We are descended from a beautiful lineage, but most of us don’t remember. Call them fairies, call them angels, or even call them demons. They were born of the sky, and in a past life, I swam through the cumulonimbus clouds with them. I know because no gravity-chained soul could dream the way I do. When my eyes are closed, I know how the chilled mist of a roiling thunderhead feels against my palm, and how the air currents weave flawless patterns in an ever-shifting tapestry, and how the lungs expand to compensate in the thin atmosphere where the earth below is a curved razor against the black edge of oblivion.
Perhaps I did wrong. Perhaps my wings were a gift I squandered. I can’t remember that far back. But when the breeze sweeps the azure-streaked hair from my eyes, my back stiffens and my shoulders straighten, expecting a ruffle through thin membranes and an uncontrollable urge to unfurl.
Some nights, I trace the contours of my ribs where they meet my vertebrae, my fingertips searching for a trace of a scar. The smooth skin is a disappointment, a reminder that this is my flesh of the earth, not of the sky.
A year ago, I tattooed wings upon my back. Pretty things, but useless for flight, their only purpose to steal my breath each time I turn away from the mirror and remember. They shroud my shoulder blades with color, and I stroke them often, wishing I could peel the edge and let them rise to catch the warm breeze and lift me away.
When I watch the swallows swooping over the soybean fields, I envy them. “Don’t forget what that feels like,” I want to warn. “Don’t take your wings for granted.”
Whatever I did to lose my wings, I’m sorry. I’d do anything to get them back, even if I had to trade my beautiful, colorful wings for dark, leathery ones. As long as the wind could catch them, I wouldn’t care. If they had to come from existing bones that broke and warped to erupt from my skin, if they dripped blood with every flap to pump me away from this place, I would bear that pain.
I was not born to be imprisoned upon this earth.
This piece, like many of my flash fiction pieces, was conceived from a writing prompt in my Sandcastle Writing class. The story was written to describe a photograph in a magazine–a woman with rose-colored hair showing off the beautiful butterfly on her back, a tattoo of her own design. The photo featured for this post is not the one that inspired the original writing, but rather a Photoshopped self-portrait.
Maybe this flash fiction piece is the seed of a new story? We’ll have to see….