She glances back, gazing upon her own body as she flies. She is a master at flying, she will not fall; and anyway, her new body is so very exciting. Her wings are minute petals, crafted from the thinnest brass. They shine so perfectly, even as they whip back and forth at such speeds that she cannot clearly see them. Somewhere in the sheet metal is a network of gears, taking energy from her flight and spinning some tiny motor. She can barely remember the pattern, though she drew it all.
Where the wings join her shoulders, tiny engines work their hardest to keep her airborne. Networks of brass and steel gears spin in frantic unison, shifting to compensate for even the smallest change in air pressure or wind. They make the faintest of whirring noises as they work, a gentle buzz so unlike the heavy thrum of engines she is used to.
Her back, her body, that is where the magic lies. Shining veins carry steam from her boiler-heart to wherever she demands power, whatever she needs to move. Arteries carry back the cooled condensation to her heart, where it is boiled anew. The single shard of coal that fuels her heart burns brightly within her; she cannot see it, but she feels its warmth pulsing through her.
She drops from the glowing lights at the top of the tent and dances between the many beautiful circus goers and performers. She sees brass arms and steel eyes, clockwork wings attached to the tailcoats of refined folk and the heavy arms of the strongmen: her work, it all.
Her wings stutter, briefly. The shard of coal is but an ember now, and turning to ash quickly. She sighs, but just once, before her beaming smile of silver breaks through again, and she launches into a new flight through the tent.
She wonders, will she use this body again? It is so delicate, so soft, yet so alive; it is only the length of a blade of grass yet it flies with such a grace she has never known before. But its life is so fleeting. She woke only moments ago, and in moments she will die for the hundredth time.
The ember goes out. Her boiler-heart will produce no more steam; she has only what is left in her little frame.
She glides down in soft spirals, her smile fading to a sombre smirk. She sees a hand stretch out for her, and she lands gratefully in the massive hands of a strongman. Gigantic copper fingers close delicately around her, and she curls up in the warm metal embrace as her eyelids collapse and her world goes dark.
Perhaps she will fly in this body again. It is a thing to be proud of.
She smiles again, as the last of her steam fades. She does like to wake up to a smile.
Illustration by Merle Hunt