A Choral Chrysalis by Eric Andrew Newman

The bright white blades of light slice through the spaces between the slats of the blinds and fall to the floor. I am not blind. I watch as the shards of light sweep across the linoleum, like the hands of a clock sweeping across a blank face. The walls of my room are the color of bone, a bared rib cage enclosing the throbbing heart of my body, pulsing with its dark thoughts. Encased in the gauzy white cocoon of my hospital bed, I patiently wait to sprout wings. I am not a patient.

The nurse knocks on the door locked from the outside and carries in a tray bearing two small paper cups, one filled with colorful pills and one filled with translucent water. I raise my head from off the bed and the nurse tips the contents of each cup into my gaping maw, first the pills then the water. I lift my tongue to show the nurse my mouth is empty. I am on display. The nurse leaves and I lie back down. Doctors in white coats watch me from a slot in the door and jot down notes on their little clipboards. I am an experiment.

At night, the nurses sleep, but I do not. I lie awake in the funereal shroud of my bed and look up at the stucco ceiling. I can feel the buds of my wings itching beneath the skin of my back waiting to break through and bloom like flowers. This is when the angels visit me. They are the only ones who visit me here. They arrive in numbers no less than two, but no more than five. It changes every time. They huddle together in the far corner away from the door so as not to be seen.

This is a futile gesture, as the angels exude a gentle glow that radiates through the dark like bioluminescent bugs. Instead of the white feathered wings of a bird, the angels have the segmented and colorful wings of a butterfly. They stand unadorned, hands held outstretched, skin shining. They do not have harps or halos, they only have their voices, a choral chrysalis. When they sing, it’s a hymn only I can hear. Their sweet melody soothes my ears the way the waves of the sea smooth the shore.

The angels’ chorus lifts me up from the bed and wraps around me like a shawl. I throw back the sheets and blankets, sending them tumbling to the floor. My skin begins to burn, as the ties of my pale blue hospital gown come undone at the back and a burst of bright light shoots out from underneath. My shoulder blades are blazing. My insides melt and reform into something new. My butterfly wings sprout from the flesh of my back and unfurl like sails. I hover over the hospital bed, new wings fluttering, and join the choir.

Eric Andrew Newman lives in Los Angeles and is from the Chicago area. He works as an archivist at a nonprofit foundation by day and as a writer of flash fiction by night. His writing has appeared in Cleaver, Exposition Review, Heavy Feather Review, Necessary Fiction, and Quarter After Eight.

Image: Annie Spratt