I’m ashamed to call myself an angel, I thought as I ritualistically plucked out my feathers.
I had to keep reminding myself that angels do a lot of good, too. Feeding the hungry, healing the sick, guiding people towards spiritual fulfillment… committing genocide and acts of terrorism, threatening to rip off my wings if I didn’t train to “fulfill my divine duty”…
I glanced around the chapel, where hundreds of other angels were participating in this plucking ritual alongside me. It was supposed to be a sign of devotion towards the divine, but for me, this mandatory act of self-mutilation–stripping myself of both flight and magic–had a different meaning: impermanence. With time, my feathers would regrow and I’d once more fly, just like my training would end, and I’d once more be free.
The Angelic Church/government insists that angels were created to serve their god, and that any angel who refuses to do so doesn’t deserve to live. Luckily for me, the inter-species Common Government recognized that as slavery, and told the Church that they couldn’t actually force people to serve them. All they can do is make me train to serve them.
Last one. I gripped the base of a secondary flight feather with my pliers and pulled it out quickly. Put it in a large plastic bag with the rest of my plumage (minus what my underwear covers. The Church isn’t too fond of public nudity).
One of the teachers nodded at me approvingly as I left the chapel, into the cool night air.
Instinctively, I spread my wings to fly back to my dorm room. Then sighed, folded up those now-useless chunks of flesh and bone, and started walking.
Most sentient species get by with just two legs and two arms, so they often think of wings as “extra limbs”. They’re wrong. Angels, like most birds, are evolved for flight. It’s how we escape from predators. A survival skill.
Despite the efforts angels made to fit in with humans, we’re not humans. We’re prey, not predators. Birds, sticking together in a flock/church for safety. And hiding our weakness. The weak are kicked out–or even killed–before they put the rest of the flock in danger. For most angels, the “flock” is the Church, and “weakness” means lack of faith. A single angel would stand no chance against a human, or a were-cat, or any other predatory species, but the Church… they brought a technologically and magically-advanced fire-breathing species to (supposed) extinction. It’s no wonder angels find such safety in being a part of that.
But the Church isn’t my flock. My flock was a group of outcasts, willing to accept anyone, even me. With them, I’m safe to be myself. And not worry about hiding my religion (Eclectic Witchcraft, or Wicca) for fear of execution.
The Church was a flock to many, but to me, it was a vicious predator that forced me to pluck myself and walk straight into its mouth.