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Wings

By Evil Hunter

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When I first learned I had Them, I was shocked. They were not something everyone in the world had. About one sixteenth of the population were diagnosed yearly with Wings; those were the numbers someone had once given me in a health class on Wings. People with Wings didn't live as long as other people; some doctors said it was just strange that persons with Wings died mostly in their early twenties, late teens. Frightening, considering I'm only sixteen now.

It's not very surprising that most people with Wings go seek out medical help, to have their Wings removed, or something to that extent. I've never heard of someone with Wings who didn't die in a hospital bed; all the ones from my century have gone to doctors and tried to stop their Wings from coming, to no avail.

I used to blame it (it being my outbreak of Wings) on my parents; they hadn't let me get a vaccine for Wings when I was a child. Used to, as in, not anymore, and yes, there is a vaccine; scientists had been trying for a millennia to find a cure for Wings, and the vaccine had been a recent (about fifty years ago) breakthrough. Corripio Sabriel. The Wing Destroyer drug. It was given before Wings was diagnosed, usually to people about age five to fourteen, to prevent Wings from growing.

My parents had read that, some hundred years ago, people had died due to vaccines, and had been against them, even though medicine had changed since all those many years ago. They still claimed that, with the invention of certain drugs, we were going to do ourselves in when the side effects were discovered years later. Sure, it had happened with the drug that creamed Lochantage (a disease that attacked the stomach muscles), which, ten years after its release, had been pinned for being the major cause of a sudden worldwide case of laryngitis. Corripio Sabriel had been in distribution for a reasonably long time, and they still didn't want me to use it.

My brother didn't help them with their decision: "Anything good for ya' now is guaranteed to kill ya' next year," he'd always say. I love my brother, but sometimes, I think he lives to make people around him, namely me, miserable. Not that Wings has made me miserable; not entirely. Maybe at first, but now, I live with it. Live in fear with it, but live with it.

Live in fear? Yes, live in fear. Since Wings is a disease that scientists can't seem to understand, and therefore don't know if it is contagious or not, it was declared a law that anyone over the age of thirteen diagnosed with Wings was to be taken to a hospital for treatment and study. I don't want to go in for treatment or study. After the horror stories I've heard about everyone with Wings dying in a hospital? No way.

It's no wonder, then, that my father and mom didn't know about Them until a short while ago. I'd managed to keep my Wings under wraps for the two years I'd had Them, and I found it surprisingly easy to keep Them hidden. Wings don't just burst out of your back and stay out forever, as most people tend to believe. They somehow get absorbed back into your body, more specifically your shoulder blades, after use.

I'd told two people about my Wings, a month or so after I figured out I had Them. My good friend, Raphael, and his childhood friend, Ariel, were the only two I would trust my secret with. Back then, they'd wanted me to go see a doctor. I didn't. And they understood; they'd heard the stories, too, after all. They both wanted to know more about Them, my Wings. And not just because they both wanted to become doctors; Ariel told me that she simply thought They were an interesting thing.

Description of my Wings: They are white and so absolutely huge that when I spread Them out fully (in the dark of night or in a secret place so no one can see) They span my full height twice and then some. The part of Them that connects to my back and runs to form Their curved frame is tough and bony; everything else is feathers, white and gray feathers, downy soft and shedding everywhere.

With Wings like this, I couldn't keep Them secret forever, could I? One day, my mom, having come home from work early that day, came out to the backyard looking for look for me. I was with Ariel and Raphael, and we had been studying my Wings up until my mom had come out. I'd pulled my Wings back in just before she had come out, and so she hadn't actually seen my Wings, but the plumage that flew everywhere in the breeze, and the way Raphael and Ariel had both stared at me with identical 'uh-oh' looks, I'd finally knew that my peace with Wings was over. Time for the hunt.

And I took off, running out into the forests behind the metropolis that was my home, never looking back. That was about a week ago. Days are shorter, now, and they have finally found me. But I am not afraid. I have a trump card they don't about.

There is a small drama playing out at the moment on a deserted mountain cliff, and it revolves around me.

The current scene: The sun is setting, red and orange and bloody and somehow managing to be very beautiful. I am standing near the edge of a red-sand cliff, staring at Raphael and his now-girlfriend Ariel, mom and father are standing far away, for fear of the sign that says 'Danger: Deteriorating Cliff,' and my brother, Camael, is standing close, though still not past the sign, smiling at me. He looks so proud of his little brother.

Mom and father don't want the Wings; they want me, not the disease that has taken me hold, but they don't understand that now, after the years of it, I am my curse. No one wants Wings, and so no one wants me. Raphael and Ariel do not care about the Wings; they simply don't want me to die. Even though they want me to be helped, saved, deep down, they know what I want. I want Them.

The worst thing about Wings is the transformation, I think. Two years with a disease puts it into perspective, and as far as it goes, Wings is a pretty harmless disease. Sure, it kills, but I a few months after I got Wings... I started wondering... What really kills the people with Wings? Is it the wings themselves, that somehow, the morphed bone structure changes the body so drastically that they can no longer breathe? Is it something that lays unseen to everyone, some sort of blight that no one can detect until the wings sprout? No, the health classes on Wings, much like the ones on HIV and cancer, had cleared those things up. So far as doctors could figure, Wings just... killed.

Nothing just... kills.

Destroying soft-tissue, eating away at bone, stopping organs from working, diseases do this. Wings doesn't. Apparently, Wings just... kills.

That's just... bull.

I hear police sirens now. Distant, then closer and closer and closer. Mom and father have phoned the police. As the horns scream and blare in my ears, I hear Ariel choking out, "Don't, you don't have to go..."

I have to.

Raphael is holding onto Ariel's shoulders, and looking as if he wants to cry. Raphael always had problems with that sort of thing, but I just smile, and he kinda smiles back, and I turn around, my back to everyone. The police have all arrived, now, and they are stepping out of their cars, with tranquilizer guns. One of them has a megaphone, and he says,

"Don't do it, boy, don't do it. We can get you help..."

For the first time in my short excuse for a life, I fell like laughing like a twisted maniac. He doesn't know what help is. Unless he has been told over and over that, because of a growth in his back, he will die, unless he has wings sprouting out of his back, he doesn't know. This is help. Standing like this, looking into the sunset, knowing that soon, everything will be okay...

Some yelling, shuffling, a click and squeal and, "Do whatcha want, kid! Don't let 'em stop ya'! Guh-bye, boy! Don't let the- hey!-" Zwip. Camael, who had grabbed the megaphone to shout me the last of his words I'll ever hear, is down for the count. I can feel my eyes narrow. Stupid tranq guns. A small, almost undetectable click from the megaphone indicates that the police are going to start talking again, but I walk to stand out closer to the edge, and slowly unbutton my shirt, for the last time. The comfy, worn and soft material falls onto the dusty ground. I turn to Raphael and Ariel, smile, one last time, and... It starts. First, there's the crunching feeling, bone against bone, scraping against muscle and vein; the ala pregnancy begins. My shoulder blades start to stick out, first dull and curved, then slowly growing pointy, more and more, until I can feel the muscle and skin being pulled apart at the seams. My skin tugs, hard, and, with a sickening rip that I am sure not only I can hear, the first of my wing is out, the highest angle of my wing is out, and, more skin tearing, more ripping, I feel blood pouring down my back, and I bite my lip, and the feathers are out and...

With a resounding CRACK I spread my wings full and out, and the cop who had, up until just now, been telling me to stop, is silenced, and everyone around me is quiet, and I can see feathers floating absolutely everywhere in the early evening breeze.

And I take off.

No one calls after me. I turn my head slightly to see Raphael and Ariel waving hard and fast, and I think Raphael is crying, and everyone is crying, and I feel like crying, but I turn my head back to the front, and, with a powerful, full beat of my enormous wings, I'm off, I'm gone... I'm running into the sun, swimming into the ever-deepening sea of light...

My back hurts so very, very much, but it really is all worth it. Can you image this feeling, of spreading your wings, and flying?

End.

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