It was on a Wednesday that Jeff first noticed. His back began to ache as if he’d done a days hard labour. Terrible spasms began that night, as he lay in bed. On Thursday morning, he could hardly move. His eyes were gummed shut and they burned. Jeff thought perhaps he had the ‘flu.
He called in sick on Thursday and curled up in a miserable ball in bed, after dosing himself up with Corenza C and chewable vitamin C tablets.
Thursday passed in a blur. But the pain he felt on Thursday was nothing compared to the pain he felt on Friday morning.
His shoulderblades felt like they were grating against each other. His spine would twinge and sieze up. His entire body ached and his skin began to tingle and then became so dry it itched with maddening thoroughness.
Friday night was sheer misery. Saturday morning was pain beyond anything he had ever experienced in his entire 32 years of life. He sweated and shook and cried and moaned. Then he discovered that his hair was falling out in huge tufts. His tongue was swollen in his mouth and he could not swallow any water. His hands and feet were swollen and felt like they were being stretched on a rack. His knuckles felt like they were going to pop right off. But all this was nothing compared to the horrific pain in his back. His shoulders.
He begged for mercy in unintelligable grunts.
His skin flaked off in large snakelike pieces. What was revealed to Jeff was terror in itself. He was blue. Not a pale blue of being cold or of not being in the sun. No, this was real blue. Eggshell blue. Sky blue. Perhaps his eyes were playing tricks on him. At least his eyes no longer hurt.
Jeff could not move from his nest in the blankets on his bed and had thus been unable to pick up the telephone. He was sure someone had knocked on his door, but he couldn’t be sure. His eardrums thrummed constantly, like there was a breeze blowing permanently next to his ear. His jaw ached from clenching against the pain. At least he still had his teeth.
Saturday night he fell into oblivion. His mind floated above as his body writhed in agony. In a detached way he watched as the space between his shoulderblades ripped and tore and blood sprayed everywhere. He felt no pain at all. In fact, he felt awe as he watched two enormous pieces of bone wrench out of his back. Jeff was not good with blood, so he was not lucid for the rest of the experience.
If he had been, he could have watched as sinew and muscle spun onto these protruding bones like cloth being woven on a loom. Long strands of tissue and bloody veins coiled around the muscles. Nerves flittered across the surface and dug their way in. Then the skin began to form, wet and sticky at first, then drying like paint. Shimmering blue skin. Jeff missed the incredible sight of these bony limbs stretching out behind his blue body, bones cracking in his shoulders, muscles tearing on his back and sides. Then the soft lightening of the blue limbs, soft downy white. And then the feathering. Long white strong feathers, like an eagle. His muscles and skin healed while this happened.
On Sunday morning, Jeff woke up feeling like he was going to be alright. He took a deep breath and opened his eyes. Everything was crystal clear around him. His lungs filled with a huge breath. He glanced down at his stomach and saw rippling muscle. Rippling blue muscle. Blue skin. His mind spun and he rolled over to the side of his bed and dry vomited. The heaves nearly took him off the bed and as he flinched to avoid falling he felt the great weight on his back. Jeff looked over his shoulder and saw the gigantic white feathered wings.
Jeff curled up in a fetal ball and cried.
He heard music. Song. Heartbreakingly beautiful.
He heard someone saying his name and he opened his eyes.
There stood a woman. A blue woman. With wings slightly raised behind her. She said his name and he heard music when she spoke.
He sat on the edge of his bed as this winged blue woman told him what had happened to him and why.
She asked him if he understood and he just looked her.
“A great battle, you say?” said Jeff, eventually.
He heard music when he spoke.