Breath of Flight

Light.

Dark shapes parted as more light began to penetrate the thick, soft cocoon of webbing. They flicked together a few times, blinking to adjust to the sudden brightness.

Long, lithe fingers reached towards the surface, seeking out gaps between the threads, pushing into them. Harder. Curling, tearing and ripping the web away, forcing them through. Thin arms followed the fingers; then a small, pointed head, eyes blinking more in the sudden lack of shade; a slender torso draped in residual wisps of webbing; and spindly legs tipped by elongated toes. The last to emerge completely were a pair of large, pale, veiny wings. Their form continued to move, reaching towards the rays of gold… until a force yanked them back. Upon turning to see a distinctively sticky mass connecting the tips of their wings with a pulsating sack at the far end of the cocoon, the figure started to pull harder.

Again.

And again.

SNAP.

The wings sprung out of their snare and began flapping frantically, the small creature suddenly gasping as they felt their lungs heave and swell with oxygen. They clutched at their chest for several moments, body curling in a foetal manner as they tried to adjust. After a few moments they began to breathe in and out, and with each breath the wings went back and forth.

In and out.

Back and forth.

In and out.

Back and forth.

Finally everything moved at a slow, steady beat. Wings, lungs, heart. The wings were strong, holding them at a gentle hover over the thick branch below. For a moment they continued to flutter there, their wide, dark eyes taking in the new and vibrant surroundings.

No longer just a mass of white, the world exploded into greens, blues, browns, reds and yellows. Shapes swam across their vision, forming into figures before blurring with motion. And new sensations crawled over their skin, the heat beating down combined with a cool, sweeping feeling that made the leaves tremble.

As they took it all in, they started to lean forward for better look, almost immediately flinching when they nearly tipped over while stretching out their arms to try and regain balance. They took a few more breaths before tentatively flapping their wings, leaning forward again, though more cautiously than before.

And began to move across the air.

They kept up the pace, adjusting to the sensation. Then their mouth stretched across their face, curling as they began to pick up speed while their arms reached out to either side, unconsciously moving at the same motion as their wings. Forward. Forward. A branch tip started to draw closer, and they gingerly tipped their body to the side. They managed to avoid it, but ended up spinning around completely. They gasped a bit and rushed to right themselves, but once they were upright, their mouth began stretching again into a smile. Pressing teeth against the bottom lip, they turned left sharply and rolled several times, half shrieking half laughing. Soon they started swooping up and down, side to side, round and round.

Breathless from exhilaration but now in control of their lungs; the more they flew the stronger they felt. 

Flipping. Dipping. Swerving all around, ducking between branches and spiralling down towards the ground. Their eyes flicked over towards a large, glittering pool of silvery blue, resplendent and calm in the bright surroundings. Immediately they began to dive down, plunging into the shimmering mass with a resounding splash. Their body was engulfed, encased in crisp, cold, liquid sensation that was overpowering and refreshing at once. They immediately pulled back up to the surface, bursting out in rain of droplets while ripples swished along, disturbing the peace of the area. They let out another joyous, breathy cry, before turning their eyes back up to the open blue above. 

They flew upwards, climbing higher and higher. Skimming long lines of green climbing along the thick brown trunks, crashing through clumps of thin leaves, brushing against barely touchable white wisps scattered around this high place.

Higher. Higher. Even higher.

And the closer the blue became… the tighter their chest grew.

They began to gasp, their wings feeling heavy and sluggish, struggling to keep flapping. At first they kept pushing up but shadows started to sweep onto their eyes, their skin biting with cold as they began to turn rigid, unable to move. They desperately reached out, fingers stretching toward the blue. They froze. Their stomach dropped. And the sky fell further away as shreds of clouds rushed past them.

They got lower and the air got thicker, allowing them to gulp in more air their wings frantically flapping, feeling the very tendril between wings and lungs pumping desperately.

SMACK.

A shooting, aching jolt racked across their torso, the heavy pressure of the branch still present even after they hit it. They continued to fall, striking branch after branch after branch. Grunts and cries escaped their lips as the pain continued to assault their senses.

THUMP.

Solid ground. 

For a long while they didn’t move, body contorted tightly while their fingers dug into the ground, clinging to the secure surface. Everything screamed though no sound left their throat, their torso scratched, bloody and bruised all over. Finally, a small whimper broke the silence. Slowly, limbs trembling with each motion, they rolled onto their knees, pushing their body to shakily stand on the ground, lifting their eyes to the blue vastness far above.

And all the while their wings continued to breathe new life, keeping pace with the ragged rise and fall of their chest.

Rise and fall.

In and out.

Back and forth.

***

This is one of several pieces that I submitted to anthologies published by the University of Liverpool Creative Writing Society (I was a member during my undergraduate degree, it was a huge help and great fun). The anthology is called ‘All Hail the Slug Queen! and Other Stories’, it’s still available on amazon if anyone is interested. Everyone did a great job, there are some amazing pieces in there from very talented writers.

All Hail the Slug Queen! and Other Stories – https://smile.amazon.co.uk/All-Hail-Slug-Queen-Stories/dp/1511879831/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=all+hail+the+slug+queen&qid=1571838533&sr=8-1

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