It began in early winter, not yet two years ago, a singular prick where blades meet mid-back. Snow dusted brown grass, and an irrepressible itch settled just out of reach along my spine. Soon lightning tumbled from the clouds, secretly nuzzling the tendons and bones of my shoulders, scattering blisters like raindrops across my back. Dreams rose from the darkness and were corrupted by wailing choirs of distraught angels, a sanctified aching adagio of rebirth.

Quivering, the first shaft worried unbroken skin, held uncomfortably close, but safe inside…safe. An old forgotten wild child soon burst forth, unstoppable and unrepentant, ripping my skin open from within. Threads of human cartilage became the strings of lyres stretched across my shoulder blades, and with each strum the howling of beautiful tortured creatures once more disturbed my sleep.

Summer’s heat brought fears that I would not survive. What had started as a brief twinge before becoming constant pain now grasped my heart through the midline of my chest, having wrapped snakelike around my torso from spine to diaphragm. I could not stand, could not breathe, and, I was certain, would not live through this unwanted transformation.

For months the pain left me staggering as each new vane emerged from my back, heavy with unknown purpose yet light as the clouds that now seemed irresistible. I could not understand why no one else saw my physical changes, even as I struggled to see them in the shadowy images of mirrors caught in my peripheral vision.

One morning I rose from my bed, casting off sleep. My arms strained upwards and feathers floated to the floor.

February came again, its ice causing the branches of the pear tree out front to weep. A lone dove mourned the wet ground under a rainbow. 

MELANIE ARROWOOD WILCOX is an author and artist. Her creative work focuses on nature, the spirit, and the development of people within their communities.