Heavy wings cracking behind her ribs, feathers plucked and rising into her throat. She chokes and doubles over. White hot memories flooding down her cheeks, she locks her jaw tight until it forms black spots in her eyes and shoots pain through her head.
“Take it away,” she begs to the ethereal father that stands at her side with a sad smile on his lips.
Her grasp is like iron on the pain and he is gentle to tug it away.
“Let it go,” he whispers.
He would not force it from her hands. Not when he knows she is not ready to lose the shape of its pain carved into her chest. The bird squawks in panic, too large for its confinement and it beats on her ribs with its powerful wings. The sound of cracking bones shoots white lightning through her abdomen. She falls to her knees, crying out as the anguish seems to drown her. Weight on her shoulders pulls her further into the dirt and she can’t lift her head.
An old voice rears up, raw with age after so long staying silent. It whispers and laughs, reminding her of a time when blood would lay the beast to rest. Carve into her flesh and still its wings. It’d be so easy. So simple.
But that voice gained too much power when she used to listen, it would kill her if she gave in one last time. She can’t do this on her own.
“Take it away,” she begs once more, sobbing and hiccuping, choking on the feathers clogged in her throat.
Terror curling into her collarbone like a centipede as she fought down the itch in her fingers. Don’t reach for knives. Don’t reach for razors. Don’t listen to it.
She has to remember she still has the strength to deny those cravings. Even if she does it with fragile willpower flapping like a torn flag.
“Let it go,” he came again, one hand rubbing soothing circles on her back, the other gently tugging on that pain clutched in her grip.
“I can’t take from you what you won’t release.”
The bird is prying open her ribcage, snapping bones as it struggles and she can’t understand what he’s saying. It doesn’t make any sense. How does she release it if it’s going to kill her? It’ll tear through her belly and leave her empty, bleeding. She is so tired of cleaning up blood. Those days should be long behind her, shouldn’t they?
He knew these thoughts, kneeling down to her crumpled form and he pulled her into his arms. He guided her head to his shoulder and he hummed gentle in her ear.
“If you let me have it, it can’t hurt you any longer,” he assures her. “It won’t kill you. It won’t keep breaking your ribs and it won’t rip open your flesh. I can remove it from you if you would just trust it to me.”
But her ribs were floating in pieces inside her chest and the memories were screaming down her cheeks and she couldn’t breathe. Black came over her vision.
“How do I do that then,” she inquired, her lips trembling around the words.
“Stop fighting it. You’re holding on trying to invoke a bruise on it but it’s breaking you apart,” was all he said.
She came still.
She breathed deep, ignoring the way it tried to run from her lungs. One more breath and it did not fight, it rushed to fill her.
She remained still, the tears neverending.
“I love you,” he whispered as he pulled loose the bird and its pain and the wretched remains of its struggle.
He placed new bones inside her chest. He healed the wounds that its claws had carved out, and he pressed a soft kiss to the side of her head. Warmth settled into her belly like a bowl of syrup had been dripped down inside, filling her up until she thought the sun itself found its home inside her. Light spilled from beneath her skin, casting a glow that drew away the tired circles under eyes and the bruises in her belly her harsh fingers had dug in. Nothing remained of her raging nightmare roaring only a moment before. All was peace and warm.
And she cried fresh tears, this time of the joy that came from silence inside her.
She never knew love could be so strong.
But how could she know its full extent when she never wanted to trust in its power?
Now, though… now she understands that she is made whole by her father’s love.