Sunday, 17 February 2013

Wingspan - The Big Tease, Part One

…kings of the land and the sky we are; proud gryphons.”
Stalker stands, the epitome of pride. Naked and muscular, his wings widen and his feet dig in as if he alone holds down the earth and supports the heavens, keeping the two ever separate.
“But you aren’t yet a master of the sky. Your body is still that of a human as is Feather’s. You will get on your hands and knees and ask the earth to shape her ruby.
“Only when the stone has been reshaped may you return home. When Feather forgives your theft she will accept it and in that moment you will both have the stamina to fly true distances and I will be proud to call you gryphon.”
Talon remains on the riverbed as Stalker turns and within a few strides is airborne; great wings take him away from his son. As Talon gets to his feet he suppresses the urge to call out in spite of his terror which is worse than his sudden loneliness. He’s beyond lost in the wilderness the humans call Ontario.


Jenn’s motorcycle jacket is a little tight. As the zipper comes down she can breathe again setting off a round of laughter from Terry.
“Easy on the zipper, Sis.”
She scowls and swings her boot nearly as hard as she can, catching Terry’s ankle. His boots are sturdy and no harm’s done but the message is clear. Comments on her weight are off limits even from her twin brother.
The wind catches his unruly blonde hair, a complete contrast to his sister’s tame brown braid. The usual joke that whoever mom was must have had herself a busy night because they can only have different fathers is understood. He’s big and loud where she’s petite and excruciatingly shy. Jenn has picked him up in the morning from the police station more times than she can count and he drops her off at her steady job as a bank teller before sleeping it off at her Parksville apartment or his. Terry is her best friend, father figure, confidant and conscience all rolled into one.
He’s also her only living family.
“Maybe I shoulda bought you a man’s jacket?”
This time it’s an elbow to the ribs. He’s only wearing a t-shirt and grunts from more than just his sister’s displeasure. It’s only a few hours since he went to bed after a late one with the guys.
“If a man’s jacket is too good for you then it’s too good for me, Terry.”
“Touché,” he laughs but keeps his arm down in case she decides to strike again. The jacket is the last birthday present he’ll ever give her and his suggestion she get one for a man earned him the finger at the motorcycle shop. Heavy as Jenn is she’ll be damned if she’ll ever dress like a man just to get a jacket done up. The sleeves would be too long anyway since the five foot mark on the bank door is at eye level. She’s never been flashy so it’s plain and black but it’s also clear she’s got all the curves a woman should have.
Jenn puts her hands on her hips and purses her lips daring him to speak.
“You’re pretty, Shadow,” Nuke interrupts, his eyes raking down her body. The compliment is only tame because her brother is listening. Terry’s forbidden him to speak her name so he calls Jenn after her ride, a 750. The handle stuck so long ago that at least half of today’s group doesn’t know her real name. Everyone calls him Nuke because there’s a good chance his engine will do just that before the dozen riders get halfway to Tofino.
Terry punches Nuke’s body armoured shoulder harder than necessary knocking him off the cement barrier he sits on. Nuke’s a big mouth on a small body and he doesn’t land too hard.
“Fuck you,” Nuke spits.
“You’re still not my type,” Terry says and lights a cigarette. “But keep asking. You got nothin’ to lose.”
Jenn shrivels at Nuke’s attention, leaning behind her brother and tugging her jacket closed. Nuke thinks it’s a game, hitting on her to make her ‘pretend’ she’s not interested but she just feels dirty. Whether she ignores him or not it only escalates when her brother isn’t there to shut him down. When she looks up Terry’s fingers are under her chin and he pulls it toward the sun.
Hold your head high, his big eyes smile.
Nuke walks away kicking dirt and holding his tongue. He knows when his bike dies he’ll be riding Jenn’s Shadow since none of the guys will give him a double and Jenn will spend the rest of the trip hugging Terry from behind. There’s a crunch as Terry’s boot scrapes his smoke into the gravel and he takes Jenn’s hand tugging her to their rides and signaling to the rest that it’s time to go.
“So where’s mine,” he whispers as she gets her helmet on, then he reaches to get a hand in her saddle bag. Terry had been bidding on a baseball a week earlier and he’s still steamed about losing in the final minutes to someone else. He doesn’t know he’d lost to his own sister who’d spent her vacation savings to get it for his birthday.
“You’ll get it later!” Jenn pushes his hand away so he gives her a quick hug like that’s what he’d meant to do all along.
Port Alberni is nice but it’s thirty-five Celsius and she’s already sweaty in her jacket. A swim in the ocean after stripping down to the one-piece suit under her motorcycle gear is about the only incentive to get back on the hot highway. Unlike her reckless t-shirt and shorts wearing brother Jenn prefers to keep her skin on if she takes a spill.
Terry pulls out first, Jenn close behind taking some satisfaction in cutting off Nuke. The roar of engines behind them is nearly deafening as they stick together best they can through the traffic and lights and make their way out of the city.
Everything is drier this side of Vancouver Island. The cool rainforest they passed through before Port Alberni is gone and the road gets twisty. Terry pushes the group faster, speeding up and leaning over as far as they dare in the turns. Another group of riders comes the other way and he gets a hand out to wave then turns to Jenn, grinning from under his beanie. He loves this: speed, heat. Showing off. It’s a good day. There’s a place by the river they’ll go when they get back to Parksville: drinking, camping, and the sounds of sex from the other tents.
Jenn winces at a small explosion and checks her mirrors. Nuke isn’t losing any speed but there’s a vicious dark grey cloud for the riders behind. Someone’s bitch seat girl mouths him off, her voice lost in the wind.
Looking forward again Jenn sets up for the next turn, moving to the center of the lane so she’s clear of anyone coming wide the other way and gravel near the shoulder but there’s a pickup skidding out of control into their lane.
Terry doesn’t stand a chance.
His brakes don’t light up though his bike wobbles as some part of him starts to react. Jenn has a little more time and manages to lose some speed, her heart sticking in her throat as her brother makes a Terry sized dent in the truck’s front fender. Spinning like crazy, his arms and legs beat the roof and Jenn catches the rear of his bike. He’s already out of reach when she tries to grab him and as she tumbles he lands behind the truck.
It stops half in the ditch.
There’s no pain so Jenn thinks she’s unhurt and when she looks for Terry she sees Nuke. He doesn’t even look at her brother and instead comes to her.
“Jenn, Jenn,” he cries. “Shit, Jenn.”
“Terry,” Jenn moans. Why don’t you help my brother, asshole?
Nobody is helping Terry. There’s a lump under her shoulder so she reaches to pull it free but it’s a boot and it won’t move. Nuke takes her hand and holds it still as he looks back at the wreck.
The driver gets out, unhurt. His passenger won’t stop screaming.
“Don’t look, Jenn,” Nuke says but Jenn has to. Through the deeply scarred visor she sees the big logo on the back of Terry’s shirt. The small one in front is out of sight. He faces her, his jaw slack and eyes half open. It doesn’t make sense that he could have put it on backwards without her noticing.
The air ripples above him, taking shape. Half again taller than a man and gracefully tapered at the top. The mirage folds in the middle before straightening again and collapsing.
“Thank you,” Jenn sighs to the shirtless man approaching her brother. The hot breeze moves his long black hair as he touches Terry’s shoulder but only for a moment before he stands. The air at his sides changes, warping the trees behind a mirage, spreading out like wings slowly folding and unfolding. The angel’s wings darken and cast a heavy shadow over Jenn’s brother then they disappear and the man walks away.
The police arrive before the ambulance and Nuke leaves Jenn’s side only long enough to throw up beside the truck. The beautiful angel is gone. Knowing he came for Terry is small comfort as she watches the police cover her brother with a yellow sheet and weigh it down with parts from his bike.

...I'm featuring several chapters from Wingspan, Taken on the Wing #1 over the next few weeks as I lead up to it's release this spring!

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