by Nick Allen
It looked just like a bundle of discarded rags at the roadside, but as I sped past I caught a glimpse of a hand reaching out. The road was quiet, it was raining, and if I didn’t help then perhaps no one would, so I stopped, then reversed to where she lay. She was old and thin, so very thin, and I lifted her into my car with no effort. She screeched as I moved her. I saw her ankle, the way it hung, dangled really, and understood her pain and realized it was serious. It took me twenty minutes to reach the hospital and all the while she was thanking me, telling me how she would repay me. She said ‘wish, wish for anything,’ and unconsciously I knew, for one brief second, what I would ask for, if wishes were to ever come true.
It was when I got home and had a shower that I first noticed the lumps below my armpits – in the mirror they looked like pebbles beneath the skin. I could feel them pulse.
That night I slept like never before and dreamt of climbing hills and running along cliff tops while the wind pulled me this way and that.
When I woke, the pebbles had grown into rugby balls and throbbed in time with my heartbeat. I rang the office, said I wouldn’t be in then jumped in my car and sped, not to a doctor or hospital, but up to Klindale Hill and parked. I still can’t explain why I drove all that way, perhaps it was the dream, perhaps worries about my mortality, but I needed to be alone. And high. It was still early and no one was about. Instinctively I took off my shirt while the skin under my arms began to crack. It didn’t hurt and I wasn’t frightened, I knew this was natural and meant to be. From beneath the torn skin, parchment-like wings began to emerge and unfurl, drying in the breeze as they went. In the end, their span was thirty feet each at least, but I controlled them like I do my breathing – without a thought.
Then the wind caught them and before I knew it I was flying, soaring higher and higher as I caught thermals in my span, swooping and climbing with total control, relishing the most glorious moments I could ever imagine experiencing. Minutes later I was back by my car the skin healed, watching my wings crumble to dust and scatter in the wind. I drove home slowly, feeling for the first time in my life I understood what it was to feel at peace with myself and the world, and I whispered a quiet thank you to my benefactor.
Back at home there was an answering machine message from my boss wanting to know where I was and what the heck was wrong with me. I called back and simply told him I’d flu.
Nick Allen is the group host for ‘Dorset Scribblers’, a creative writing group based in the village of Bere Regis.