The Black Stag

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For those who never stop trying to fly, no matter how many times they have fallen. 

~*~

She was falling.

Down.

Down

Down.

She tried to glance back, over her shoulder, but the pull of gravity would not allow her to pivot her head. The wind blew her large wings up on either side of her body, broken and unmoving, enfolding her in powder white feathers, wrapping around her like a cloak as she cascaded. She could still see the warm light of her home in the distant skies. She stared up after it, but it grew ever dimmer as she was pulled down harder passing stars and galaxies, passing planets and moons, passing earth, and still falling.

She tried again to move her flaccid wings.

Nothing.

She was too weak to fly any longer.

Her body began to drop past thick, purple clouds like nothing she'd ever seen before. The fall became faster, and then there was pain. She tried to scream. No sound escaped her throat. Her wings began to burn at her sides; the white feathers began to curl up in smoke and red-hot embers, disintegrating to ash and mingling with the heavy clouds. The smoke danced above her as her wings were devoured.

She realized with a shock that she would never fly again.

Suddenly the fall quickened, as if before it had been in slow motion, as if before she had been falling through molasses.

Now she fell as quickly as a stone would sink in the water.

She passed black, barren, fingerlike treetops, sinister branches reaching out to snag at what was left of her wings as she fell, the crippled, burnt remains of what had once been. A moment later she felt her bare back smack against hard, dry earth. The lack of pain when her body finally reached the ground startled here. It had been the only painless part of the fall.

All that remained was an echo that reverberated through her very bones.

She stood up slowly, her legs wobbling beneath her. All around her were the skeletons of trees, as black and burnt as her wings were before they finally burnt away and left her shoulder blades naked. Their ashes danced on the ground beneath her feat. The sky lent little light across the skeletal forest. She scanned the abysmal landscape. There was nothing but the darkness and endless, bare woods.

That was, until a black stag stepped out from between the trees.

He moved like a shadow, silent and fluid. He was larger than any stag she had ever laid eyes on and as sable as a raven's wings. Even his hooves and enormous antlers were dark, shining ebony. His whole being was gloom and smoke, pitch, except for his shining red eyes. The eyes were what captivated her: rich, deep, crimson that pierced through the dark woods, like light glittering off of cerise rubies. He walked towards her without a sound, his shining, blood eyes fixed on only her, until he stood before her, an enormous inky stag before a silvery fallen angel.

He stared for a long moment before he finally spoke with a billowing, deep voice that echoed amongst the shadows.

"You chose to fall."

With a soft, quivering voice she hesitantly replied, "I was made to fall."

The stag stomped one hoof on the ground, tossing back his antlered head with a loud, breathy snort. The ground beneath him trembled.

So did the ashes of her wings.

His liquid red eyes narrowed, and he repeated, "You chose to fall."

"I was made to," she insisted, sure that it was all she could have done.

The stag laughed then, a horrid, sinister laugh that made her bones quake.

She shook her head, eyes watering angrily.

He said it again: "You chose to fall."

Frustrated, she held her tongue and clenched her fists. She looked away from the stag and up towards the clouds, towards home. But she could see her home no more. There was no warm light from above only vaguely purple-black clouds. She stared for so long up into the swirling clouds that she found herself wondering if there ever had been a home up there, or if it had all been a dream. Surely nothing could exist beyond the thick, dark mass that was her new sky.

The stag stomped one hoof again to regain her attention.

Her eyes came back to him.

The warm memories of home were fading, and fading fast.

"It is hard to fly," the stag nodded.

Sure, it had been hard to fly; yet it had been so painful to let go, to fall. Losing her wings had been more agonizing than anything she could ever remember feeling, though she found she could no longer remember much, and it all slipped further away the longer she stared into the stag's ruby eyes.

"But is it easier to fall?" she asked.

"Yes," replied the black stag, "Now, come."

She didn't know why, but she wanted to go. She wanted rest. But she was torn. Part of her remembered her beautiful white wings pulling her above the clouds, above the skies, above the universe. She had seen it all, the beauty and the madness.

She had grown tired of it.

It was hard to watch.

It was hard to fly.

Oh, but wasn't it wonderful, at times.

Wasn't it?

She wracked her brain; but she found it hard to remember, hard to see the good.

"Come," the stag implored.

She was too tired, and she wanted it to be over. She couldn't fight him, not now; So she nodded once and followed the stag into the shadows of the trees. But as she walked she felt sudden warmth against her bare shoulder, and she looked up to see a small pinprick of bright, white light just peaking through the deep, bruised blanket of clouds above; and through the pinprick something small and barely visible began to fall towards her.

As she stared up at it, she realized it was a tiny white feather floating, falling, with the thin stream of light shining down on it, guiding it straight to her. She opened one palm and allowed the delicate feather to light on her hand. The black stag looked back at her, and she closed the feather in her fist.

She held the feather tightly, and suddenly, a single, ephemeral thought ran through her mind: maybe she could fly again somehow. And she clung to that brief thought, that single white feather, as if it were more valuable than life itself. 

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