“No Longer Pristine” by Kelly Russell


Tang in the air, thickest. Squelching and tearing, the flesh rends. Slowly, slowly they grow. Feathers, blood, slide from fresh muscle and sinew. Droplets pock-mark the pool with deep splashes.
“Hold me.”
Light coalesces, gripping her hands, clawed hands, aching arms and shaking shoulders. She rises. Eyes wide, mouth a gaping grin, feathers pushing through bone, fusing with bone.
“O Death.”
A torrent of water, spiraling, collecting light and blood and glass. Shards glint in the swirl, threads of black wriggling, now big, now small, in them.
“My name …”
Feathers are wings. Wings are spread full. Feathers in the whirlwind, destroyed by shards of glass, splintered by threads of black.
Snow falls through the mangled windows. An angel weeps frozen flakes. The surface turns to ice. Empty.

Destiny crawls, wings tucked, creeping. Dark hair trails, dragging through snow stained grey by progress. The ledge. She peers over, shadow thick behind her, solid and kneeling behind her.
A hand on the joint of her wing. Feathers drift to the rooftop. Snow melts to rain as He kneels. Feathers shiver, water sliding from them where ice was once. She looks up. Darkness in darkness; pinpoints of blue like stars stare back.
“Find them”
Grin. Destiny pulls herself closer. The ledge bites with ice into her belly. She leans, reaching out, searching. Arm around naked waist keeps her from tumbling. Skin blackens, flakes from the heat of Him.
“Find them”
Question. Statement. Release. Destiny falls into the flakes of snow, tumbling, twisting. Wings flare, catching the air, lifting her up and up.
“Find them”
Destiny glides, listing left, right. Rides the wind. Starlight skims her; moonlight masks her. Destiny searches.
Alight on a planter box dormant for winter. Frost on the window. Pigeons nesting nearby. She holds out her hand to the starlight. It spirals, spins, collects in her hand. Lengthens, coalesces, sharpens. Moonlight keens the curved blade. Darkness wells in the shaft.
“O Death. My name is Destiny.”
They come, retreat from church. Stained glass stained with sins and promises. She sails across the rooftops, grasping the highest cross on the tallest tower. Midnight Mass. Christmas.
She waits. The church spews forth the following, the followers. She feels Him, His heat behind her. He waits.
The last cars leave. The last family flees. The last stray cat beds down. Snow falls thicker.
Snow cushions when she jumps, lands in front of the doors. Black, white, purple, red, green. Stations of the Cross. Candles to the Blessed Mother.
Holy water inside the door. Dip and cross. Candlelight writhes on the blade. Frost where her feet pass.
Water where her feet pass where He follows. Fire flares. Smoke thickest, reaching the high ceiling.
Cries to God.
“O Death!”
Cries of certainty. Moonlight keens the edge. Blood whets it. Black, white, purple, red, green. Maroon. Crimson.
Death embraces Destiny. His face on her neck. Blood on her skin, feathers, hair. His hand on hers on scythe, gripping, embracing.
Midnight Mass. Christmas.




Kel is one who breathes books, cats, and coffee. She is in her thirties with a wonderfully weird kid and a husband. She delves into fantasy novels with gusto no matter the target age. Writing gives her life, coffee keeps it flowing.


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