a particular form, shape, or structure.
It was a habit of mine: not seeing horrible, gory wounds. I'd go as far as saying it was one of my main hobbies. I expended an extraordinary amount of effort into seeing people with whole, unruptured, fully-functioning bodies.
Call me crazy, I just kinda liked it that way.
This made two in one evening. Sure, this guy wasn't inside-out, but the hole in that wing wasn't doing him any favours and had turned the shed a dark crimson. Every step I could feel the squelch as my bare feet soaked up more of his blood.
I'm usually pretty decisive. But not this time.
In version one I tip-toe back out of the shed, scamper back across the garden and pick up the phone in the house. Ten minutes later the police arrive, storm through and take the guy away. They thank me, my dad's impressed for the first time, and I get a great story to tell at school. I never see the guy again.
Or maybe I give him the full fox treatment, biting into that bloodied wing and sinking my fangs in deep, poison flowing into his body. He wakes, jumping to his feet, and lashes out, his strong arm smacking into my face and knocking me back. As he rises and leaps towards me I grab a pitchfork from the tool shelf and swing it around in front. He impales himself and staggers back, then I pick up a shovel and bring it down on his head. I tie him up before he comes to and drag his sorry ass down to the police station. Kicking open the front door, I slide him across the polished floor, as the cops and other perps turn to look in astonishment. I stand in the doorway, silhouetted against the streetlights. It's pretty sweet.
I ignore the blood-washed floor and move quietly closer, aware of my own breathing and my beating heart. I can see his chest rising and falling, his breath sporadic. He might be dying. I pick up a gardening fork from the workbench, just in case, and lean in close, the fork held up in front of me as I peer at his face. His eyes suddenly snap open and and arm rushes out, seizing my wrist in a firm grip. He looks at the fork, then back at me, and whispers, "you have nothing to fear from me." I remove his tattered shirt and tend to the wound, delicately removing the remains of the bullet. He grimaces but doesn't cry out. "I owe you," he says, voice hoarse but powerful. I close my eyes and lean in.
Nope. That didn't happen either. Tempting, though.
"Hey!" I keep my voice down, not wanting to wake up the neighbourhood. He doesn't stir. I shrug, then kick his leg, hard. "Hey, dead guy! You're bleeding on my floor."
That got him moving. He groaned, and turned towards me, bleary-eyed. "Fuck," he said.
"Are your wings absorbent?" I asked. "Will they mop up all this shit?"
He tried to sit up, making the mistake of putting weight on his injured wing. He collapsed back to the floor with a thud and a moan. Glancing over at his wound with a wince he asked "Did I get shot?"
I nodded. "And guess what's weird, right? I saw it happen. A couple miles away. And now you're right here in my garden. What the hell?"
"Weirder things have happened to me lately," he said, grunting. With my eyes adjusted properly to the dark I could just about make out his face, although the dirt and blood didn't make that any easier. The wings were clear testament to his birth year, but I didn't recognise him from any particular phase. January wings tended to be more feathered, while April wings were gliders rather than free-flight. Each day was unique, so it wasn't like I would know them all, but the annual pattern tended to develop in a predictable manner - much like me and Rachel both being squamata but differing massively in our genotype due to our birth date.
Not recognising him wasn't unexpected, given that wings tended to keep to themselves. They made their buildings tall and without ground floor doors for a reason. Nevertheless, there was something a little off about this guy, something just out of reach.
"I'm thinking you don't want me to call an ambulance," I said.
He snorted. "That'd be a bad idea." He moved into a seated position, more carefully this time, avoiding the damaged wing. Part of the wing hung loose, the frame shattered and snapped. "You should probably go," he said, looking my dead in the eyes. "The less you're involved the better, for you."
"Yeah, I'll just pop back to bed, then."
After a moment he smiled, then shrugged, then regretted the shrug. "Alright, then," he muttered, "your funeral. You got something I can bite?"
All I could think of was smut.
"I mean like a small piece of wood. Or the handle from one of those gardening tools. Yeah, pass it over."
I picked up a trowel from the workbench and handed it over, reaching out as far as I could and half-flinging it at him. I wasn't getting too close. The police don't send ten cops into a packed venue without some kind of good reason.
Holding the trowel, he looked at the damaged wing, then glanced up at me. "This is going to give you nightmares," he said, putting the handle width-ways into his mouth and biting down, his jaw clenching hard.
All his feathers fluttered as if in a breeze and he grimaced in evident pain. His left wing arched upwards, stretching into the perfect double-arc insignia that adorned every building owned by wings. The other wing flexed but didn't respond, hanging limply and still bleeding. He cried a muffled cry and sweat appeared on his forehead as his face turned red and his breathing intensified. There was an alarming series of cracks and both wings jerked, then shivered uncontrollably for a few moments, followed by another, longer series of rending cracks.
I was so consumed by the behaviour of his wings that I almost missed the two wounds that had opened up on his temples, large slits that were growing in size, blood pouring from them as something started to protrude out of his head. As in, actually poking through the skin, from the inside. His face was a contorted mask of agony, basted in sweat and saliva.
Another sharp crack and the wings collapsed to the floor. At first I thought he'd simply relaxed them, then I realised with a jolt that they were no longer attached. Both had fallen away, separated from his body, the bloodied stumps where they had connected to his back clearly visible. Feathers drifted away from the frames like autumn leaves.
The ordeal seemed to last forever but can only have been seconds. Before me was the same man, but no longer winged. He'd impossibly changed type and was now a bovid, complete with curved horns emerging from his skull. The wooden trowel dropped from his mouth and he sat gasping for breath, before lifting his head up and staring at me from a blood-streaked face.
"Let me guess. You didn't see that one coming, right?"
Thanks for reading! Please do vote or leave a comment to let me know what you thought. Chapter notes can be found on my blog: https://simonkjones.com/tag/a-day-of-faces/
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A Day of Faces (complete novel)Science Fiction
WATTY 2016 winner! In Kay's world, weird is normal. Girls have tentacle dreads, there's a ruling class of flying angels, some folk have fur or horns and others can see heat signatures through walls. All of this made total sense to Kay until she met...