Julia sat in the passenger seat of the 55 plate Ford Focus as they drove down the street. Her new leather jacket, glistening burgundy under the sodium glow of the streetlamps, creaked as she shifted uncomfortably in her seat. Her back itched, but she couldn’t reach around in her seat to scratch.
Snowy was driving. White knuckles gripping tight at ten and two, rigid and matching the grim set of his mouth. His lips pulled tight, eyes focused firmly on the road stretching into the night. His hands only moved occasionally, steering wheel to gear stick to steering wheel, every once in a while his hand might move to the radio, but then it returned to the steering wheel.
They had been driving for five hours, starting when the sun had dropped below the horizon and chasing it, dropping onto the motorway and that’s where they’d stayed. In the darkness, the only thing that changed were the number of brake lights that they went past and the number of headlights that came towards them. It had started with many, numbers dropping as the car had eaten up the miles of tarmac.
If they kept going, they’d make it just before dawn. Just when Julia wanted to arrive. This was her ritual, whenever the moon was hanging high and full in the sky, that they make this trip. Sometimes it would be Snowy who drove, sometimes Phoenix, but she always made the trip. Of course, by the time the moon was in this stage she was unable to drive herself. She’d tried it once and she’d been unable to concentrate or even think, too focused on the feeling of a million ants crawling over every inch of her skin. She’d called Phoenix in a panic, not explaining anything, just saying that she had to be in a place at a time. That’s when she’d explained, partially, what happened every month.
They’d just accepted it, as she knew they would. They didn’t ask for explanations or expect anything in return, they just worked a schedule between them as to who would take her and when. They tended to alternate, unless there was a reason that one of them would be unavailable. Somehow, one of them was always available and for that she was eternally grateful.
She couldn’t tell them what it was. One day, she might have to but until then it would be a secret, her secret.
They arrived as the first rays of the sun peeked above the horizon. She practically burst from the car, peeling off that burgundy jacket and hurling it to the sand. Snow turned around and drew the blindfold from his pocket, something they’d arranged during that first conversation. He placed it over his eyes and tied it in a knot behind his head.
Julia knew that all of this was happening behind her, but she couldn’t concentrate on it yet. The ants were flowing from her skin, streaming down to the ground and far away from her, letting her focus as she stripped her vest top and tossed that away. With a rush of displaced air, her wings unfurled, feathers rustling while the loose ones danced away in the sea breeze.
The human body is not designed for flight, not even with wings. It requires different sets of muscles, different bone structure, different body shapes. But, somehow, whatever gift that had granted her these wings had granted her the strength she needed in her battles with gravity. With two powerful flaps, she was aloft, dancing with the songbirds in the morning air. The smell of the salt sea disappeared as she flew up into the sky. She flew across the ocean, wings locking as she swooped down to draw in the white crests. She laughed with delight, whooping and yelling as the sun came up in all its splendour.
She circled around to the clearing, where she always went. She perched up in the oak tree and looked across to the little cottage. She sat and waited as the front door opened, the light of an open fire streaming out into the morning. The man took two steps out onto the porch and waited, looking from side to side, up and down. She shrunk back into the trees every time his eyes brushed across her and she waited.
Every full moon he was here. Other times, not a chance. She’d driven out here a few times outside the full moon, but the cottage had been empty. But every full moon, regular as clockwork, he was there. The days that she could fly, he was waiting.
As if what was happening to her was something to do with him.
The Idiot in Tin Foil