The A to Z Challenge doesn’t run on Sundays so I’ve decided to post a piece of flash fiction every Sunday instead. Enjoy!
Have you ever noticed how unsettling it is to see a flying ant? There’s something truly disconcerting about seeing a creature that is supposed to be small and insignificant be suddenly huge and in-your-face. It’s a bit too much for the mind to handle. That’s why no one ever extols the beauty of a flying ant.
Let me tell you though, no matter how much you dislike the creatures, the horror of the flying ant pales in comparison to the horror of a flying aunt.
I can still remember the twist in my gut the first time my aunt Marjorie peeled off her shirt in the backyard and started rolling her shoulders to start the process. At first, I was just appalled at seeing a grown-up discarding their clothes so casually in front of me. But revulsion kicked in when the movement cascaded down her back, like ping pong balls rolling between her skin and her shoulder blades – knots of muscle and flesh rippling along in what I would come to recognize as a distinct pattern.
All three of them could do it. Most of the time their wings hid beneath their shoulder blades, curtained behind skin, but they could call them forth as needed, taking off their shirts in the sunshine, letting the heat warm their backs. I don’t know if it was necessary, but it seemed to help ease the process somehow.
It looked like it should be painful, but no strain ever crossed my aunts’ faces, no sign that there was a problem. Indeed, there was no sign that anything out of the ordinary was taking place at all. They would have casual conversations about the weather,or about their work, even as the skin split to reveal the webbing of their wings beneath. There was a horror in that as well,the casual nature of the process, the pretense that this was the way of things. I recognized, even then, that they should be distressed, that the transformation should be disturbing in some way. Their ease was an abomination in itself. My seven-year old self knew that they shouldn’t be standing shirtless in my backyard switching forms, they should have been more covert, more hidden.
I may have shouted something of the sort at the time. I don’t really remember. All that comes to mind is the sun on those dragonfly wings, the casual conversations, and their laughter at my horror. I can see Aunt Elizabeth leaning her round, ruddy face towards me and grinning, reminding me that I had a brother, and that one day, I too, could be an Aunt. That’s when everything on the edges of my vision blurred, and when I came to, I was lying in the grass watching them dip and swoop in the sky. I pressed my fist to my lips to keep from screaming.
Scott’s son is due next week.
My shoulders are itchy.