Blood. She wondered where all the blood was coming from. She could see it cascade down her arms to the streets and buildings below – a great red waterfall raining down upon the city. She couldn't imagine it was all from her. How much blood can the body hold? And how much could she lose without spiraling down to the street unconscious?
Blood ran through the feathers of the wings at her sides, flapping lazily. Blood stained the white sheets red that covered her to her shoulders.
The wings drooped, over-weighted with blood and fell away spiraling to the ground. Still she soared over the city undulating like clean white sheets.
That's when the pain began. Sharp spikes of pain in her back widened her eyes and mouth in a quiet scream. Her mouth filled with her pillow, choking her.
The world narrowed to her skin feeling like it was being torn from the inside. Thousands of tiny points of pain combined until she could see only red. She felt herself fall, watched the ground scream upward. She watched as a spectator as her body plummeted. Just before impact, hundreds of tiny beaks tore from her back. Bird chirping filled her ears and the towering office buildings became walls of sound: chirping.
Her body burst as it hit the concrete into thousands of flapping wings and screaming beaks.
Tyler's mother called from the hall, "Tyler, are you okay? I heard you moaning as I came in." Tyler awoke with a start and winced at the pain in her shoulders. She noticed the sun was just peeking over the horizon outside her window. School was still hours away.
Around her pillow she mumbled, "It's just my period, Mom. I'll be okay, but I don't think I'll make it to school today." What is she doing? She never checks on me before work, Tyler thought. If it hadn't been for her dream, she would be incredibly annoyed at the early wake up call.
"Okay, honey. Call your father if you need anything. He's already up and in his study. He'll be here if you need him. I'm going to bed."
"Thanks, Mom. Sleep well." Of course Dad's here. He's here every morning before I go to school. It was a little odd that he'd be up already, but she knew he'd “write when it's right” as he constantly told her.
Tyler could hear her mother pad back down the hallway to her father's study. She heard a muffled conversation. Tyler imagined something like, "Tyler's sick.” Bitch, bitch, bitch. Complain, complain, complain. “Check on her in a few hours."
Her father answered absently, "Yes, dear." After a few moments he seemed more connected with reality. "Maybe it's diarrhea. Should I run to the store to shore up our medicine cabinet?"
Bitch, bitch, bitch. "It's always diarrhea with you, Harlan. Leave the girl alone. It's woman problems."
By that time, Tyler had tuned her parents out, and went back to sleep.
A knock on her door woke her this time. "Honey, your school just called to check on you. Whatever's wrong, I just told them it's diarrhea. What can they say to that?"
Tyler sighed without opening her eyes, "Thanks, Dad." She heard his footsteps disappear down the hall.
After a moment, she could hear him come back. "If it is diarrhea, there's medicine in the hall closet and Gatorade in the fridge."
"Dad!" Her dismay overrode the pain scraping at her back somewhere far away, but her loud complaint brought it right back. She gasped and buried her head back in the pillow. It had to be mid to late morning, but exhaustion pulled her back to sleep.
The sun was high outside her window. She was fully awake this time and she felt more fully rested. Lying on her stomach, she gingerly tested her back by shrugging her shoulders. It was a miracle; most of the pain had subsided, but she heard an odd rustling sound. She thought nothing of it and slowly uncurled herself from her bed; she took her time, wincing at each twinge of pain fearful that it would break the dam holding back the pain and force her to spend the rest of the day in the fetal position. When she found herself fully upright, she allowed herself a small smile. Not so bad after all.
Tyler swung her feet over the edge of the bed and sat there stunned for the second time. Several feathers were strewn about her bedroom floor. Blood spatters accompanied each one. She followed the trail of blood across the floor up her sheets to her clothes. Ragged strips of what was once her shirt lay about her bed. Her pajama pants were also a mess of blood. She felt around herself and peeled off what was left of her shirt from her sticky skin. Each strip splattered onto the floor near the feathers spraying them in tiny red droplets.
She felt around her chest neck, stomach, and lower back for the source of the injury but found only spots of dried blood. Tyler looked at the lone feather on her pillow and held it up to the light. It was the prettiest, purest white feather she had ever seen. Looking back to her bed and the floor, she thought maybe a large bird had gotten in somehow and detonated. She felt sad for the creature if that were true because its remnants were so perfect.
Tyler sat and contemplated the lone feather for a long time. The sun traveled out of sight of her bedroom window, and her father padded up and down the hall several more times to check on her. Eventually, Tyler made it out of bed. Her first stop was the bathroom attached to her room. After what felt like the world's longest pee, Tyler looked at herself in the mirror. She was shocked at the amount of dried blood on her chest, neck and face. If it had been some kind of terrorist bird bomb, it had been a big one. She looked over her too dark, unruly hair with the same distaste as every morning. Swan blood had done nothing to improve her opinion of it. She pulled and tugged on it but it still wouldn't cooperate. Bits of feather slowly fell to the sink. Her pale blue eyes judged her too thin, too frail body in the mirror. Hands on her hips, she twisted slightly to see how much of her was covered in blood.
Tyler's breath locked in her throat. As she pivoted in front of the mirror, she saw that she now had two small wings sprouting from her back. The room swam, and she had to grab the counter for support. She gently sat herself on the closed toilet lid and buried her face in her hands. What did I just see? First the crazy dream and now this? she thought. I'm losing it. Finally, what everyone says about you is true, Tyler, you are crazy.
She took several calming breaths and risked a sidelong peek through her fingers. She saw herself in the mirror, sitting on the toilet. Two pristinely white wings jutted up from her back beyond her view of the top of the mirror. She buried her face in her hands again. No way this is happening. This is not possible. The enormity of what has happening to her slowly began to sink in.