Davis stared up at the sky. Lying on his back, his shadowed form resembled a pincushion in the gloom of twilight. The fading light from the disappearing day reflected off glassy eyes. He reached up a bloody hand – he wondered how much of that blood was his own and how much had once belonged to others?—and grasped the protruding shaft of an arrow. He grimaced as he pulled it free.
He pulled out arrow after arrow. The notched heads tugged and ripped at flesh and fiber. He ignored the pain. He held his breath as he yanked out each arrow, gasping with pain with each gush of fresh blood. He knew no sorrow. Each revealed seeping wound brought him one step closer to something resembling freedom.
His open wounds bloomed upwards into roses of red. They unfurled above him and rained down blood-soaked tears. Their scent reminded him of love, of something not quite but almost forgotten: another time, another place, a much more comfortable bed, soft skin like rose petals.
He gasped and felt his heart shudder. It shook like a frightened bird unable to extend her wings because the cage was much too small. Those unfurled wings ached and grew stiff from lack of use until the bird found itself paralyzed. He sucked in a draught of air and tasted the roses blooming above him in the sky. Unlike the wings of the bird in his chest, the roses growing from his seeping red wounds could unfurl. There was no cage up in the sky above him. It was wide open.
The night grew dark and stars emerged. He watched the stars dance across the horizon and tried to remember the names of forgotten constellations and saw revelations: glimpses and hints of the now lost stories the images in the sky above him represented once upon a time for another race of man. He smiled and listened to the stars sing a song that only the dying get to hear – a small consolation to offset the fear.
The sky tugged him upwards, and he felt free. The sky was open. There were no cages, but there was a chill. Stars shined, increased in size, and then receded.
Davis blinked, found himself back in his body, and tears rolled down his cheek. His breathing resumed. A sudden awareness of pain shook him to his core, and he cried out. He prayed he might soon return to that cold, dark womb of stars. The shell of his body seemed much too constricting. His roses withered and joined the dust of the desert surrounding him. The wings of his heart cracked as they were bent back and broken. A medic called out his name.