THE BLACK ANGEL • by Anahita Ayasoufi

Cobra means the grandest, and not just any grandest, but a female grandest. That is not why Cobra’s parents chose the name for her, though. On the contrary, they chose it because in the mountains south of the Caspian Sea, Cobra was a common girl’s name. Cobra felt quite differently. In fact, when she turned sixteen, she had already formed an idea of grandness about herself. The idea revolved around Cobra getting an education, and then teaching elementary school, not in her little village, but in a city where there were hospitals, shopping centers, and bookstores, with modern day fairy tales.

Every day, as Cobra washed the dishes by the big pipe, her thoughts followed her eyes, upstream of the pipes, where the freshly melted snow filled the village reservoir. And every day, just about an hour after noon, dirty dishes at hand, eyes on the summit, Cobra would see her — the black angel. It is possible that the black angel was not really an angel. In fact it was probable that the black angel was exactly what she seemed to be — a young woman in tight black clothing, a rich woman, as the villagers said, because the beauty under her saddle seemed expensive, way beyond a horse any of them could afford. Besides, she had to be well-connected, because no one had ever dared to question who she was and what she did.

And Cobra, in the deepest, most secret place of her heart, wished to be not the grand teacher she so properly talked about, but the black angel. In her dreams, Cobra imagined herself under those tight wrappings, galloping over the creeks, defying century-long traditions, dragging envious eyes behind her. But she was not rich — her father had barely put enough money aside for her dowry — and definitely she was not connected. If she set one foot out, the village would fill with gossip. Cobra was not one for causing gossip and hurting reputations. So, she kept to dreaming.

Cobra’s dreams sometimes strayed from being the black angel to talking with her, face to face. She pictured removing her mask, and under it she saw kitty eyes and silky skin. After a while, Cobra’s dreams took over, peeling the black clothing piece by piece, revealing long legs, made of marble, perfect hemispheres of her breasts, and her mouth whispered, “Cobra.” At this point, Cobra would wake up, sweat on her cheeks, her body heated, her breath cut short. And she would curl up in horror, for this was demonic.

Cobra never talked about her dreams. Who would understand? She kept them to herself, becoming sadder every day. Her parents decided she needed a husband.

The village teacher, Sonja, tried many times to speak with Cobra. At times it seemed like Sonja would never give up. But demonic matters are quite serious. Cobra wouldn’t dare to speak, although she did find some comfort in Sonja’s arms and caress of her hands, as Cobra cried on her shoulder, and as she gazed into Cobra’s eyes.

Sonja was a strong woman. Once she had ventured a blizzard to drive the butcher’s wife to city hospital for a C-section. Sonja was a model of accomplishment, all proper except for one thing — she had never married. The teacher was still young, in her thirties, beautiful even — Cobra admitted that with shame, because she wondered if the teacher too had demonic dreams.

When Cobra turned seventeen, her father accepted one of her suitors, a boy of nineteen, shy-looking with rosy cheeks, elementary school teacher of a nearby town. Cobra’s father told her, with excitement, “I found a boy who fits your dreams. You won’t need to become a teacher anymore. He’ll do that for both of you.”

Cobra didn’t feel much for the boy, but it was proper. So, she went for it.

Cobra lived a proper life in that town, although happiness was never part of it. She gave birth to a daughter who she would raise properly. She did keep in touch with the village teacher, though. And occasionally, she asked her teacher about the black angel, who still ruled the summit.

“I envy her freedom,” Cobra said once.

“It could be yours,” Sonja said.

In a few years, the teacher transferred to another location, and from that day on, the villagers never saw the black angel again.

Anahita Ayasoufi teaches at East Tennessee State University. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Bosley Gravel’s Cavalcade of Terror, Yesteryear Fiction, Liquid Imagination, Lorelei Signal, and Mystic Signals.

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