Free fiction… kinda says it all doesn’t it! Hope you enjoy!
by Joanne Anderton
His wings droop in my hands. Petals plucked from a flower, their colors fade into the paleness of my palms.
I look up to find him watching me, leaning against the wooden bars of the cage. His nakedness, once so alluring, so promising, has become fragile and slack. Sweat sheens on his dark skin. He smells, not the healthy scent of procreation, not any more. Only blood and death.
Yet he smiles, watches me as I stroke his cobalt wings. His teeth are too white, his eyes too blue, his skin like moist earth. How beautiful his wings were when they carried him to steal rambutans with his lithe fingers. How vibrant.
He shifts his weight slightly and more blood drips to the ground. It surprises me. So much of it already stains the wooden floor of my hut; I did not know he had enough left to bleed.
But he smiles. “They will be strong.” His voice is deep. Like wind through the canopy, fierce enough to bend branches.
I glance at my bulging belly. The young are already visible beneath my stretching skin. Tiny bodies of white, and a single dark male. Maybe that is why he is proud. Males are so rare, after all.
“You do not look pleased.” He shifts again. This time there is a hitch in his voice, a little gasp of breath that leaves him weak.
I am numb to everything but the fine gossamer beneath my fingers. It is thinning to my touch, substance disappearing with color, his beautiful wings dying as he does. Even though they are no longer attached.
I have ruined him.
Slowly, I stand. Still naked, I am white against his dark. I am tall, tough and earth bound. I am his captor; I pulled him from the sky into an embrace so strong he could not escape. But I am shaking, my legs uncertain. They carry me across the room to collapse in front of the cage. He tips his head. Even in his death, he has time to be puzzled.
The smell of blood is so strong. It will stain the floor, become a mark of honor. And with each male I catch, with each male I mate, it will grow. But how can I do this again? With him gone, would I want to?
Something brushes my hand, and I look up to see his fingers on mine. They are small, delicate and dusky, while mine are pallid and thick. I clutch at them, squeezing them too tightly, feeling bones creak in my grip. Maybe he is too close to death to feel any more pain. I hope so.
Before I can control myself, the tiny brown wings on my back unfurl, poking at the air in pathetic, flightless twitches. Heat flushes up my body, turning my skin pink. I pull my hand away, revolted. I hate my body for wanting him again. The memory of ecstasy, of the moment I held his wings in my hands and finally took what I wanted, of how much I enjoyed ripping them from his back, possessing them, horrifies me.
Still on my knees I shuffle back from the cage, dragging his wings across the floor.
He is watching, but the smile is gone. His face is almost empty, and the wings are almost white. “Why aren’t you pleased?”
“You are dying.” The words creep from my lips. They are fog, and I am unable to stop them, to catch them before he hears.
“They are living.” Despite his death so close, he gestures. I feel the young squirm as though in response.
I do not want these lives we have made. My breath falters, and I grip his wings all the harder. “I want you. Please…I don’t want you to go…” I want the color of his wings. His dark skin, his light eyes. I want him to smile at me, and hold me, and love me. Not just for the children we will make.
He shakes his head and cannot understand. “This is the way things are. You knew this.”
And he is right. I did know, but I took them anyway. From the day I saw him, sticky fruit in his hands and beautiful wings beating, I wanted him. And I killed him, because I could not love him enough to stay away. I could not hold out, in the end.
“I’m so sorry.” I reach for the cage. He should be free, if he is going to die because of what I have done then he should die free. Not like the others of his kind, not like my own father would have done.
He should die with the sky above his head.
But his eyes close, and I let the wings fall from my hands. I stay on the floor and watch him die. All the while whispering. “I’m so sorry.”
The other women will be here soon. They will clean him and return him to his own kind. Then they will ease his children from my body and give them to the water. It will be their cradle and their mother. Another part of him I will lose, another choice I can not make.
But for the moment, in this brief respite of silence, of loneliness, I will sit here and stare at his bleached wings. And remember their blue.
I wrote Blue Wings after learning about a type of ant that also rips the wings off male ants before they mate with the virgin queen. Or something similar. I thought that was very disturbing, very interesting and very much worth exploring.