's 2017 Horror Write-off:

One-Wing the Last

Submitted by O.

I thrashed and threw my weight around but it was no good. The thick layers of binding wrapped tight around me, holding me down. It couldn't end here! I had to get out, I had to finish my mission! I stopped lurching and grabbed a big hunk of binding and pulled hard, trying to rip it. I had to get out. The binding stayed fast, but now that I was still I could hear something outside the binding.

Clank. Clank. Clank. The clunking was moving along the ground, moving past me. I was still stuck here. Still trapped! I kept tearing at the binding and by chance I found a worn-out hole in the material. Light bled through it, so I looked out the hole. At first all I saw was the dull gray above, but if I twisted I could see the ground too, hazy with murk. The clunking thing was also there. It had stopped, and its ragged tatters swayed in the breeze. I twisted a little more, and I saw why the clunking thing had stopped. It was stooped over, beholding a shiny thing in its grasp. Then I beheld it too, and I gaped at its beauty. It was resplendent green and blue, with faceted orbs on its head, articulate black limbs, and two diaphanous lobed wings. Its feelers tapped calmly, rapping the clunking thing's carapace.

In total stillness I waited for the clunking thing to decide what to do. It moved slowly, keeping the shiny winged thing in one grasper. With its other grasper, it took hold of a wing and pulled until it came off. I saw that separation, and I felt the pang run through me as though it had been my wing detached. I thrashed harder than ever against the binding, struggling with all my power to free myself. The clunking resumed. Clank. Clank. Clank. Getting farther and farther. I didn't stop fighting the imprisoning material, pulling on it and wrestling it. I had to get out! And then I did. The binding tore at last, along the seam of the same hole that I looked through before.

I collapsed on the dirt, sliding a short way as I struggled to stand. I spun one way and another, searching through the murk. I couldn't see the clunking thing anymore. But I spotted shiny blue and green on the ground and I dropped to examine. The winged thing was there, its one wing fiercely battling to raise it into the air, to no effect. All it could do was roll in the dirt.

"One-Wing," I spoke. As One-Wing struggled, I reached down and scooped it up. Its legs wiggled and its wing beat as it tried to get away from me. "I'll take you, One-Wing. I'll take you with me. We'll go together."

One-Wing didn't stop trying to escape, because it didn't understand me. I looked at the binding I had fallen into, and now I could see why I had. I had been walking on loose ground, and it had slid out from beneath me. I would have to be very careful avoiding falling into any more bundles of binding. I knew the way, so I started walking, holding One-Wing firmly, but not so tightly as to squeeze it. Its legs wiggled less, but its wing kept shaking about. It didn't know that even if I let go, it couldn't fly. I held One-Wing up so it could see the way we were going, and I set off into the drifting murk.

The land was not the same as before, even more so than the last time I had gone by this way. Gouges of earth were gone all around, and up out of them came a distant groan at all times, and occasionally puffs of dirty smoke. I moved quickly when I could, but many times I had to take a winding route to avoid binding, gouges, and scorching heaps. I checked the ground often so I wouldn't slip again. As I continued, I felt a shudder jar the ground, and when I turned a corner I saw why. The ground was being thrown into the air by a bunch of cutters. They gnashed and clattered, shaking even the air with their rhythmic drone. The terrain was cleft all over by their cutting and grinding, and as I watched another cutter surfaced from beneath to cut even more.

Soon all the ground would be cut away, with nothing left to walk on. I had to hurry. Dangerous though it was, I bolted in between the cutters' grinding blades, just fast enough to keep the ground still beneath me. I saw the safe terrain far ahead, beyond the field of cutters. I had to hurry and get to it in time. Without warning One-Wing buzzed its wing frantically. I stumbled in surprise, and right beneath me the gnashing blades of a cutter broke through the crust of dirt. Tumbling I threw myself to the side, barely avoiding the unexpected emergence. But One-Wing had known. One-Wing had sensed the cutter; One-Wing had saved me.

Now armed with One-Wing's awareness, I hastened with greater conviction. Twice more, One-Wing buzzed in alarm, and each time I dived away before the cutter could strike. The safe terrain was just ahead, and I was so close. One-Wing buzzed and I dodged as a cutter came up, about to cut away the last bit of ground I had to cover. But the cutter was too late. I dashed and I reached the safe soil, collapsing upon it.

For many moments I lay there, staring into the dirt, One-Wing still in my grasp. "Thank you, One-Wing. You saved us," I told it.

Maybe One-Wing couldn't understand my words, but it was so intelligent! Its senses were so acute, I was sure it must have understood my meaning. We were not done traveling yet, however. I staggered upright once more and our journey continued, leaving the harsh, groaning cutters behind.

It was getting darker all around, and the above was all black. Every step I took made me cringe with exhaustion. I had gone far, farther than I ever had without rest. But I was almost done going. One-Wing no longer moved much, only tapping its feelers once in a while. Because it was dark? Did it need some form of sustenance, or maybe its time was just over? I couldn't guess, and One-Wing still didn't understand me. "We're almost there. See, One-Wing? That's it up there." My voice flickered in and out of my hearing.

With One-Wing I trudged up a tall crag. At the end of the crag, dark but visible, there was a looming edifice, fortified and large. My shaking steps took me to the wall of the edifice. At last, we were here. "I've returned." I made my voice as strong as I could, so it would reach into the edifice's depths. "I've brought a... a... " I couldn't make the right word come out, so I just held One-Wing up in front of myself. Was the word one that I had ever known? I wasn't sure.

One-Wing's gauzy wing flicked once.

"Yes, yes." A voice came out of the edifice, slow and warbling. "The last specimen we need." The last. It made me proud and afraid. I had given the edifice everything else that it needed. But now what would I do? I didn't know what would come after.

"The last..." I echoed falteringly.

"Yes," answered the voice, gelid as ever. "You have fulfilled the final phase of your mission. Now deposit the specimen.

" The edifice whirred deeply, shifting as it opened up a hatch. A faint light shone up out of a small hole beyond the hatch. I knew what to do, as I had done many times before. But I hesitated.

"Have I... Have I done well on my mission?"

"Your mission will be complete shortly. Deposit the specimen," the voice droned.

There was no avoiding it now. I had to finish the mission. I looked at One-Wing a final time. Then I squeezed. I squeezed until there were only bits in my grasp, and I put the bits into the hole beyond the hatch. The light from the hole flickered, the hatch closed.

"We have recieved the specimen," declared the voice in its apathetic tone. "The mission was successful." The whole edifice started to rumble and shake. A gout of hot air shot from beneath it, then another, which almost threw me to the ground. The shaking continued, and the edifice started to lift itself off its foundation, constantly blasting its steaming breath beneath itself.

"Wait!" I shouted, trying to get closer to the edifice even as the blasts pushed into me. "Don't go yet? What do I do now?" I cried in panic.

For a moment I thought I wouldn't get an answer from the edifice. But the voice droned back out of it as it ascended.

"What do you...?" At first the voice almost sounded confused. "Your duties are complete. You are dismissed."


The fiery wind washed over me and I sank to the ground of the crag, prouder than ever before. I was dismissed. My mission was done, every part of it. The edifice kept rising higher as it rumbled, disappearing into the black above until I could no longer hear it or feel its heat. I was done with my mission, and now... now maybe I would rest. I let myself unwind upon the crag's hard surface, gazing upwards. Was that a fleck of light up there, up in the above where the edifice had gone to? It was hard to be sure. Everything else was so dim. The darkness fluttered over me, and now I would rest. Yes, now I rested. Maybe, if I dreamed, I would dream about wings.