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“You wanna do something fun?” the man in a tight blue polo asked. 

His small son shouted, “Yeah!” He was about four, with all the enthusiasm that age could muster.

“Ok kiddo, let’s go on the super slides!’ 

Angel watched the man take the boy’s hand and walk off at a stroll. They were so cute, she thought, and sighed. She ran her fingers through her curly hair and stretched her long legs out in front of her. She leaned back on her bench to take in the whole scene. 

The Appleton Carnival was in town over the long Labor Day weekend, and Angel went alone as usual. She loved to watch the happy people competing in the ring toss, eating elephant ears, and riding the Avalanche. Though for such a happy place, there were miserable people everywhere. The boy who cried because he’d dropped his ice cream cone, the limping woman in uncomfortable shoes, the aggravated musclehead who couldn’t hit the top bell of the Strong Man game.

Angel wasn’t her real name. But it’s what her father had called her, his “precious angel,” never Sandra. Eventually it stuck and she’d been Angel for most of her life, all 22 years of it. Her father was dead now, gone to play in the big golf course in the sky. That was what the pastor said at his funeral anyway. Not that Angel believed any of it. 

The carnival midway was crowded at midday on a Saturday. Angel had picked a spot near the corn dog booth; she loved the smell of them though the thought of eating one revolted her. Eventually she tired of watching the people and decided to walk down the midway to the fortune teller’s tent. Her other yearly tradition. So far, she’d heard she was Marie Antoinette in a previous life; that she would marry within six months; that her bank account would fill. None of these things came through and the next year there she was in the fortune teller’s tent, single and broke. But still-- better than Marie Antoinette.

The booth itself, festooned with deep purple tapestries and folding chairs painted gold, was the same, but the usual woman, a robust woman from Pakistan named Jennifer, wasn't there. In her chair was a blonde woman not that much older than Angel. “Um, sorry. Where’s Jennifer? Did she retire?” Angel was uncomfortable. She didn’t know if she wanted her fortune told by this person.

“Yeah, she went and retired. To heaven,” the woman said, picking at the last chipped bits of black polish on her nails. She looked bored. Angel had turned to leave when the woman finally looked at her. Her eyes went wide and she said quietly, “Wait.”

Angel stopped and turned back to the woman, who said in a deep voice, “I can see your aura so clearly. I can sometimes see them, but they’re faded and dull compared to yours. It’s a deep pink shot with luminous blue. I’ve never seen anything like it.” She looked dazzled.

Angel stared at her. “I don’t believe in auras or any of that stuff,” she said.

“Yet, year after year, you come back here to have your fortune read. Oh yes,” she said, seeing Angel’s face. “I know things.” She gestured at the chair across the desk from her. “Let me read your cards. No charge, I just want to see what happens.”

Angel perched on the edge of the hard chair. The woman handed her a deck of tarot cards, soft with use, and instructed her to shuffle them. She did, letting her conscious mind go quiet in the rhythm of the suffling. A question came to her mind. Why can’t I be normal like everyone else?” She handed the cards back to the woman, who began to lay them out like a fan in front of Angel. The woman stared. “No, this can’t be true.”

Angel was silent. She had actually started to feel like this woman was the real deal

You’ve wondered why you don’t fit in anywhere, why people seem so foreign to you.” She took a deep breath. “It’s because you’re an angel.”

“My name is Angel, but I’m not an angel. It’s just what my Dad called me,” she said. “Just a nickname.”

The woman said, “You are literally an angel. A being from above. But where are your wings?” She seemed totally unperturbed by these outrageous statements.

Angel shifted her shoulders under her t-shirt. “I… I have these lumps on my back. No doctor has ever known what they are.” Angel was suddenly less fearful; what the woman said sounded in some ways like what she’d always wanted to hear. That she was special, like her Dad said. Not broken and wrong, just different from everyone else in some amazing way that she hadn’t discovered yet.

“Can I look at your back?” The woman asked, and somehow Angel was taking off her shirt and showing the woman the strange bumps on her back that sometimes itched or hurt.

“Ah. I think you haven’t grown your wings yet.” She touched the spots lightly with her fingers. “I can help them along with what you might call magic. Or maybe it’s only a healing touch.” 

Before she could think too much about it, Angel said, “Yes, please do it.” The worst thing that could happen was that it did nothing. 

The woman got up and began to bustle about the tent, gathering herbs and crystals. She opened a large leather-bound book. “There’s got to be a precedent for this, right? I mean in more modern times, not like in the Bible or whatever. I can’t believe I’ve found the first angel in recorded history.” She was excited, almost fevered. She seemed to have little doubt that she was right. She flipped through the book a bit, then said, “I guess I’ll have to wing it.” She chuckled at her own pun. She lightly touched the spots again. 

Angel stood rigid with her arms crossed over her beige bra. The woman began muttering some words that sounded like gibberish, while she rubbed some salve on Angel’s back. “I don’t think this is going to work,” Angel said. “Let’s just forget it.”

But then she felt something strange. An awakening in her very soul. Her back tingled and then there was a sharp, awful pain. She felt like knives were being thrust into her back. “Stop! That hurts so much.” She tried to twist away.

But the woman just kept rubbing and muttering and then there were two near audible pops and Angel screamed and fell to her knees, then passed out with her butt in the air and her forehead on the worn rug.

When she came to, the woman was stroking her hair. “It’s ok, you’re ok,” she said softly, almost crooning. “You know who you are now. Who you truly are.” Angel sat up and bent her arm to feel her shoulder blades. Under her probing fingers were two bony protrusions sticking out of her skin about an inch. She felt let down. “What are those? I thought I was getting wings.” She felt weirdly disappointed.

“I think they will continue to grow. And remember, we don’t know what real wings look like. They might not be those fluffy white, feathered wings from Christmas stories. No one has seen something like you before.”

Angel left the tent elated; she was a celestial being for God’s sake. Yet she was self-conscious of her nascent wings denting out the thin fabric of her t-shirt. She sat rigid and upright in her car on the way home, not wanting to lean back on the bony nubs. They were painful, but in a good way, like how her brother talked about running. It hurt so good. 

Back in her tiny, dingy house, the first thing she did was go to the bedroom, strip off her top and bra and look at her back in the mirror. The things were bigger than she’d thought and covered with a thick skin like bat wings. There was no discernable blood or trauma; it looked like they had been there for years.

So did this mean she had powers? Could she fly like the Cristians said? She concentrated on the wings and tried to figure out how to move them. She waved her hand and tried to conjure up a McDonald’s strawberry shake. She muttered made up spells. She didn’t seem to have any powers. Angel was disappointed, but maybe they came when the wings finished growing.

Angel woke up from a deep sleep, a dream tumbling out of her mind. She reached back and yes, the bony, the skin covered protrusions were still there. She got up and went to her computer. She typed in “angels” into google and scrolled past the pages about the LA Angels baseball to the pages about angels. Apparently, angels are stronger than humans and they use their powers to fight against Satan. But she didn’t even believe in God. How was she supposed to do his bidding?

Over the next few months Angel had to come to terms with life with her growing wings. She found that she didn’t want to tell anyone. She was afraid of how they’d react. What would they think? Would they expect her to perform miracles? And who would she tell? Her coworkers at the post office? One of the cousins she never spoke to?

Angel was always uncomfortable now.  The wings were growing slowly, but getting harder to conceal. The tight binder she wore over her budding wings largely concealed them, though she had seen coworkers glancing at the bumps under her loose sweatshirts.

It was the harvest festival weekend and Angel went alone as usual. Everyone was competing for chair space near the bandstand where the Four Seasons were playing. Angel stood near the back with the smokers and people who forgot their chairs. 

She leaned against a tree and surreptitiously rubbed her back against it. Her wings were getting big now. It hurt to keep them under wraps and they itched terribly. She rubbed more vigorously on the tree. Suddenly she was in searing pain as her wings surged and tore free of their binding and straight through her coat. She screamed and screamed.

She stood there breathing heavily, her clothing in tatters. She shook with exhilaration. She felt the absolute rightness of her wings, the inevitability and majesty of them. She was in awe.

The people closest to her had been knocked out of the way when her wings unfurled and lay on the ground staring up at her. Most of the crowd had heard her primal scream and turned to look. They were just as shocked as she was. But a man in a faded blue jacket had been recording the Four Seasons and when he heard her scream had turned and managed to capture most of her transformation. 

Without thinking, Angel picked up her bag and ran to her car only to discover that her wings were so unwieldy that it took several tries to jam herself in. Her wing tips scraped the top of her CR-V and were crushed painfully behind her. This was not what she pictured when she found out about her wings.

The man who recorded her posted the video on TikTok, Facebook, and Twitter and it immediately went viral. Soon everyone knew about the angel. Who was she, everyone wanted to know. Could she perform miracles? What other powers might she have? Was she even a good angel? Her wings resembled a bat more than the fluffy white feathered wings in depictions from the bible. Idiots on Fox News and that ilk painted her as a dark angel ascended from hell to destroy humanity. A cult quickly began to develop.

This was not what she expected as an angel, and there was no way now to conceal her wings. She couldn’t go back to work. She couldn’t even go to the grocery store. She alternated between feeling amazed and proud of her transformation and howling out her grief for her lost life that she didn’t know she wanted until it was taken away. She waited, for what she wasn’t sure. A word from God? She wished there was an instruction manual. 

It didn’t take long for Angel’s identity to be revealed by her boss at the post office, who appeared on Good Morning America to make the announcement. Within an hour, there were people milling around her house. They began to chant, “Angel, Angel, Angel.” Angel turned up the TV and tried to drown them out. Then a man with a megaphone started shouting, “Angel, please come out. We need you. You’re proof of God’s existence.”

Angel closed her eyes. She wasn’t proof of anything, let alone God. She was just Angel, an outcast who became a freak. She wanted to be special, but not like this. 

Voices below her window on the second floor shouted for miracles, absolution, a healing touch. Angel lifted her head from her hands and went out onto the balcony. “People,” she said, and the crowd went silent. “I can’t do any of those things. I don’t seem to have any powers at all.”

“Come down here,” a man shouted. “I have gout and I need you to fix it.” 

“I can’t, I’m sorry. I really can’t,” Angel said.

“Can’t or won’t?” the man yelled. “She won’t even help us,” he snarled.

The crowd started to mutter. A woman with a cast on her leg said, “I need help, Angel, please.”

Angel began to weep. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” She turned and went back inside, sobs shaking her whole body. The wings rustled. She had become something new, something different, something difficult. She wanted to help people but couldn’t. She felt broken. She didn’t know how to process the trauma she felt deep in her soul. 

She spent a large portion of her days doomscrolling herself on social media and trying to manifest powers. People continued to harass her and some got arrested for disturbing the peace. Angel couldn’t take it.

And then she thought of it: what if she got her wings removed? She went on reddit and asked the question. Suppose the angel wanted to get rid of her wings. They seemed to cause her nothing but heartache. Most people responded that no surgeon would take off her divine wings. But then, a single name, messaged to her privately: Dr. Ronald Wise in Marathon, Florida. He was so shady and jaded, he just might do it. Angel called him.

“I am the Angel. I want to remove my wings. Will you help me?”

A long pause. “Hello?” Angel said.

“I can help you,” the doctor said. 

“I can’t leave my house,” Angel said. “You’ll have to come here.”

“I will be there in five days.”

When the doctor arrived, he was harassed by the crowd outside. The mob rose up around him as he staggered to the door. Angel opened it a crack and he surged past the clutching people and burst inside.

“You’re sure about this?” he asked. “I’m not sure I’ll be able to remove them, without killing you. And I certainly will not be able to reattach them.” He excused himself abruptly and went to the bathroom. When he came out, white powder surrounded each nostril. There was a reason this doctor had agreed to remove her wings. She sensed that he was as desperate as she was. She handed him a check for ten thousand dollars, all of what she’d gotten when her dad passed.

The next morning, the doctor disinfected her large dining room table and she climbed up onto it. He put the anesthesia mask on her face. She groggily registered the nasty looking implements lined up next to her. Soon they would cut deep into her flesh and rip out the only thing that had ever made her special. “Wait,” she mumbled. “No, stop.” But it was too late. She was going down, down, her mind folding in on itself as the anesthesia took her away.

October 09, 2021 03:45

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1 comment

Ben Rounds
14:16 Oct 13, 2021

Wow, that story didn't loop a bit, just a straight plot line... I like plot-driven works though, my own stuff tends to meander and get maudlin. Good job, kudos


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