Emelie Pennington-Davis is a junior with an English and Psychology double major. He loves all things strange and creative; when she’s not embroidering, playing DnD or writing rambling queer poetry, they’re off wandering the woods looking for moss and mushrooms.
The Angel walks in the library. The where is not important, nor, in fact, is the when.
Library is anywhere where there is the smell of books and sticky ballpoint ink, anywhere keys tap and throats clear. It could be the old oak desk with the creaky door that sat in their childhood home 15 years ago. It could be a lonely, mussed bed, smelling faintly of a girl’s mossy perfume. It could be in the great rain-lit dome of the Radcliffe Library in Oxford, older even than the dust that covers the molded plaster. Regardless, the Angel is always there. It is hard to see them—they like to walk in the shadows between leaning books and perch on uncomfortably narrow chair backs and window sills—but if you look long enough, you will find them.
The Angel has no skin. This is something you must never forget, however much it may look otherwise. For the most part, they have the body of a human—shortish, smallish and fattish in all the places the other humans tell them not to be. There are eyes, narrow and cold, the blue-grey swill of puddle water. A nose—unremarkable. Lips—always chapped. It is the lack of skin that gives them away: the seeping expanse of rippling red flesh, criss-crossed by strings of tendon and the occasional flash of bone. That and the uncomfortable, meaty juts of plucked wings protruding from a book-bend back. When they wander from one carpeted expanse to another, between the ribs of bookshelves, you can hear the occasional drip, drip, drip of ichor from the naked wound of their body. Even quieter, a stifled sigh. After all, they are studying.
The Angel plucks a book from a shelf, flips through it. It might be Dante’s Inferno, it might be The Graveyard Book, it might be an utterly unknown tome. It doesn’t matter when or what they read, only that they do. Everywhere their fingers brush, blood and meat matter soak into the words like watercolor across canvas. The dust of the library stings their naked soles, their palms, their belly. Finally, they find the page they seek. Pain hits them like a needle through muscle, sharp and sweet. These words, imprisoned within this book, before this moment wholly unknown, somehow define them. Give them clarity, a steady finger pointing at a far horizon. These words are a part of them. The Angel tears the page loose and presses it to their ribs, as you would a lover: not carefully or fluidly, but with shaking hands and surety. The paper blossoms inwards, going from white to pink to deepest red. Wings without feathers beat the still air behind the Angel as expression and thought melt into flesh.
Then, it is all over. The Angel looks down at themselves: the naked seizing of their heart, the glisten of gristle in the fluorescent light. There, amidst the body’s chaos, where words kissed flesh, a thin, pale puzzle-piece of new skin braves the cool air. Countless other fragments of poem and prose dot their thighs, their arms, their bare chest. It is armor; it is a monument. The Angel smiles until blood-tinged tears roll bitter down the white of their cheekbones. They stretch their hands and wings out—not towards heaven, but towards the silent possibility of the Library around them. And they walk on