“Brother, please, I can help you. Let me help you.”
I look back at Gabriel’s pleading face, his outstretched hand. But I was past this traitor’s help and past caring. I step off the golden tiles, and fall. Light and heat spark from my skin as I plummet through misty clouds. I feel every last scrap of divinity being torn from me as I leave the Aether. The feathers moult off my silken wings, exposing tattered skin and bone.
My eyes open to smoke and dust. I’ve never known what pain was before – only what it meant. But this…if I hadn’t already known how twisted He is, this would have done it. There are tears too – never cried before. I try to move, clawing my way through the dirt. The open wounds on my back object with every movement. The ground starts to slope skywards and I push myself to my feet. For the first time, I see where I stand. A deep bowl of earth, scattered with rocks and several scorched, blood-stained feathers. Perhaps thirty feet deep. My first thought is to fly up and out – it’s instinctive – but that’s out. Climb it is.
It isn’t easy. There’s nothing obvious to grip and the sides crumble often. My first few tries drop me right back into the crater. I manage to climb ten feet before I made the mistake of stopping to see my progress – my foot slips on the dusty earth and I tumble back into the pit. I start to scream – it isn’t the pain, though that doesn’t help – I don’t deserve this.
I took a stand – that’s all. I stood up and said no. Is that blasphemy? Treachery? Does it make me an abomination? Does it? And this…this is my prize? To scrabble at the walls of this crumbling pit for as long as is suits them? Are they watching me now? Watching and laughing? Is that what I have been reduced to? Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you all, but I refuse. I refuse to conform, to obey, to be victimised. After all, what more can anyone do to me?
I am getting out of here. They took my wings; they took my grace – so what? I am so much more than that. I reach into the dry clay of the wall and start to dig a small hole. I do it again, further up. And again and again until I can’t reach any higher. I test the first hold with my foot – it seems sturdy enough. I hoist myself up, digging more footholds as I go. I still fall, but less often and never without progress.
My hand reaches over the edge and feels around for something to grip. Soft…strands…grass? I follow my hand out of the crater and roll onto solid ground – free.
We build our own palace down here, under the earth He sought to trap us on. We stood together and made freedom out of our exile. My wings have grown back now. They are larger by far than they used to be and so much more powerful. My grace is gone forever but I wouldn’t change places for anything.
(Prompts: misaligned, breakthrough, ‘Running up that Hill’)