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Wings of an Angel
Father Richard Davidson could not sleep. He held his remote to the TV and swtiched it to The News Channel. The anchorwoman began to talk of the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and how they were breaking down. She began another story of clashes between Israelies and Palestinians on the West Bank, but Father Davidson just sighed, shook his head, and shut off the television.
"So much anguish between our people. Why can't we settle our differences?" he asked aloud.
Father Davidson stood from the chair in his living room and paced the floor. He felt tormented from the inside, as if his spirit and his body were at war. He stopped and looked out the window in his house to the church where he was the priest. It always made him smile, seeing the church lit up by the floodlights, its stained glass windows radiating in the night. He looked to his personal favorite, the Crucifixion of Christ.
Father Davidson turned from the window and grabbed his robes. He took off the loose nightie and put on the traditional garb of a Priest. "Never know who's going to be in there," Richard thought to himself. "I'd better look presentable."
After he had dressed, Father Davidson picked up the remote on the chair and turned the TV back on for one final look. The story of fighting on the West Bank was still on, and he had just turned the TV back on in time to see Israeli soldiers carrying dead comrades from the streets. Their arms dangled out of the stretchers. Faces were smeared in blood, and it was hard to tell that they were even human. Father Richard Davidson suppressed a sob, quickly turned the TV off, and walked out of the door of his house.
The June air was surprisingly crisp and chilly. Father Davidson shivered as he entered the foyer of the church. He dipped his fingers in the holy water at the door and made the Sign of the Cross and knelt before entering the hall.
He walked down the aisle that separated the two sets of pews in the church. He walked up the three steps to the small platform where the altar stood. Behind the altar, the wall was an elaborate painting of Christ's Crucifixion. He had a local glassmaker use that painting as the model of the stained glass window that he loved so much. He sighed and knelt in front of the altar. He whispered a slient prayer.
"Dear Lord, I feel so small and helpless in this vast world of sin and vice. Many times I have thought of giving up this cause of good. Please, I fear that I am losing my faith. Send me a sign that I can do more in this world, and that you still care about Man and forgive his sins."
Suddenly the most queer feeling washed over Father Davidson. His whole body tingled with electricity, and it felt as if a hot, thick cream was being poured over him. He looked up in sudden shock at the painting behind the altar. He could feel his shirt strecth and strain in the back. A sharp, stinging pain flowed through his back, causing him to stand bolt upright. He clawed at his back, and found with his hand two rather large growths from his shoulders. They began to throb and ache for release from the shirt. He unbuttoned the shirt and slipped it off. He breathed a sigh of relief from the discomfort that was quickly sucked back in by a gasp of horror when he realized what had happened.
He flexed his shoulders and two pure white wings spread themselves from his back. Father Davidson struggled for a breath. He fell to his knees and looked to the celing.
"Dear God in Heaven!" he cried. He folded his wings back to his shoulders. He felt odd in how natural that movement was. God had graced him with the wings of an angel.
He walked behind the altar and picked up the Holy Book from a small bench nearby. He thumbed through it, smiling happily all the way at the sign that God had graced him. He wanted to find the perfect passage to quote at the next Mass. His wings twitched nervously and Father Davidson giggled at the sensation.
His giddy attitude was suddenly cut short by the tingling sensation returning, this time in his hands and feet. He watched in silent horror as his middle two fingers began to merge together. Small red pebbly scales began to replace the skin on his hands. Small claws poked from the tips of his fingers as the scales covered the fingernails. He felt himself rise up a couple of inches as he stood on his toes. He felt them changing in his shoes, so he sat on the floor and stripped both the socks and the shoes away from his feet. His eyes went wide as he saw his feet finishing their own change. His human feet had been replaced with small slender toes, each with a small claw at the end of them. The heel shrank and thinned into another toe, and this one faced backwards from the other toes. Small reddish orange scales began popping up from the skin, replacing it. His feet and hands were almost identical.
Father Richard Davidson panicked. God had graced him with His glory! But, now He was turning him into a beast! Father Davidson trembled all over. He stood up on his new feet and almost lost his balance. He tottered for a second and then fell against the altar. He quickly grasped his hands together and offered up another prayer.
"Dear Lord who art in Heaven, why are you doing this to me? Why are you making me into a demon? Have mercy, I beg you!"
Father Davidson wept bitterly on the altar, his tears soaking the cloth that draped over it. The tingle had not stopped since the last time, and he could feel it spreading up to his legs. His thighs seemed to sprout feathers under his pants and thicken ever so slightly, but the didn't change beyond that. The feeling stopped just as suddenly as it had come, just below the waist. He arose slowly, getting used to his new way of standing. He sat (which was really more of a squat now) and stood to become accustomed to the sensation.
He looked around the room, suddenly sickened at the religious pictures and symbols around the room. His God had failed him, taunted him in fact! He staggered out of the church and into the foyer, his new legs giving way under him many times. He collapsed onto the door and cried heavily, his wings wrapping around him in a reflexive, protecting motion. It seemed so natural, so natural that it scared him. He straightened up and opened the door slowly, the crisp air striking him just as another wave of Change hit.
He moaned as his chest barreled and snow white feathers sprouted out over his arms and legs. His thighs spread apart and relocated themselves in their new sockets after his pelvis ceased its shifting around. He felt a set of long tail faeathers slide out of the base of his spine and ram into his pants. He shrieked in pain as he stripped them off as quickly as possible to free the growing appendage. He stiffened up at the Change met in the middle of his stomach, his internal organs seeming to twist and move within his stomach. He gripped himself with his hands, trying desparately to keep himself in. More white feathers appeared on his breast and waist, covering him in snowy, white plumage.
It seemed to stop there and he looked into the glass mirror above the holy water and gasped. His whole body, save his head, had somehow changed into some sort of bird. A dove, to be precise, he thought. What was God doing to him? What kind of sign had he been given? If he was not being punished, then what was the...
Before he could finish his thought, there was a knock at the door. Without even thinking he opened it, and a terrified little boy shrieked when he saw the priest. Father Richard jumped a bit and then tried to hide behind one of the doors when the boy spoke aloud.
"You're changing too, Father Davidson!"
Richard was baffled. He patted the boy's head with a clawed hand as gently as he could "What do you mean, my child?"
A woman, or what looked like a small antelope crossed with a human female took the boy's side in the doorway. She was crying and holding the boy's hand tight, and Father Richard swore he recognized her. "Mrs. Willows? Is that you?"
The antelope morph nodded her head, "Yes, Father. Are you ok?" Father Richard endeavoured to appear from behind the door, showing how far he had come. The lady gasped and the child clutched his mother even closer. "Oh, Father..."
Father Richard stepped aside, "Come in, come in. I must admit, I am a little relieved. I thought I was the only one..."
"No, Father. Everyone except the children are changing. People are going crazy. I needed someplace safe."
Father Davidson smiled. Perhaps he could help his fellow man after all, and maybe, just maybe, make a difference.
People of all shapes and species piled into the church that night, and Father Davidson attended them all. Some had bruises on their tails from where they had closed their kitchen doors on them, others were just scared of what was happening to them. He took each one in with a kind heart, no matter what their excuse.
Later that night, as he was leading the menagarie in a hymn, he felt the strange feeling return once again, but this time, he didn't fear it. He let the Change finish, his head shrinking a little while his teeth fused together and protruded from his mouth, forming a small beak. His eyes became solid and black, and his vision was much more acute than it had been. The feeling ebbed, and he smiled to the congregation, some of whom were applauding him.
"Now," Father Davidson said confidantly, "Where were we?" The group bagan singing once more as the morning light streamed into the church through the stained glass windows. Father Richard Davidson felt more alive than he ever had, and as the music and light swelled, he spread his wings and sang his heart out, jubilant that finally, mankind just might have something to look forward to in their future.
The Change, not Death, had become the Great Equalizer.
Wings of an Angel copyright 1997 by Trey McElveen.
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