The problem, I reflected, Is that I value free will. I’d be perfectly fine if I didn’t care so much about my freedom.
Or if I weren’t an angel. Then I wouldn’t even have to be here.
Angel Academy. Once an angel becomes an adult, they have to go to a place like this, to learn how to be “divine servants”.
Today was the first day, and we were all gathered in the chapel for the welcoming speech.
“Welcome,” the president/headmaster/whatever said, “I’m sure I need not remind you how great an honor this is. To be God’s Chosen People.” He paused. “The Lord created you in His image. He gave you sharp eyesight so you may watch for those in need. He gave you wings so you may fly where you are needed. He gave you voice so you may sing praise to Him. And He gave you His Power so that you may carry out His will.” He paused. “Be proud of what you are. We are angels, Children of God. It was by Him that you were conceived. And today, you prove your dedication to your Father. Today, you hatch anew, in the name of the Lord…”
I’m not gonna bore you with the whole speech. The gist of it was “we’re angels, and GOD LOVES US THE MOST!! And the whole reason for our existence is to serve our deity.”
Okay, so I’m pissed. I’m pissed that I belong to a race characterized almost entirely with its insistence on its own divinity, and I’m pissed that I’m under threat of having my wings sawn off.
Why would they saw off my wings, you ask? Because they’re considered divine gifts. Gifts that come with an innate contract for eternal servitude. Every angel gets this choice: agree to eternally serve the Judeo-Christian God, or lose our favorite pair of limbs, along with all our magic. And be cast out of angelic society.
Yeah, angels are kinda like the mafia when it comes to punishment. Combined with the Nazi-like hatred of ‘cubi (succubi and incubi).
But the worst thing? The worst thing was that I sensed enthusiasm. Most of my fellow students were excited for this.
I sighed. I just needed to get through it. They can’t force me to actually serve. That, at least, was struck down by the main (non-angel-controlled) government. So, I do the training, learn all about how to be a holier-than-thou prick, and then go back to my old life.
The speech ended, and we were dismissed to our rooms to begin the required ritual.
I made sure the door to my room was locked. Privacy is a way of life for me.
I was glad to have a room to myself. Most of us were being forced to room with someone, but I got lucky and–
Okay, fine. I rigged the housing lottery with magic. Happy?
I spread my wings. Admired my plumage. Stroked the soft feathers to calm myself down. Tried to meditate.
I had no hope of actually reaching a higher state of mind, making contact with the Otherworld, but I still decided to pray. Nobody would hear it, but it could still make me feel better.
“Great Goddess,” I prayed, “Help me. Please. Give me the strength to endure this. To get it over with so things can go back to normal. Well, not normal, by any stretch of the imagination, but… the insanity I’m familiar with.” Okay, so the wording… could be better. But who cares? Oh, well… hopefully not the Great Goddess. ‘Cause it’s actually a bit depressing how many of my prayers turn out like that.
Feeling a little better, I sat up and started plucking out my feathers, one by one. Initiation ritual. Kinda like how the army cuts everyone’s hair. Except way worse. Painful. And it leaves me totally vulnerable. Without feathers, my wings are useless. Pathetic little bits of skin and meat. I felt and looked like a frozen turkey. Especially the frozen part.
“Oh, down feathers,” I lamented as I plucked them out and stashed them in a box. “How I love you so. Your warmth. Your softness. Parting is such sweet sorrow. So young, so filled with the fires of life. I shall not forget ye.”
Angels aren’t just winged humans. We’re birds. We’re covered in wondrous feathers from head to tail, and they’re for a hell of a lot more than just flight. Warmth, beauty, we even use them to channel our magic.
That’s why we have to pluck ourselves, I guess. It’s pretty much the worst non-permanent thing we could do. A sacrifice, to show devotion to their god. (In case you missed it, I’m a Pagan. Which makes this whole situation extra shitty for me.)
“So cold. Tempted to just light myself on fire right now. Aah, fire.” I smiled. “So warm and comforting. The sweet embrace of the flames.”
Um… that’s… not as creepy as it sounds.