Mona watched them with dark, darting eyes as they dipped and tripped over the makeshift dance floor in the stuffy basement. Their laughter sounded high and clear, silky strands of hair catching the dim light and refracting it into a million shimmering sparkles.
She gripped her cup, the plastic cracking between her fingers, the piss-warm and piss-taste beer threatening to overflow. Careful, careful, she chastised herself, easing her grip, forcing herself to relax. To ignore that itchy feeling between her shoulder blades. The tingling at her fingertips that drove her to something. Was it one of them? She puzzled over it while she watched, her eyes catching everything.
Mona did not dip and trip. She had never danced.
She pushed heavy strands of hair behind her ear. It did not catch the light. Oily, black, it bled into the shadow, clinging to the space she had come from and would slide back into when she found why she had been called here. Her laugh, if she laughed, would be deep and raspy. The part of her that could make sounds like the girls, high, clear tones, was not her throat.
Quietly she watched them, dark eyes following their movements, a hunter, always a hunter no matter what the stories said. Attempting to unravel the mystery of why she was there at all. Out of place in her drab dress, her still body.
They smiled with lips stained bright colors, their cheeks glowed, golden shine like sun, their eyes were large, ringed with shadow. Beautiful and young, impossibly young.
How? she thought, darting her pink tongue out quickly to moisten her own lips, red, so red. Her cheeks did not glow, what gold she had ringed her eyes.
They did not notice that she was not like them when she slipped from the shadows. But then, people see what they want to see, and if Mona knew more of the world, she would know that. But all she knew was hunger and feast, so she held herself tight and close, nervous to be alone, but the others wouldn’t come. They didn’t answer anymore.
It had been so long since the burn, the itch of the blood. The need to answer. How could they ignore it? They had laughed their throaty laughs, said it would pass but helped her anyway, for they were good sisters. Mona was happy for them in the long empty days they sat hungry, waiting for the feast.
“It will be worse,” they said, digging through rags. Cloth so old it crumbled. “When you come back, the hunger will be worse.”
Mona didn’t care, it had been so long since anyone had called.
The clothing, a loose dress in a dirty gray color that once, perhaps, had been black, hung awkwardly on her. Bunching where it was meant to drape, draping where it was meant to fit. But she straightened her body and tried to look proud anyway. She needn’t have been so worried. People see what they want to see.
Dressed in those stolen threads, she slipped out of the shadows, came where the blood called. A basement, a party, a plastic cup of piss beer passed to her and the low thrum of music, but the why of it all still unclear.
“You’re not like the other girls here.” Deep, ringed with laughter, a sound closer to her own, and she turned to him, her dark eyes focused.
“Oh?” A sound, not quite a word. He looked down at her, his own plastic cup gripped in his hand.
“Yeah, they’re all,” he frowned, his nose wrinkling in the dim light, “not like you.”
She glanced away, her eyes passing quickly over the girls that had held her attention, then back to him. Tall, lean, a dusting of hair on his face, too fine to groom. Her eyes flicked past him, to the men who leaned up against the wall, still nearly boy-young. They snickered at him, at her.
“I’m Alvis.” White teeth, straight.
She nodded, unsure of what to say. He expected something, but words stalled in her. A panic built, she had not thought this would happen, this was not how it happened before. But this was different, the others hadn’t come. “Mona,” she breathed.
“Mona,” her name sounded like his laughter for a moment, full and deep. An invitation given, hand out, palm up.
She eyed it, keeping her own at her breast, the plastic cup held in them, her tingling fingertips curling and itching just like that space between her shoulder blades. The need called, but she was a creature of sight and she saw what she needed to see.
“It’s alright.” He crooked his fingers, pulling at the air, and she followed.
The men on the wall laughed. “You sure you want her?” one asked, his words half slurred.
“Don’t listen to them. They don’t know what they’re looking at,” Alvis said, reaching for her, and she froze, her fingers clenching in his hand, the sharp tips of nails digging into his fleshy palm. He let out a surprised yelp, the sound higher than she thought it would be, before he grasped the cup, slipping it from her fingers and setting it down.
“Your face is so pale,” he breathed. Wet warmth trickled over her fingers. The smell, rich and alive, filled her nostrils, a memory long dry flared back to life in her.
She shifted, pressing her shoulders together, attempting to scratch the itch. The jingle jangle sound of her true self filled the room, and she stilled, dark eyes locking on him, but he smiled. The others fell silent. Confused. Only the music played.
“I’ve always wanted to meet a girl like you. I used to have dreams, you know,” he tried again, his voice a whisper, and the tips of her fingers tingled and burned.
She tilted her head and listened, his whispering repeating old tales, lost stories. “Displeased,” she said, the word a memory. She understood. Libations, sacred dancers, what was a party but a call to the gods?
He nodded, “To meet you. Your wings,” he said, “are beautiful.”
She grinned, flattered, showing sharp teeth, and unfurled, ripping the dress to pieces as she moved. Her wings rattled and shook. Free, the feathers clanged against each other, brass, not quite gold, shining in the dim light as the hair of the girls had done before.
She stretched, each movement releasing a sweet music, letting her wing tips reach as far as they could before snapping them shut, the roll of thunder pealing through the air as the wind entered, answering her call, sweeping away the remains of the tattered dress.
“This isn’t where,” he started, his words lost to the chime of her feathers. He touched his chest absently, enchanted. His injured hand leaving a wet shadow over his heart.
She paused for just a moment, accepting his invitation.
“Oh,” he breathed as she struck, rising in the air briefly before her talons hit their mark, pushing him back. Ripping through soft flesh and muscle, rending fat aside to reveal her prize. With gleeful fingers she plucked out his stomach. Ate it, swallowing the pieces she ripped off whole, her tongue delighting in their touch as they slid past it and down her throat.
When she looked at him again, she could only see his eyes, starving and full of love in the face of near divinity. He had seen exactly what he wanted to see, what he had defied the gods for.
The warmth of the feast spread through her, settled deep in her guts, speared through her core, filled her in a way she had never been filled. Her sisters were wrong. This feast would sustain her; and she wished they had come.
Alvis, she thought, touching his face, his name a song to her. And she knew why it had felt so different. Why it had been her and only her. He had not called in service. He had called to worship, to lay praise. And she had accepted. A starving priest he would be, but hers, forever hers, and she would never be hungry again.
She snapped her wings again, and the winds came hard, the rain fell outside, and now the world started again. The girls were screaming, scrambling, but she was pleased. The itch had stopped, and she slipped back through shadows and into myth.
Spread the word!