On one knee, the angel knelt at the base of the pit. His head was bent low, his neck muscles strained, and tensed, from the awkward, downward angle. With his fists clenched and pressed into the earth, he pushed his body upwards. The muscles in his arms and shoulders rippled with the strain.
It was constant, this struggle he endured. Day and night he willed himself to tense, drive, and will himself to stand. The weight was almost immeasurable, and would have been so if he had simply not tried.
At first, it had seemed as if that would be the only option, not trying. When he woke, he was face-down in soil. His body was broken and aching in ways he had never previously experienced. He tried to rise but found the pain of his fractures and lacerations far too excruciating. His muscles, in their state of damage and fatigue, offered no support, and thus, no strength at all.
He lay in the dirt for days. He wondered how he had come to the location, and state he occupied. After weeks passed, his muscles healed, his wounds mended, and he felt resolve settle into his mind. He would pull his face from the earth, he would raise his body from the ground, and he would once more look upon the sky.
Despite his mending frame, the weight that pressed upon him did not yield easily, he found extricating himself from the oppression that mashed him into the earth, most strenuous.
Weeks passed, and the angel managed to make a crude plank. His elbows dug into the ground, and his forearms provided support. His legs and midsection still touched the earth, but he felt the joy of progress, and he no longer inhaled black muck with each breath.
A month afterwards, he had managed to pull his knees forward towards his torso. A constant strain was still necessary. He tried once, to make more drastic progress. He thought he could shift his leg forward quickly and plant his foot. But the abrupt shift, and unwieldy weight caused his arms to buckle and quiver when he shifted to plant his foot. Rather than cost himself precious progress, he returned his leg to its earlier position, and disappointingly, committed to infinitesimally small increments of ascension.
Eventually he came to the one-knee-down position. His wings had stretched during his rise, and now only the tips pressed into the mud. The left wing was immaculate. It matched the perfect mythological depictions of a phoenixes wing. It was the creamy, ivory, color of purity. In the places the feathers overlapped one another, shimmering gold strands accented the majesty of this angels gift. The right wing, though similar in construct, bore different colors. It was shaded in deep purple and midnight, and the lining was of reflective obsidian. He yearned to fully extend his wings, and he knew, to do so, he must continue to rise, so he flexed the muscles in his back, legs, and arms, and pressed upwards.
His body and soul were strengthening, and the time to reach his feet no longer took weeks, but days. He breathed deeply, heavily, and satisfied, when he finally stood rigid on his scabbed and scarred feet. He felt a moment of deep hesitation as he prepared his eyes and mind for the view of what lay above. When that moment passed, he looked to the sky and glimpsed moonlight through a tiny hole at the apex of the pit. He knew he needed to ascend, so he spread his wings, compacted his now powerful legs into a squat position, and prepared himself to launch towards the light.
But he was held to the ground by heavy forces as he tried to launch toward the opening. His arms pulled at the shoulder, and legs at the calves as he tried to take flight. Something bit into his wrists and ankles, and drew blood as he willed himself towards the sky.
He had been too concerned with making himself vertical to register the source of the weight that had tethered him to his prone, destitute state. In time, as his body strengthened, he hadn’t even been aware of what hindered him. His encumbrances had become a part of him, and now, he wanted no further part of these millstones.
His right hand traced the musculature of his left bicep, and slid towards the pain that had bit into his wrist. He found the end of the chain there, distinctly hooked, and embedded into his wrist. He hadn’t even felt it, he didn’t recognize it the whole time in the pit, but he knew it wasn’t a true part of him. He wrapped his strong fingers around the chain, gripped perpendicular to his left wrist, and pulled with all of his might.
The hook came loose from his flesh leaving a bloody gash in his wrist. Immediately, pictures and images flickered and flashed through his mind. Memories punctured the hazy barrier that had enveloped his brain. Bits and pieces of how he found himself in the pit flooded back to him. He grabbed the chain with his bloody left hand, and pulled it towards him.
At the end of the chain was a heavy, dull, metal orb. He grasped it with both hands and examined it curiously. Along the bottom of the orb, a single word was imprinted upon the weight,
The angel tore the hook from his other wrist and wrenched the chain towards him. He already knew what was at the end, his memories had been flooding back even more forcefully after removing the second hook.
He felt toward the hooks that he knew were cinched into the flesh in his ankles. Crossing his arms, right to left ankle and left to right, he gripped them simultaneously, determinedly, and ripped them from his legs.
These were the final two burdens.
The angel remembered what he had done. All of the encumbrances, the burdens, and the tethers, he had fused them into himself. He had carried the weight, the gravity, and the debilitating millstones of disappointment to the brink of the pit. And he cast himself into nothingness. He broke himself with the fall, and weighed himself down with massive despair.
But now he remembered. He forced himself to strengthen. He forced himself to rise. He willed himself to look to the sky.
When he did so he realized his true purpose.
He was meant to fly.
With a gust and pulse of air in the pit, the angel rapidly expanded and beat his beautiful wings. He inclined his head, gazed at the light from the depths of the pit, and took flight.