Slowly, painfully, I knelt before the old priest.
“Father, I need absolution for my sins, I need to be clean again,” I wept. “I know I am loathsome and I don’t want to be any more!”
His bony hand wove through my hair to cup my skull. “My child, you know I can’t offer absolution,” he said quietly. “I can offer a listening ear, a prayer, a blessing…but I’m the wrong kind of priest to absolve you.” He reached for a huge, old bible and released me so he could flick through it, obviously searching for the right verse or reading to ‘help’ me. But that wasn’t what I wanted.
“No!” I wailed, and reached to grab the Bible from him. I screamed and dropped the heavy book, staring at the smoking skin of my palms, the blisters forming on my fingers. The pork-like scent of burning human flesh mixed with a curiously sulphurous smell and the priest stumbled backwards, reaching for the cross around his neck.
Suddenly there was a tearing across my shoulders and I screamed, falling flat on the floor. I writhed as the tearing became agonising pain, hearing my bones crack as a stretching, unfurling sensation overtook me and huge weight pressed me to the floor. It was all too much: I blacked out.
When I came to, the priest was sobbing quietly, curled up on the floor with his back to me. The room seemed dark, and when I looked up, huge black wings spread above me, blocking the light from the stained glass windows. I tried to stand, but couldn’t. Reaching up, I plucked a feather from the wing nearest me, gasping at the small stinging pain I felt as I did so. The feather was a thing of beauty, glossy and dark with an oil slick-rainbow sheen to it. And apparently it was mine!
Concentrating hard, I furled my wings and slowly pushed to my knees, then up. I wobbled but eventually got used to the weight of the wings, swishing them about me and kicking up dust in the old church. Turning in a wide circle, I knocked over the vase of flowers on the altar table with a crash, and I smiled.
“Thanks, Father,” I said. “Looks like I won’t be needing that absolution after all…”