His heart was made of golden wings – not just engravings, but a lost compassion that does not convolute a strict sense of justice.
It was one evening…
When the sky was pale and hollow that he let the swan begin again.
The lake was a cool mirror that reflected the sky in white, tree limbs stretching over the expanse like pins in a lock, the world a ghost. Something silent and unfolding into a baby lambs paws, an orb of pearlescent silence, tiny triangles of houses lining the distance…
Not a soul for miles.
Just he and the hunters, and that poor, broken bird, bullet holes riddling its wings, spattering the snow in blood. He tried to coo, but it was strangled, neck twisted to the side, the glorious ballad of swansongs, not a death, never a death - rather the birth of a new nobility.
He scooped up the poor animal with pity in his eyes.
"What happened to you?" He asked, kneeling in the frozen water, the bird like a brick of down in his arms. He held the poor creature - no glancing upwards, no casting its eyes toward the sky. Only lying there, tattered wings outstretched – severed from his body – in little tributaries of lost flight, more delicate than the passing fragments of sympathy or the space between each feather, the lifespan of Jack Frost's paintings. Grave injuries. He did not like the word 'grave.' Serious ones that needed to be tended, the pillaging of a gun like gnashing teeth, leaving only thin, willowy stubs of scarlet, twitching helplessly in the cold.
Nearly shot to death. Blood lined its feathers in red. The creature buried his head into the tufts of snow, resigning itself to a final song of trust.
He held the swan close, embracing its helpless body, watching the countless birds flitter into the distance, swooping down low, taking off into the clouds, feeling the sorrowful envy course this wilted, dying, defenseless being of pale panache, whispering, "I promise you will fly again."
It could have been heaven.
Heaven is old enough to have dust around the edges, ceilings arching high above the hardwood floor, a spiral staircase embracing the wall like a loving arm.
She walked into this palace of sepia, walls tea-stained with age, lined with book shelves, bird seed, candles… Her soft feet made tiny thuds, approaching the center of the universe, head angled toward the sky ceiling… A huge, arching dome.
There was the creator of the time himself.
A happy face. Always a wash of pleasance. Tirelessly up to something, lending his hands to others, caring for the birds fluttering from each ledge like an orphanage, transfixed, mysterious – lovingly absent in a world all of his own. And it was there that she became lost. Caught somewhere between the flight of each crow as they picked up her heart to fly away with it.
"There you are," he smiled, hopping over the rail of the staircase, falling a few feet to the ground. His black shoes landed with a light thud. Mayhap he was actually aloft when he continued, "I was wondering when you would come."
Their winter was a land of heart felt shapes and statues, things too broken to be real, arabesques – sand? – to be lost in the fibers of what they truly meant to say, the longing, the flood, the feathers that poured from the ceiling, all taciturn, but fluid with speech and words beholden to…
The air was heavy with mist.
Insubstantiality as she walks closer, drowning in Assam eyes, restored in the suspension of black oases ait fold. Realization as she drags her fingers down the contours of his features, the compassionate cheekbones rather than proud, the distinct lines to frame his jaw, the down pour of black strands in desperate need of pruning.
Enlightenment as she whispers, "I have come to see what you see."
The swan was a mournful lump in the corner, wings curled into itself like an old woman's hair in wrappers, gazing forlorn at the volant, ecstatic expressions of freedom cluttering the ceiling, the rafters, the silhouettes of flight beyond the sheen of dust, reaching above the stained glass and into the sky.
He could never look away, watching the man's promise linger in the air. His fingers stroked the animals back, efforts of trying to piece his wings together failing, a puzzle of bewilderment and intricate tendons, feathers sprouting at strange angles like a lashing of bereavement – the seclusion of no company, the shuddering, the decision to be released from a self inflicted prison – but not self inflicted – for the swan was an innocent and the hunter…
His wings would never work again.
"I made a promise," he soothed, kissing the swan's head. The woman, that woman, the one that gave his breath flight, took a final glance before closing the door, threads tugged deep inside of her.
His lips hardly moved as he placed a saddened kiss onto the bird's head, continuing, "I will keep it."
And the vespers splayed beyond a widow's fingers could have never been more mournful, or like the twilit hour, not when a swansong left behind all requiescats like a seasonal warmth.
"You are just in time!" he smiled, taking her hand as she stepped within his enclosure, back inside of that massive sepia dome of winding stairways and birds.
"In time?" She chuckled, the sound carried on the support of full health, fingers warmly entwined with his – an angel – and to enforce the words, though whispered, was a shine beneath her eyes, a stain of dust on optic glass. "For what?"
His free arm motioned toward the ceiling.
There sat the swan.
Perched with masterful balance, eyes glittering with an almost giddy excitement, plumage ruffling, he waddled along the very top railings of the highest stair way, the inventor's eyes lit with the glee of kept vows. "To watch."
At first she gasped. The swan could fall. Steady feet defied his lack of flight – but he tightened his clasp on her fingers with reassurance, dread replaced with wonderment, a low blooming ease, because amid the plumage of wounded majesty -
The swan was wearing a harness.
The man smiled.
"Go ahead," he called up into the dust ridden dome, practically bouncing with excitement, and the bird craned its neck as if it were royalty again, dignified at last, free, all at the compassionate hands of a kind spirit. "Jump."
The proud animal stood on the tips of its feet like a ballerina, chest pushing outward as an encroaching blizzard, leaning forward, tipping, barriers of white, a sculpture of it… And his wings were not real, but crafted of -
Flying. Guiding himself of wings of wax and lace.
He would not fall. He would not be harmed. The system of ropes and pulleys on the ceiling creaked with appreciation, supporting the gentle weight of the creature, letting him soar far above their heads, a messenger of flight that webbed their faces in silhouettes of woven flowers. He could not support himself – but he could steer. And steer he did, with the excitement of breath falling to the floor boards, flapping about, freely, gratefully;
The result of candle scrapings, fabric, gears, rope… His promise was kept.
But she was an angel of fading grace, misplacing her footing in the most incomprehensible of ways, the grinding of metal tearing ligaments on a day not so far off, fading on the horizon like a ship – growing closer, always closer, until the day of the accident came.
No soft footsteps, just creaks.
He saw her face shining through the balustrade with sorrowful candor.
"Wonderful that you are here!" He chimed, face somehow managing to uphold a smile, though with every step he took, bouncing with high spirits, the expression became a little bit heavier, finally breaking from its pale, marble entrapment to crumble into the most dismal of cemeteries, high spirits finally laid to rest in a low, cold place, aching with loneliness, slowly bathing in the dance steps of the worms. "I was hoping that you would co -…" Deadened now, boxed inside. His eyes stayed locked on her in eves of hazel. "What has happened?"
She clasped something on either side of her hips, straining to push, eyes wide with self placed shame.
The wheelchair screeched into view.
"No --" he muttered, refusing to see it, towering like rising smoke. "No, no, no… I can fix this. I can –" Glass eyes in the blue jays. They angled them down upon him, ruffling feathers and scratching from the rafters, lapis lazuli beads in the aging brown. A voice that was more disarrayed. "I can fix this. I promise you –"
A slender finger touched his lips, pressing into thin lines of faded pink, holding itself there, peaceful in its silence, spreading the afflicted quietude through panicked vocal chords like a shudder. "It is not up to you to help everyone."
His eyes darted upwards. They captured hers like an artist. "I promise you…" a vow began again, words to instill calm like an open ocean. "… I promise that you will walk again."
He toiled through the night, and she could only guess how many gears would turn inside of that head before the sun erased and rewrote itself again and again and again, brightest when the swan would cast its gaze in loving deference.
The stilts he had constructed looked so clumsy.
"How are you fairing?" He asked, the bird ruffling the lace on its back, those wings he had made from wax, from hours of reconstructive labor. His eyes were lit with delight. Urged the inventor onward. Followed him into some uplifting rise. Reminded him of where time was allowed to flow, even if they were just sotto voce moments, just as secure as every pulley he aligned on the ceiling.
His hands were threaded with sedulousness as a pause overtook him, setting the project aside, and with it, his promise, surrendering it to the crows.
The chair creaked as she wheeled into the room, eyes downcast – yet laced with a lightness to gainsay the sorrow, hair tumbling over her shoulders in sweeping peels of dull lemon. "Are you here?"
The rustle of wings. Windows stained with dust. She turned her eyes toward the ceiling, and there he was, always there, kind, gentle, and within his own sphere of relevancy. "Of course."
There was lace and wax in his hands.
"What have you been doing?" She laughed, the sound as light as water vapor, beading around her lips, condensing behind her eyes like a breath on quick silver, still glittering, still full of life.
He was a figure of forbearance and browns, white linen and pale skin. Shoes that echoed through out the ancient paradise like revenants -; soft feathers, feet of wire. Ropes stretched across the ceiling, a strange contraption dangling before her eyes, hooked from a high up place, a shade of dull ecru. "This…" a gentle whisper sounded. Gentle straps, made to be the color of her outfit, something pallid and fitting for delicacy.
Her pale lips curved into an angelic, sweet, ensorcelled stitch of glee, light pink and fragile, smoother than milk, a hidden radiance. The inventor hooked his arms beneath hers, that shift of white linen fitting for a seraphim, or perhaps one of the birds, and he came to wonder if she was little more than that. Someone who deserved more than footsteps on tiny, helpless feet, no foot ware fine enough to contain them.
The straps were linked about her waist, his careful fingers lingering, almost afraid to, threads rippling beneath his nails and swishing, his device made to be as subtle as possible, comfortable… Labors that bled into weeks, summed up into this one moment. She was standing.
But her face fell into a heartbroken depth when her feet would not move, still paralyzed, his efforts wasted on the beautifully broken. "I can not walk…" The dame held back sobs, champagne hair winding down her back in gentle curls, blanketing her shoulders, all covered in white. Not disappointment, perhaps shame. Impulses falling into a dark chasm;
He was smiling.
"No," he soothed, strolling away, his footsteps empty of pride, pattering with a virtue far more intense beneath that dome of light brown, blue jays fluttering about the railings like butterflies in an English Garden. She gazed into the sky, a mural of cream. The ropes led her there.
His words continued in a soft rush, "Walking would be pleasant. But then I thought…" A hand was locked around a wooden handle, a lever of some kind, crafted of his skilled, servile hands. "Why walk - when you can fly?"
The lever slammed downward.
Heaven is a glimpse into the imagination; her feet were only for decoration.
Cinderella received a glass slipper from a prince, but she would be given the sky.
A rush of crows around a center of aurulence, her body lifting into the sky, ascending, a gasp rushing in, miracles rushing out, imaginations, wishes granted, promises kept.
His smile shone like a fallen constellation.
There is beauty in disaster, the disconcertion of action betiding transcendence, or illumination, or when a long lost sensation is finally recovered. And the wings of wax-stamped lace she wore were echoes of enchantment, the swan soaring around her – his own harness fit snugly about that plump body, eyes brilliant with delight. They were flying together, in a dome of sepia perfection, windows still bathed in dust.
She, the swan, and the inventor.
"Like Icarus," he belauded, heart filled with light, flying among them with his feet on the ground, eyes cast toward what was finally heaven. Her love would be ideal but her happiness was enough, granted by his own hands, by his own efforts to undo her corporeal prison.
She glanced down at him like a glowing angel, wings spread, filled with sunlight. "No."
An inquisitive look led his adored one to continue, the swan singing with joy, her lips parting into shapes of petal softness, of tears undone. "Because Icarus never fell in love."