Flutter

 

Part 4

I had a flying dream last night. It was the first time in years I'd remembered having one, and it was wonderful. In my dream, I zipped up and down the coastline trailing seagulls in my wake. They rode the air currents I created and glided effortlessly behind me. I was like their leader and I called myself "Gull Girl". It's a silly nickname but it fit the dream.

I woke up very easily that morning. Between the dream I had and my anticipation of learning how to fly for real, to say I was excited was a drastic understatement. I couldn't help but buzz about the house getting ready for school. Nothing was going to bring me down that day.

My father teased me about withholding my morning hot chocolate when he saw me in action. He didn't think I needed any more energy. He quickly relented though. All I had to do was flop down at the small kitchen table and look at him with big sad eyes. He's such a softy.

On the way to school, I'd forgotten my private vow to get Aine and Brian together. When I saw Aine, all I could do was talk about flying. She was pleasantly surprised not to have to do most of the talking for once.

When Brian caught up to us and I saw him next to Aine, I was reminded of how well they looked together, but first I had to repeat everything I'd already told Aine. He was patient, though he looked like he had something he wanted to talk about. It took me awhile to realize it probably had something to do with our encounter during my rock hurling last Saturday. We hadn't discussed that yet.

"That's grand, Dana," he told me when I'd finished. Then he looked down at the ground and hesitated. I'd never seen him look so subdued. Could he be about to apologize to me? The timing would be perfect, I thought. If he could apologize in front of Aine, it should make it easier to get the two of them together.

"Listen, about last Saturday ...," he stammered. "I know I was a wee bit obnoxious, and I wanted to say ...," he faltered then, but he was so close. Yes, I thought. Say it. Say it!

"I wanted to say I'm sorry," he finally blurted out.

I had to resist shouting with glee. He wouldn't understand my outburst anyway. Instead I calmed myself, took a deep breath and smiled.

"I accept your apology," I told him. Then I quickly looked over at Aine for her reaction. Her eyes had widened ever so slightly but she turned away when she saw me looking at her. She pretended to be greatly interested in the back of the shop buildings that crowded together along the lane.

That's okay, I thought. I knew she noticed. If only I could get them talking about it. I wasn't sure that was a good idea this early in their relationship though. Getting them together was beginning to feel like a battle, and that's when I had an idea. I'd learned something about war in history class that I thought might apply. I figured I'd try it anyway. It couldn't hurt. Sometime soon, I'd try the divide and conquer technique. It worked for the English against Ireland in the distant past. Perhaps it would work for me against two more Irish folk.

* * *

Waiting for my classes to end was agony that day, even though I was beginning to reluctantly admit that school was useful for something more than simple business math. Lately I'd been learning lots of things that applied to real life. I just had to let the lessons sink in and pay attention to how they might relate to situations in my life. As soon as I had that thought, I realized that I'd actually had an epiphany then. My observation was a lesson in itself and I shook my head in wonder.

When school finally did end, I shot outside like my hair was on fire. I even screamed once I got outside, but it wasn't from pain. I was just happy. It was time to fly!

I left Aine and Brian behind and ran home. I was too excited to walk. Besides, I thought it would do my friends good to walk home alone together. They might even surprise me by becoming more than friends without my help. I doubted it would happen but I liked to hope.

Alice, or Doctor Alice as I liked to call her during my lessons, sat in a McKenna-made chair out in front of my house, waiting for me. Her eyes twinkled as I came running at her with my arms spread wide like airplane wings. She stood up just in time to catch me in a hug.

We didn't hug very long. I soon squirmed out of my flight instructor's grasp and led her around back to a small patch of grass that I would forever think of as my runway.

I felt a brief pang of guilt at leaving my father alone in his shop, but I needed to learn to control my power. The world would be a safer place for it, and I'd be a very happy girl.

The first lesson was a repeat of the hovering rocks, except this time I was doing the hovering. I formed a bed of air and laid down on it, keeping myself about three feet off the ground. It was so easy that I quickly moved on to the next step.

Doctor Alice wanted me to get used to heights so she had me lift myself higher and higher into the air. Before I knew it, I was looking down on the roof of my house and still rising. It never occurred to me to be nervous. I wasn't afraid of heights and I had complete confidence in my power to keep myself aloft. It took such a small amount of power that I could do it for hours.

The view was incredible! I could see over to Ventry Harbor and far out into Dingle Bay. Inch Strand came into view to the east and Mount Brandon was easily visible to the north. It was a wonderful experience. The only thing I didn't like was the wind blowing so hard to keep me in the air. I couldn't hear well and my hair was whipping around my face, making it a little difficult to see. I quickly lowered myself to discuss the problem.

It was decided that I could tie my hair back for now. Later on, with more control, I might be able to figure out a better way. For now, I had to settle for the basics and blast myself off the ground. It didn't matter though. It would be a long time before I tired of it.

* * *

The days passed quickly over the next month, with most of my afternoons spent learning to control my power. I kind of resented the lessons that didn't involve me being in the air but I couldn't spend all of my time flying.

Alice helped me with whirlwinds and gave me various ideas for stopping them. I still had trouble with that. It was embarrassing. I didn't understand how I could start a wind so much more easily than I could stop it. It didn't make sense.

My mentor wondered if I might have some sort of mental block about my power. She was sure I'd eventually have a breakthrough though, as long as I kept practicing and kept learning. Every elemental she knew always did better after learning more about the science behind whatever their power controlled. As soon as she told me that, I decided I'd double my efforts to do better in school. I'd always found science to be a little boring but now I had a good reason to pay attention.

Actually, after declaring my intention to be a better student in school, it was pointed out to me that I didn't have to wait to learn about wind and air. I had a computer with all the online resources I'd need to keep me busy for years. Thanks Alice, I good-naturedly grumbled to myself.

I liked school and I understood the importance of learning, but for the next several weeks, I lived for the weekend. That's when I got to spend most of my free time learning to fly. I'd help my father out in the shop on Saturday for an hour or two and then rush off somewhere to practice. I was impatient to make some good progress. Learning to control my power was hard work so progress was slow.

I didn't mind when it was only Alice watching me. That's because she never laughed at me. My friends and even my own father couldn't say the same. They all got a great deal of amusement out of watching me flail through the air. In fact, I'm not exactly happy about it but that's how I got my code name.

It began early in my lessons when Alice drove me over to Inch Strand so I could learn to push myself forward through the air. I would no longer be hovering. I'd truly be flying.

"Not so hard!" my instructor shouted at me. She had to shout for me to hear her over the wind that I blasted myself with. "You're trying to change direction too quickly!"

That was an understatement, I thought as I sat up on the beach spitting sand. I'd tried to make a turn by pushing myself with bursts of wind from the side. Unfortunately, I'd pushed myself right off the jets of air that kept me up. I slid off and fell face first. It was good that I was only a couple feet off the ground.

"You've got to hold yourself up more firmly," Alice said after she ran over to me. "Try shaping the wind that holds you up. Have it curve around you."

That was an excellent idea. I'd been learning to move rocks in all directions and now I saw how my other lessons could help me fly. I just had to use more control and finesse.

By early afternoon, I was able to move forward and make slow turns. My progress was agonizingly slow, with lots of setbacks. I was cold and wet and covered with sand from all of my falls, and my outlook wasn't nearly as optimistic as when I'd started. Flying was hard work! At least I didn't have to worry about embarrassment. No one had been around to see me eat sand.

So there I was, enduring my lesson with the determination of a fierce winter gale when things actually found a way to get worse. I didn't think it possible, but then I got an audience.

Business was slow so my father closed up shop and came to check up on me. He even thought to bring Aine. In fact, she inspired him when she came to ask where I was. How nice of her.

The two newcomers went to stand with Alice, figuring it would be safer there. Then they cautiously cheered me on as I wobbled through the air.

I wanted desperately to fly around my fans in a large circle and quit for the day. It wouldn't be lying to say I was tired and had enough so they'd have to settle for a short demonstration. Too bad I only made it half way round before disaster struck.

I started too low and as I flew away from the shoreline and got close to the dunes farther up the beach, I didn't rise fast enough. I snagged the tip of my left foot in the sand, causing me to lose control. I panicked and windmilled my arms to stabilize myself but my wobbling increased and I ended up with another face full of sand.

In spite of the strong ocean breeze and the sound of waves on the beach, I heard suppressed laughter coming from my audience. I silently thanked them for having at least some self-control and hoped it would continue, though my father dashed those hopes and then some when he spoke. Why did he have to speak?

"Dana, darlin'," he grinned. "That was a fancy bit of flyin'. It reminded me of a butterfly on a windy spring day."

Then he laughed good-naturedly. He wasn't really being cruel so I had to laugh with him, as did the others.

Alice added to the mirth when she began to think out loud.

"You know," she said. "That's not a bad code name."

I knew better than to ask but my father didn't.

"What's that? What's a code name?"

"A code name is basically just a nickname. Most powerful MORFS survivors have them, and when you mentioned a butterfly, I pictured one fluttering from flower to flower. That made me think of the perfect code name for Dana: Flutter!"

"Flutter?!" I cried.

"Yeah! That's perfect!" Aine shouted, her words like a knife stabbing me in the back. Then she laughed long and loud along with the rest of them.

I didn't want a nickname, but if I had to have one, Flutter would be very low on my list. After the laughter died down, I realized I didn't have a choice. It had been decided on that mile long strip of beach known as Inch Strand. From then on, whenever I used my power in any kind of professional capacity, I'd be known as Flutter.

That name has haunted me ever since. Later in life, when I realized that part of my professional duties would eventually involve law enforcement, I groaned when I thought of having an exchange with an enemy.

"Look out foul villain! Here comes Flutter!" I'd say.

I seriously doubted that would strike fear into the heart of an evil doer.

After more thought, I liked to think that a silly nickname could make someone underestimate me but I wouldn't count on it. All I could hope for was that the true origin of the name wouldn't be discovered. It would be much better if people thought it was more of a way of calling attention to my power by de-emphasizing it, like calling a large, strong man "Tiny".

I pleaded my case for secrecy to the rest of the group. Luckily, they were merciful. No one else, not even Brian, would know how I got my nickname that day. Only the four of us and a few sea gulls would share my secret.

* * *

The next day, I resumed my efforts and began to see incremental progress. Part of the problem concerned the strength of my power. It was too easy to overdo it when less power and more fine control worked better. My turns were still rough but there was less wobbling and more forward speed than yesterday. I was learning.

School helped. So did the Internet. I learned about air pressure and put my knowledge to good use. The last time I quickly elevated myself straight up into the air, my ears popped from the change in pressure. I didn't think to say anything about it to Alice so I didn't have the benefit of her wisdom to help me. Luckily, I had other sources of information.

When I next tried my "lift" as I liked to call it, I rose up with my head surrounded by a bubble of pressurized air. My ears were protected so I had no discomfort other than the chill of the air at high altitude. I wondered if I could somehow do something about the temperature but for the moment, I settled on wearing warm clothing.

I told Alice about my little breakthrough and she had to apologize. She didn't always think to teach me about some of the simple concepts like air pressure, so learning from other sources became my new focus. My teacher began to spend long hours with me at my computer, helping me to understand some things and learning right along with me about others. She surprised me by becoming a fellow student as well as a teacher.

We both started keeping journals that we filled with information and ideas about my power. I thought it to be a little primitive to use pen and paper but Alice lamented that handwriting was a lost art and insisted. Whenever one of us found or thought of something new, we'd write it down, and we'd regularly exchange our journals to make sure neither of us missed any opportunities to improve my skills.

The new teaching methods soon inspired a wonderful breakthrough, one that greatly improved my flying technique. Alice reasoned that if I enlarged my pressurized bubble to surround my entire body, I could use it as a buffer. The winds that I lifted and propelled myself with would hit the bubble instead of my skin, hair and clothes. I was ecstatic! I hadn't been so excited since the first weekend of flight lessons. No more wind burn for me. From that day forward, flying became much easier and much more pleasant.

* * *

As my air elemental skills improved, my free time seemed to evaporate. My lessons became ever more complicated and elaborate. If flying wasn't so much fun, I might have started to regret having my power.

Having less time meant spending less of it with my father. That was the worst part. Eventually, I saw myself by his side for the rest of his days but for now I only saw myself as a drain on his resources.

I felt bad about not helping him more with his shop so I decided to see if I could save him some money. He did a lot of lathe work making table and chair legs, and I figured that using my power to turn wood would save energy. I'd be practicing my skills and helping him at the same time. Perfect!

"Are ya sure about this?" My father regarded me with a raised eyebrow, the doubt plain on his face.

"Yes!" I retorted. "Just watch."

I proceeded to blow a rough piece of wood into the air and had it spinning as fast as it would in the lathe.

"There you go!" I shouted over the sound of the wind. "Now give it a try!"

My father, ever the cautious one, pulled on his safety glasses and slowly reached out with a carving tool. I had to resist moving the spinning wood towards him to speed up the process.

When the metal tool finally connected with the wood, shavings flew everywhere. It worked. My idea worked, though it needed some refinements. That was obvious when I spared a glance at my father. His face was covered with wood shavings and he was constantly spitting them out and brushing them off his face with his free hand. I had to stop the spinning for a moment as a giggle fit threatened to make me lose control.

"Very funny, Dana," my father scowled, causing my giggles to escalate into laughter.

"Sorry!" I managed to splutter between laughs.

My father came to realize I didn't do it on purpose and we shared a good laugh. Then it was back to business.

I applied a little common sense and just added more jets of air to blow away the wood chips and shavings. My father carved three stool legs in record time after that.

"I'm impressed," he told me. "You're beautiful and handy to have around. What more could a man ask for?"

I blushed but couldn't help feeling pride as well. My self-confidence grew every day, thanks to my hard work and those who appreciated it and helped me achieve it. I also couldn't help notice what he'd implied. He didn't say "father", he said "man". Did I dare tell him about Doctor Don? I didn't think so.

* * *

Time flowed like the wind and my life was a blur. Still, I made time for a promise to myself that I vowed to keep.

It was with some anxiety that I walked over to Brian's house for a rare visit. We met regularly on our walks to and from school, as well as in the school lunch room. That was usually enough to keep our friendship going, but Aine was also usually around as well, and that just wouldn't do. It was time to divide my friends and conquer them -- with love.

My anxiety resulted from the possibility that Brian would misunderstand my wanting to see him at home. I didn't want him to think I was sweet on him. Luckily, we had one outside interest in common. We both loved to watch hurling, even it it was for different reasons.

Hurling is arguably the fastest spectator sport in the world. It was supposed to be a minor sport in our county but you'd never guess to hear Brian rave about it. He'd invite me over for what he called the important games, and I'd occasionally watch it with him for short periods of time. I have to admit the young men easily caught my eye. I liked the fast pace too, but the intensity wore on me. It was hard to keep an eye on the small leather ball that the young men bounced and whacked with their sticks. It also got a little too brutal for me when the men would whack each other.

Though I hadn't been invited, Brian's parents and two younger brothers welcomed me into their home. I think his parents liked the idea of their son having some female attention. Brian liked it too of course. I could see it in his eyes though he'd never admit it verbally.

I sat alone with my school friend on a ratty looking brown sofa and nibbled at a bowl of popcorn. It was a little early in the season for an important game but even some of the early games were broadcast, and they were easily picked up in the more remote parts of Ireland with the right equipment. Brian's family made sure they had the right equipment as they were all avid fans.

The game had started but talking was permitted only during time-outs and advertisements. While I waited patiently for those moments, I enjoyed the game.

"So, Dana," Brian started during a break in the action. "What's the occasion? Don't you have lessons today?"

"I guess I'm a bit tired of training all the time. I needed a diversion."

Brian just shrugged.

"I'm glad that's okay with you," I added in a teasing tone. I wanted to give him a quick blast of wind through his hair but thought better of it. He still didn't seem comfortable with my power.

The game resumed and I had to wait again. I bided my time, trying to think of a way to broach the subject of Aine. Subtlety wasn't my best skill so I decided to hit Brian head on.

"Brian," I quickly started after a game stoppage. "Do you think Aine is cute?"

He just rolled his eyes and refused to comment.

"Why don't you ever ask her on a date?" I continued.

"Is that why you're here?" he asked. "I thought you wanted to watch the game."

"I do!" I protested. "But I worry about you two. Aine dates all the time and is never happy. You never date and don't seem too pleased either."

The game had resumed and all eyes were on it, but all ears in the room were tuned in on my conversation with Brian.

"If you're through," he said in a quiet voice. "I'd like to continue watching the game."

I could tell I hit a sore spot but I wasn't through yet. He obviously didn't like his lack of a girlfriend pointed out to him. Couldn't he see that I was just trying to help? Why didn't he realize Aine was perfect for him? I felt like taking a chance so I had to ask one last question.

"Just please answer me one thing," I said.

"Okay."

"What do you look for in a lass?"

That got some snickers from his brothers but to Brian's credit, he ignored them. Instead, he got a thoughtful look in his eye and rattled off a list of attributes, not all of which were physical. I was surprised and impressed. I also realized something else.

"I hope you know that you just described Aine almost perfectly."

I had him now, and grinned triumphantly while I waited for his reaction.

He looked at me with a slight frown and then did the most ridiculous thing. He rolled his eyes and went back to watching the game! I swear men are hopeless sometimes.

I went back to watching the game with him and took out my frustration on the popcorn. Grinding my teeth on a snack was better than grinding them together.

I refused to accept defeat. I'd talk with Aine as soon as possible and go back and forth between them until they at least gave each other a chance. I was sure it'd only take one date to get them together and keep them that way.

* * *

Aine saved me a trip the following Saturday morning when she showed up on my doorstep.

"Are you wantin' to go for a walk, Dana? 'Tis a fine day for one."

"That it is," I agreed. "Just give me a minute and we'll go."

We hadn't gotten together for many walks over the past several months so we were past due. Winter and spring were wetter than normal that year and I was usually busy taking lessons from Alice or helping my father. The nice weather would make for some pleasant flying but that could wait until afternoon. I had a certain boy to talk about first.

I called my favorite flight instructor just to be sure it was okay. Then Aine and I started walking inland.

The Dingle Peninsula fairly glows with charm when the sun shines. There was nary a cloud in the sky and it was warm enough to get away without having to wear a heavy coat. I wore an outfit in my favorite color to blend nicely with the grass-covered hills while Aine looked like a piece of sky that had fallen to earth.

The two of us walked quite often when the weather was nice. It gave my talkative friend a chance to practice her verbal skills and let me appreciate the scenery. I generally watched for wildflowers and sea birds while giving my friend an occasional nod or single word of encouragement to show her I was listening. The two of us made a good pair, but there was another pair I would soon discuss, just as soon as I got my fill of wonderful views and could get a word in edgewise.

We had just reached the top of a small hill with a grand view of Mount Brandon, rising above a sea of mist to the north. I motioned for us to sit on a patch of dry grass and began phase two of my master plan.

"Aine," I said, taking advantage of her silence while she looked for a place to sit. "Can you believe Brian?"

"What do you mean?"

"Don't you remember? He did something you thought men never did."

"What are you talking about?" My friend frowned back at me.

I admit it. I wanted to work on my subtlety. I needed the practice and I figured Aine would like the challenge. It'd be good practice for us both. Besides, I was having fun.

"Come now, don't be telling me you can't remember. It's been gnawing at me for days now. I can't believe you haven't brought it up yet."

That got her thinking. She might have tried to forget about it since it didn't fit her world view, but I'm sure it was still somewhere in the back of her mind.

The wind kicked up while I waited for a response, whipping our hair in our faces. It distracted Aine so I used my power to shield us for the moment. She deserved every chance to remember.

"Men!" she finally shouted after several minutes. "Even when they're not around they drive me crazy."

I had to laugh at that. I also had to disagree. It was my fault she was frustrated so I took pity and threw her some clues.

"What is it that men don't like to say?" I hinted.

"Oh, I don't know ... compliments," she guessed.

"And?"

"I love you."

"And?"

"Oh!" Her eyes lit up. I think she got it.

"Oh?" I asked.

"Sorry!" She crowed.

"Right!" I agreed. "Brian actually apologized for teasing me. Don't tell me you didn't notice."

"Oh, I noticed," she said with a twinkle in her eye. "I was beginning to worry that you didn't fully appreciate it."

Now it was my turn to be confused.

"Don't give me that look," she scolded. "It just goes to show that you two would make a good couple."

"What?!"

My plan backfired. I should've known it would. Brian apologized to me, not her. But even if he apologized to her, would she still refuse to see him as more than just a friend? Was getting them together truly hopeless?

After our little talk, I became more determined than ever to get my two young friends together. Subtlety be damned. I just needed a more direct approach. I grabbed a stalk of grass to chew so I wouldn't grind my teeth. It was going to be a long walk back to Dingle.

* * *

With my matchmaking plan shelved for a time, I refocused my efforts on something else that eluded me. I had one more aspect of my power to master before I'd be happy. Flying had become almost second nature to me but I still had yet to find a good way to stop the wind once I got it started.

Early Sunday morning, Alice and I met at my house to discuss our plans. She had some new ideas for me to try. Some of them were hers and some came from colleagues who frequently contacted her. I generated a lot of interest at the Institute because of the magnitude of my power. So far, I hadn't hit my limit except when my body ran out of energy. I had to eat like a horse to fuel myself, especially when I flew, something I did often.

Flying was a dream come true. I couldn't get enough of it. Whenever I could, I'd soar high over the coastline. The view alone was worth the effort but I reveled in the freedom as well. I also enjoyed the speed. When I really pushed myself, I could travel at close to the speed of sound, though I couldn't keep it up for more than a dozen miles or so without eating. I expended a lot of energy flying at top speed. It worked better when I cut my top speed in half. Then I could easily fly for at least an hour. I know because I flew that long in a large circle overhead while my teacher timed me.

I had to endure lots of test flights to measure my capabilities. It wasn't until I got some free time that I cut loose. I almost always started my flights slowly for some sightseeing but I usually ended up flying as fast as I could.

Not being able to break the sound barrier disappointed me. I could blast projectiles faster with an explosive release of compressed air but that method would injure me. I had to gradually increase my speed.

After my lessons had been planned that morning, I mentioned my desire to exceed the speed of sound and Alice had a very interesting suggestion. She thought that carrying a sound elemental with me might allow me to do it. Her idea excited me so much I couldn't help myself. I ran to my bedroom to write in my journal. I wanted to make sure I remembered to try it if I ever got the chance to meet a sound elemental.

After jotting down a few notes, I stuffed a duffel bag full of food and bottles of water and reluctantly left the house to start the day's lessons. Flying would have to wait.

Our plan took us to a small, secluded beach. Alice assured me it was perfect for some ideas that she hadn't mentioned yet. She wanted them to be a surprise.

Actually, I later realized she was nervous about preparing me for combat. She didn't want me to think too much about having to defend myself. Self-defense was especially important in a world of super-powered humans.

Once again, I started with a small whirlwind, but this time, instead of slamming it into something, I pushed it straight down into the sand. It made a sizable hole but it quickly stopped.

"Hey!" I shouted. "It worked!"

"Of course," Alice said with a smug look.

We knew it would work when we discussed it back home. It just surprised me how well it worked. It was easier and faster than slamming it into something. It also led to another idea, one that would slowly segue into the dark world of combat.

My teacher had me create another small whirlwind over a bed of rock, and then had me tighten it and speed it up. It was about three feet tall and I got it down to the width of a pencil. The high-pitched whine it set my teeth on edge but I was encouraged to keep tightening it and speeding it up.

My concentration was tested to its limit as I continued to shrink the diameter. I cut it in half again and pleaded for mercy.

"Okay," Alice said. "Now for the hard part."

I groaned.

"Try to keep the whirlwind going at top speed as you slowly and steadily force it down into the rock."

That seemed an odd request but I tried it, and was surprised at the result. The whirlwind actually cut into the rock!

"Congratulations," my teacher said with a proud smile. "You just created your first pneumatic drill. As you can see, it can cut through most things and can be quite dangerous."

"Yes, I do see."

I imagined drilling through an armored rock elemental and shivered. I didn't like where this new training was taking me, even though a part of me knew it might one day save my life.

The training continued to delve more into combat as the day wore on. I blasted air and rocks at targets, and used a large whirlwind to pick up and carry away a target dummy. I might have been more upset if the dummy didn't have a clown face painted on it. Clowns always disturbed me so I was pleased to see it spinning madly away from me.

I'm sure I must have mentioned my dislike of clowns to Alice at some point. I began to notice that she used every psychological trick she could to make it easier on me, and I silently thanked her for it.

I knew when I first got my power that it could cause a lot of destruction and harm people, but at least I was learning to control it, and I was learning defensive techniques as well. I'm just glad my friends weren't there to watch. I didn't want them to fear me.

At least my next lesson was a nice change. Alice held a large pane of glass above her head and told me to send some wind ahead of me as I flew. She wanted me to try to detect the deflected wind so I wouldn't fly into the glass. This was another of our planned lessons.

As I started flying several hundred yards away, I couldn't see the glass at all. It was held to minimize reflections so it was virtually invisible. I had to use my power to sense it.

It made me laugh when I compared myself to a bird or bee flying into a window, something that happened quite often. If only they had some sort of radar like I now had. I easily sensed the window and turned to avoid it.

My teacher congratulated me again and had me perform one more unplanned lesson. This time I wasn't pleased.

She wanted me to rarefy the air around her head. It could be used to make someone faint. It could also kill.

"Are you crazy?!" I shouted.

"I'll be okay," she said quietly. "Just take it slow and easy. As soon as I start to waver, stop and let the air around me return to normal."

It sounded easy until she mentioned the word "stop". I had trouble stopping my power and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to stop her from suffocating.

She noticed my hesitation and added that I could always blow air into her lungs. She also had to mention that I could do the opposite and pull the air back out, effectively knocking the wind out of her. She couldn't resist adding to my lesson.

"Okay. Okay," I huffed. "Let's do it."

The lesson was short and worked well. I did have to blow air back into Alice's lungs but she came through it okay.

"Why?" I pleaded afterwards.

She knew what I meant and gave me a sad look before replying.

"You had to practice on someone to learn how to hold back. You don't want to kill if you don't have to, do you?"

She had a point there -- a very good point. I let the subject drop and settled for a nice long hug.

* * *

The next weekend started pleasantly enough. I joined my father for a bowl of porridge before we went our separate ways, he to his shop and me to have some much needed time off.

Alice warned me I'd been working too hard and she was right. I'd hit a wall with my training. It didn't help that I had a lot of schoolwork and continued to help my father sell his artistic furniture three days a week. My schedule was already busy and yet I still spent hours a day learning to control my power. It was no surprise when my stern and caring mentor did what she thought was best for me. She ordered me to rest and relax, at least in spirit.

My body and mind were too lively to stay inside. Besides, the conditions were perfect for one of my favorite activities. I loved to walk along the shore and watch heavy gray clouds hang low over the bay. On days like that, air and sea were like two best friends, engaging in misty conversation.

I lost track of time as I went down the beach, then turned and made my way back. Before I knew it, I was back in the village, slowly wandering without a destination. I'd communed with the elements and it was time for a change.

Being alone with my thoughts, I didn't feel the damp chill or notice when the mist turned to rain. My hair was wet since I refused to wear a hat. I occasionally felt thin strands sticking to the sides of my face and absently brushed them aside. That's as close as I could come to facing reality at the moment.

So many thoughts danced through my head, competing for attention. I refused to entertain any of them for very long though. Instead, I sat back and let them fight, hoping one might be a clear victor and be worthy for consideration. I didn't have long to wait.

Since I'd gotten MORFS, time flew by. Everything seemed unreal. My life was a fairy tale. I had so much power but no direction. What would happen next? What would I do with my life?

I strolled along a back lane, guiding a small whirlwind ahead of me, blissfully unaware that I'd very quickly find at least one answer to the questions that had been plaguing me. Or it might be more accurate to say that the answer would soon find me.

I heard several frightened gasps and more than one angry shout before I saw the cause. It was an unwelcome visitor. She wore a tight fitting body suit that exposed her hands and bare feet. The suit was pea green in the front and black everywhere else, looking very much like a uniform. Her shoulder length red hair hung in damp ringlets that bounced as she strode purposely through the village.

I could tell she wasn't welcome. No one approached her but the looks on their faces said what their mouths failed to say. The woman either didn't notice or didn't care. She was on a mission.

She turned her head back and forth as she scanned the village. She was obviously looking for something or someone -- until she locked eyes with me. When that happened, she immediately changed direction, coming towards me. As she got within civil talking distance, I could see a faraway look in her glassy green eyes that hinted at a life of fear and danger mixed with pleasure. It was clear that she was quite insane.

She stopped and casually studied me for a brief moment. Except for her disturbing eyes, her face was an emotionless mask.

"Hello Child," she said.

"Hello Mother."


(To be continued)

 

 

 

The entire MORFS  Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/

 


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