Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2022 finalist Ayana Kadkol! Ayana finished 5th grade this past school year and submitted a story called “The Night Angel.” Ayana said her favorite part about her story is “the metaphorical feel to it.” Enjoy!
THE NIGHT ANGEL
by Ayana Kadkol
Some think of angels as creatures of day; white feathered wings, perfectly preened in a blinding silhouette against the angle of the sun. A gentle halo, the ring of acceptance, floating above your head as you descended from the cloudless blue sky, landing gracefully and spreading awe as your powerful wings beat the air, dappled with patterns of sunlight.
But there was one who dared to roam the night, to seek the acceptance of the moon. She had no name, just crow black wings and an instinctive sense of protection for anything that loved the night, that lived by midnight’s code, frigid and dark, where only the keenest survived.
Just like that friend you had in elementary school.
She embraced the darkness. You nodded your head every time she said night prevailed over day, desperately fighting to gain her acceptance. At every sleepover, she would be the only one brave enough to get out of the secure confines of her sleeping bag and switch on the lights while the rest of you shivered, terrified by the ghost story you had just heard. She only turned on the lights for your sake. She would have been fine to sit in pitch darkness with odd shadows dancing against the walls. When night fell, she would fearlessly roam the streets, barely flinching at the otherworldly shadows of everything around her, no fear of mercenaries or thieves. She saw the night as a blanket of protection. You struggled to be as brave as her. Yet you couldn’t help but let out a sigh of relief as the sun rose high in the horizon, painting the heavens a bright blue. You never understood why she laid her head against the window, lost in the map of constellations that never made sense to you, the moon’s beams vivid on her face.
There was always a line between you, a borderline. Thin, it was, and thinning still, but it was just as effective.
The superior of night’s guardians, you glimpse at her wings, a kaleidoscope of feathers effortlessly bewitching midnight’s wind to her command.
Enchanted, you alight on your own.
For you are a young owl.
The hard truths were simply whispered by the older owls. There they perched, in the hollows of the gnarled tree, luminous eyes a sharp contrast to the practically black midnight around them.
He has too much faith in the Angel.
When are we supposed to tell him?
He can’t live like this. Forever blinded…
Were these even truths?
Or were they stories–a somewhat even ruthless plot to scare you, prevent your mind from wandering–enchanting your wings to do the same?
A figure hovers in the distance.
She looks back, the hood of her cloak casting her face in complete darkness.
This wasn’t the angel.
This was a Black Cloak; one of the many mysterious figures who worked under her.
But you allowed the wind to guide you forward, following perhaps a tad closer than you should have been.
Yet you felt you could not be seen. A sort of even…connection drove you on. This Black Cloak was a rebel, as much as you, possibly. But you are rebels on opposite sides of a broken bridge. A step to cross that bridge, get a little bit closer, reveal a little bit more about yourself–and it would shatter. Plunging you into the cold currents to the point where not even your wings are enough to lift you to safety.
But it was always possible to stay on your side of the bridge.
Or was it? Would standing on opposite ends leave you at more of a loss than ever…so close to the breakthrough but unable to complete the final step?
Yet you followed. Throughout this blizzard of thoughts, you still followed.
Foolish it was of you, really.
You were leading yourself to your own breaking. Tearing yourself off from allies and friends. Heading into the world of darker secrets. Black secrets.
You were leading yourself to your own breaking, and you would have to build yourself up again. All on your own.
You would understand later, perhaps, but not now. Complicated as your thoughts were, your naiveness remained, hidden beneath it. Stronger. And your compulsion was stronger still.
The Black Cloak stopped.
Wasting not a second, she withdrew a bottle from her cloak.
You could not cross the bridge.
But you could wait.
And learn just as much.
Tipping ever so slightly to your side, the wind angled you down to a spruce tree. You alighted on a branch, silent as ever.
Your luminous eyes glowed in the darkness.
Tiny golden entities flitted towards the Black Cloak. You looked closer.
They were small creatures with translucent wings that moved in blurs.
The name appears in your head, out of the murky depths of your mind you dared not push into. For what reasons, even you don’t know.
She flicked her arms with deathly precision, and you flinched as her calm receded. The fireflies were now trapped in the jar.
What were fireflies, though?
The Black Cloak turned her head.
Still, her face was not visible, just a shadowy smudge of darkness.
Spirits, your thoughts answered. The Black Cloak had dared to take one step closer on the bridge. It was crumbling.
You needed more answers. You needed them now.
The puzzle was not yet complete.
There was a missing piece.
That one, crucial piece that somehow always manages to get away.
So you stared.
Straight into the depths of her soul.
Spirits of day.
She slammed the answer in.
And the bridge fell away beneath you.
You turned on the branch and flew away.
The Night Angel was not a heroine. You had always believed that night and day could coexist, so long as certain paths were not intertwined. And they had never intertwined. But she, through a mask of lies and rumors, forced the intertwining. Brutally. And then laid the blame elsewhere. Even her rebellious Black Cloaks were blinded…because she silenced them. She silenced justice.
The bridge wasn’t the only thing that crumbled that night.
Your trust crumbled along with it.
More bridges have been broken. Bridges of trust. Bridges of faith. Yours is one of the few left.
Maybe for a reason many would call selfish.
But this was pure unjust.
You were always the antagonist. Always. There was never a turn-around story where you were the hero.
Maybe because you always hid behind a mask.
Maybe because, even in the pitch black of night, you still stood, silently, in the darker parts of the forest. Sheltered in the crooks of that half-dead tree. The haunted tree, they called it.
Probably only because you lived there.
And everyone assumed that behind that veil, you were plotting. Scheming. Ripping away at innocent dreams and hopes.
Really, it was you that had innocent dreams and hopes.
Raccoons were always shoved into the evil category. Nobody cared that you had saved lives, that you protected and raised your kin with the same burning passion as them.
Nobody cared. Nobody heard. Nobody heard you screaming for justice, nobody heard your endless storm of protests.
They only heard their own voices.
Maybe Cruella had a backstory. A reason why she was portrayed as a villain. A reason why she was a villain.
But you? You were a simple soul. You had never committed a crime.
Yes, you stole eggs from a bird’s nest.
But owls steal lives from mice.
Yes, you hide behind that veil of shadows.
But owls don’t dare to go out in daylight.
So, essentially, that veil of shadows protected you.
Night protected you.
The Night Angel protected you.
Anyone who protects couldn’t be bad…could they?
Or was that thought just as stereotyped as setting you and your kind as villains?
Maybe it was all manipulation. Lies. Petty promises. Puppets on strings. A deeper veil of shadows.
It was a pendulum, your thoughts.
An endless cycle of back and forth.
Is there really a right and a wrong?
Is there really a friend and a foe?
Or are we all the same–too blinded by stereotypes?
Maybe you had become too blind.
Or maybe you just couldn’t take a side.
But there was a war being fought across your territory.
You would have to take a side eventually.
It’s finally come down.
It’s a take-it-or-leave-it.
You’ve burned down your reasons to support both sides.
You’ve snapped in half your hopes of right and wrong.
But still, you cannot take a side.
The pendulum is persistent. It will not stop. It will forever swing, back and forth.
Until the two sides stop fighting. Until one of them wins.
They haven’t stopped fighting yet.
Because the world is a finicky, one-minded thing.
So one-minded that you yourself are now fighting on both sides.
You’ve come to the borderline. It’s thinning.
The line thins further.
The world is turning black and white.
The sides are turning fuzzy.
The line is thinning.
The bridge is breaking.
The pendulum is quaking.
You are now you. Purely you.
No one else.
That’s what it always comes down to.
Yes or no.
Black or white.
Life or death.
Even…day or night.
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