Another one of Chuck’s Flash Fiction Challenges, from Terrible Minds. This comes in at exactly 1000 words.
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“What have you done?”
He stood next to where I crouched, looking down at the wreckage that was left. The pool of blood beneath me was still warm, pooling around my fingers and toes. The tips of my feathers dredged through it, even as it cooled.
I turned, looking up at him; there was not yet a word invented to describe the sadness on my face.
“What have you done?” I repeated, standing. The red of the body ran from my fingers and pattered back against the floor.
“I did nothing,” Phanuel said quietly. He stood in the blood, but it did not touch him. He was in the world, but not a part of it. “Free will. You remember.” His voice was a harmony of bell and string, a perfect chorus that stirred a longing in me I dared not name.
“He was getting better.” I pulled open the medicine cabinet door, looking at the bottles of pills all carefully arranged. I moved to take Phanuel’s hand and lead him into the other room. My bloodied fingers slid over his, unable to streak the perfect skin with red. “Do you see?” I offered, gesturing to the paintings. “He prayed for inspiration, and I brought him light. I sang for him, and this is what came of it. All this beauty, Phan,” I whispered. “He was getting better — why would he do this?”
“I see agonies, Helel,” Phan said softly, his fingers seeking mine, tightening. “Can’t you? He was tortured. He was driven to follow something so bright he was blinded,” he whispered. “He was not meant to see something so beautiful as you.”
The notion of it sent a terrible thrill through the heart of me, a thing of pain and power — to wield it, to bear it, had always been difficult. Crushing. “You think I did this?”
“When you are not careful, Hel, this is the least of what you can do,” Phan said softly, running a thumb over my knuckles. “Come home,” he pled, not for the first time. “All is forgiven. No one is angry. You played your part — you don’t have to be alone anymore.”
“And him?” I gestured to the body with my other hand.
“Who?” Phanuel, my beautiful Phanuel, was already alight with a readiness to leave. He glanced where I pointed, his brow furrowed “What of him? Leave him.”
“Leave him?” I whispered, and he knew I was pained as he moved to stand fully before me, taking both my hands in his. I looked down to see the blood still flecked over my skin, staining my feathers, none of it touching Phanuel, and bowed my head. “I can’t. I was all he had.”
“He had Adonai, Helel,” Phan whispered, sure of himself. Sure of the plan. “But he turned away his face. He could have made beauty to last lifetimes. He could have brought joy unlike anything these lowly creatures could have known, but he shunned it, and chose this, instead.”
“No one would choose this,” I said to Phanuel. “You must understand. No one would willingly choose this,” I told him. “No one would live inside their soap-bubble skins, their glass bones, their vulnerable hearts. He called it a gift — but it was a terrible gift they couldn’t possibly understand.”
“Mind your tongue,” Phanuel said, his eyes wide with shock. “You stand before me and I tell you that all of Heaven awaits your return. You could come home, Hel,” he whispered, seizing my shoulders, and for once, I saw something that was not certainty.
“I cannot,” I said sadly. “He only forgives those who repent.”
“Then repent!” Phan pled.
“I love them, Phan,” I whispered, and there were tears on my face as I said the words. “He made them, but I alone love them.”
“He loves them!” Phanuel said, horrified.
“He abandoned them!” I shouted.
“He gave them free will! They left Him!” Phanuel shouted back, his wings mantling, desperate fury rising in his eyes.
“And what did he give me?” I shouted in return, feeling my own rage rise up within me. “He loved me, Phan, and then He sparked in me That. Same. Free. Will! And then–“
“–and then you left us,” Phanuel cried.
“He cast me out!”
“Nearly half of us died that day! The Host felt your fall, Helel. And for what, this?” His voice was beauty and rage as he gestured to the man on the floor who was nothing more than cooling meat. “He already destroyed a piece of Himself as a promise they would know His love!” His expression grew beatific as he recalled The Great Song — His love.
He was radiant with it, but none of it touched me. Instead, I looked at my bloodied hands, and down at the broken thing that had asked for nothing more than to be able to create beauty, but had been too exhausted to bear the rest of the world. “He loves them so, He destroyed a piece of Himself, so they could know Heaven. So they could be at His side. So they could abide eternal, with Him,” I said to Phan, nodding.
“Yes,” he whispered, looking hopeful.
“He gave up the tiniest shard of himself for them, Phan. I gave up everything,” I said, trembling.
Phanuel looked crushed. His voice was small and quiet. “I hope it was worth it.”
“Someone must care for them,” I said, reaching down a bloodied hand to help up the young soul that rose from its broken shackle of flesh.
“But why you?” Phanuel said, reaching a hand to lay it against my cheek.
I turned my head and kissed his perfect palm, but then withdrew to wrap my bloodied wings around the soul of the dead man in my arms. “Free will,” I said. “You remember.”
The young man stirred in my arms and looked me over. “…am I going to Heaven?”
“No,” I said, kissing his forehead. “But I’ll take care of you.”