McIntyre writes from a busy household in rural Alabama. His poems and short stories have been featured in numerous publications, including recent or forthcoming appearances in Moon Milk Review, M-Brane SF, The Red Penny Papers, and Illumen. A debut poetry collection, Isotropes: A Collection of Speculative Haibun, came out in 2010. He writes a monthly column for the Apex Books Blog, regularly contributes to Skull Salad Reviews, and can also be found on http://southernweirdo.wordpress.com.
Craig lost his way and we never saw him again.
His wings ached, but he fought the urge to rest.
Last time she nearly lost herself.
It was a simple overnight canoeing trip, no different than the others we had shared together that summer after high school. While sitting around our campfire, we had talked about what we were going to do next. Jim was heading off to community college, Gary to the military, and I was planning on taking my chances in New York and hoping to form a band. Craig sat silent listening to us talk. He drank a little more than normal, inhaled a little bit longer, and popped an extra Oxy, but he was no more messed up than the rest of us.
When asked his plans, he shrugged. "I haven't really thought about the future." He laughed, but his eyes looked unhappy. Looking back, those were prophetic words. We were just too messed up to understand.
Other than the rats and cockroaches, he appeared to be all alone. The other seven had told him there was no one left, but he didn't believe them. He refused to accept such a disappointment.
He locked his wings and glided.
Didn't they know he had no power? Didn't they know he was not at fault?
Still they battered at the doors high above his hideaway. No sound made it through the insulation, but he could feel each battering of the iron doors like the beating of his heart.
She walked into the apartment she shared with her mother and sat down on the sofa, being careful to avoid the spot where she could get stuck by a spring poking up through the fabric. She turned on the television but only got static. No one had paid the cable bill. That bill was the least of their worries.
She picked up a pillow, a thing made out of scrap fabric she had rescued from the garbage can at the local craft store. She fingered the stitches holding the patchwork pillow together. Her handiwork made her smile. A whole made from many.
She rested her head on the patchwork pillow and dreamed.
We knew he had decided to tackle it alone. His canoe was gone. He was the type to ride the waves where they took him, even if they crashed him against the rocks.
Thankfully, the pool was shallow and he was able to stand. He worked his way against the current to a concrete walkway and pulled himself out of the water. Weak, he lay gasping, the side of his face touching the concrete ground. The floor felt gritty against his smooth skin. He tried to lift a wing, gave it his strongest effort, strained until tiny blue veins throbbed on his forehead, but he was unable to make either wing move.
Hardened by whatever fluid flowed down here in the basement of the world, his wings cracked off, fell to the ground, and shattered.
The light that had been emanating from him, the light he had carried with him as long as he had memory, went out. Darkness rushed around him. Tiny follicles on his ears announced something unseen rustled in the distance. The rustle became louder until a throng of starving rats swarmed and devoured him.
His father was never around so it mattered little to him when he died. What mattered more was the inheritance left behind: a nation in shambles. Peasants revolted, warring kingdoms attacked, and being just a child, he didn't know what to do about any of it. He had trusted the wisdom of his mother's manservant at her urging. Charles was king in name only, but this served him fine. He was free to play on the royal grounds hidden from the chaos outside. But all that changed once the castle came down.
He had watched from the shadows at night as they held his mother and her manservant under the guillotines. The scene was lit by a spotlight suspended under a metal aeroship with a flashing sign announcing the revolution was a success. Her execution was displayed on the massive video grid of the aeroship. When her head rolled to the ground the world erupted in cheers.
In tears, Charles ran and hid. He made his home underneath the rubble in this hidden shelter. It had always been his favorite play-place, but now he was not playing and this wasn't pretend. His food stores were long gone, his stomach so hungry it ceased its rumble.
The room shook and the music box fell to the ground. The tubes inside the machine popped and there was a small explosion. A tongue of flame licked up the carpeted walls setting them ablaze.
"Viva la revolution!" an angry mob shouted as they crashed into his hidden sanctuary.
Charles had nowhere left to hide. He smiled, thinking that this was all right. He had nothing to hide from. In fact, the desire to hide had fled from him altogether.
The flames warmed the chill he had felt in his bones for so long. The chill had crept in once his mother was gone, once her arms were not there to hold him any longer.
She looked around at the building across the alley. Most of the windows were curtained, hiding the occupants and the dramas those apartments contained, but other windows were open. Pinpricks of light and shadow. She looked inside these portals and could see a dozen versions of herself. She looked inside a window near the top of the building, saw a man and woman dancing to a song that she could not hear, saw herself in that woman, fingered the stitches in the pillow on her lap, and smiled.
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