- Part 1 -
- Part 2 -
- Part 3 -
- Part 4 -
- Part 5 -
- Part 6 -
Katya woke at dawn. The curtains were still open and the first golden rays of the rising sun lit up one corner of the room, right where Selina was curled into a chair, asleep. Her friend held peacefully in hazy amber.
Then there was a rapping at the door. Katya jumped. She stared towards the hallway, then back at Selina, confused.
“Don’t bother getting up,” Selina said, with a soft sadness to her voice. “He has a key, doesn’t he? I’m sure he’ll let himself in.”
“Who–?“ Katya began, but she knew.
She just didn’t know why.
The key turned in the lock, she heard the door open and close, and then he was there, in the doorway. Larry. He looked at Selina.
“Here already?” He growled softly.
“Well someone wasn’t playing by the rules.” Selina’s answering voice was shod in steel.
“Whose rules? His rules? That’s kind of the point, isn’t it?”
Katya looked back and forth between them. Selina bathed in sunlight, her blond hair incandescent, the glow catching and cradling her fine features. Larry where he stood in the dusky darkness of the hallway, his dark eyes bottomless, shadow crouching about his shoulders like an ethereal familiar.
And Katya in the middle.
“What is this?”
As she asked she felt her world crumbling beneath her; she felt the rush of her dreams, the air buffeting her, shaking her; something of great import, great mass, rushing towards her.
Larry looked at Selina, “Well, will you tell her?”
Selina held Larry’s gaze. Katya knew they didn’t get on, but this felt deeper than anything she had witnessed before. Something cold and heavy stirred in the pit of her stomach.
“Your time is up, Katya.” Selina said at last. “Thirty three years and three days to know what it is to be human. And now you must choose.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You will remember,” Selina continued. “I suspect something has been coming back already, the feelings, if not the memories. What it was like to fly, to truly see a person. What it was like to be the angel you once were.”
“I...” Katya’s mouth worked, but no more came out. She stared at Selina. The world roared mutely. The room tilted. It was too much, and then it was gone, and she knew it was true, but no more. She could not remember. Not yet.
Selina seemed to sense Katya reaching this understanding. “An agreement was reached, a contract drawn up, that we might experience human existence, that we might sample this thing that was the pinnacle of His creation.”
Larry laughed then. And part of it was the chuckle she had grown to love, when the joke was only between the two of them, but part of it was something far darker.
“And do you see what pathetic creatures they are? You see how weak, small and confused you have been made by this self-determination they are given so easily. Simple unruly love has broken you.”
“You have to preach, don’t you?” Selina looked at him pityingly. “Trying to convince yourself, still? You twist reality, but that has always been your way. Katya, you have felt love that arose from your choices, and you have felt heartache, through your own choices. With every choice comes some new experience. Is that not something wonderful?”
“Pure Fallacy. Choice should be earned. We spent millennia knowing nothing but love for Him; when we made our first choice it was the hardest thing, so we knew it must be right, we knew we had earned it. Humans have no appreciation for the free will they are born with.”
“Wait.” Katya screwed up her face in thought, chewing her lip. “So I’m a fallen angel? I turned against God and now I have a chance for redemption.”
“Redemption? Redemption implies some act of wrongdoing; it implies those who left – left, not fell – were in error.”
“Every angel gets the experience, and the choice, Kitty Kat. Both sides.”
“The battle lines are being redrawn. You get to make your choice again, Katkin.”
He spat the name at her like an insult. The entirety of human weakness summed up in the absurd emotional bondage of pet names.
“You can go crawling back to His side, give up at the first real choice you have ever had to make, the hardest, and bow to these pathetic, destructive, unappreciative, whiny animals–”
“Or,” Selina cut across him, “you can appreciate the simplicity we had. The choice that was never ours to take, and the honour we were freely given.”
“Honour?” Larry sneered. “What honour?”
“That we had a hand in this strong fragility, this flawed beauty, these divine contradictions. That we have stood beside perfection and been shown how to appreciate the imperfect. That we get to watch over all these tiny wonders.”
“I have to choose?”
Larry nodded, “your last choice or your first.”
Selina frowned at him, “honour or perfidy.”
“Freedom or slavery.” He countered.
“Protect them or persecute them.”
Katya looked from one to the other, her mind a rushing tornado of feathery chaos.
Then her mind calmed. Really, it was a choice all humans have to make, most days of their lives. Others, or themselves. And sometimes it was a big decision, and sometimes it barely mattered. Sometimes it was easy, and sometimes it was hard. For her, this wasn’t a difficult decision at all. This was something she had decided a long time ago.
Thanks for reading Fifteen Feathers. I hope you've enjoyed it, I hope you like the ending as much as I do, ambiguous as it may be. - John X.
Recommended Reading: The Tiger Machine by R.S. Bohn
Marvellous moustaches, monstrous machines and not-quite-tigers. Outstanding.