***I tried not think about the angel the next day. School proved a poor distraction, however, even if middle term tests were arriving soon. I thought of asking Renee, but she was in only one of my classes this year and I couldn’t think of a way to ask her anything without seeming too suspicious. I had never been interested in The Disaster the way she had.Home was entirely different. It was the first night and we would soon be deluged by my papa’s family. It wasn’t that I was unhappy to see my cousins, or that I didn’t enjoy frying an unholy amount of objects in oil or spending two hours talking over dinner, but I kept wondering wether the angel would come back. Perhaps she was tapping at my window now and getting no answer. But resistance was futile, and I was soon swept up in the happy preparations. It was nearly midnight when I stumbled back into my room with a plate of latkeh’s that I had managed to swipe.My brain protested the thought of doing anything that required it to work, so decided to make sure my leg was working properly. I lit the gaslight above my bed and removed my kit from under it. I had just begun polishing the brass surface when there was a tapping at my window.I pulled aside the curtains and the angel was there. I tugged the window inch by inch, my lethargic muscles protesting with each tug. The angel entered in much the same manner as she had before, albeit a little more graceful. She stared at me, and for one second as was confused. She was looking me over more than usual, especially at my leg.My leg. I was standing in my underwear with my brass metal prosthetic leg in full view.I dashed back to my bed and pulled my pants on. When I recovered, the angel was holding the plate of latkeh’s and poking at one with a fork.“What…are these?”“Latkeh’s. They’re basically potatoes and onions fried in oil.”The angel poked the latkeh again, then took a bite. She finished them as fast as she had finished the soup the night before. When she had finished, she resumed looking at me like I was some sort of wierdo. I defied her, examining ever inch of her feathered glowing self. She had a pendant on, I noticed, a clear drop of class. Finally, she spoke.“The lakehs. They’re a Chanukah thing, aren’t they?”I sighed, relieved. “Yes. We only have them on the first night though. Otherwise we’d all get heart attacks.”The angel’s lips twitchedI gestured out the two blue-white blazes in the darkness outside my window. “Every night, they’ll light one more until on the eighth night all nine of them are lit.”The angel bobbed her head in that particular way of hers.“And your leg? What happened to it?”Well, so much for avoiding that topic.“I…”Why did I have to tell her?The angel just looked at me, expecting. After all, she was winged and glowing. Why shouldn’t I be more forward about my own “handicap?”“When I was born, my leg was all funny. The muscle or bone or something was formed all wrong, and it was already infected. They couldn’t fix it, so they had to cut it off.”I glared back at the angel, daring her to say “I’m sorry”.Nobody knows what exactly The Disaster was. It happened hundreds of years ago, before we had build our cities that ran on the steam and gas from inside the ground. All I know that there was big explosion and then more big explosions. The first of the explosions was bad and it killed a lot of people, but it was the ones that came after that were important. Those were the reasons people like Jill started getting born. But people tend to forget that most of the kids that were different because of the disaster weren’t like Jill.They were like me.The angel was just staring at the floor now. She was going to say sorry, I knew she was. I decided to cut her off before she could.“What about you? How did you get here?”The angel’s gaze rose up from the floor, but she wasn’t looking at me. More like to the side of me, like she was seeing something I wasn’t.“My mother raised me. She made sure I learned about how the world worked, but we couldn’t go out because of well-you know,” she shrugged a wing. “When people like me get older, we usually get taken in by the government. They want to learn about us. I guess that isn’t bad, but I didn’t want it. I don’t want to be examined. I want to live. So I left”“How? It’s not like you can live normally.”“There are other people...like me. I think in the wilderness there might be others.”“And your just going off rumors?”“I have nothing else to go off.”We didn’t say anything more that night.
***I owe a debt to Renee. When we both were six years old I told her that Santa Claus did not exist, thus ruining her childhood forever. This has condemned me to go Christmas shopping every year, a punishment I probably deserve. I was a little brat back then.Only Renee’s idea of Christmas shopping is to take the train to the sketchiest possible artesian market in order to get “real” presents.I fingered the only thing I had bought, a small angel charm. Of course it wasn’t like my angel. Renee was staring out the window happy as can be, nestling paper bags in her lap. Her own present from me was lying, still unassembled on my workbench. I didn’t know if I would be able to finish it before Christmas. It was harder than I expected. I would stare at the pile of gears and want it to work but it wouldn’t.“What do you know about angels?”Renee turned to me, her face still glowing red from the cold and her triumph.“Well...you mean like real angels or-”“The real ones. The ones that happened because of The Disaster.”“Why so curious now?”“Just wondering.”Renee shrugged. “I really don’t know that much about them either. I guess they’re supposed to glow, kinda. I’ve heard that some of them have...abilities.”“Like what?”“Healing people, turning metal to stone, things like that.”“You mean magic?”Renee shrugged again. “Like I said, it’s hard to tell. People who’ve never seen gaslights might think they’re magic too.”
***When Jill stumbled through my window on the second night of Chanukah, I knew it was her last.“I have to go,” she said.I brought her a sandwich which she devoured, then she resumed her staring at me habit. I asked her if she wanted another sandwich. She swallowed.“You know,” she said. “My mother told me that people like me can do special things.”I raised an eyebrow. “What things?”The angel shrugged, much as Renee had earlier. “I don’t know really. But I…I need to thank you in some way.”She put her hand on mine, and I felt a brief jolt, like a train stopping. Then nothing.I could still feel my leg, hard and metallic against my hip. She had already started for the window.“Jill— wait.”She turned to me, eyes questioning. I hardly noticed their glow anymore.“Let me get you something for the road, okay?”She nodded, and I brought her back another sandwich and an apple in cloth bag.Then she was gone for the last time, and I never saw her again.
***It was a silly idea really, expecting her to heal me. To make me normal. But special is so unglamorous when it means a sore hip when you go down stairs. Even though I am proud of myself, there was still this silly part of me that wanted to be special like her.I stared at the pile of gears on my desk. Just a pile of gears that I couldn’t fit together. Except…What if I did that? The springs and gears and bits of metal at my desk suddenly began to assemble themselves in my mind like they never had before. It was a simple matter of getting this spring to hit this piston. One at a time, like a puzzle coming together.It took me the rest of Chanukah to finish it. When it finally lay on my desk, gleaming, I was half-afraid it wouldn’t work. But when I turned the key, the little mechanical bird began to hop about on my desk and sing. The tune was one of Renee’s favorites, a haunting but hopeful melody that people sang in the days before Christmas. It looked like a real bird, almost.I want to live.I couldn’t give it to Renee.I unlocked the door quietly. My parents were asleep already, and they would certainly be curious as to why I was sneaking down stares in the middle of the night.The wind got under my coat, biting my already freezing ankles. I wanted to go inside. I lay the bird down. Someone would find it, someone who needed more than Renee did.The towers blazed, nine magnificent pillars of blue-white light against the night sky. They would be dark tomorrow night. They’re horrible waste of gas.I looked up at the cold night sky.“Thank you.”
Edited by Yukiko, Jan 05 2012 - 11:34 PM.