I watched him bank sharply, his wings turning him effortlessly as he pushed them against the oncoming breeze. He angled himself just right before slowing into a hover through the dense hanging willows. His dark brown eyes sparkled, mirroring his toothy grin, and I cringed. How could he still be enjoying this? I scrutinized him from my sitting spot on a hefty willow branch. My wings twitched behind me, automatically reacting to how I would have flown his route, a kind of self-simulation to create some sort of excitement in my day. Unfortunately, it never worked.
Renir flapped his wings slowly as he drifted toward me. I let out a heavy sigh, blowing strands of my long dark hair upward as my lips settled into a sideways smirk and my hands balled into fists.
“Hey, Avalon!” Renir said, his voice dripping with cheer as he bobbed in the air in front of me, his coiled blonde locks bouncing like a thousand springs as his wings swept back and forth behind, hovering him in place.
“Hey yourself.” I plucked a few leaves from the willow strand hanging next to me. Then I tossed each leaf one by one onto the path below. Next, I picked up the silver flask that was sitting on the tree next to me and took a long gulp. The contents burned as it went down my throat, then warmed my whole body as it slid its way down to my belly.
“What’s wrong? You’ve been acting weird lately, pal.” I watched his eyes as they went to my flask. “Are you drunk?” He asked before turning his back to me, his wings making quick successive strokes in reverse like a rower powering through the water as he guided himself backward onto the branch next to me. We made flying look so easy. But great-wings it was boring. Our kind, Flyers we were called, were a favorite of the creators. We were given everything we needed. So, we wanted for nothing and had all the time in the world to simply fly, all day, every day, wherever we pleased. None of us needed to have a care in the world. Maybe that is why I could not stand it. Or perhaps it was just the flying I despised.
Renir nudged me with his shoulder and said, “What is it? What’s wrong with you, then?”
I kicked my feet as if I was swatting something in the air. “It’s the same thing as always. Same thing as yesterday. It’s the same thing as every day. Same as will be tomorrow.”
“What’dya mean, pal? It’s better than the life them surface walkers have. Look at them. How bored would you be to be them?” Renir pointed to a couple of humans strolling on the path below. I straightened my back and sat forward, my eyes growing wide as I spotted the pair walking with their hands intertwined. A light sweet scent drifted upward from the blush bouquet of peonies in the crook of the woman’s arm. The fragrance blended with the woody smell of trees in spring combined with buttery popcorn and crisp, warm corn dogs from food vendors further along the path below.
“Look at them down there. Are you telling me you would rather fly around all day every day like we do instead of being able to walk around and experience life as they do?”
“Great-Wings! I’d never want to walk around down there, pal. Are you crazy?” Renir said.
“No, are you?” My face twisted into something that felt grotesque.
“Avalon, you know I’m not. But…you, pal, are acting like you are. What’s gotten into you?”
I gaped at him for a moment, my eyes feeling heavy as I focused on him, but not, almost as if I was staring through him. “I’m just tired of this.” I waved my arm into the air.
“Flying every day, all the time. I want to walk around on the ground like they do. Look at all the fun stuff they can do.” I pointed toward the couple that had made their way over to the merry-go-round. The lady was laughing at something the man had said. She had let go of his arm and was lightly slapping her knee while bending over laughing. They looked so happy. “Look at them. Don’t you want to be able to try what they do?” A cheery sound of carnival music was coming from the brightly lit merry-go-round a few paces away. And people were bustling all around on the early summer evening.
“Are you kidding. Never!” Renir said, his face was screwed up even more than mine was just moments before. “They can’t fly. Why would I want to walk when we can go anywhere in the world with a simple flap of our wings.”
I felt my eyes roll backward.
“Besides not being able to fly, they don’t even know we exist, pal. They can’t see us either. Why would I ever want to live in a world where I didn’t know our kind existed? Great-Wings that’d be awful!”
“I think it would be better,” I mumbled.
“What?” His brow scrunched together. “I’m gonna pretend you didn’t say that.” He looked around behind us, then from side to side. “You’ve heard the stories, right pal? Of Flyers like us disappearing into the land of Surface Walkers and forgetting who they were. That’s what happens when you land on their ground, you know?”
“Pfsst…I don’t buy that.” The corner of my mouth twitched to the side as I lifted my flask for another swig. Then Renir leaned in close to my ear as if to prevent anyone who might be around from hearing. “Jerra told me she swears she saw Tyan the other day, walking around down there. In a suit and carrying a briefcase! Can you imagine?”
Tyan was a Flyer like us who had gone missing about a year ago. It was not uncommon. Every once in a while, a Flyer would disappear, and we just assumed they flew off somewhere. But to think that some of our kind might be living down there among Surface Walkers. I thought it sounded like the most delightful life.
A few hours later, after Renir had flown away, I was sitting in the same spot watching the world below experiencing life the way I wish I could. I lifted my flask to my lips, but nothing came out. “Damn!” Then I raised my hand in front of my face and tried to focus on it. My eyes saw two appendages rather than one. I bobbed my head in the direction of the merry-go-round, and I caught sight of the lights flicking off. Then I heard the metal wheels of the vendor carts being rolled away along the concrete path. My eyes felt heavy. I knew I could not fly, so I thought I would lay down on the branch and sleep for a spell or two. I shoved my wings out of the way. “Stupid things, ugh,” I said as if pushing them might have a miraculous way of making them disappear. Upon laying on my side, I curled my knees toward my chest, my hair flung out behind me above my wings and instantly fell asleep. Next thing I knew the sky was falling in slow motion, the ground was above me and below were the stars, and everything in between was whizzing by, but not; instead it felt like seconds were being stretched like a rubber band, pulling and pulling until splat, CRACK! I smacked the ground flat on my back then another whack, I hit it with my head. Then everything went black.
The first thing I recognized when I became conscious was the feeling of sunlight on my face. I had no idea how long I had been there, wherever there was, but when I tried to open my eyes, it felt like they were glued shut. When I finally pried them open, I blinked away the rays of the early morning sun. Then I felt the pain at the back of my head, and I thought I might be sick. I was lying flat on my back as I tilted my head to the side to move my hand to the spot on my skull where I was sure there would be a hole or blood or something. There was nothing but a small bump. I groaned, and tried to move, but decided I would wait until I reoriented myself a bit. Then suddenly, I heard footsteps running toward me on the gravel path behind.
“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.” A lady’s voice cried out as I moved my eyes around, trying to locate her without moving my head. Luckily, she got to me fast enough, whipping herself from behind me over to my side and kneeling beside me. “Are you alright, darling? Did someone hurt you?” She asked, her hands hovering over my body as if searching for some spot that might need assistance.
“No, I…I don’t think so.” I heard my scratchy voice respond to her.
“No, you’re not alright or no, no one hurt you.”
“Both. My head hurts pretty bad. But I don’t think anyone hurt me. I don’t know, though. I can’t seem to remember.” I squinted at her. She was wearing a tank top, shorts, and running shoes. Her dark skin was glistening with a light coating of sweat. Her light brown eyes were kind, so I felt safe.
“My name is Sandra. I’m a doctor over at General.” She pointed to the opposite side of the park. “I’m just going to give you a quick look-over before I help you up and get you to the ER.” I nodded my head, letting her do her thing. Then she added. “Do you know your name?” I thought, and for a minute, I could not remember. My mind was spinning, like a wheel, a roulette wheel whizzing fast, and I was trying to pluck my name from a place that was not staying still. I felt my eyes move from side to side, and Sandra watched me like a worried mother. Everything was so fuzzy, though. Then, suddenly, the wheel started to slow. A few seconds later, it came to me.
“Avalon! My name is Avalon.”
“Great! Now we’re getting somewhere.” Sandra said while bending my legs, then moving onto inspecting my arms. Only that was all I could remember. The entire time she examined me, I could not remember where I came from, how I got there, or even how I knew how to speak. It was like I just appeared out of nowhere.
“You can’t remember anything?” She said, motioning for me to move slowly as I rose to a stand, still holding my head which I shook slowly in response. Sandra helped me up and walked with me for a little bit.
“You look fine, but clearly you have some sort of amnesia. We’ll go have a look and some tests at the hospital. Also, you have some weird holes in the back of your jacket and shirt, at your shoulder blades. Any idea about those?” She asked.
“No clue,” I answered.
As we continued toward the hospital, she chatted about this and that while I gathered myself, trying to remember how I got there. Then out of nowhere, a flock of birds flew over us, and I looked up. Sandra did the same as we kept walking. We both watched the birds sail through the early morning sky, the feathers on their wings highlighted in the rising sun. Instantly I felt a tightness in my chest like there was an essential piece to my dilemma hidden somewhere very near, yet it was just out of my reach. What was it?
I followed the birds with my eyes until they flew out of sight. As Sandra and I slowly walked along, I felt an emptiness that seemed to rise from my soul.
Then I turned to her and said, “Wouldn’t it be fantastic to be able to fly?”