Author: Michael Gatlin

I meet Raven on the road to wonderland. I have never been to wonderland, and have begun to doubt its existence. There are many rumors and fairy tales, tall tales and stories regarding its magnificence. I decide to see where the road leads. A long and winding road it has been, and now Raven.

Raven is ill and grounded, unable to fly, unable to walk. He lays dying, coughing blood and crippled to the edge of darkness.

Raven calls my name. I approach the ancient trickster with caution. I have heard of his powers of persuasion, of mockery and deceit. Still, he is an alluring beast with shiny beak and midnight oil feathers.

“Save me,” Says Raven.

“I don’t know how,” I confess.

“You must blow the sickness from me.”

I take two steps back.

“Don’t be afraid,” says Raven, “Use your arms.”

“I don’t know how to use my arms to blow someone,” I say, “Sounds more like you want a hand job.”

Raven coughs crimson poison. He laughs ruby spittle that sticks to his beak. “Create a wind force with your arms, flap your arms as if they were wings and blow this poison out of me.”

I was relieved that Raven was not attempting to seduce me into sexual favor, out of pity for his sickness. You have no idea how often the trickster would try a trick like that. I laugh and shrug my shoulders. I lay my knapsack down. I extend my arms and push the air towards Raven.

The huge black bird looks dead. There is no movement, no vital signs that I can detect. Yet still, I do as he asks. I flap my hands towards his face, at least a cool breeze for when he releases the ghost. I flap harder and harder. I can see his eyes flutter and a gossamer cloud of black dust begins to fade from his feathers. He coughs up more blood, a richer, darker blood. I notice that the blood is more like an oil than actual hemoglobin.

“Keep going,” whispers gravely ill Raven.

I close my eyes and flap and flap my arms and hands. I stretch out my palms and fingers and flap and flap. I flap with supernatural force. The skin grows between my fingers until my hands are webbed. It becomes harder and harder to flap. The bones in my arms begin to stretch. My chest expands by three hundred percent. The pain is immense, but I can not stop flapping. I can feel the bones feeding from the muscle in my arms as they stretch and stretch. I shit my pants. I shit so much my pants rip from my legs. I shit ten, twenty grams, all while flapping, flapping, flapping my now impossibly elongated arms. I shit out thirty, forty grams of undigested grain and onion from my colon.

My lower intestine squirts from my asshole and transforms into skin. Yet still I continue to flap, harder and faster, the force now almost impossible to control. I can hear the force ten winds howl and scream, the trees crack in the distance and the ocean waves crashing in the further distance.

I open my eyes, all the while flapping, flapping. There is a torrential storm and I am causing it. I see the last of the Black Death hanging onto Raven. The dust and the oil of sickness are being blown away by the hurricane gale I am generating with my enormous wings. I realize first that my chest is three times bigger then when I started, and so are my arms. My skin has thinned and stretched from my fingertips to my ankle.

It seems I have traded my opposable thumbs for wing tips. My waist is thin and most of my digestive system has been transformed into glider skin around my ass and genitals. I feel awkward.

Raven is fine. He is a magnificent animal, an albino with clear blue eyes. He stands three times taller than me and with a wingspan vastly superior. “As a gift for curing me, I am going to let you keep your wings, and from now on all of your offspring will be able to fly like you.”

“Yeah – I’m not so sure I want to fly.” I respond, hopefully not too disrespectful to Raven.

“Of course you do. Everyone does.” Raven lets out an uproarious and glorious CAW that shakes the mountains. He stretches his mighty feathers and leaps into the air, flapping, flapping, flapping heavily, yet effortlessly.

“What if I don’t want to fly?” I respond but it is too late, the crafty bastard is off.

So I continue to walk down the road to wonderland, dragging my new winged form. After an hour or so it occurs to me that I can fly. Why not give that a shot? So I flap and flap, but my heavy and useless arms can not generate the same gale force winds they were creating when Raven was in need. I am not able to fly unaided.

On the path to wonderland I meet a squirrel who tells me that when he learned to fly. He did so by simply jumping out of trees. I wonder if I might not try the same method, so I climb the highest mountain. I walk to the edge of the mountain and look over. I see the tops of golden eagles as they circle beneath me, and the light of small cities in the distance. I walk back as far as I can and I take a running start and I run… I jump off the mountain and leap off.

I spread my wings and begin falling straight down, very fast. I spin out of control. I decide to tuck my arms back and dive head first, straight down. I dive like the falcon. I am not afraid because the emotion of fear only strangles the attempt. I spread my arms halfway while simultaneously spreading my legs. The wind feels sharp and cool zipping across what was once my lower intestine, but now acts as a rudder for my gliding.

I gradually arch my back and curve my once vertical descent. I eventually level off. I am not flying but I am gliding. I catch a thermal vent and jet horizontally across the sky. I flap my wings, which does little more than disturb my trajectory. I regain my gliding composure and decide to relax and see what I can see.

I enjoy the freedom, the light; the weightlessness. I can finally see Wonderland in the distance. I should be there by morning.