The slate sky strung itself with thick cords of ink-black, the color that scums ocean floors and stretches through gutters. Bells of light that once streamed and pooled like uncoiled trumpets now whispered through the smoke; the greasy haze had persisted long enough that no one in this corner of the world could recall the gleam of day without squinting. On my way home, I passed by Thorn Crown church, the only halfway house left for the confused and spiritual, the last, white scab on the island. Wind and sea salt stripped paint from the door and ran through vines like harrow’s teeth, warping the horseshoe trellis that bent around the frame. The long shadow that hung over the walkway led up to a “wings of desire” replica standing in silhouette. The angel’s metal wings spread to her sides and her hands rose into the dark heavens that seemed to sink over her skull like oil. Through the hallow rattling of the breeze, the black statue called, “My wings…” It wheezed with dragging repetition to remind passersby to be fearful. “My wings,” it echoed all through the night, breathing on the faces of men and women, lapping over the town like waves.
I open the door. Immediately, I am confronted by the dim countenance of an anxious tiger, its eyes gleaming a sickly emerald. Its face completes its vengeful rotation toward me—my hand still on the knob—and leaps, elongating its shape into a fierce and long shadow, a terrible thing disturbed, before passing through my person as if a wisp. I find, in the timid light barely glowing from behind me, a cookie and a gray rat snaking its way toward the morsel. Approaching the friable butter dough, the rat, with ease and a deathly stillness erects itself on its hind legs, unaware of even my presence or perhaps ignoring it, wary of greater bounty elsewhere or a lurking predator (as they always do lurk), grimly spying under the night’s black veil.