Pain exploded from her back with the beat of the song. She screamed and fell forward, but her voice was drowned out by the shouts of the large crowd. It wasn’t until warm liquid landed on the faces of those around her anyone realized something was wrong. Screams of terror mixed with the excited cheers.
She grabbed her belongings in a blind rush and ran down the stairs. She was thankful she had an aisle seat, but there were so many stairs and it was dark. The small lights to help illuminate the steps were difficult to see with the flashing lights from the stage momentarily blinding her.
She made it to the bottom and turned to exit the arena. Something knocked into the wall and she screamed at the pain in her back. She guessed she had hit a railing, but she didn’t want to stop. She had to get out. Her back was burning. She made it out into the hall of the arena and the blinding lights stopped her for a moment. She searched for the stairs to the ground floor. She ran down them, feeling warmth drip down her back to the floor.
She reached the ground floor. Screams erupted all around her and she looked into the faces of terrified concertgoers who had run out to the bathrooms between songs. Seeing their expressions she felt a greater desire to get away from this place. She turned and ran around the ring of the arena. She didn’t know where she was in relation to the entrance, but she couldn’t risk stopping to ask. The pain was pushing her forward.
A stroke on her cheek made her scream and she turned. No one was near her. She could see employees staring at her wide-eyed and some were frantically speaking into radios. She felt another stroke on her other cheek and turned her head. Her eyes widened at the sight.
Wings. Two large, grey wings were following her. Her eyes followed them down to her back and the two bleeding wounds where the wings had exploded from her skin.
Security guards ran towards her from where she had been running. She panicked and started to run faster. She spied doors that looked like the exit and forced them open. She ran down another flight of stairs and emerged into a long hallway. She didn’t recognize it and felt her heartbeat grow faster. Where was she?
The door at the top of the stairs opened and closed and she could hear footsteps as well as the radio blaring in the stairwell. She turned and started to run again. There had to be an emergency exit somewhere, right?
Her eyes suddenly blurred and began burning. She screamed in frustration as her vision made it difficult to see any signs. She tried to rub at them carefully to fix the blurriness, but it only made it worse. She crashed into something and felt her wings flapping wildly. Whatever she crashed into began wrapping around her and she became tangled. Her wings were pulled tight against her back and she couldn’t move her arms.
The panic inside of her reached a terrifying level and she began to cry. She screamed in terror, but managed to form one word. “HELP!”
She heard a door open in front of her and footsteps ran to her. “What the hell?”
She tried to calm down enough to speak, but her voice came out as terrified sobs. “Please! Help! I need to get out of here!”
The footsteps from behind finally caught up and she could hear several men breathing heavily. Hands grabbed for her and she started to scream again, pleading for help.
“Hey! Stop! She’s tangled in the curtain! You’re only making it worse!”
“We’ll take her. She’s with us anyways.”
“Are you crazy? She just created a scene in the halls! We got reports from everyone stationed at the doors that she was running around like a maniac! We’ve been ordered to kick her out.”
“We’ll take care of her! She was supposed to stay down here in the dressing rooms, but she got away from us. If the person who gave you orders has a problem with it, he can talk to us.”
A pause. She tried to calm her frantic breathing, but the cloth of the curtain was tight around her and she couldn’t see. The panic started to come back and she whimpered helplessly.
“Fine, but you should get someone to look at her. I think she’s bleeding.” She heard footsteps walking away.
Her whimpers grew louder as it became harder to breathe. She could feel hands help her to her feet and someone untangled her head from the curtain. She took deep lungful’s of air. The burning of her eyes caused tears to continually stream down her face, but she tried to look at who had saved her. It took a moment for her eyes to focus properly, but she still couldn’t make out her rescuers’ faces.
“Are you okay? Do you need a doctor?”
She shook her head. A sudden wave of nausea forced her to grab one of the men’s shoulders. “I need a bathroom.”
“We should take her to the locker room. There’re bathrooms and showers.”
They tried to untangle to rest of the curtain off her, but she furiously shook her head. “No! Please, I don’t want you to see.”
They didn’t argue and led her through a set of doors. They walked down a long hallway and even with her burning, blurred vision she could make out other people who stopped to stare at her. They walked through another set of doors and she was taken to a stall. She quickly ran in and kneeled to the floor and vomited into the toilet. She was thankful her hair was up in a ponytail. Her arms were still trapped in the curtain and she could only use her hands to stop herself from falling into the toilet.
When she was sure she was finished she tried to stand. Hands helped her and a blurry figure flushed the toilet. The men led her to a bench and sat her down.
“We’ll just give you a minute to…clean up.”
“Do you want someone to take a look at you? Like a nurse or something?”
She furiously shook her head.
“We’ll be right outside. Take your time.”
“Thank you,” she said, shyly. She watched their blurred figures disappear through the doors and she released an exhausted sigh. She pulled her arms free from the curtain and raised a hand to her eyes. She pulled her contacts out of her eyes and blinked several times.
The burning disappeared and she felt relief fill her. She looked up and to her shock she could see perfectly. She blinked a few times and looked down at the two pieces of thin plastic in her hand. “Weird.”
She untangled the rest of the curtain and placed it on the bench next to her. She put her bag under the bench, making a mental note not to forget it. She noticed for the first time, blood on her arms and clothes. She stared at it with wide eyes. She looked around and spied the showers. She stood and ran to one and turned it on. The water poured down from the showerhead in a spray of cold. She adjusted it to a comfortable temperature. She tried to take her shirt off, but it caught on something. She reached to her back and froze.
She had forgotten.
The back of her shirt had been torn in two places. She cursed and ripped the rest of her shirt off. She didn’t bother with her pants. She walked under the water and rinsed the blood from her arms. She took her hair down and ran her hands through. The water ran down her back and she winced at the dulling pain.
She raised a shaky hand behind her and touched the wings. She could feel where they were on her back and tried to move them. She found them easy to control and maneuvered them in front of her so she could get a better look.
They were no longer grey. They had probably only looked grey because of the lighting and because of…all the blood. She shivered and saw the feathers on the wings ruffle. The feathers were actually a light golden brown. She stroked the wings and her eyes watched her hands. She stopped and moved her hands to her face.
Her hands were different. Her fingers and nails were longer. Her nails were black, but it wasn’t nail polish. They were naturally black with golden tints toward the cuticles. She slowly lowered to the floor and cried. She could feel her hair sticking to her face and she squeezed her wings against her back as she leaned against the cool linoleum wall. She closed her eyes to try to stop the tears, but they forced their way through.
“Well, well. Looks like someone shouldn’t play with things she doesn’t understand,” a voice said.
She quickly looked up and saw a man in black staring at her. He leaned on a sink and smiled at her.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“Who am I? According to you nothing. I don’t exist. Though you were quite quick to make a deal to get what you wanted. Too bad you weren’t specific. I improvised. How do you like them? I figured something dramatic would be best.”
“What are you talking about? What deal?”
The man leaned his head to the side and then appeared in front of her. She jumped at his sudden appearance and tried to move away, but he grabbed her throat and raised her off the floor. She gasped in fear and started to struggle, but his grip was only meant to hold her not cut off her breathing. “I want them to notice me. I would give anything to be special enough for them to want to know me.”
Her eyes widened as she heard her own voice come from the man’s throat.
He cleared his throat and when he spoke again he returned to his voice. “Again, not very specific, but improvisation was always my strong suit. Your words those many nights ago caught my attention, but I figured the excitement should wait for the big night. Now here we are.”
She stared at him in disbelief. “You’re the devil?”
He laughed. “Well, a devil. One devil isn’t exactly how it works. You may call me D. Don’t bother asking for my real name. Human tongues can’t form the correct pronunciation.” He pulled her closer to him. “I bet you haven’t even had a real good chance to look at all the work I put into you. Here.”
They appeared in front of a mirror and he turned his head to look at their reflection. She turned her head and her mouth opened. D released her and stepped away. She leaned close to the mirror and raised her long fingers to her eyes. They were now black with golden irises, like a wolf or eagle’s eyes. She opened her mouth wider. Her teeth had become perfect, white, and her canines had grown a little longer and sharper on bottom and top. Her hair, starting to dry at the ends, was now the same light golden color as the wings. She stroked the dried ends and felt how much softer it had become, like the feathers on a baby chick.
“What did you do to me?” she demanded turning back to D.
He was gone. She looked around, but she was alone. The water from the shower echoed in the empty room and she stared at the ceiling.
“Oh, one last thing,” D said suddenly. She jumped and looked back in the mirror. He stood behind her, but when she turned he wasn’t there. He was only in the mirror. “This was not done for free. I will be back to tell you my price. For now, enjoy talking to your idols.” He disappeared.
She moved back from the mirror. Voices echoed down the hallway outside the doors.
“I’m telling you she may be hurt. I didn’t want security to just throw her out.”
“So you brought a crazed fan backstage? You’re a real fucking genius.”
“She wasn’t crazed! She sounded scared and kicking her out would only do more harm than good.”
She looked over and then at her reflection. She grabbed the curtain and ran back to the shower. She turned the water off. The doors opened and she scrambled to find a place to hide, but it was too late. She covered herself with the curtain, but forgot to pull her wings in. She cursed and without thinking wrapped her wings around her.
“She’s probably going to kidnap us and take photos of us naked or some shit.”
“What the fuck is that?”
There was a short pause before another voice said, “Holy shit.”
Footsteps quickly moved closer and she felt hands touch the feathers of her wings. “Hello?”
She bit her bottom lip and slowly pulled her wings away. The men staring at her gasped.
“Is this a prank or something?”
“I think those are real.”
“So, what’s the story here?”
She couldn’t answer them. Her voice had caught in her throat when she saw their faces. Without her contacts to blur the world she recognized the men standing in front of her. They were the members of the bands she had come to see that night, the two opening bands and the main event, Ashes of Snow, Animal Den, and Between Silence.
She pulled the curtain closer to her face and looked away, embarrassed about her wings and the fact she was only in her bra under the curtain.
“Hey, are you okay? People said you were bleeding a lot.”
“That’s what happens when wings unexpectedly explode out of your back,” she grumbled. She slowly turned, lowering the curtain to show them the still sore wounds.
A gentle hand carefully touched where her back ended and the wings began and the owner whistled. “That’s crazy shit, man.”
“What do we do with her now?”
“She should come with us!”
“Are you crazy?”
“We can’t leave her here in the showers and I don’t think we can just send her off outside. She can stay with us for the night.”
“You said come with us. That implies taking her to San Francisco tomorrow.”
“Well, why not? She could be our new mascot.”
“The least we can do is let her sleep. You have a car here, right?”
She nodded. “The keys are in my bag.” She pointed to the bench. One of the members walked to it and grabbed it, carefully digging through it for her keys.
“You remembered your shit?”
“I can think pretty clearly in a crisis. For a while, at least.”
“So who’s going to get her car? None of us can go outside right now. There are still people walking around waiting for us to emerge.”
“We’ll get one of the roadie’s to do it. Tell ‘em it’s one of our family’s or something.”
“Right, so where is she going to sleep?”
“We’ve got an extra bed in our bus. Curtained and everything so she can have some privacy.”
“Settled then. Come on. We’re going to have to sneak you past the fans.”
She stood and grabbed the curtain. She pulled her wings close to her back and one of the members helped her wrap the curtain over them. She followed them out and they helped sneak her past a line of fans wanting to catch a final glimpse of their idols. The main band, Between Silence stopped to keep them distracted and the others got her to their bus.
“I guess they meant this bed. It’s the only clean one.”
She took the curtain off, having a little trouble keeping her wings from hitting the walls of the cramped bus. She managed to squeeze into the bed and looked at the other members. They said goodbye and left, leaving her alone.
She pulled the covers of the bed back and tried to find a comfortable position with the wings. She finally managed and closed the curtains. She stared at the curtains in silence.
She was on Between Silence’s tour bus. She was going with them to San Francisco. She wished she was happy or excited about it, but all she felt was fear and confusion. She tried to calm her mind as she heard the band members enter the bus. They spoke quietly so as not to disturb her and she heard them move to their respective beds. The bus engine started and began moving. The rocking of the bus lulled her into a dreamless sleep.