crash and burn
all the stars explode tonight
how’d you get so desperate?
how’d you stay alive?
Britney used to have wings. Sometimes, if he looks closely enough, he can still see a shadow of them, brushing the air above her head, turning the light a soft warm pink, like pink sugar candy, like someone’s insides, like Tori says, everyone is pink on the inside under their skins if you peel it off but Britney is pink on the outside, but only if he really, really looks.
The rest of the time she is scar-white, drained of blood. Soft like snow and hard like bones and he can’t stand to touch her because his hands will freeze and break, and he can’t stand to look at her because he can see the wings, but only the shadow of them.
Without them now she is naked and ugly, and the scars are her back are carefully, carefully covered with makeup as she slips into her skintight costumes. She sleeps on her stomach now, because she says sometimes the scars still ache inside, where no one but her can see. The wings aren’t real anymore but the pain is, she says, and it burns like hot fire to have these phantom wings crushed beneath her, like she’s a butterfly being crushed slowly beneath someone’s heel. Like a faery in that book she saw, pressed between the pages, leaking sap-green blood.
When she sleeps, sometimes he touches the place where they used to be, those two thick, twisted rivets of scar tissue between the jutting bones of her back. He’ll run his hand from the soft, silky flesh of her lower back to those hard nubs, and feel like his hand has been burned. She’s not beautiful anymore. She’s not airbound and world-caught and ethereal anymore, and he prays at night for just one more second with her the way she was.
A living miracle.
what's mine is yours
you can have all of it
and i'll learn to beg
When they first started to grow, Britney wasn’t worried about anything except the ugly growths in the middle of her back. At first they were nothing, itching biting little bugs beneath her flesh but she could handle it, she could handle anything. She just hated the way it looked, two bumpy masses showing through her clothes, marking her as freak.
Justin tried to reassure her, bought potions and oils and rubbed them all over her naked skin, massaged the bumps and secretly found them beautiful, one little deformity on her otherwise perfect body. They made her real. And he touched them with quaking hands at night and felt them move, straining beneath her skin to be free, and he knew the only reason they were contained was because she was containing them.
He didn’t even know what they were. He just knew that there were moving, beautiful shapes beneath her skin and the imprint of some otherskin, not like the skin outside her body, and that beneath his hands they felt more real and more his than she ever had before.
starts out like
some sick religion
that ain't no vulture
that's a fucking pigeon
she's got vultures in her hair
and blood and feathers
they are everywhere
He takes her on vacation without saying why, to a cabin in the forest, so far away that it feels like a fairy tale, like she has wept tears of gold onto his eyelids and he sees anew.
She has never been so beautiful as she was those days. Naked as a child, smooth and golden and shimmering in the morning sunlight, laughing and smiling and there was no pain, no pain. It was as if the growths on her back had suddenly disappeared, but they hadn’t. She was just accepting them now, and that made Justin feel like laughing.
One day she looks at him, and her eyes are pure and wet like a wood nymph’s and she says Baby, I’m ready.
That night, the wings come, and there’s broken flesh and pain and Britney has to grit her teeth and wail her way through it, and Justin holds her hand and tells her to bear down and it feels just like birthing a child. She’s naked and streaked with blood and sweat, and when he looks back he can see the hole in her body. Its pink inside, and beautiful, and he just wants to climb inside of her and live there, but when he reaches back to stroke the hole she screams and its horrible and her nails dig into his hands and there are all of a sudden wings.
They’re beautiful. They break through the flesh of her back and float there, shimmering dully in the dim light, like dragonfly wings but larger, candy-heart pink and streaked with blood. As they flutter lightly back and forth they flick cold, clear liquid on both Britney and Justin. He wouldn’t have thought that anything that came from inside of her would be so cold.
Britney is shaking too. Panting, shuddering, arms wrapped around her sweat-drenched, golden-brown body, wet tangled strands of hair in her face. Behind her, the sunrise glows through her iridescent wings, making them glow and shine. She looks like a faery who’s been ravished, an angel dragged down to earth.
But then, the wings could make anything look dirty.
here comes the sun
in the form of a girl
she's the finest, sweetest thing
in the world
take you to heaven tonight
By the time she lets him take her inside, blood has dried in hard little rivers all down her back, and he has to scrub at them gently with a washcloth to get her clean. The clear liquid on her wings seems to have collected again and cleansed them of blood, and it coats them all over like tears on an eye, like spit inside a mouth.
Britney is better now, and she smiles when he bathes her, and even talks a bit. She’s still a little unbalanced, getting used to the extra weight and wingspan, and they move without her permission, fluttering and flickering wildly when she is upset or scared or happy.
That night, they just sleep, Britney on her stomach, wings reaching above her body as if ready to fly her to some faraway land. Justin strokes them and they feel like insect wings, sticky and beautiful.
The next morning, they fuck, and Britney is above him looking like a debauched angel, head thrown back, and when he clutches her hips, her wings hit his fingers in little spasms, and when she comes they beat at him like bird wings coated in melted sugar.
all the angels kneel to the frozen lights
feel their hearts they're cold and white
and i want you
and blessed are the broken
and i beg you
They go back, of course they go back, because they have to and that morning the sky is red like blood instead of pink, like a heart, and Britney lays in the back of the car with a blanket thrown over her. Justin drives, and worries, and wishes he was back there with her so he could stroke her wings and the place where they melt into her flesh, because he licked her there once and she came so hard that she threw him off the bed.
He has to sneak her into their house with a jacket over her, and he can feel them beneath the fabric, beating, beating, ever trying to break free. Britney herself is stone-faced and still, nervous, because she had a life before the wings but they never had life before her, and while she frolicked like a garden faery in the woods, now she is motionless except for her feet and her wings and the frantic beating of her heart.
When they get inside Britney throws off the jacket with a shudder, making a strange moaning whimpering noise, and Lynn behind her makes the exact same noise when she sees Britney’s naked upper body and the wildly erratic movements of the wings, fluttering like crazy and trying to shake off the lint stuck to them with their own self-produced sticky dew.
tear the petals off of you
make you tell the truth
Justin goes with her when she gets the wings cut off. She is laid out on her stomach on a cold, sterile table, and she cries softly as she takes Justin’s hand. Her tears are golden and perfect under the harsh light, but he can’t look her in the face. He can only look at the wings as the surgeon makes the first slice.
He cuts them off right from the skin, and this time Britney’s scream isn’t so much anguished as tortured, and her nails break the skin of Justin’s hand. Lynn is standing off to the side with her arms crossed, not looking at her daughter’s face but just making sure that this awful abomination is gotten rid of so it can’t ruin Britney’s bright future.
She’s convinced Britney that the wings are a curse, meant to ruin her and her chances for stardom, and so here they are in this bright little room with no anesthetic and a surgeon who looks untrustworthy, at best. But he’s the only one who didn’t flinch and laugh and send Lynn away, so they’re here.
The wings are pink but the blood that comes out is bright, bright red, running down Britney’s spine and pooling in the small of her back. When he pulls them off of her with an awful squelching noise, he puts them in a stainless steel bowl and they slowly lose their shimmer and fade, like a rose petal that’s been rubbed sheer. In the end they are only dead, twisted bits of flesh, and Britney is still alive in his hands.
get well soon
please don't go any higher
how are you so burnt when
you're barely on fire
cry to the angels
i'm gonna rescue you
i'm gonna set you free tonight, baby
pour over me
He supposes he should be happy now. Now they’re the same, now she’s not above him. But it never felt that way before. Yes, she was a goddess, an angel, a faery, a living miracle, but she loved him and she was his and the wings wanted him, wanted him like no part of Britney had before.
Now he looks at her facedown on the bed and wonders, if her cuts her open will she be pink inside?
All lyrics by Hole.
Image by Sophie of Britney Is Fake(d)!