The sounds of the Brinton St. Michael Halloween Party died to a distant chatter as Becca stepped out of the old building, tears beginning to appear at the tops of her cheeks. Her thick soles clattered loudly on the flagstones as she walked, echoing around the courtyard in the moonlight until she disappeared through the open gateway and pat-patted down the road. Becca’s wet cheeks reflected the light from the full moon high above in the cloudless sky as it gazed down upon her, spreading its pale blue light across the countryside. At first the clap-clap-clap of Becca’s careless footsteps and her painful sobs were the only sounds she noticed, but as she walked further she tired of walking entirely, content that she was at least some distance from the party, and stopped to rest against the high stone wall of the church yard, drying her tears to look out across the moonlit fields. The sounds of the countryside began to creep unnoticed into Becca’s mind; the gentle breeze rustled the leaves of the beeches in the church yard, horses in the field opposite crunched on crisp grass and blew misty air through their nostrils, an owl hooted in the woods across the fields.
Becca began to sob again as her mind span with the evenings events and she turned her head, staring fiercely through her tears back towards the courtyard, flooded with light from the party. Part of her wanted to go back, part of her wished that she hadn’t got upset and ran from the table; but there was no way to go back, no way to face her family and friends and have as much fun as she’d been hoping to have. Becca’s heart felt like it was filled with lead as she gazed sightlessly around the moonlit lane, her mind’s eye deep inside her memories, replaying every time her family or friends had laughed at her, laughed when she was being deadly serious, laughed over things that she had thought about long and hard. Why did nobody ever take her seriously? All they ever did was laugh at her.
Sniffling loudly, Becca picked herself up from the wall and began to walk further down the road, wondering if it was possible to get lost in the countryside and never return home. She wondered if her family would miss her, and decided that they probably would, although she knew she would end up back home sooner or later and have to face their anger at her for running away.
Becca stopped when she reached the old wooden bench beside the church gate, brushed aside the dust and leaves and sat down slowly under the single white halogen lamp outside the church. A horse wandered slowly towards the fence opposite Becca and regarded her curiously, seeing one of the slow biped creatures, short and slim and made of curves. Purple hair hung messily over shiny rounded cheeks, across white cotton-covered shoulders and onto round breasts, pale pink in the moonlight; baggy blue jeans covered curvy legs.
Becca’s purple hair was just another thing her parents had laughed at. She had wanted to dye her naturally brown hair a deep blue-black and wear black lipstick and make-up like her friends did when they went into town, but they had refused to let her; they told her she would look silly. No daughter of theirs was ever going into town looking like a zombie, her mother had told her dismissively when she had found Becca dressing herself in her bedroom mirror several months previously. She had hoped that she would be allowed to join her friends on Halloween, dressed how she wanted to be dressed, telling her parents she was going to a fancy dress party, but they had seen past her plan and again they blankly refused. Instead they had agreed that she could dye her hair purple with a wash-out colour for the weekend, but by that time Becca had already declined the invitation to a Halloween’s night with friends and was dragged along to the boring countryside party by her mother.
That was how she came to be at the party, listening to their stupid conversation, listening to what was being said and saying little herself. Then Becca had said something, something she had been thinking about throughout the conversation, something she thought would be a valid contribution. Then her father had laughed out loud, smashing her thought into a thousand pieces so that as she cried on the church bench she could not even remember what the conversation had really been about.
Becca folded her arms across her knees and leant forwards, looking back at the horse that still held her in its wide glassy gaze. It bowed its head to sniff the grass as it stared sidelong at her, turning its attention to the tasty crops around its feet when it finally lost interest in the red-eyed biped. It eventually padded across the field as Becca watched it with little enthusiasm; she was trying not to think, trying to lose herself in the calm of the clear autumnal eve, trying to empty her mind, trying to think of nothing, as if every thought had the potential to worsen her pain.
Gradually the sounds of the night began to quieten, so slowly that Becca did not notice inside her crying mind. A dark shadow cast quickly overhead, blocking out the moonlight for a split second as it passed over Becca’s prone form, closely followed by a sound like a giant sheet of card flapping once in a single strong gust. Becca turned her head in the direction of the sound, over her shoulder in the graveyard, but could see nothing. A slender shadow moved in the distant courtyard and she turned her attention there: someone was leaving the party alone, walking quietly towards the gate.
The silhouette of a girl appeared against the gate to the courtyard, outlined in the light from the party. Becca did not recognise her, although the old building had been very full and she had not been there long before she left. The girl was wearing fancy dress, as were many of the other partygoers, although Becca thought that this girl’s costume was very impressive, even from such distance – two big bat wings stood proud behind her shoulders and rose high above her head. They were furled, although Becca thought that was just as well – their wingspan would have been over twenty feet.
The girl continued down the road towards Becca and she wondered if the girl was walking home, or coming to talk to her. She wished the girl would just walk past without saying anything; she was not in the mood to talk to anyone. She wanted to think, about her life and its importance, and she thought so much more clearly when she was alone.
Becca gazed at the girl as she approached, even though she did not want to attract her attention. Her face looked as pale as the full moon above her and as soft as the snow that Becca remembered from her childhood, and her lips, although full and deep in colour, seemed not out of place under her small pinched nose. Her long hair was straight and green, a deep bottle green, and like a glass bottle the colour seemed to change depending on how the light hit it. Under the blue-tinged halogen streetlamp and the paler globe of the moon it shone with a surreal darkness, as if her hair was radiating dark light to spite the lamp and the moon above. The girl’s hair really put her own cheap bottle colour to shame, Becca thought absently to herself.
The girl walked with a gentle sway that made her wings furl and unfurl gently; Becca marvelled at the ingenuity of the costume. The wing skin was a rich dark purple as sheer and smooth as silk and the texture of leather – not the thick heavy hide that most of her friends wore to their Goth clubs, but a soft lightweight skin that flowed in the draft of her motion. Just as fascinating were the bones inside the skin, long and slender and dark, each as thin as a finger but longer than a leg, jointed with slight knuckles and tipped with sharp points that threatened to break through the delicate purple skin.
As the girl approached Becca found herself looking at her slender body, her shoulders bare, pale in the moonlight, the curves of her breasts disappearing into her low-cut purple halter-top, her defined belly narrow above her slim hips. Tight PVC trousers fitted her legs perfectly, their colour matching her halter-top and wings so that the girl was a vision of purple punctuated only by her pale skin and her green hair, and her shiny black stilettos. The girl appeared quite tall as she stopped in front of Becca and smiled down at her, showing two seamlessly-fitted sabre teeth, although the weeping girl could see that she would be short to average out of her high-heeled shoes.
“Hey.” The girl said in a cheery voice, tilting her head to one side as Becca turned to look down at the floor. “Hey, what’s up?”
Becca felt her heart sink as the girl sat down next to her, reaching across to take hold of her hand.
“Nothing.” Becca mumbled as she continued to stare at the ground.
“Nothing? That’s a lot of tears over nothing. No use crying over nothing, eh?”
Becca pulled her hand free and shrugged. “It’s nothing. I just wanna be alone.”
“No you don’t, hon.” The girl said quietly, leaning forwards to look at Becca’s face. “Nobody wants to be alone.”
“I do. I’m only happy when I’m alone.” Becca replied darkly, willing it to be true even though she knew deep inside it was not so.
“Well, you don’t look happy.” The girl said again, her voice still full of enthusiastic cheer. “Would you be happy if I went away?”
Becca paused for a moment, thinking about what the girl had said, replying with nothing but a long sigh.
“I bet I can make you happy.” The green-haired girl suggested. “I bet I can make you smile.”
Again Becca said nothing. The girl took a deep breath and tried a different approach. “You’re sat out here all alone under a full moon by a graveyard, on Halloween, aren’t you scared?” The girl said in mock awe, leaning in towards Becca.
“No.” She replied, forcing a short chuckle to out of her lips. The girl was only trying to help, she told herself, and she admitted that it actually felt nice to have some company. “Why should I be?”
The girl gave an overstated gasp and widened her eyes in mock horror. “There could be ghosts!”
Becca turned to look at her and frowned, as if suggesting that she was not a child any more, and wondered why the girl wanted to cheer her up. She looked as if she was in her early twenties, a little older than Becca, but her manner was that of a much older woman. She had a motherly sentiment that cheered Becca up even as she had tried to ignore her – a skill only mothers seemed to have.
“Or zombies!” The girl said again, turning on the seat to face Becca. Her arms tensed for a moment next to her sides; Becca gave a startled yelp as the girl quickly lunged forwards with a mock growl, her slender fingers tickling Becca under her ribs for a split second then recoiling back to her sides. Becca slid backwards on the seat as she laughed, so surprised by the girl’s sudden attack that she could not prevent a grin forming on her face. “Oops! That was definitely a smile!”
Becca laughed at the girl as she turned on the seat to face her, suddenly darting out with her left hand to tickle her bare belly. The girl laughed as she stood and Becca followed; the pair erupted into giggles as they parried playfully, trying to block each other’s roaming fingers as they tickled one another.
Eventually the girls became breathless and they stopped tickling, standing up straight as they both pushed their hair back out of their eyes, panting for breath. “See, you feel better for some company, don’t you?”
“Yeah.” Becca replied, smiling widely. “Thanks.”
“Oh, don’t worry. It made me happy just to make you smile.”
“Yeah. My name’s Elly. What’s yours?”
“Becca. I like your costume.”
“I like your hair.” Elly replied with a smile. “It matches my wings.” She beamed as if she had only just realised.
“Can I see them?” Becca asked with enthusiasm; the wings had fascinated her since she had first seen them.
“Yeah, sure.” Elly turned her shoulders so that Becca could reach the thin leathery folds. Becca gently took hold of the outer bone and lifted it slowly, watching as the wing unfurled around it. She had only pulled it a few inches from Elly’s shoulder, and yet the tip of the wing was already several feet away from Elly’s knees, the purple skin shining in the moonlight.
“Wow! They’re great!” Becca exclaimed as she let the bone drop, watching as it returned slowly to Elly’s back and rocked steadily, shifting the opposite wing with its momentum. Becca reached behind Elly to touch the skin, running her fingers slowly up and down the smooth leather; she barely noticed when Elly gasped inwards with a quiet shiver, blinking several times as her eyes glassed over in the moonlight. “That feels really nice.” Becca said as she stroked the skin, delighting in its softness.
“Yeah, it does…” Elly said in a breathy voice as she leant her shoulder into Becca’s touch.
“What?” Becca said suddenly, turning her eyes from the great wings to look Elly in the face.
“Nothing.” She replied, shaking her head quickly. “Hey, you wanna go back inside for a bit? We could get a drink.”
Becca let her hand fall away from Elly’s wing as she gazed back towards the courtyard sullenly. “No, I don’t think so. I’ve drunk enough tonight.”
“Oh, OK.” Elly shrugged, turning to look down the lane. “You wanna come back with me for a bit?”
“Where are you going?”
“Well, I don’t wanna leave you alone again, and if you won’t go back to the party you could come to my place.”
“Um, no, it’s OK…” Becca began, shrugging her shoulders and lifting her coat up onto them as if she was about to leave. She did not really want to be alone again but somehow felt that she would be a burden if she dragged Elly away from the party. “I guess I’ll go back home.”
“Hey, no, it’s alright – come back to mine!”
“No, I don’t wanna drag you away from your party, honestly, I can watch telly or something.”
“Hell, I wasn’t really enjoying it anyway!” Elly said, shrugging her shoulders and scrunching her nose momentarily. “Come on, me and you – it’ll be fun!” Elly pointed down the lane, away from the courtyard and the party. Becca smiled, turned and began to walk in the direction Elly had pointed. “Hey, you can see my wings properly.”
“Can I try them on?” Becca asked, beaming.
“Of course.” Elly replied as she positioned herself behind Becca, her eyes widening momentarily as she whispered breathily to herself: “Baby, I’ll give you your own.” Quickly she stepped forwards, reaching out to grasp Becca’s wrists and bound them around her chest despite her sudden screams. The bright pavement turned to shadow as Elly’s wings unfurled above them and with a sound like tearing thunder lifted her powerfully up into the sky.
Becca held her eyes shut against the howling wind, whipping past her ears and stinging her cheeks with its harsh chill. Her legs dangled in the blast, held out like streamers behind her as she rushed forwards through the air, screaming silently as the wind was drawn from her lungs. Elly still held her tightly, her body a cold comfort close behind, moving rhythmically against her back.
Fear pounded through Becca’s heart as her mind swam with terror, desperately trying to wake up, convinced she was stuck in a terrifying nightmare. She could barely hear her blood pumping through her head over the noise of the wind but she could feel it, pounding in her skull like a drum.
Becca felt Elly’s body shift momentarily and her heart skipped a beat as she feared she would slip from her grasp and fall through the cold air into whatever black nothing her nightmare took her across. “Becca, open your eyes.” Elly’s voice said in her ear.
Becca tried to scream, tried to beg Elly to put her down, but the wind tore away her voice before it even left her throat.
“Open your eyes, I want you to see this.” Elly said gently, her voice cool and calm and clear in her head despite the rush of air around them.
Again Becca tried to scream for mercy, No, No, No, but she could hear no sound escaping her lips.
Becca found her eyes twitching slightly, then they popped open, wide with terror and almost immediately filling with moisture as the cold air stung them. Pale countryside dashed past far below, rolling hilly grassland, so dark and empty: no houses or farms, no cattle, no sheep, no horses. No fences separated the grasses into fields, only copses and woods and streams and rivers divided the dark land as they passed over it. Becca looked upwards to the horizon, her face frozen wide in petrified fear. A forested hillside rose up over the grassy carpet, rising to meet the girls as they flew towards it. Becca fought the urge to clamp her eyes shut again as the tips of the first trees whipped past beneath her, only inches beneath her nose; her feet began to burn in her mind as she feared they would catch on the branches and tear her free of Elly’s firm grip.
Elly continued to climb the hillside until it dropped away suddenly into a steep wide crater, almost black in the moonlight. Dead ahead, in the centre of the forested hole rose a rough pillar of jagged rock, pale white against the darkness of the trees. It rose almost to the height of the summit of the surrounding crater before it gave way to wide plateau on which perched a huge ornate castle made from deep grey stone. Tall pillars rose irregularly from the jagged fortress-like building, capped with dark slate spires, but all were dwarfed by one single tower that stood high above the rest, topped with a wide slate cone over a battlemented balcony hanging out around the tower. The moon hung fat behind the summit, highlighting the balcony as if it was a floodlit patio.
Diving into the crater, Elly swooped almost to the dark floor before rising suddenly, straight up the jagged face of the cliff, past its summit and the base of the castle, up the central tower towards the very top. Becca felt her stomach rise in her belly as the winged girl suddenly braked her ascent and alighted gently on the balcony around the tower, letting go of Becca and retracting her wings in one smooth motion.
Becca ran forwards quickly and peered over the battlements, feeling her head begin to swim with dizzy vertigo. The castle building stood far below, its slate roofs shining in the moonlight; below it the jagged summit of the cliff stuck out like a spiked collar around the castle base. Tiny dark shadows frolicked in the eaves of the castle and the lower pillars; bats, Becca assumed. Lots of them.
Tears began to stream down Becca’s face again as she turned back to look at Elly, eyes wide with terror.
“It’s OK, Becca, don’t be afraid.” Elly said calmly as she stepped forwards; Becca crouched against the wall and twisted, as if preparing to jump and run away as Elly approached. With a sound darker and sharper than Becca had ever heard Elly’s wings shot towards her and touched the battlements, locking her into an ever-encroaching circle as Elly walked slowly towards her. “I’m not going to hurt you. Trust me, I just want you to be happy.”
“Get away from me! Get away!” Becca screamed as she sank against the wall, pulling her hands in front of her face and becoming limp. Elly withdrew her wings as she reached the prone girl, crouching down in front of her and taking her wrists gently in her hands. She eased Becca’s arms away from her face and locked them around her shoulders, then reached down to cradle Becca’s waist and lifted her onto her feet, holding her in a gentle embrace.
“See, it’s OK. I’m not going to hurt you.” Elly soothed, rocking Becca gently back and forth. Becca cried into Elly’s shoulder as she returned the embrace, her petrified mind so confused that she was drawn to Elly’s human form and friendly voice.
“I’m scared.” Becca managed to say in between pitiful sobs as she buried her face into Elly’s milky neck. Elly pulled Becca’s head gently away and gazed into her eyes for a moment, locking their sight to one another, Becca’s blue eyes staring widely into the green tranquillity of Elly’s until her fears were calmed. Elly’s face seemed to beckon her and she gulped nervously, gradually becoming more uncertain of what was suddenly rushing through her mind than she was afraid; she felt as if Elly’s eyes could take away all her fears, and just by staring into them she could recover that happy feeling she had felt, just before she had been swept away into the cold autumn sky.