top of page

Of a Feather

     Tito had taken to whistling whenever he got anxious and it was driving Neera up the wall. The snowy white cockatoo was hanging off the side of his silver cage and piping Pop Goes the Weasel as loud as he could. Neera glared at him. She had been trying to comfort the bird at first, but now he was just being annoying.

     “Tito come on!” she cried throwing her arms up in exasperation. The other birds screeched and cawed at her, ruffling their brilliantly coloured feathers. “There is nothing to be afraid of!” Tito ignored her and continued to whistle. Neera bit back a roar of frustration and stormed from the room.

     She reached the kitchen and turned the radio up loud trying to block out the cockatoo. There were several indignant squawks from her birds as the news anchor’s voice filled the kitchen.

     “…an important announcement regarding the latest biotechnological upgrades…”

     Neera didn’t pay attention; she just needed the noise. There was always some new technological thingy in this day and age. Some new biomechanical whatsit that let you grow twice as tall, or have flawless skin, or sprout fur. The military had even found uses for them. Tito chose that moment to give a particularly loud whistle.

     “For crying out loud Tito! There is noth-” The pain hit her with the force of a speeding train, knocking her onto the pale kitchen lino. Her whole body seemed to be screaming. She couldn’t see, or hear, or even feel anything but white-hot agony. If she made a noise she couldn’t tell. Her muscles seemed to be stretching, ripping, into something…something. She was dying, Neera was almost certain of it. For some reason this was happening to her, and it was going to kill her.

     Then she was panting on the kitchen floor, the pain gone as suddenly as it had come. Her chest ached as she drew in short, sharp breaths. Sweat was cooling quickly over her skin making her shiver. It was then that the racket from the next room reached her ears. The birds sounded as if the were hurling themselves against the metal bars shrieking their distress. Neera’s voice trembled as she spoke.

     “Okay, okay, I’m coming. It’s alright.” Legs shaking, she pulled herself onto her feet. Only then did she realise that it wasn’t alright at all. She felt heavy. Unusually heavy. Something dragged behind her, pulling on her back as she stood and making her wince. As she turned to take a look a small pained scream escaped her lips.

     They were a livid almost orange sort of colour. The skin hung in creases and folds over the delicate bones that sprang from between her shoulder blades. Neera was surprised to find that they didn’t hurt, her new wings. She had seen enough of them to recognise them for what they were straight away.

     A year ago, two of her parakeets had snuck into each other’s cage and produced three smaller parakeets. Their wings had also been these thin, frail, and featherless things, so very unlike a bird. They didn’t even have feathers.

     “Wings,” she murmured “Wings.” They twitched and she, stupidly, leapt away from them. Of course, they only followed her, twitching some more. How? She hadn’t bought any of advancements of any kind. They required a special implant that could not have been inserted without her realising, and people didn’t suddenly sprout wings as far as she knew. Neera whimpered.

     Her birds shrieked even louder, and above it all that awful whistling. “Tito!” she shouted. The wild cries died away.

     Neera flexed; her new, bald, infant wings rose cautiously into the air. A loud clattering made her jump. The set of feed cups on the counter had been knocked to the floor and as soon as she twisted to look the unwashed dishes on the opposite side were swept aside.

     Her eyes narrowed. A piece of torn grey cloth was dangling from one of the knobbly joints. Great she thought, she’d really liked this shirt. Now there were two huge wing shaped holes in the back. “So, I have wings now,” she muttered “Fantastic.”

 

***

 

     Neera swept the remnants of another shattered glass into a dustpan. An entire day had passed since her sudden…growth. Her new wings had been more of a hindrance than anything. Google had offered no answers when she had queried it. What does it mean if I suddenly sprout wings? She’d had to look through pieces of fantasy artwork just to figure out how to sleep.  

There was a knock on the door. Neera froze. She stared, like a rabbit in the headlights as the knocking continued. If she stayed quiet, and out of sight, then they should go away. It had worked with the postman.

     “Miss Fletcher! Miss Fletcher this is Sergeant Culpepper of the United Kingdom’s military, please open the door.” A squeak escaped her lips. “Miss Fletcher, I know you’re in there.” She fluttered, literally, her new wings quivering in fear. Overnight they had become covered in soft greyish down, that was now covering her carpets. The soldier continued to hammer at the door.

     “Hello?” squawked a voice. It was Tito bouncing up and down in his cage at the sound of visitors. Neera shushed him and sank to the floor, out of sight of any windows.

     “Miss Fletcher please open the door.” They knew. They knew about her…condition. She was going to be locked away in some underground bunker to be experimented on for the rest of her life as they tried to find the answer to sudden wing growth.

     “Miss Fletcher, it is our understanding that you have likely experienced some…some changes within the last twenty-four hours.” Her fingers traced the edges of her wings. There certainly had been some changes. Perhaps they were the ones that had done this to her? They would have answers then, surely. And after all, she thought, it’s not like I can hide forever.

“Yeah?” she called hesitantly. There was a series of surprised muttering from outside.

     “According to your history you’ve never had any upgrades, so you may be wondering why these changes have happened, yes?” Neera nodded to herself but didn’t answer. “Well, we may have an explanation for you.” Neera weighed her options. She could stay quiet, hide, hope they would go away. Of course, that may not happen, they could just break down the door and drag her out screaming. Or she could open the door herself, face the music and see what they had to say. They had answers, like she suspected and besides, it was going to happen anyway. She got to her feet, folded her wings close to her back and headed to the front door.

     She opened the door a minute fraction peering through the gap with a single eye. Sergeant Culpepper, though dressed in an impeccably clean and crisp uniform, he looked nervous as if uncertain if he should be there or not. He had a kind, round, and dimpled face almost like a child.

     “Erm…”

     “You said you can explain these?” Opening the door a little wider Neera spread her wings slightly. She suppressed a giggle as Sergeant Culpepper’s eyes almost popped out of his skull.

     “Yes,” he said hesitantly. “Miss Fletcher, I would like to talk to you about the Donatus Programme. Can I come in?”

bottom of page