by Kyle Massa
“I can give you wings,” he said.
That was all. That and an enigmatic smile, a smile that might’ve been warm or predatory or indifferent. All he wanted was an answer. A yes.
I gave it to him.
I came to him the following Sunday. He invited me into his office and asked me to take off my shirt and lie down. He scratched X’s onto my shoulders with a black felt-tipped marker. He set the wings next, cool and soft against my back.
“This next part will hurt,” he said.
There were fourteen silvery screws––seven for each shoulder. He had to hammer them in first, had to push the sharp tip through skin, through flesh, into the bone until the threads caught. And then he ground them downward, slowly. With each rotation I felt my bones cracking, heard hot blood trickling onto the floor beneath me.
He played Mozart while he did it.
I returned to him each morning, and each morning he offered me a smile and a hot chocolate with soggy marshmallows floating on the surface, and he asked, “May we continue?”
And, each morning, I nodded and said yes.
He ground the screws further, further. They held the wings in place, he told me patiently. He was always patient with me. I sobbed and I squealed, but I never asked him to stop.
Afterward, only the wires remained.
“These will connect to your nerves,” he explained, holding up blueish, rubber-coated wires that resembled exposed veins. “The union will be difficult at first, I expect. But in a few months, your body will accept them. The wings will be yours. And you will fly.”
I promised him I could be patient.
It took nine days to complete the procedure. I’d never felt so much pain, never knew so much of it existed in the universe. I was a crossroads of agonies. Every gash, every blow, every burn and bruise and break and wound converged on my body––on my back.
But I would have wings. He promised me that.
Months dragged by. I observed myself in the mirror each day. I stood naked, flexed the muscles in my back, willed the wings to move, endured the pain. They did move. I’m sure they did.
It couldn’t be much longer. I called his office, but no one answered. I stopped by the office, but he wasn’t there. A custodian told me that the police had taken him away in the night. They said he was a criminal, that he had played cruel games with people’s bodies. He wouldn’t be coming back, the custodian assured me.
I did not fail to notice his eyes flick to the lumps on my back, beneath my coat.
It’s been a long time since then. Long enough. I’ve looked in the mirror each day and I know I’ve seen the wings move.
I stand over empty space. My wings shudder in the wind. The pain is still there, is always there, but I know I won’t feel it once I’m off the ground.
“I can give you wings,” he’d said.
Someday, I’ll find a way to repay him. For now, I step out into open space.