The two-legged creatures whose shadows whisk around him on the air see his eyes flash, and draw closer in to him. He bares his teeth and grins at them, his canines on his lower lip, his body like a whip whose end slinks and strokes and twitches on the flesh around a shoulder. A smell of musk and incense rises, coiling through the billows of a smoke that appears, stained red in long cones as of spotlight. The shadow of a forked tail flexes behind him. He grins again, without choice, and tastes sudden blood: in the process of pushing out, his canines are digging at his lower lip. He grins more, they bite more—then he thinks of opening his mouth a little wider. A pair of shadow-horns curve up from his head, and he clutches them: they’re just a little daintier than dangerous, he feels, but are horns nonetheless.
A reek of streaming blood smiles out from his face, as his eyes burn scarlet like a pair of lasers cutting through the dry ice. The creatures stare at Scorpio, enraptured. “D’you find free will unnerving?” he grates. “Now be honest.” And he vomits up a black scream of tendrils of sound, wrapping round one another like a mass of worms and weevils.
“But look,” he whispers, seeing that a new figure flickers up beside him. “It’s the Pug Among the Struts!” And that figure from beneath the tower hangs in its frame. Scorpio reaches out and strokes the pug’s face … whereupon the frame melts away, the strait-jacket falls off, and down the pug steps, glowing young and free. The skinny creatures gasp with relief.
Black eagle-wings form at Scorpio’s shoulders. He flexes them, feels them as his own (his own black eagle’s wings!), beats them and cautiously rises, as the rest of him morphs to eagle shape. Flying faster, he cries out with happiness. An urge arises in him for another little eagle he can soar with, another he can sing for—another sleek flying creature, feathered just as he is, so they’ll share the magic fully in the coiling of desire. He looks around but sees no other like him. Other pairs of wings he hears nearby, from birds that hide, and he turns to each in full view, with joy and hope; but every time he does so, the hidden bird squawks in fear and flies away. Many hundred pairs of wings he hears, and some he approaches, but every one flees. He circles a long time, alone and confused, until a thought strikes and chimes in him: “But maybe those were sparrows, all frightened and brainless!… Then if so—well, who can blame them?”
Next the air darkens, and he glances up and thrills to feel the gust of a wing-span many times his own, as a giant golden eagle sweeps above him, awesome in its power and its beauty and its solitude, gold feathers glinting in the tower-light from underneath… It wafts him up towards it and holds him there gently, then it speaks, not in words but in the rhythm of its wings around his body: “Relax, I shall never let you fall. You are safe, little Scorpio: just let go.”
Acquiescing, Scorpio discerns the other’s name: “D’you scent the damage in me, Amber? If not, let me know, so I can slant Dubai to light us up better from below. But if so, any theories as to origin?”
As the tips of Amber’s wings brush his own sharp black-feathered body, Scorpio sees that twists of matter have expanded through the ages, into consciousness, self-consciousness and civilisation, becoming so specialised and separate in their working that they wink like eyes upon the folds of the blackness, each gazing out at all the others through the webbing of the flux.
As a stage in their flight that is almost overdue but not quite, they both melt back to human shape, retaining just the wings from their eagle selves—Amber’s being golden and Scorpio’s black. The former spins the latter round in mid-flight, high above the Palm Jebel Ali, and he holds him underneath at wings’ length and looks him in the eyes. “I could break your body with a stroke from my wings, my little eagle, but of course you know I wouldn’t.”
Gazing at the golden eyes and flames of spiky platinum blond around the other’s head, Scorpio replies, “I never want to leave you.” […]
“You never will. We’ve met before on earth, long ago—do you know that? You’ll remember, when we meet again, next time!” and he plants a single burning kiss, down through the whistling air, onto Scorpio’s forehead.
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