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Eight Days Counting

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Day One: She feels halfway a bird already, beating one white-gauze wing under Sigrun's touch.

Day Two: No change. Her brother sleeps, the tank's still stalled. Sigrun broods, wordless now.
Hovering above her shoulder, holding her mirror for a check, relief: No sign of wings or endings yet.

Day Three: The smell of burning fades under the rain. Sigrun keeps her company out there - both guard
and company, and Tuuri laughs until she cries, tinkering onward through her tears. The bite's not deep,
Healing into scabs under Sigrun's lips, Tuuri wonders if the itch is feathers, or just skin.

Day Four: More tinkering, contingencies, a vial between her fingers, such a little thing. Such a fate to be
considering. Sigrun finds her with the thing almost at her elbow, alone in quarantine. In it: Traces
perhaps, remnants of ninety years, otherwise just air for birds to fly. She goes back to the engine.
Bearing it is hard, the doubt, the itch to want to wing away. The tank roars joyfully, sickly, back to life.

Day Five: Driving, driving, driving, through the rain. A breakdown every now and then. It's not lost on her,
the parallels, the driver and her vessel and their moods. The mirror and the picture. If she's in a story, it's
a crappy one. The only good are Sigrun's fingers on her forehead, on her shoulder, checking for heat,
infection of some sort, and finding only calm and smiles. The car's the avatar for the rest of it. Tuuri is fine, she's
Flying, good as, under Sigrun's questing fingers, Sigrun's roaming lips. She knows it's a mistake.

Day Six: Headquarters radio call while Sigrun dozes, sick herself, and Mikkel speaks, unruffled, sad of
certainties: That dreaded word she tries to peck out of her brain, the 'soon'. No Sigrun means there's no
reprieve that evening, except perhaps in Kitty's calm. That is one bird she'd want no part of. Mikkel takes
the gauze away, proclaims she's healing fine, the rest all depends on time. Tuuri dreams of fledglings, young
birds learning to fly. Tries to imagine shelter just some few days ahead, instead she sees a nest, and
Thinking of home she thinks of beds of ice, thinking to run she thinks the Birds' Path and the Swan.

Day Seven: A day of watery sun, an egg-yolk in the sky, and breakdown cars along the road. It is a day
of itching deep inside her shoulder blades like wings that ache to burst. She tries to keep from
scratching, wonders what her wings will be - a shining white, the silver grey of mourning doves much like
her hair. She's caught so in her mind that Sigrun gives her space to fly, assuring her she's fine, she's
fine, she's fine. That is last thing Tuuri wants, she wants an anchor in the ground before she floats away, and Sigrun's
weight, her heart and heat - fever and lust and desperate hope - in a winter copse where no birds sing.
Rising, Tuuri finds a feather in the grass where she's been lying. But she's still fine, still fine, still fine.

Day Eight: The tank breaks down for good, envelops her in clouds like some bird rising to the stars, the
northward, homeward, deathward road. There's no denying it, the burning and a different, rash-like itch,
and she is alone, and goes alone when there's the dark voice in her ears. The mask, a token for Sigrun,
the only farewell that she can make without alerting all of them, the inevitable delays, the pleading,
anger, muteness, tears. The open straps, in falling, flap like useless leathern wings, and Tuuri speeds away, toward
a high-air trumpet call, a hope perhaps that time turns back, that there's some grace the Swan, that bird
of death will grant: A missive of protection from her mother on the other side. There's no such thing, just
Going under ice, air escaping burning lungs … and wings, wings, wings.