Eirik Gumeny is a person, a consumer of both oxygen and coffee, taking up space in various parts of New Jersey.
He is the editor of Jersey Devil Press, author of the novel Exponential Apocalypse, and folder of origami cranes.
He scales the fence, up the chain link and down, hops to the dumpster and then to the street.
Only the boy doesn’t hit pavement.
He lands soft, dirt and feathers dusting up from the bundle of rags beneath his feet. The pile moves, shifts, and the child spills to the ground, knees and hands. The bundle rises behind the boy, towering over him, a reverse silhouette against the night.
The boy turns, fists balled, unsure whether to riot or run, and finds all he can do is stare.
Before him is a woman, radiant beneath her rags, tragic, beautiful, swallowed by filthy wings and a faded robe. An angel in an alley. A seraph of the streets.
The woman measures the boy, eyes gleaming, half with fury and half in love with the world. The boy relaxes his hand, takes a step back.
The woman smiles and the sky explodes. Starlight suffocates the moon.
The boy stumbles and meets the pavement awkwardly once again. He scrambles to his feet, eyes wide, legs tensed to flee. The woman simply laughs.
She steps forward and kneels before the boy, places her hand upon his cheek.
“It is all right, child,” she says. “There is nothing to fear.”
She removes her hand and returns to her feet.
“There is no longer even such a thing as fear.”
Wings of silken feathers stem from the boy’s back. He says nothing as they grow, feels no pain, he only twists and tilts, trying to see them with his own eyes.
“Fly,” says the woman. “Fly as you have only dreamt.”
She smiles again.
“The stars are calling to you. Do not disappoint them.”
The child spreads his wings, watches the sky shimmer through the feathers. He thrusts the wings downwards, feels his heels, his toes, lifting from the street. He does it again, rising higher. And again, still higher. The boy looks upward, into the night, a grin as wide as his wings. The moon is a possibility; the stars, playmates.
The boy looks down to the street, the alley, his eyes meeting the woman’s. She smiles and vanishes into the night.
Then come the anti-aircraft guns.
It takes three days to clean the boy off the storefronts, four to be rid of the stench. The angel is lynched by the end of the week. By the eighth day, no one remembers the boy’s name.