People featured in this story:
Jose as Luke
Bucky as Achlys
Nainika as Nainika
Ethan as Ethan
Ivy as Zoe
Lillian as Lillian (small mention since she's dead)
Celeste as Celeste
I didn’t hear what Luke said next. I was out the door before I could realize, my head pounding, clutching my still not healed wound. I raised my wings to fly, then stopped at the sharp pain, the small bloody stumps rendering useless. I ran through the halls of the tree, ignoring the shouts of surprise, hot tears streaming down my cheeks.
I ran out of the tree, lifting my hands against the blinding sunlight as tall weeds whipped at my face. I ran for a long time, not knowing where I was going, just that I needed to go somewhere.
I tripped over a root, sprawling over the blood-stained grass. A scream escaped my lips, the scent of blood and pollen merging in the air. I scrambled away from the blood, ignoring the bits of silver fur in the grass. Red vines emerged from the ground, wrapping around my limbs.
“Let me go!” I screeched as they pulled me into the soft earth, strangling my throat, cutting off my air supply. Small spiders crawl towards me, their beady red eyes glistening. I struggled against the fatal vines as the spiders crawled over my body. I barely saw a dark figure step in front of me before I lost consciousness.
I opened my eyes, a groan escaping my lips. An icy blue eye stared at me, the other covered by a black eyepatch. The orange mane around his neck was stained with blood, his dark skin blending in with the dark interior of the cave.
“Get her some water,” demanded the man, his accent thick and foreign.
A small cup was lifted to my lips, and I took small sips, my head heavy and muddled. I almost choked on the water when I recognized the bright green eyes, silky black hair, and thin black tail.
“Nainika?” I asked in disbelief. She nodded slightly, setting down the cup.
“Where am I?” I asked, sitting up against the wall.
“This is the Predator base,” answered the man. “Of those who have turned against Azazel. I am Achlys, and you know Nainika.”
Nainika fiddled with something in her hand, refusing to make eye contact.
I glanced around the cave, noticing several people tending to their wounds. Their bodies were littered with scars from their time with Azazel, their eyes hard and concentrated.
“Why are you here?” I asked. “Instead of with us?”
“Because…” started Achlys. “We aren’t on your side. We simply defied Azazel because of his cruel ways, but we are still soldiers, and we do not agree with the government.”
“We don’t either,” I responded.
“Then why do you fight against us?”
“Because there’s a right and a wrong way to do things.”
He sighed, his wavy black hair drooping over his eyepatch. “Then maybe it’s time we learned the right way.”
I laid back in my medical bed, gazing out of the open window. People visited occasionally, but after hearing the news, they mainly left me be. I didn’t mind. I enjoyed the little bit of peace I could have.
He’s still alive. I struck him at a fatal point and he survived. Ethan walked into the room, and I quickly wiped the tears from my face.
“How are you doing?” he asked, sitting down in the chair beside me. I grabbed the notebook on the stand, courtesy of Felicity, and scribbled a single word down.
Ethan read the note, then nodded his head. “That’s good. I talked with Zoe, she said she gave you some medicine to help with the pain.”
I nodded, remembering the small pill I was given earlier. I glanced at the bandage on his head, then scribbled some more words on the notebook.
How’s your head?
“It’s okay,” said Ethan after reading the note. “The damage is pretty deep, but the metal only got grazed a little bit.”
“Yeah, metal,” said Ethan. “I had an accident before you came here. Apparently people take a particular interest in stabbing me in the head.” He winked, his orange cat ears twitching teasingly. “Had to get a metal plate. Good thing, too. Zoe said the metal plate kept the knife from going to my brain.”
My eyes widened in shock. We sat in silence for a few moments before I scribbled something else.
“...Harper, you know I can’t let you walk right now. Zoe said to keep you in bed since what happened yesterday. Something about keeping the wound from reopening.”
“You have to stay here. Don’t worry, I’ll visit often.”
I grabbed him by the collar and pulled him towards me, brushing my lips against his. His golden green eyes widened in surprise as I loosened my grip. “Walk,” I whispered hoarsely.
“You… you can talk.”
I shrugged, letting go of his collar, slightly exasperated that he didn’t even acknowledge the kiss.
He sighed. “Fine, but you have to use the wheelchair.”
I nodded. Anything to get out of this bed.
He helped me out of the chair and rolled me out of the room, hissing at anyone who tried to talk to me. I smiled and blushed, thinking it was kind of cute.
“Where do you want to go?” asked Ethan.
Graveyard, I wrote. Ethan’s smile dropped from his face, but he nodded and rolled me outside. I plucked a red rose from a nearby vase on our way out. We stood in front of the graves, names carefully etched on the stone.
Varsha, Lillian, Palak, Treasure, Scarlett, Nina, Draco, and countless other gravestones spread across the green grass, withering flowers at their bases. I pointed to Lillian’s gravestone and Ethan rolled me there. I bent down and carefully placed the intricate red flower, careful not to touch any of the thorns.
“Goodbye,” I whispered as a single tear dripped down my cheek and I promised myself no one else would die for me.
I found myself in the alcove again, opening and closing my talons while I waited for Luke. I fingered the feather around my neck, pondering about the vines in the field, remembering as their intricate blood-red vines creaped their way up my body.
Were they real? They couldn’t be. I was probably just going crazy.
It sure felt like it.
Just then, Luke walked in, sitting down next to me as he usually did. We sat in silence for a few moments before he spoke up.
“Is it true?” he asked.
“Is what true?”
“That you can restore others body parts.”
“I don’t think so,” I admitted. “I mean… I’ve tried bringing my wings back, but it hasn’t worked.”
“Can’t you just transform with new wings? Maybe of a dragonfly or another eagle?”
My heart skipped a beat at the simple thought of being able to fly again. It wouldn’t be the same as my old wings, the grey feathers that held so many memories, but it was something.
I rose from the floor, my yellow eyes sparkling with a little hope.
“Help me take off my bandages, please,” I said. Luke nodded and ripped the bandages off my back, and I spread what was left of my wings out of the hand-made holes on my shirt.
I concentrated on the wings of a dragonfly, and the black tips started to protrude from my back. The thin blue part started to form when a strangled cry emerged from my throat. I immediately fell to my knees, an overwhelming pain flooding my body. It felt like a thousand knives were stabbing my back, constricting my lungs. I tried to breathe, but the pain was too much.
“Luke!” I gasped, blood dripping from my mouth.
“Transform back!” he shouted. “Transform back!”
Red spots formed in my vision as the wings shrunk back into my body. A sheen of sweat covered my body as I laid gasping on the floor, the pain subsiding, taking any shred of hope along with it.
“I’m sorry,” said Luke, helping me up. “I didn’t know that would happen.”
“It’s… okay…” I mumbled, catching my breath. I sat down on the floor again, leaning my head against the wall. “Not trying that again.”
He stayed silent for a moment, fidgeting with his silver tail.
“... have you tried regrowing others body parts? I’ve heard it’s possible,” said Luke.
“Never tried it, but I’m willing to,” I responded, wanting to make it up to Celeste for all the suffering I put her through.
“Can you?” he asked. “Celeste has been really down about Palak lately. They had such a good friendship. Maybe getting her wings back could lift her spirits a bit.”
I lowered my head. “I don’t want to get her hopes up.”
“Maybe getting her hopes up is just what she needs.”
I stood in a small flower field, twiddling a small pansy between my fingers. Celeste walked towards me, her yellow eyes dull and lifeless. Ethan and Zoe walked behind her, exchanged in conversation. Zoe seemed enthusiastic, gesturing with her hands, while Ethan seemed preoccupied.
“Can you really do it?” whispered Celeste, a flicker of blue in her eyes.
“I think so,” I said, dropping the pansy. “Zoe?”
Zoe continues talking with Ethan, seemingly to not have heard me.
“Ahem,” said Ethan. “Zoe, focus. You’re here to help Celeste.”
Zoe frowned, stunned by Ethan’s bluntness, but nodded her head. She plucked a white feather from her wings and blew on it, a faint yellow dust floating around it.
Celeste took off her bandages, revealing the torn wings underneath. Zoe brushed the feather against her back, then backed up. I stepped forward, placing a hand on each of her wings. I concentrated on her wings, the thin material translucent in the sun, an absolute flurry of colors attached to her back. A small grey mist emerged from her wings, and I closed my eyes, lifting my hands as the thin material grew. A wave of dizziness overwhelmed me, and I stumbled on my feet, almost falling to the ground if it wasn’t for Ethan’s quick reflexes. I heard Celeste gasp, and I looked up to find her purple and yellow wings fluttering in the sunlight.