Chapter 14: Notan (then)
The first sharp pointed tip of an ebon feather burst through Vincent’s right forearm during that sleep. Vincent screamed himself awake, sweat-drenched, prone on his back, and surrounded by a host of black shapes. Head shifting, his eyes went to the pain.
Vincent gagged at the sight. His soft white skin, ripped open, weeping red-black. His focus shifted beyond the emerging quill, taking in the army of blackbirds. He froze. Their beady eyes were on his arm, beaks slightly ajar. A fluid dribble left a giant bird’s beak inside his peripheral eyesight. He heard a sizzle as it hit the ground near the bird’s talons.
Trembling, Vincent attempted to rise, but the pain sent him sprawling back down. He was gasping for breath when again he screamed, his neck arching back, his body seizing.
The assemblage hooted their approval. The multi-level noise thwacked his eardrums.
Vincent’s eyelids shot open, his eyes bulging as he ground his teeth together. His lips pulled back, a grimace stretched. With watering eyes, Vincent took in flashes of distorted chromatics. The black of the birds, the reds of their tongues were offset by the white of his skin, the blood pouring out, the emergence of more black-blue pinions. His world was in a color schematic wobble, the skyscape palette constantly swishing.
Pain erupted now from his left arm, then his legs. Vincent’s clothing faded to nothing as the ever-materializing feathers replaced them. He felt his body shrink into itself, bones rearranging. He cried out with each shift, each noise sounding less like Vincent and more birdlike.
Stomach churning, Vincent turned his head, vomiting what little remained in his system of PB&J. His throat was on fire as his inner organs revolted around the change he was undergoing. He felt his legs crack and bend, his arms extend, his chest cavity grow round.
Then his head. His head, as his face, was the last to go through metamorphosis. It narrowed and grew outwards. The feathers burst through what skin was left, the meat falling and lost. A grand beak formed from Vincent’s Romanesque nose and tight-lipped mouth. The slight distance in the bridge between Vincent’s eyes grew less as the eyes went round and full black.
An “I’m tired” scream started in English and ended in Caw.
A shadow passed overhead, momentarily blocking magenta sun rays. Once-Vincent’s head followed the massive form. An exceptionally long wingspan jutted from the bulky form. With its next passings, the landscape went orange, then blue, finally settling on golden again as the bird touched the ground next to Once-Vincent.
It looked down at him, a bare black-red hue to its head, its long primary feathers appearing as sharp, fingered look. Grey-white feathers mixed in with the deepest blacks, all shining with the changing luster from the overhead suns.
Suns, Once-Vincent noticed, and felt his chest tighten.
Once-Vincent’s attention focused on the danger looming over him.
“Tandem Advenit!” It screeched, raising its caruncle-laden beak high.
“Gratis Princeps,” the multitude sang out.
The condor lowered its head to speak to Once-Vincent. The voice was now familiar.
“Welcome, Grackle Prince.
Once-Vincent, the now Grackle Lord, felt his breath catch.
“It took you fucking long enough.”