This side of Heaven’s Hill by Ron Gibson, Jr.

Mama awoke with a shiver, white curtains flapping like wings, then howled like a crazed animal. The shadows had seized their chance and stole Sister Sofia from her sick bed.

Brother Niilo and I watched Papa search the woods from our bedroom window, when Mama pulled Papa’s gun down from the mantle and ran outside unloading round after round at the stars.

Before Niilo ducked down behind the windowsill, he swore Mama had hit one. He said the star dripped tears of fire as it fell northward.

In the morning, Niilo and I snuck out to find where it had fallen. The land held mist. We broke ends of branches to remember our way. Slow tail fins of wind swirled, revealing white feathers. The further north we traveled, the more numerous and bloody the feathers became.

Entering a valley, the mist lifted. On the banks of a glacial river, Sofia floundered in mud and blood, her wings broken, useless.

Niilo and I fell saplings for a gurney and carried her home. When we spoke her name, Sofia only blinked blankly, eyes and ears still full of heaven.

At home, instead of tears, Mama made us promise to say nothing of Sofia’s return.

Alone, Mama held Sofia tight as she scrubbed her in the washtub, solemnly praying that god forgive her love.

Ron Gibson, Jr. has previously appeared in Cold Creek Review, L’Ephemere Review, Moonsick Magazine, Real Story UK, Easy Street Magazine, Rabble Lit, (b)oink, Mannequin Haus, Stockholm Review of Literature, Cheap Pop, New South Journal, Jellyfish Review, Whiskeypaper, Unbroken Journal, Crack the Spine, Gone Lawn and has fiction forthcoming at Identity Theory. He tweets @sirabsurd.

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