One week later the air was heavy and muggy, a thunderstorm gathering overhead. As he jogged up the hill towards the graveyard, it matched his own mood. The first drops of rain fell as he climbed the steps into the cemetery. As he approached the tree, a bright flash of lightning lit up the dark sky, revealing the dark angel herself who was standing in the shadows.
“Well met, Son of Perran,” she greeted him formally as she stepped forward.
“Hey,” he replied forcing a smile. “Looks like we’re about to get wet.”
“Not at all,” she said stepping forward. “We’re leaving.”
Before he could protest, she swept her wings around him. The world went black and everything felt still.
When the world cam back into focus, he wasn’t surprised to find himself in the dark angel’s mausoleum home.
“Is this the way I’m going to have to exist?” he asked as he sat up and looked round. “This place feels different. Smells different.”
“It’s the oils,” replied the angel calmly.
“Lavender and geranium,” replied the angel lifting a large box from a previously unnoticed niche by the door. “Take your shirt off.”
“Remove your shirt,” she said slowly and deliberately.
Without argument, he removed his running top, tossing it onto the stone bench. As he stood in the middle of the tomb, stripped to the waist, he was acutely aware of the angel’s gaze on his lean toned body.
“Enjoying the view?” he teased as she walked behind him.
Her green eyes dark and intense, she stared at him, the gaze boring into his soul. She moved round to stand directly behind him. She studied his back for a few moments then ran her cool hand over his shoulder blades. Tiny sparks of electricity pulsed through him as her cold fingers caressed his warm skin. He felt her pause and run her thumbs over the tips of his shoulder blades.
Taking a step back, the angel studied his smooth skin, tanned from the summer sun. At first, she couldn’t be sure and she thought for a moment that his luck had held then she noticed a slight circular discolouration. There were two patches of skin about two centimetres across that were a darker shade than the rest of the runner’s bronzed back.
“The buds are there,” she said quietly as moved round to face him.
“Buds?” He looked at her with a face filled with confusion.
“Your wing buds are forming.”
“I have worked out a way to slow their development but you’re going to have to work out a way to administer the treatment on your own,” she explained, her tone serious. “How are you with pain?”
“I’m tough. I can take it,” he replied, sounding calmer than he felt.
“Each of the phials in that box contains an oil that you are going to have to use once a month. I can only stall the development for so long. This treatment had to be prepared in a single batch. I cannot make any more. There are three hundred phials in the box for you. Do not break any. Do not drop any. These are the only ones in existence.”
Glancing into the cardboard box, he saw that it was filled with slender phials containing a dark liquid.
“I’ll administer the first dose,” the dark angel explained pointing to a larger phial that lay on a black velvet cloth on the bench alongside her ornate knife. “I need to ensure that I treat the centre of the buds. I’ll make the first cuts. You will then use the same holes each month.”
The angel nodded, the white streak of her hair almost shimmering in the candlelight.
“Wait a minute,” he stalled sounding anxious. “What’s the plan here?”
“The phials contain an infusion of horse chestnut bark, lavender oil, geranium oil and thyme plus a few other items. The oil needs to be poured into the centre of each bud once a month and the wounds covered with the moss that’s at the bottom of the box. The moss has been treated with the infusion. You’ll only use a couple of strands at a time.”
“And how a I going to explain two holes covered in moss on my back to my wife?” he demanded sharply.
“You like to decorate your body. You’ll get another tattoo across your upper back. The holes will be lost in the design,” explained the angel calmly.
“Oh, will I?” he retorted. “And I assume you’ve picked the design for me too?”
“I’ve designed it for you,” she replied calmly. “The design is part of the enchantment. It needs to be identical to the drawing inside the box.”
Before he could protest further, the angel reached into the box and pulled out a single sheet of paper with a Celtic design expertly drawn on it. Looking at the detail in it, he wasn’t averse to having it inked across his back. There were two points in the design where there was an obvious cross over and he deduced that those would mark the spots that matched the holes.
“Fine,” he said. “I’ll get it done. I’ll get someone at work to recommend a place. That won’t be cheap to get that inked.”
“There’s money in the box to cover the cost.”
“Thought of everything, haven’t you?”
Lifting the knife, the angel said, “I hope so.”
With the knife poised over his smooth skin, the angel asked, “Are you ready?”
“Go for it.”
“This is going to hurt.”
“Just do it.”
As the sharp tip of the blade bit into his skin, he flinched but never utters a sound. When she pierced the second hole, he was ready for it.
“This will burn,” she said as she picked up the large phial. “Really burn.”
“How am I meant to get tattooed if the skin is burnt?” he asked.
“The skin won’t be burnt. This will burn inside you. It will feel like fire.”
He gritted his teeth and clenched his fists as the angel poured the liquid into the two open wounds on his back. Pain ricocheted through him as the liquid worked its way around the nubs of his wings.
“Christ!” he yelled as the heat intensified.
“Almost finished,” promised the angel rubbing some strands of the pale green moss into the wounds. Instantly the pain stopped spreading and began to ease. “Done.”
“Whew!” he said rolling his shoulders stiffly.
“Well done. You handled that well,” she praised with a smile. “Guard that box with your life. One phial is enough for both buds. One phial once a month. When the phials run out then we have to last nature take its course.”
Pulling his running vest back on, he nodded.
“These should last you about twenty-five years if you don’t smash any.”
“I’ll be an old man by then,” he joked lifting the box.
“No, you won’t, Son of Perran,” she countered. “You’ll look exactly the same as you do just now. You’ve not aged one day since your transformation. Time will be kind to you.”
“Ok so how do I pour that stuff in on my own?”
“You’ll find a way. Pierce the holes open first then pour in the infusion.”
“Not quite the DIY I had planned but I’ll figure something out,” he muttered. “And I’ll get that ink done.”
“Get it done this weekend. It should then be healed before the next full moon if you can.”
“Fine,” he agreed bluntly. “Any more orders?”
The angel smiled and shook her head. “You can find your own way home from here.”
She pushed open the door of the mausoleum to reveal the dark stormy night outside. “Follow the path to the right.”
“Till next time,” he said as he headed for the door.
“Soon, Son of Perran. Soon.”
Over the years the box had sat on the second top shelf at the back of the garage. Its contents steadily dwindling as the months and years passed. In the box, wrapped in an old t-shirt, was apiece of wood with two nails driven straight through it, their tips sticking out proudly. Those tips had been filed until they were needle sharp and had been sterilised until they now shone silvery in the light of the garage.
Carefully he hung the piece of wood on the nail on the garage wall, making sure it was level. He unbuttoned his short and laid it on the bonnet of his car then lifted the last glass phial out of the box.
With well-practiced ease, he stepped back and leaned his full weight against the piece of wood, feeling the nails piercing their target for the final time.