On Growing Wings

First of all, it really itches. All the time, very deep, where it’d be too gruesome to try to scratch. It’s like the inside of the spine, a sharp, electric kind of itching that nothing but patience ever relieves.

Then there’s inflammation, everything surrounding the scapulae tight and hot and angry.

–Sometimes it’s only one, the other side just hanging around aching dully, but mostly they flare simultaneously, creating dread with every arm movement, always expecting the sharp, dense pain that will cause you to catch your breath.    

This goes on for weeks.     

Then it’s almost like the itching begins to float up through the layers of soft tissue, broadening as it becomes increasingly sub-dermal, suddenly pinpointing one day in the middle of each scapula, right there on the surface.     

This, you scratch.      

It itches so fiercely you wear your roughest shirts, knowing you’ll lean on the walls throughout the day, trying to create enough friction between you and them to chase the irritation away. You’ll catch yourself reaching over your shoulder, as far back as you can, scratching, rubbing, and tenderly palpating around your changing tissues.      

You’re shifting.      

Your bones are growing longer, more dense, preparing to hold great weight.

Growing wings.     

And just when you think you’ll lose it from the frustration of The Itching, the skin breaks. And it’s ugly. A hundred hundred hairline fissures in your largest defensive organ. Your back feels heavier, fuller, skin raw and wet. Growing wings, and all you’ve to show for it are your strangely larger scapulae and a prickly, weepy rash. It’s all the time, and all you can do is wait.     

But you can feel the shadow of where your wings will be. Like your nervous system has already laid the groundwork and is linking up with reference points that just aren’t there yet. Soon, but, until then, the tingly, fiery, mean itchiness drags on. Some days are easier than other days, but it’s always strange, sometimes awful, and occasionally excruciating.     

And then, the fever. Night sweats, terror dreams. Nightmares that your wings will never grow, that, if they do, they won’t be able to hold you. Your whole body hurts with fever, and your mind with your aching heart. When will they be here? Will they be here? You writhe, drifting in-and-out of agony for days, finally falling into a deep, still sleep.     

When you wake, the rash has subsided and you have downy-soft feathers (or rougher, leathery skin, if those are your type of wings) and somewhere in there you got your new bones and muscles. They’re so unusual, under-sized and unsure, all twitchy and weak, but you can start to flex and stretch them, reaching out. You can even see them just by looking over your shoulder, your funny baby wings.     

They do ache still, and they won’t so much as slow you down in a fall, but you can feel them growing so you care for them gently, stretching, massaging, and moving them daily. You stand in front of the mirror, twisting and torquing, trying to get a better view. You get new sensations from them, changes in temperature, pressure, and the directions the air moves around you as you walk. They’re almost like antennae, how you feel frequencies of people’s emotions through your wings. You are feeling more because you are more. It’s not like they’re just stuck on there, they are you, brand new super-sensitive someday crazy-powerful limbs. Wings!      

But it’s still awkward. Not everyone has seen someone growing wings, and people misunderstand, experiencing discomfort when you’re near, or plain judging you. Not only that, poor little baby wings get cold really easily, so all winter you’re just a strange golem huddling under a coat. Some people point, others stare, still others outright ask, “What’s wrong with you?” And with enough practice of patience you just shrug your little wings, saying, “I’m growing something awesome, thanks for noticing.”     

And growing you do.       

More weeks and months and finally a year, and those people have grown used to seeing your new stature, and you have honed the abilities to sense and feel and stretch and flap your wings–They’re fully grown. You can envelop yourself with them, warm and shielded. You can expand them to reach around others, many others, way more than your arms could ever hold. You’ve figured out how to dress around them, maneuver through your home without knocking anything down, and how to sleep soundly without them going numb.

And you know? Having these awesome wings makes all that suffering alright, and you have everything you need, now, to continue on–       

Now it’s time to learn flight.  

by Brandee Laird