By Jasmine Temple

With blinding brightness and cloudless blue skies, summer swept into Beaumont and caught the unsuspecting suburb residents off guard. Their lawns were an artificial green. The pavement was black , smooth and perfect. Their SUVs were spotless, producing an intense glare. The air was quiet, stifled, and filled with the sound of singing birds. Polite civilians waved at neighbors as they pruned their gardens and retrieved their mail. There were no children playing in the sun. Dogs watched silently as cars drove by, never dreaming of their nature to run. Appliances shined in anti-bacterial kitchens. The town’s middle-aged women sat in book clubs partaking in mundane gossip and the exchange of muffin recipes. Warm and perfect dinners sat prepared on tables while overworked men drove home from a long day at the office. Living rooms were immaculate, creating the prefect sanctuary for guests who want to relax over cocktails and small talk. There were no toys in the houses. These were happy, content people, who were satisfied with their existence and the simplicity of their lives. Lives without children’s laughter.

Yet the people of Beaumont had a secret. A secret so sacred that it was not gossiped about or even alluded to. This secret pertained to the children of Beaumont and their strange and incurable condition. In back rooms and cupboards under stairs, in basements and attics of their lovely identical houses, the parents of Beaumont hid their children. With excessive linen bandages wrapped around their backs and shoulders, the children remained in discomfort and solitude. Their shoulder blades ached with their straining wings, hiding their shunned appendages, until evening, after the home-cooked meals and monotonous parental conversation, after the curtains had been drawn and the counters disinfected, the children were released to learn about about the world they would one day step into.

Maybe there was something in the water. Maybe the suburb had been built on an old nuclear plant. No one really knew why the children had wings, but they had given up trying to seek answers. It seemed pointless to try to stop the inevitable birth of a Beaumont child that would uncurl tiny toes and fingers, as well as soft white wings. It was embarrassing to have a child with a mutation, a humiliation that there was a break in the normalcy of their families. They would be seen as freaks if anyone knew on the outside. Plus, the wings would molt and disappear when they grew older. Now it was just a burden that the Beaumonts had to carry. They had to clean up and burn the beautiful scattered feathers that would litter the floors, resort to homeschooling, and make sure the children never got out to terrorize their perfectly normal town.

The children never knew a different existence. There was nothing to compare their lives to, it was all just part of growing up. They knew never to talk about their deformity once they were allowed outside, that it was a strange and unacceptable thing to speak of. They knew there were other children in the world, other children who would hate and ridicule them for their mutation.

It was the price a family had to pay to live in Beaumont. To enjoy the manicured lawns and friendly neighborhood conversations, to come home to a safe warm meal every night with a loving spouse. It was the price for perfection, and no one questioned it. They knew the children would be alright, it was only a small bump on the road to growing up. And the children didn’t know any other way to live anyway; it was ignorant bliss. And of course, they would end up being grateful. Who would want to be different in a normal world?