel without incident. It was the end of the month, the officers are enjoying a night off. Tonight was the only sort of safe night of the month.
He closed the door to his apartment and slid the lock into place, as if it actually did anything. He didn’t change, his white shirt and pants were not close to dingy yet. They remained on until their glow faded. Only then would he change. Only then would he begin to feel the cold slipping through his veins. The pain would start to crawl over the skin on his back. Once the first spots began to form on the whites the slits began to open and the wings started to grow.
He never let the first feathers appear. They could not see the light of day or he was doomed. If those feathers were seen he would become one of them and he would cease to be human, to be Julius. He must not become a winged one, ever.
He slept in intervals of sixty minutes, same as every night. One hour of sleep, twenty minutes of surveillance. It was a tactic he had learned from his parents. It had served them well for years but no practice was perfect. Sooner or later it alway failed. Sooner or later they came and the charade would be over.
The night was a calm one. No one was taken and no one became a winged one, as far as he knew. He saw no new faces being ushered up steps and heard no screams or hurried footsteps. The calm nights were the worst. He had no clues and no hints of what was hiding behind his neighbors walls. Tomorrow could be the end or it could be just another day. At least with noise he knew what was coming.
The sun began to rise straight into the clouds as it did every morning. He loved the last hour before dawn, because it was the only time he saw just pure sunlight, nothing around to obscure those beautiful rays. For a very small amount of time the world was bright and alive once again, like it had been when he had been very young. There was no darkness, only bright vibrant colors that just begged for your smile and laughter. For a handful of minutes the world wasn’t dead and then it all faded away and he reentered reality.
He unlocked his door at nine o’clock like he did every morning. It was law that during the day anyone could enter your rented space whenever they liked. You played gracious host no matter if they were winged or unfeathered.
He prayed he would be left to himself today. He was not in the mood to be a play actor. He hated his part, all smiles and kind words when in realty he was screaming for them to leave or kill him.
The knock was a quiet one. It was not a winged one, they never knocked. He opened the door just as the second knock finished. On the stoop stood a small female child, hands folded in front of her. Her face was covered with a tangle of black hair and her whites had begun to fade.
“What?” he asked gruffly. He saw the tears free-falling to the ground, the wobbly legs, and shaking hands. This child was in sever pain.
“I need a new set,” she cried. “I don’t want to become one.” she finally looked up at him. Her face smudged with dirt and the tears had left deep stains on her cheeks. She had been begging house to house. As she looked up, her hair moved the side a few inches. Just through the tangle he saw it, a dark grey tip of a brand new feather.
“Too late,” he slammed the door on the doomed child. He turned away as her cries increased in volume. She could scream and curse him. Her tiny fists could try to break down the door but it wouldn’t make him flinch or turn to help. She was gone.
He knew she would lose control, try to tear out the new appendages until they were nothing but bloody strings. That was what his mother had done. It would do no good. Minutes later fresh feathers would reappear and that would be the end of it all.
You stopped screaming and you stopped crying. The wings unfurled and you soared up into the free air, never looking down and never looking back. No longer did anything or anyone matter again.
It was just as he was finishing dinner that Jack showed up. He burst through the door letting it collide with the wall. He always entered the same way with a flourish of sound and energy. Julius didn’t even flinch.
He just gathered his plate and fork and turned to the sink. He began to clean them while his former best friend entered the room.
“Ugh, still?” Jack asked. Same question every month.
“Always,” Julius replied placing his dishes in the drying rack.
“I just don’t get it,” Jack sat at the table, his great wings folding around the back of the chair, making it completely disappear. “Why do you bother? It isn’t changing. Every day our numbers grow and your numbers shrink. Give it up already,” Jack said.
Julius leaned against the counter his sparkling white outfit almost glowing in the dim kitchen.
“I will not bend. I will not become you,” he nodded at his friend. “This is my home, my life. I choose how to live it.”
“As a prisoner. As a man who has to jump at every sound and hide in the darkest shadows at night. You live with one eye always on your clothes, just watching for that one dark spot to begin to grow,” Jack threw up his hands. “Why?”
“Because,” Julius felt his teeth clenching. His neck was stiffening. He took a gulp of breath and let it out as slowly as he could. Losing control would do nothing for either man. “Because it is not my time.”
Jack stood up, nodded at him with a twisted scowl across his lips and left out the front door. Julius let out a relieved breath. He still remembered the words.
He went and closed the door behind his visitor. The sun would begin its downward decent. Soon unfeathered would be hurrying home to stay out of the dark while the winged ones would begin their nightly hunt.
He sat on the bottom stair and let his head fall into his hands. He closed his eyes and opened them back in his past, in that one moment where he had learned the words that had kept him alive and whole for so long.
“Because it is not my time,” his father grasped his son’s tiny hands. He was ten, just old enough to understand what any of the words meant, let alone remember them.
“Repeat them,” every night it was the same routine. His father would say the phrase and Julius would repeat it until his father was satisfied.
“No other words are more important. Do you understand?” his father demanded.
“Yes, father,” young Julius always replied. His father had kissed his head and left the room for the night.
He had been only a child when the world had become dark. His parents had known, had tracked the coming beings for months, maybe even for years. They had always had their noses in books or were watching new programs. He hadn’t understood then. He just knew that as the sun had become dimmer and neighbors had begun to disappear his parents had become more and more protective. He didn’t go anywhere alone and he had no friends any longer. Only her, she was a secret friend. His parents had never known that she had existed. Maybe if he had said something, they would still be here and he wouldn’t be constantly hiding behind walls and words.
“It is not…It is not…,” his father sputtered over and over falling to his knees.
Julius’ eyes snapped open and he was back in his home. The sky was almost black now. He checked his watch, it was nine o’clock. He was allowed to shut himself away for the night.
He turned the lock and the click instantly sent him into another memory.
His mother shrieked and screamed like a wild animal in the throes of death. She tore the beautiful wings to a shredded mess. He had watched her scrambling, tearing skin with feathers. The dust had gathered into a pile that resembled ash with a tinge of dark red.
“Help me!” she screeched, crawling toward his father. His father only backed young Julius into a corner, holding his wife away with an outstretched foot.
“Out!” he commanded.
“No!” the screamed echoed through the night and had become trapped in the walls. At night he would fall asleep to that echoing din.
He had never see his mother after that last moment of desperation. She had crawled out the door and his father had locked the door with a click.
Julius was back in his home. Alone and on high alert once again.
The night was not as quiet as the night before. Many turned or were taken. The yells and begs for mercy seeped through the cracks in the windows and under the door like a stealthy spirit.
He had just been about to fall asleep for his hour when one voice penetrated through the cacophony.
“Julius!” she cried. It wasn’t her usual fake cry that was their signal. This was a genuine cry for help. Her time was done, she had been found.
Julius ran to the door and threw it open. On his lawn stood two winged ones. Inky black wings as tall as they were, just barely brushing the grass at their feet. Their faces were hidden completely in the shadows. Between them she was held by each arm. Her white T-shirt and shorts shone like a beacon in the night.
“Stop,” he cried. The pair stood still. He ran out and knelt in front of her. “Say it,” he begged her. “Say the words.”
“I can’t remember them,” panic filled her eyes. “Say them for me, please,” she begged. Her knees gave out and she collapsed onto the grass, head hung low.
“I,” he looked up at her captors. This close he could see the outline of their features. One was a no name, the other was Jack. His face was stone cold serious.
“You know the rules,” his voice was pure steel. “Say them and take her or let us go.”
“Julius,” she her eyes begged him to save her.
“Because,” he felt his chest tighten. He knew what this meant. If he said these words, it was all over. She was his. Their fates would be intertwined forever. No longer were either able to make decision for themselves alone.
“Because it is not her time,” he let the words fall from his lips, barely discernible. Apparently it had been enough because Jack and no name released her, letting her fall into a heap onto the ground.
“Good call. I’ll see you soon,” Jack left with a twisted smile on his face.
“Thank you,” she crawled to him, moving to curl up into his lap. He stood up abruptly, causing her to fall into another heap. He turned for his home. She followed him, his home was now hers.
“Thank you,” she said again as she locked them inside.
“Don’t,” he spat at her. “Don’t say a word,” he turned to go into the kitchen, he needed a drink. Her hand grabbed his upper arm.
“Now it is our time,” she moved to kiss him but he stepped back.
He walked to look out the window. Neighbors unfurled their wings and flew up into the air, whoops of laughter and joy following them up. Others begged for mercy trying to remember those few word that would give them one more day.
“Because it is not…,” he paused, his brain becoming fuzzy. The words were on the very tip of his tongue, if only he could just form them.
“My time,” she whispered in his ear and he let a tear fall down his cheek, as she wrapped his her soft yet cold wings around his body. She had finally won.