Emilia opened her eyes to a world of miracles.
Her beloved mother, rejuvenated and restored to a youthful beauty that pre-dated her own memories, was there to attend to her. Beside her stood long-lost relatives and friends who all but glowed with a vibrant inner light.
She awakened to full knowledge and understanding. Still, she was unprepared for the exuberant emotions associated with the realization of her wings. As Emilia slowly sat up, her wings gently unfolded from their tucked-in position to expand and flex on either side of her.
Then a thrill ran through her body as she felt a cluster of her sensitive feathers touch something.
She glanced behind her to see her Uncle Bash voicing an unspoken expression of apology. One of her novice wings had brushed against his... and he had apparently felt it immediately. The cascade of emotions was startling and immediate.
She vaguely recalled the broken and shriveled image of her father’s brother Bashone, as he’d ambled through her rapidly evaporating memories with his walking stick. He bore only a slight resemblance to this smiling, robust man who supported a massive set of powerful looking wings with no effort at all.
In addition, the realization that she could literally feel each feather, much like you could feel the fingers on your hand was a revelation… although she somehow knew this already. But she had no expectation of the sensations of pleasure associated with such a brief and unintentional caress. Her uncle understood that he had been too close behind her and had, therefore, accidentally caused this very intimate encounter.
Gradually, her growing understanding of her newfound wings revealed that while flight was surely open to her… it would likely be a very infrequent occurrence. It would be exactly like subjecting her most sensitive nerve endings and tender parts of her body to harsh, buffeting winds. Not a good idea.
Instead she had been given a whole new erogenous organ to explore and experience.
The satisfied expression on her mother’s face told her that Emilia had found the state of comprehension and stability that she needed to see in her daughter. With that, her mother moved off to join others. Emilia might have vaguely recognized some of them … or maybe not.
Meanwhile, she found herself in a place that was not quite a garden, and not quite a grand courtyard… but close. It wasn’t really outdoors, even though she could feel the rays of warm sunshine on her face. It was often difficult to tell the difference between blades of green grass beneath her feet... and a thick carpet of many colors.
Wherever she was, she could discern both male and female bodies in various states of repose all around her. Some were lying down, others were walking hand-in-hand, and a few sat quietly watching others, or writing, or sketching, or something like that. And while she had the sense that clothing was clearly optional and in very short supply here… no one really appeared to be naked either.
She learned quickly as she began to mingle and smile at these friends and strangers that she already loved so dearly.
With little or no effort, she could literally wrap her supple wings around herself in a feathery, full-bodied hug. She’d seen several others doing it, whether they were alone or in a group. She had a singular fleeting thought that this was a little like public masturbation before that thought simply melted away. Any inhibitions she might have had about it were also gone and it was simply all right.
More and more she encountered faces she had known… and faces that were unknown, yet familiar.
She found herself becoming intimately familiar with one man’s maleness, even though she was very sure that she had never met this person before. Similarly, he acted as if he knew her… and taught her a great deal as he stroked the inner tendons of the muscular wings that emerged from her shoulder blades. She thought she would collapse from sheer pleasure.
He was the first to teach her many things.
For example, while her neck had always been very sensitive, she soon learned that she now had a new growth of small feathers from her hairline… down along the center of her spine. When he tickled these small feathers with the tips of his wings, she was treated to a rich tableau of mental imagery depicting his story. It was as if she had lived his life with him.
She now knew that his name was Aiman, which was a Muslim name that meant “fearless.” His life history, his dreams, and his faith were all there for her to see and to quickly add to her own understanding. Only then did she truly “see” him and recognize his Arabic features.
In response to a stray thought, she briefly tried to reconcile this place with what she could remember about heaven, and angels and such. How could someone like Aiman, who had been a devout follower of Allah, be here in this place with her? She had once believed in something else as well… but that was now a faint memory.
Unable to reconcile what she could see, with what was once thought to be true… all such considerations simply melted away.
Not long after that, she found herself intertwined with a woman this time. Their feathers were possessively wrapped around each other, distinctive from each other only in their coloration. The wings of this tall, handsome woman, smoothly emerging from her chocolate brown back, were a blend of auburns, and fawn, and orange, and taupe. Emilia’s own wings were shades of white with gold and mustard tips.
This woman was also very old, although she moved with timeless grace and elegance. Emilia could feel the centuries that she carried so lightly as they overlaid their feathers with joy. Her name had been Louam… Ethiopian for “sleep well.”
As Louam trembled against her, Emilia began to take note of the wide range of skin colors and races in their immediate vicinity. Groups and couples all completely intermingled with one another. So many Asian faces. Men and women were embracing each other in a collage of arms and feathers, as far as she could see. She could also see two men, lying beneath what might have been a small brugmansia tree, locked in a passionate, winged embrace. For every male and female couple she saw, she saw an equal number of same-sex couples right beside them. She found herself smiling at that… and had no idea why.
Somewhere else… she believed that she could hear children playing.
And it was all good.
Jasmine opened her eyes to a world of intense need and isolation.
As if through an opaque film, she could see a panorama of stunningly attractive creatures as they emerged from their prior status to discover their new wings and the world around them.
She recognized one who had been subservient to her. She had been called Emilia… and for an instant she was happy for the connection.
Then, as full knowledge and understanding caught up with her new reality, her eyes bulged wide as an animalistic sound of misery escaped through her throat.
No one could hear the sound she made.
Jasmine would only be able to watch. She would never be able to interact with anyone. No one would even be aware of her presence.
Unlike those that she now watched, her memories were completely intact. She could recall every vivid detail of the life that she lived as if it happened yesterday. She could see her decisions, her actions and the people that were harmed under her rule. These were the people that she should have protected.
Now she was here and she too had been given her wings. They were heavy, leathery things that made her naked flesh bleed as she felt them move… and they continuously moved painfully without any conscious effort on her part.
Her aching body was now completely hairless, and completely featherless, but she did indeed have wings.