“Will you tell me now how you came by those scars on your shoulder blades?” he asks. I turn my gaze to the window and shake my head.

“It is of no consequence,” I reply, knowing this is the answer he expects, for this is the answer I always give. Tonight, though, is different, so I await his protest.

“It is the same thing which wakes you screaming,” he answers. “It is the same thing which turns you away and which darkens your gaze with ocean storms. It is the same thing which makes you an eternal sentinel at my bed side, a statue of marble and ice, is it not? Then it is a thing of very great consequence.”

This I cannot deny. I trace the cool glass with my fingers, considering, comparing. Judging his faith and my devotion. His infectious sorrow and my feverish delusions. The weight of our combined misery. I find us lacking. I find us wanting.

“I went mad,” I say. “I went mad and I believed myself to be an angel. I knew I was mortal and yet could not shake the knowledge of something greater. I sought, then, for something I knew I would never find: reason. Purpose. I begged for answers and received no replies. I became convinced I had been abandoned by a god I had never believed in. Nor did I ever start believing, though long I lingered in stone cathedrals and memorized the words of the Lord. These things fell on deaf, though truly willing, ears. Despairing, I counted myself among the Lost; I counted myself among the Fallen. And in my eternal grief I took a knife and cut the holy wings from my back. Or thought I did, at least.”

My words meet silence. I do not turn to see if his eyes seek mine, or if he has turned his gaze from me. I am not sure what I would see if I did look to him — shame? disappointment? disgust? — and I do not wish to know.

“Do you still believe it?” he asks finally. “Madman or no, do you still feel the weight of phantom wings upon your back?”

This question I am too afraid to answer.

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