An IN THE AIR Excerpt: “The Cult of the Hyalad” by Adrik Kemp

The sisters stared into the flames, fingers clasped around their matching glass pendants, threaded with small beads of different smoky hues. Mina’s pale blue, and Winnie’s pink. The colours reflected firelight, sending patterns dancing over their skin.

Behind them, Penny and Edith strung together branches and felled palm leaves to form a shelter large enough to house them. They folded their clothes and placed them inside, retrieving blankets and pillows from the rowboat. The fire burned brighter than the sun. Black clouds threatened to burst, and the wind whipped their hair into disarray.

Penny paused and closed her eyes, goosebumps tingling in the changing weather. Her pendant was smaller than the others, unmarked by colours or flaws. Under the growing power of the flames, it shone bright against her alabaster skin. She secured the final palm frond, gathered a blanket from within, and wrapped it around her like a cape, clasping it at her chest while handing out more to the other women. The blankets were plain, in greys and blues, with gold filigree embroidering around the edges. The closer one looked at the detail, the more there was. From afar, they looked like fanciful swirls, and up close, they were intricate lines of Theban runes.

Wind whipped their hair as they sat haphazard around the fire’s warmth, gnawing on charred fish. They wiped their mouths with the backs of their forearms and grinned at one another. The first distant thunder claps made them all the more voracious until a pile of fish skeletons lay on the fire.

Sated, Bella dragged two amphorae from the rowboat. She drank long from one before passing it. Crushed herbs and sugared flowers infused the sickly-sweet water, running down their chins and over their necks for them to wipe with sticky hands.

Mina and Winnie helped the others to their feet. They stood around the campfire and shed their covers. They walked a circle in unison, taking two steps and drawing on the sand with their right toes. Two more steps and their left toes. One more step and writing with both hands at once. They repeated this until the sand was a mass of swirls and lines.

They stopped, pinched their pendants between thumb and forefinger, closed their eyes, and hummed. Their voices thrummed in time with the wind and thunder. The glass tears glowed.

The point of Bella’s shimmered, and it unclasped, layers floating down like petticoats while a waifish figure appeared above. It grew shards of wings from a delicate back and bounced off the ribbon to flit in the air before Bella’s face.

The sisters’ necklaces performed similar transformations, revealing tiny, naked figures with obsidian eyes. They had shorter wings in pink and gold, and they shook them off before darting around Mina and Winnie’s heads. The creatures’ limbs resonated as they moved, and their wings reverberated through the air, creating a unique melody.

Edith’s teardrop cracked and unclasped like a chestnut. The halves curved to form billowing wings, and a slip of a creature unfurled from within. It yawned and came to rest on Edith’s shoulder, glowing green on her dark skin. Its sleepy movements added soft, low notes to the harmony.

Finally, Penny’s cracked, and a cherub darted, almost too fast to see. The miniscule wings and plump body, playful and perfect. Penny smiled and went to grab it, but it spun and flew out of reach.

Bella cleared her throat while the five manmade hyalads whizzed through the flames, around the women, and across the water. Their limbs and wings chimed, playing the windsong through their bodies.

Rain pattered, and thunder rattled their bones.

 

 

 

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Adrik Kemp is an Australian author of speculative fiction, fantasy and horror tales. He identifies as queer, and happily lives in Sydney with his husband.

He has published short stories about aliens, mermaids, interplanetary pen pals, vampire cowboys, AI, ESP and much more. Notably, these have been published through Aurealis Magazine, Third Flatiron Press, Transmundane Press & Pride Publishing. He wants to explore as many varied worlds, situations and relationships as he can through words.

Adrik has a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Technology, Sydney. He was honoured to be the winner of the 2015 OutStanding LGBTIQ Short Story Competition in Sydney, Australia.

 

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