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Feathers

“Release me, heathens!” He struggled, hands tied behind his back.  He continued to roll his shoulders trying to force the bonds off.  “I am an angel of God.”

“You’re a freak, that’s what.”  The man kept his grasp on Manakel’s bicep.  His rough palms grated against his bare flesh. The other two threw him into the side of the table, knocking the wind out of him.  Manakel buckled over, gasping for air. He felt his feet leave the ground as the two mountainous men wrapped their arms under his and dragged him up onto the table.  An elbow was thrust into the small of his back.  A shiver ran up his spine.  Attempting to look up at his captors, his head was forced down, ramming his nose into the hard surface of the table.

A strange feeling extended from his shoulder blades.  “These are quite interesting, aren’t they?”  The rough handed man was running his fingers across the span of his wings.  A human bird.  What kind are you?  A swan perhaps?”

Manakel folded his wings down.  They were stopped, and he felt the tendons in his back tighten as they were spread forcefully.  “I am an angel.  Do not touch those.”  He spoke into the table.  He could feel his hot breath reflecting off the rough surface.

“I’ve never heard of such a bird.  We don’t want you flying away now, do we?”  A small sharp pain appeared all of a sudden, a single feather was plucked from the tip of his wide span.  The rough handed man toyed with it in his grip lightly.

“That thing might have lice, boss.  Don’t mess with it.”  The man holding Manakel’s head to the table spoke up.

“Disgusting.  Right, let’s get this started.”  Letting go of one wing, he took the other in both hands.  He pulled it open wide, stretching the tendons up the limb.  Manakel bit his bottom lip.  His flesh tore ever so slightly as fistfuls of feathers began to be yanked from his appendage.

His back arched, and the elbow dug deeper.  With each bunch of follicles ripped from his skin, he winced, biting harder into his lip.  The taste of copper came to his mouth.  Cold air met his bare skin.  The opposite wing was pinned down and Manakel prepared himself for a second round.

He no longer had the energy to struggle.  “That’s the last of it.”

The hand on his head released its downward force, but the fingers found their way in between his strands of long hair.  They grasped tightly and pulled his head up off the table, forcing him to sit up.  The ground was littered with his pure white feathers, now sullied by dirt, footprints, and little traces of his crimson blood.

His back was now cold and slick with sweat.  The bonds holding his hands together were cut, and he pulled his arms up to stretch them.  The now bare wings adorning his back moved reflexively as his shoulder blades followed the movements of his arms.

“Reckon we should cut them off too?”

“Keep ‘em.  So people knows he’s a freak.”

There was an air of repugnance his voice.  Manakel propped himself up on his knees, still resting on the table.  Saliva and sweat had been smeared over his face and chin.  He turned to look around the room, the two large men still staring at him in contempt.  The rough handed man was wiping his hands on a dirty cloth.  Manakel could see traces of blood and dirt under his fingernails.  He turned his gaze upwards.

“You will be forced to atone for this, you know.”  Manakel said, wiping the drool from his chin.

“Fuck off.  You’re impressing no one here with that kind of talk.”

He felt his hands form into fists.  The unfamiliar feeling of rage appeared in his body.  The hairs on the back of his neck stood up.  A hard smack arrived at the side of his head.

“You’ve gone and made him mad, boss.  Didn’t you catch him trying to preach about the goodness of man or whatever?”

It felt as if there was a ringing in his head.  His ear was sore and warm feeling from the blunt force.

“I don’t know where you’re from…” Manakel turned his head up suddenly to meet eyes with the man, speaking menacingly only a few inches from his face. “…but here, we don’t consider man to be innately good.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.  Man is innately corrupt, and will do whatever is right for them, no matter how it affects others.  Man is evil until proven otherwise.”

“Then I can assume you’re aware of the evil you carry.  I can feel it in your being.”

Manakel’s words took him aback.  He continued to look him in the eyes as he took a couple steps back.  A wide smile appeared on his face.  Without hesitation he swung his balled-up fist onto the other side of Manakel’s head, sending him tumbling off the table.

“Send him out to the yard.  We’ll get him a trial soon… maybe.”

Manakel’s head was throbbing, as the two large men roughly got him to his feet.  He was forced out the back door into the foggy afternoon, still wearing only his linen pants.  His heavy breath created a wispy cloud in the air.  The thugs threw him out and closed the door behind him with a metallic clunk.

He picked himself off the ground, knees newly moist and dirty from the dew on the grass.  Upon examination of the area, he found himself trapped behind walls at least half a man taller than he was.  His wings twitched excitedly.  His shoulders produced goose bumps, and he reached for his arms to warm himself up.

The smell of smoke entered his nostrils.  A building on the other end of the yard was producing the grey cloud.  He approached the rickety wood structure, wondering if there would be others there.  He knocked on the door, but it swung open under its own weight.  A few men in grey clothing were sitting around the source of the smoke.

One of the men, an older bearded man, shook his head sadly and turned back to the fire.  A second one motioned towards him to join them.  As Manakel attempted to speak, he found himself shivering too hard to form words.  He walked over and placed his hands within reach of the flame.

“You’re… different.” Said the bearded man, leaning backwards to get a glimpse of his bare, naked wings.

Manakel breathed out heavily from his nose. “At this moment I am no different from you.  I am a prisoner.  Please treat me as you would any other.”

“Were you born with those… things?”  The bald man pointed to his back.

“Born, I was not.  Created.  Created to come to humans and remove them from their evil influences and deeds.”

“You have your work cut out for you.  Especially here.”

“Explain to me, and I will lend my power to you.”

The old man spoke up.  “All of us here have done evil.  Robbery, fraud.  I murdered my wife.  In cold blood.  There is no power to remove me from what I have done.”

“I am a messenger for God.  God’s power can do anything you would require.”

“Ain’t nobody believes in such a thing here.”

“You must believe, in order to accept his power.  He is all powerful.”

“If he is all powerful, he must be able to make me believe then.”

Mankel held his tongue.  His mind went blank.  The old man continued.

“I’m afraid you’re in the wrong place.  God means nothing to non believers.  There is nothing more you can do.”

Manakel felt emptiness in his stomach.  His head hurt from the blows and the cold.  His bare wings drooped, and his back hurt.  The fire danced warmly.

 

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