Eclosion

What they don’t know is his wings come out at night. The leathered edge splits free of the scar zippered white across the burrow where it stays tucked in daylight hours into weeks into years. For longer than he can remember the damp fur has housed germinal flight. Something rests like brood XIX down there where the subtlest shift could mean the difference between incubation and asphyxiation.
 
For some, burial is only dormancy.
 
His need to unfurl is as pressing as that of a coiled spring wound wrong-way past its tensile capacity. The stretch never quiets and the threads never fuse even when forced immobile. They hammered beams criss-cross over hasp and hinge. They forgot what was in there.
 
Just because the creak of need is not discernable to the naked ear does not mean it has been stilled. Bend close enough
 
(I do)
 
and you hear it. The groan is not bone. It is not age. The creases by his eyes cloak hoods over the range. A low flame hisses at the furrowed firebreak delimiting the mouth, his cave. Stalactite teeth. Whiskers of plated beard thrum in the follicle and wait to split the skin from within. At the source the tunnel forks. A tongue thirsty for heat is pressed back waiting helical beneath his flushed neck. Up from the other corridor, fume and the hint of ignition. Somewhere, a fusebox. The plunger is cocked in a shadowed channel of his body where old leaf and stone have hidden it so well.
 
My fingers seek
 
what they claimed fell away like an umbilical stump. Perhaps they had to believe pubescent eruptions would fade into soft craters. Time alone would scour away roughness. Walking upright among the diurnal would grate off any remnant of scale. They imagined him inhabiting the rippled dune just as it poured into him and filled every crevasse. They pictured him, finally, submitting to the inevitability of that boundless desert terrain.
 
Except his fissures were already occupied.
 
Except everything has a boundary and every boundary has another everything it is holding back.
 
This chimera with the vocabulary of inventors (though I suspect he knows only a streak of what he is) finds no relief in sleep. Mind on fire. Minding the fire? Mining? The other half half-wakes. He cannot find comfort stretched on his back, lips falling open. The rumble deep in his lungs and lower still is too much like the first roil of contraction.
 
He knew what to expect. He knew their intent. He was fully two wholes when only one could live. He saw the glint of the knife before they had even divined their own actions, before they had even closed hands around hilt. They would. He prepared.
 
Second sight is not just the blessing of an intuitive but the birthright of a pterosaur. Like echolocation, that sister faculty of his mammal kin, it is not magic at all. It is not even a marvel, not to anyone who can conceive of the hum of momentum when its source never shows itself to sight.
 
Here now.
 
The slender strip of stars skulking at the edges of the blinds is enough for distance but not intent. I know by feel he has turned on his side. Breath and hunger. I reach. The webbing noses out against the sheet at his back. An inch then two. He lets his guard down though I would never tell him and he’d deny it if I did. The teeth of his scars unclench. As hungry as they are to tap the marrow of whatever they’ve been gripping all this time, their appetite for night’s promise is greater. He stays awake, or perhaps returns again and again to wakefulness. He watches. He keeps watch. Not with eyes and maybe not with any sense I can name though I surely recognize the tattoo of its clang against the etched walls of my own forgotten cave.
 
What they don’t know is that it is never too soon to knit the tears nor too late to tear back the stitches.
 
The creak of wing, the scratch of pteroid against the base of my skull draws my head to his shoulder and I am creeping finally into the hollows of my own eyes at the moment his tongue pushes free. Longer than any, a thickly sown field of buds seeking heat now whets itself against my jaw, my throat. Its length alone bespeaks a palate for furred flesh. It is a nocturnal thing hinting at blood and strike but this close I can tell it is as translucent as the membrane between the digits pulsing now from the trench beneath his scapulae. They hold me but reach past. At any moment, he will sense the expanse beyond the ceiling and vault up and out. Will I have a place in that ascent?
 
This right here is the entirety of what is promised. And even this is not guaranteed.
 
I release the damper and let in whole the chord of his appetite so tuned like the lost lower fifth of mine. Glossa streaks of ink and string, he sculpts the notes of a long dead language into the spells that bind my breastbone to his rib. The current he strains to catch with the first beat of his awakened reach is the one we trace onto our shared night.
 
It might slip. It might lift.
 
We fuse halves to fractions and produce a vibration to fit this tilted air.
 
Surfing into my own thawing dawn, I search for the stiffness in my neck, the ache, the thud of resistance I have carried for decades. It has become as familiar as the shape of my voice. Yet it is nowhere here. It has blurred into memory and even the electric pulse of recollection has skipped from its gutter and seeks a new route. All that remains of the body I suddenly inhabit is just softness upon softness. Feathers of ash rise free. The rest is burned clean.
 
Maybe the scars on tears on years were never there at all. The shape of those wounds was just the last generation’s abandoned husk. All this time they have been thinning. They have been giving way. They have been waiting to let me through as raw as newborn tissue unmarred and falling like water into him.
 

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