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Flash Fiction: Feather Dreams

This is a sequel to Feather-Blessed.
The feather waits,
filling the house with dreams.
The woman weeps, reaches for a bottle;
the girl looks into the skies
and her step is light.

The magic feather haunted Grace’s dreams. Again and again, she plunged the quill into hand or arm or shoulder, and launched herself into the air, free to fly away from her alcoholic mother, her boring school, her deficient life; into a sparkling blue sky.

Every morning it was harder to leave the feather buried under her winter boots in the closet. But every morning she managed, bolstered by imagining a teacher confiscating it.

Every afternoon, she renewed her resolve to keep her promise to Stella, but she found she couldn’t imagine throwing the feather away. Not by reminding herself that magic wasn’t real. Not by thinking about how much she’d miss Stella if she flew off. Not even by imagining burning in Hell forever for the broken promise.

They’d planned to go shopping on Saturday, but Grace overslept, dreaming of flying through flowering trees and—

Her mother shook her awake. “Stella’s banging on the front door!” She was holding her head.

Grace rushed to greet Stella before her mother’s headache got worse. “Shhh—can you wait a minute?”

Stella nodded, rubbing her shoulder. She’d seen Grace’s mother with a hangover.

Grace threw clothes on, and they went to the mall, their haven of normalcy. Grace automatically headed for ice cream.

“I’m broke.” Stella said quietly.

Grace’s eyes flew to her friend, but she dropped them quickly. “It’s ok, I’ve got enough.”

“Thanks, Grace!”

Stella’s t-shirt sleeve rode up on her arm as she reached for the cone, and bruises showed. She pulled it down, and Grace pretended not to notice. Her home life was bad, but it was better than Stella’s.

Fortified by chocolate, they headed to the jewelry store, to dream of better days. After ogling the diamonds, they headed to the earring store, where they usually took turns holding preposterous dangles to their own ears, only switching to things they’d actually consider wearing after much giggling, and if they had money to spend.

Today, however, Grace kept holding pretty things to Stella’s ears.

“Would you stop that? I don’t have any money!” Stella hissed.

“I have some.”

“Is this about you oversleeping? Or—” Her hand went protectively to her shoulder, and she frowned. They never referred to each other’s family problems.

Grace shook her head. “No. Of course not.”

“Then what?”

“I—” Grace looked away, played with a random earring. “I couldn’t keep my promise.”

“Your promise?”

“About the feather.” Grace mumbled.

“The feather?” Stella looked bewildered. “What feather?”

Her voice a whisper, Grace answered. “Like in the book.”


Miserable, Grace nodded.

“But that’s just a story!”

“That’s what I thought. But then, on the pier, it came to me, drifting through the air. And I—I told you I’d throw it away. But I haven’t been able to bring myself to do that.”

“Throw—Grace, if it’s real—it is real?”

Grace nodded again.

“Where is it?”

“In my closet.”

“But—your Mom! Stella’s eyes widened.

“Don’t worry. She never cleans with a—headache.” But now that the possibility had been raised, Grace found she couldn’t stop worrying.

“We should go get it. I—I want to see it, and then you can use it.”

“I’m not using it. I promised I’d throw it away rather than leave you.”

Stella grabbed Grace’s hand, and squeezed hard, until Grace looked up. “I’m glad you didn’t! One of us, at least, can get away. You’ve got to use it!”

“But what about you?”

Stella looked down. “I’ll manage. Somehow. At least I’ll know the magic is real. I—” She squeezed tighter. “But I want to see it. Let’s get it, and go to the pier.”

Heading out of the mall, Grace noticed Stella was awkward getting on the escalator. She felt guilty suddenly. Why did she get a chance to escape, and not Stella? Stella deserved it as much as she did—and needed it more.

The world brightened once she retrieved the feather, though she left it in the book until they got to the pier. Then, feeling like the announcer on the Emmys, she opened the book.

The feather shines, pink and gold,
It lifts into the air.
Settles against the girl's hand;
Sends out a shower of sparks
orange and rose and gold

“Ooh—it’s beautiful!” Stella reached out, and the tip of the feather curled around her finger, the rest still curling around Grace’s hand. For once Stella didn’t notice when her shirt bared the bruises.

Grace looked at the purple and green marks. “You should use it.”

Stella looked up, startled. “But it came to you.”

“It came to us. In the book, it only comes to someone alone, but this one came while we were together.”

“I don’t care. I won’t take it from you.” They watched the glowing pink feather, still curling around both of their hands, showering them both with sparks. The sparks tickled and tingled, and as one, the girls looked up into the sky.

“If—” Grace felt out of breath. “If we had two, would you be a fairy?”

Stella shook her head. “No. I’d be a dragon, like you.” She sounded breathless too. “Do it. Do it now, so I can watch.”

Grace had a sudden inspiration. “If you’ll let me hold your hand.”

Stella nodded, and Grace took her hand, spreading the webbing between her thumb and forefinger as flat against Stella’s skin as she could. She lifted the feather in her other hand. The quill was long and sharp, as if it had been carved to a point.

If she was going to try this, she had to do it the first time, with no hesitation.

She licked her lips, frowned in concentration, and drove the quill down, through that tiny bit of webbing and into her friend’s hand.

She had just enough time to see her friend gasp in pain and, she hoped, wonder, before sparks filled her consciousness and she felt her body start to change.

The feather explodes
sublimating into pure magic
its power to transform finally freed
the pier vanishes
In a storm of gold and pink sparks.
Copyright © 2010 Deirdre M. Murphy

The story continues here.

Thank you to my sponsors and my commenters!


Feb. 20th, 2010 07:23 pm (UTC)
Cool story. I like the concept about choosing where to prick the skin so as to choose what you will be!



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