Her story went like this: When she was three years old, she was playing with her brother in the backyard, when an enormous hawk swooped down, latched on to her, and lifted her from the ground. The only thing that stopped her from being carried away was her brother grabbing hold of her legs and snatching her from the bird’s grasp. The only evidence the incident had even occurred were the parallel, permanent scars left on her shoulders.
We had been dating for a month before she told me that story. I smiled and tried to play it off, but the whole thing disturbed me. For some reason I just couldn’t shake the notion that my girlfriend was almost prey, that she could have been pecked to death by little birds, her flesh stripped slowly from her small body.
The idea haunted me, even as we made love that first time. I could feel the slight raise of her skin when I scooped my hands around her shoulders and pulled her closer. Once I felt her scars, I was unable to remove my hands.
Each time we were intimate I’d rest my hands on those scars, sometimes imagining wings were beginning to sprout from them.
One night I awakened to find her straddling me, the darkness masking my ability to see clearly. I reached for her shoulders, but she eased my hands away. She made love to me, her hands gripping my arms like talons, pinning me in place. When she climaxed, I swore I could see her wings unfurling against the night.
Not long after that, I realized I was not cut out for a relationship with her. Much of our relationship had been spent in the dark, and while I was unsure if she’d actually been transforming into a bird, I could never overcome my fear she would one day clamp onto me and carry me off, somewhere deep into the night, where I would be devoured by a family of hawks, not unlike those who awaited her many years ago, my skin pecked from my body strip by strip.
Ran Walker is the author of sixteen books. He currently teaches fiction writing at Hampton University in Virginia.