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Wikis in Plain English

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The needle taps into her skin, drawing the blue line across her shoulderblade. The artist wipes away a drop of blood, ignoring the fact that it is the same colour as the ink his client wanted. You get all types at the Midway. You learned that ignorance was bliss, and that the penalty for asking questions was getting answers. Information. Knowledge. The real sins, not those pleasures of the body. The real things that corrupt the soul.

She had said nothing. Merely pointed with delicate fingers, passed over the design, and looked at him with those large eyes of hers. Her eyes were the truest blue he'd ever seen. The blue you saw after the storm had passed, and the sun illuminated the remaining clouds with outlines of pure white-silver, like a flare of magnesium. A blue that hurt your eyes to look at, but for which there was no substitution.

The line curves delicately.

The dragon coils over his shoulders, heavy, with scales of red and orange. Its gold wire-like whiskers brush against his neck, and the thick keratin of its claws is gnarled and yellow. The eyes glitter like goldstone. He shows this tattoo proudly. His head is shaved and gleams from the light of the windows. He sips his coffee with an intensity that doesn't invite company. There's stains from sweat along the sleeveless white A-line he wears. Cherise has him pegged for a "black, double sugar." She's new, or she'd know the egg orders, too. Instead, the glittering of the dragon's eyes fascinate her, and she almost forgets the slice of apple pie she's serving. Or maybe she's just admiring his tight muscles. He's spectator sport, for sure.

The dragon has two little nubs on its back, as if it once had wings, or if they were budding. It is an interesting piece of detail, and Cherise looks at it as she bends over to refill his cup.

Her skin flushes a pale blue, the color of approaching death. Cyanosis, that's the word for it. This is the delicate part, the shading, the lines on each feather. His eyesockets feel dry, and there's a cramp in his neck. He blinks, a drop of sweat avoiding his eyes and rolling down his cheek. She still hasn't made a noise.

A stylized indigo eye looks up at her from the fist grasping money at the register. Cherise takes it, surreptitiously sprinkling a few grains of salt on it. Too much faery gold and you lose your job. The eye has a cat-like slit in it, and a symbol surrounding it. She can't help but think of Prince for a moment, and hums some of "Purple Rain" as she makes change. Gold dollar coins jingle in the drawer. She jumps, startled, swearing the tattoo winked at her. The eye on the customer's other hand is green.

It is the wing of a bird. It is delicate, but each feather is quilled with steel. He offers to show her a mirror. She shakes her head, and reaches around to tap the other side of her back. He begs for a break, only to meet those blue eyes of hers. If his hand shakes, he explains, then he can't do it. She clambers up onto the counters in one long movement, as if indicating that she would wait.

He pours himself some coffee, and drinks it outside, away from her eyes. He can't figure out what bothers him the most about them. That they're inhuman? That they're demanding? Perhaps because when it comes down to it, they're empty, like a vacuum, and he doesn't know how to fill them. Innocent. That's the worst of it.

"Anisoptera," the Professor said, glancing at the tattoo. "Some prefer the term `darning needle,' but I like `dragonfly,' myself." He was a "three-sugar, whipped-cream," with eggs scrambled and wheat toast. He always put catsup on the side of his plate, next to the country potatoes.

"Darning needle? There is pin of condemnation?" his student had too much phouka in him. "To sew, like hob, a curse?" One of his ears folded over a little, like a bunny's. He had a hot cocoa, sausage and biscuits, with a side of cottage cheese. He had turned the cottage cheese a pale grey with the addition of black pepper.

The woman at the counter turned around to glare at them. She pulled down the black leather jacket to cover the delicate ink.

"Trollslġnda," she uttered, with an accent.

"Metamorphosis," the Professor suggested, unperturbed at her attitude. He picked up his coffee cup and then looked askance at it, as if it had betrayed him by being empty.

"But the wings," his student looked at him. "Wings mean to fly. Freedom."

"In freedom, life, in life, freedom. Chaos. Finish your food." The Professor stole a bite to make his point.

He closes his eyes and leans against the brick. A few more deep breaths and he'll be ready. He had a five o'clock appointment to reschedule. Some fellow wanted a skull. A unicorn's skull, of course, in bleached white near his bicep. It would wait. He could stare down the drunks and the belligerents. Innocence was a stranger burden. He felt protective, and yet, he was bleeding her. Cutting into that cerulean-tinted skin, marking her for life, however long or unusual it is.

A passing car stirs up a murder of crows that had been eyeing a motionless coyote. Their black wings flutter in a spiral of sound and a brush of wind. For a moment they seem to be one being, one mind, one body, then they split again, into a line of predators, beaks snapping and feathers flaring. They line up on the wire of the fence. The afternoon sunlight is gold, and shines off their backs. The coyote moves with a start, dashing through the fence, as if having taken flight of its own.

She stretches out before him. It is not sinuous, but purposeful. She's gangly. Maybe she hasn't gotten her full growth yet, or maybe this is how she will be. He gets a little more ink ready. He really should take an assistant. The last one signed off mentally after inking an illustration garnered from one of the books at the souvenir shop. He had an interview with someone who did piercing tomorrow. He had to remember that.

"Waddabout akiss, sweedthang?" Cherise kissed the old man's cheek. It didn't cost her anything, and sometimes got her a little bit of an extra tip. His cheek was dry and smelled of something nice, faintly familiar. She knew what they meant in books about eyes sparkling, because this fellow's did. It was something in the way he smiled. He left a ten dollar tip on a 3 dollar meal.

The wings take shape underneath his hands. Her skin turns hot, and he has to break more and more often to keep his concentration, to keep his needle straight along the lines he had so carefully placed on her flesh. She feels weightless in his hands, as if only the rapid tapping of the pin kept her in the seat. None of the blue droplets of blood have leaked for a while. She remains silent as the sound of the machine fills the room, and his focus narrows, to the thin lines of the blue feathers.

It is done. He leans back, and closes his eyes just long enough to wipe his brow with the back of his hand. She seems to know, and turns around, looking at him with those blue, blue eyes. She smiles, the first expression besides that intense stare. She shakes once, twice, and with the sound of something wet and slick, two large white wings extend from her back.

Her feet do not touch the earth. That's what he thinks, later. Right now, he sees the halo, the magnesium flare of silver-white that illuminates her. He has given an angel back her wings.

He smiles. He can't help it. She kisses him on the cheek, and with a light dance to the door, she and the wings, still wet with silvery ichor, extend, and she is gone in the final rays of the golden, afternoon sunlight.


--Meera Barry

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Page last modified on April 04, 2006, at 03:03 PM by MeeraBarry

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