**Author’s Note: Vincent’s Descent is a continuous story that began on April 1st, 2023, as part of the AtoZ Blog Challenge. Most chapters are not designed as stand-alone. I’ve done my best to keep each chapter a touch over 500 words each so they are not too dense to follow along, IMO. For the entire story, please start HERE. Comments are always welcome.
Chapter 17: Quills & Black Skies
Vincent was half-formed.
Maria had one hand on the protruding feathers, the other on Vincent’s smooth skin. Both textures rippled under her palms. She held her face close to his, her eyes locked on Vincent’s. He was losing it, fighting it, then winning it, his face morphing, then returning.
“Vincent,” she cried out, knowing from experience that he might not understand her while they transitioned through Vincent’s worlds.
She felt full skin on skin now. Clothes had no meaning to him when in flux. Maria knew this, and whatever discomfort she had felt the first was meaningless now.
“Vincent. Vincent. You are Vincent.” Over and over, a mantra, a repeated prayer of hope that he would stay with himself. The language changed independently, becoming guttural, soaring, ancient, cawed. Each utterance came to fit the colored worlds he broke through. No matter, for the meaning, did not change.
“You are Vincent. You are Vincent. Vincent. Vincent.”
His answer was gritted teeth, snapping maw, growls, howls, moans. From blue fields to orange skies, through a pastel-filled kaleidoscope of scenery. He called her name only once, and it bit through Maria. She faltered in the repetition of his name only then, a sob replacing the vowels and consonants.
Maria embraced Vincent’s wings. His hands. His feathers. His hands. His plumage. No matter the form, she held him close. Though she bled from talons and beak when the bird enveloped him, she held him close.
The change was sudden as they entered Vincent’s golden-hued world.
Vincent was Vincent.
They lay on a swarth of dark yellow grass, soft from morning dew. There was a light breeze, and Maria felt goose pimples run across her unclothed body. Sighing, she turned her grasping for his life into a hold; then, when he draped an arm around her, she relaxed into his side. Head on his chest, Maria heard the jackhammer beating of his heart slow to a less harsh beat.
Maria felt the heat of the rising sun at her back. Exhausted, she drifted.
Vincent did not.
As drained as he was, Vincent remained vigilant, scanning the skies, ready. Whispering, “I wish,” lush trees surrounded him and Maria, their canopies dense and hard to fly through. He wished for raised roots to form a barrier circling them. Water and food for when she woke. Clothes for her came last. The close contact was soothing for him, but he knew Maria well enough, respected her more.
The ordeal caught up with him, and Vincent finally closed his eyes, wishing himself not to dream.
A furious beating of a force of wings startled the two of them awake.
Blackness seeped through the slowly disappearing cover of leaves. Branches decimated, wooden splinters showering around. Vincent wished for a tarp to cover the two of them. Maria cried out as she removed the projectiles that had punctured her exposed skin.
He felt her shake her head.
“Wish us out of here, Vincent.”
A child-like voice: “I can’t. I tried,” as debris pelted their covering.
A cracking overhead.
Maria grabbed his hand.
Black branches crashed behind them. Vincent wished, and an opening through the copse widened enough for them to get through. The sound of devastation, the wings, the squealing of the birds, and they made their way through.
shit, they thought in unison, stopping at the sight before them.
Birds. In the sky. On the ground. A multitude of birds. Some flew near, pecking at them. Others, overhead, spattered the ground with their waste. Their noise came in waves, modulating in volume, but the tone remained the same.
“Dominus Avis,” came from above the throng. Those milling the soil in front of Maria and Vincent parted. A wide-winged hunter landed in the cleared space.
“About fucking time,” the vast Condor smirked.
He sang out, and an even more prominent figure eclipsed the night sky, coming to them.