• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 01

Birds Without Feathers

Angelica leaned over the side of the airship, Martha’s arms tight around her waist. This was their fourth trip in an airship and still, Martha was pale and sallow in the face the moment the ropes were untied. She would not glance over the edge, not even when Angelica tried to show her the field that was shaped like a heart.

“You’re no fun,” said Angelica, and she leaned over even further.

“Good,” said Martha, and she tugged a little harder on Angelica’s waist. “Won’t you just come back a little bit? You’re scaring me.”

“It’s a Birdseye View of the World! Birds look down!”

“Birds also have wings.”

Angelica gently pulled free of Martha’s embrace. “Well, we could have had wings too, but you wouldn’t let me rent them.”

As if to illustrate Angelica’s point, a pair of businessmen drifted past. Snatches of account numbers trailed in their wake. They wore crisp suits with thick Velcro straps around their shoes and heavy leather harnesses over their chests. The mechanical wings sprawling behind them glowed eerily in the backlight of the sun. Martha was pouting. Angelica turned around and kissed her, smiling softly. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Angelica let her lower back rest against the side of the ship, the wind caressing her shoulders. Martha’s face creased in worry. Angelica smiled wider, began to say that Martha should just relax a little, what did she even think would-


Birds Without Feathers

There was a sickening crack and the ship lurched and Martha screamed. Everyone screamed, Angelica screamed even though she couldn’t see what was happening yet, she screamed until her voice cracked. People scrambled to daisy-chain their hands; someone had fallen in front of Angelica and she caught hold of them as she grabbed the railing. Martha was still before her, but Martha was teetering backwards and Martha was crying and then Angelica was crying too.

Martha’s head snapped forwards again and the ship righted itself. Martha staggered towards Angelica. When Angelica’s hands came to Martha’s head, they grew slick with blood.

“What –”

“I didn’t –”

“God –”

The back of Martha’s shirt was torn. Bloodied strands of hair were coming away in Angelica’s fingers. Martha was still whimpering, her tears soaking into the collar of Angelica’s dress. She was mumbling something, something about a man and grabbing, and then the crowd parted for the officials and Angelica realized what had happened.

A woman was knelt on the deck sobbing a man’s name. One of the officials sat beside her and whispered.

The other officials turned to the crowd and said, “Apologies for that, folks. Minor steering issue.”

And then it was over. The officials led the sobbing woman away, the crowd whispered a little longer, and then people flowed towards the rails again. Someone pointed out a pretty bird to their child. Angelica clutched Martha to her chest with one arm and kept the other white-knuckled on the railing for the rest of the trip.