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By annat173 All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Fantasy

Chapter 1

I believe in love and legends.

I see the world in a different way than everyone else. It’s a place meant to be beautiful, but was ripped apart by people, purged and plundered and twisted until the only truly beautiful places left are too small and circumstantial to come across easily.

I was lucky enough to find one of those places.

Hi. I’m Melody.

For me, it was any normal day. Well, supposed to be anyway. I was just walking in the woods beyond my backyard on a late spring day, enjoying the sun. Not necessarily by choice— I live with my grandma, and we’ve only got a computer with the slowest internet in the world. It takes ten minutes just to load a new level on an online game or a two-minute youtube video, so on summer break, in the middle of nowhere, with only a flip phone to otherwise keep me entertained, I usually just give up and go for a walk as I frustratedly contemplate the meaning of my existence.

I’d gone farther along the faint forest trail than usual today. Life was boring. Nothing to do. Nothing to expect. Nothing fun or out-of-the ordinary to look forward to but the start-back-up of school in another week.

So I was just listening to the birds and my own grumbling thoughts for as long as I pleased.

When…there, on the next hill.

What…what was that?

It hadn’t been there yesterday.

There was a person there.

The shape of a frozen figure, collapsed on the forest floor, fifty feet in front of me.

My heart skipped a beat. I squeaked and jumped back behind the trunk of a tree, hoping whoever it was didn’t see me. What would someone be doing in the woods way out here?

Then it occurred to me, what if they were…dead?

I peeked back around the tree.

It was a teenage boy. I peered at him, because he couldn’t see me, as he had his back to me.

He was pale, skinny, starved-looking, with a mess of black hair and his eyes closed. He was on his side, facing my direction, with his white shirt ripped and dirtied with both grime and blood, his black shorts covered in mud. He looked like he had something black and feathery on his back, like a blanket that had meant to cover him had fell to behind his back. He was trapped in a net.

I slowly stepped out from behind the trunk. Terrified he may be dead, and just as terrified that he could be alive, I hesitantly crept up towards him. As I harvested every wisp of bravery in me, and as I got close enough to see his face, the girly-girl inside of me thought, It’s too bad, he’s kind of cute… I shook my head. I looked at his chest to see if it was rising and falling.

I didn’t see any movement.

But I could see the black mass on his back much better now.

Though, then, I was just more confused. They looked like wings. Feathery black wings.

I slowly reached out towards his chest to check for a pulse. I didn’t want to touch him. I didn’t want to even get near him. But curiosity got the best of me.

I hesitantly reached my hand through the netting and put my hand over his heart, around which had rips and red-ringed holes.

His eyes shot open.

As I screamed and jumped back, he tried to get up and flee. But he couldn’t stand, held back by the net, which had several weights pinning it down on the edges. He fell back down, and he fought the net, thrashing, beating against it with the wings on his back, barely managing to cover a few feet, and only so by falling farther down the hill’s slope, flopping around like an injured bird.

He stopped, panting, and looked at me with wide, scared eyes. They were black. Where he should’ve had a splash of color, he had just black. It made him look like all he had were giant pupils surrounded by the whites of his eyes. It was creepy.

I took a nervous step towards him and he started thrashing again to get away from me.

“Hey, hey, calm down, I’m going to get you out of that net,” I said gently. “Stop moving, and I’ll help you out.”

He didn’t say anything. He looked at me hard. I took another step. He tried to escape again.

“Hey, stop it, you’re going to hurt yourself!”

He rolled in a bundled flurry of black feathers and red, scraped skin, thudding against a pine tree with a yell as one of the bare, dead-sharp ground-reaching branches stuck him in the back between the wings. He tried to scramble away from it, but the branch still caught on the netting, trapping him in one place.

I cautiously tiptoed down the slope to him, and this time, when he tried to escape, the net kept him from falling down any farther. Now he had no choice but to deal with me. He stopped and looked up at me with pleading eyes. “Hey, I’m Melody,” I soothed. “I’m not going to hurt you. I’m here to set you free.”

He swallowed, the fear and resentment in his eyes showing itself bright as day.

“Can you understand me?” I asked carefully.

He glared at me harder and nodded.

“Well, I can get you out of there, you just have to hold still.”

He was on his knees, his wrists tangled in the net on either side of him, his wings bent in uncomfortable folded, wrinkled, awkward positions. I could tell he was fighting the instinct to flee as I stepped up closer to him.

When I was three feet from him, I pulled my pocket knife out of my pocket to cut him free, and that’s when he went beserk.

He tried to thrash away from me, but only got tangled around the tree trunk, tied up in netting. He’d run in circles around the trunk to get away from me, and it had only tied him up. I tried to calm him down, but he started breathing hard, frantically looking around with wide, wild eyes, his chest heaving “No, no, no, no, no, no, no…”

“I’m going to cut you free!”

“Please no…”

“I’m only cutting the net, I’m not going to touch you.”

He shook his head, gasping for air in his fear of me. He was like a wild animal.

I reached down and grabbed a handful of rope netting and held it up, sawing at it with the blade. He leaned back from me as far as he could, staring up at me with those wide black eyes while I leaned over him to cut at his ropes.

As soon as I had cut a hole large enough for him to escape, he burst through it and scrambled away from me, grabbing a tree branch to help him stay standing up. He leaned on the branch heavily, and he was trembling with the effort already, but wasn’t about to give up in front of a human.

He looked even weaker now, out of the net. I was surprised he had managed to put up such a fight. He looked muscled, but starved, like he’d been out there for days, and somewhat underfed even before. He was covered in bruises, scrapes, burns, and a few non-lethal bulletholes. He looked like he’d been shot out of the sky with bullets and a net, and had fallen through the tops of all the trees and branches to get all those scrapes, but then, he would’ve taken a several-story fall…

Finally freed, I wondered why he didn’t just fly away. But then, just to stretch them after however long he’d been trapped, he unfurled his slick, black, feathery wings. And that’s when I realized how he survived the fall.

He’d landed it on his wings.

They had scrapes and burns on them too, and they were wrinkled and ripped. Both of them were bent funny. Twisted and broken, they looked like they would’ve once been an awesome marvel, but now they had been reduced to shreds.

“Oh my gosh.” I said aloud. “They’re…beautiful.”

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