Author's Notes: Before you start to read the story, I wanted to say thanks to all people who helped me with it: Marco Berzacola for drawing beautiful pictures that inspired me to write it; Vika Kovalenko for helping me with translation; Chris Dawson, Rich Wilson and George Harrison for proofreading and corrections. Also thanks to everyone who have read it in the past and posted their opinions, and who have drawn their own pictures based on the story, I appreciate it very much!
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That Sunday summer day at the Simpsons' house started like it always did. They had just come back from church, a place that all of them despised. Homer, Bart and Lisa changed their clothes and were discussing the quickest way to forget about everything that Reverend Lovejoy had been feeding them for last hour and a half. Marge was watching them.
"Listen, maybe you should stop behaving as if you've just had to witness an execution. I don't want to listen such obscenities from you every week."
"Mom, the Sunday you'll stop making us visiting church, you'll hear nothing like it, I promise," Bart said. "I'd just like to live to see that great day..."
"Mrrrhmm... But church isn't a punishment, it should help you live!"
"It should, but it doesn't," Homer replied, making himself comfortable on the sofa. "We've told you this so many times, but you still don't believe us... by the way, Marge, what about second breakfast? I've been hungry from the very morning... although Lovejoy's boring speech could make me hungry as well..."
"Hey! Don't forget about us, we're hungry too," Bart said.
Marge went into the kitchen, shaking her head. It seems to me sometimes that our family is hopeless, she thought. I've been trying to change them for the better for so many years, but what do I get for a result? Absolutely nothing... at least we're lucky not to quarrel today.
She looked out into the living room. Homer and Bart were watching TV, Lisa was reading a book. Was it really possible that they were going to spend the whole day like this?
"Yep, you're right," answered Homer then she asked them. "We have nothing to do."
"But it's Sunday!" Marge pleaded. "Let's get out of these walls!" But Homer looked displeased. "Oh, I've got a wonderful idea! Let's have a picnic! Let's drive somewhere in the forest and... Homey, stop looking at me like that! Trust me, our breakfast will taste much more pleasant if we eat it surrounded by nature, under the clear blue sky..."
"You're serious about this, aren't you?" Homer turned off TV and got up. "Well, children, what about a picnic?"
"Sounds like a good idea," Lisa said. "But remember, we have to take all garbage with us before leaving. We'll behave like Indians, taking the bounty of nature without hurting it."
"Here we go again, Lisa..." Bart yawned. "But I'm not against it. We have nothing to do at home, on Sunday mornings even the TV shows only boring stuff."
"All right! Just wait a few minutes, I'll prepare some food," answered Marge, smiling. Well, maybe things aren't all that bad after all, she thought to herself, returning to the kitchen, and beginning to prepare the afternoon meal.
They were on their way in half an hour. Homer had promised to get them in a wonderful place up in Springfield Hills, having told them that there would be a nice view of Springfield from there. Turning from Evergreen Terrace up to Central Street, he hoped not to get caught in a traffic jam. Fortunately, the roads were clear. They were going on the highway, seemingly shimmering with the hot air, and Homer sped up. The Simpsons drove by the giant letters that spelled "SPRINGFIELD", by the lemon tree, the local symbol which had almost caused a war between Springfield and Shelbyville, and crossed the dam. Civilization was growing further away; only the ancient forest surrounded them now.
"We're almost there," Homer said, driving to the road that was turning through the trees. The road became very narrow and nearly invisible in the dense foliage. They continued for about two miles and finally stopped.
Homer was right - this place was very nice. A big glade opened a wonderful view at the town, the thick forest was on the background. The air was pure and fresh. The family got out of their car, took a deep breath of the crisp natural air, and started unpacking their things.
Lisa looked back at Springfield. She could easily see the chimneys of the power plant where her Dad worked, the ring of the monorail, her house and school... she could even see the burning tire heap, one of Springfield's questionable sights, though it was on the opposite part of the town. It was a fantastic view.
"Hey, Lis!" Bart shouted. "Stop dreaming, or we'll eat all of this without you!"
Lisa joined the company. They were eating and chatting for some time. Homer told some funny stories about his work on the nuclear plant, and Bart told some not quite decent anecdotes. Marge was smiling, even her son's crude behavior couldn't spoil her good mood.
Eventually, their meal came to the end. Homer and Marge stayed near the car watching Maggie and talking about their own things, and Bart and Lisa were still sitting, deciding what to do next. Bart got up, went to the car's trunk and took a plastic frisbee from it.
"You don't mind if we have some fun?" he called. Marge nodded her head.
"Lisa, take it!" He threw the frisbee to Lisa. She staggered back and caught it.
"Oh yeah? Take it back!" She swung her arm and threw the frisbee back to him. They were playing this simple game, laughing and running along the glade, leaving their parents little by little.
"Lisa, look out!" Bart cried. Lisa jumped once again and caught the frisbee.
"What? What is it?" She looked back and turned cold. The well-known Springfield Gorge was just a few feet from Lisa. There were rumors in the school that this gorge had no bottom. Just think, a few steps, and she could fall down...
"Don't worry, Bart," Lisa responded, stepping back from the edge and throwing the frisbee once more. "I'm--"
She couldn't finish her phrase. A huge chunk of ground, nearly worn away by erosion, slid off and plummeted into the gorge, taking Lisa with it.
"LISA!!" Bart screamed rushing to her, but it was all in vain. He stopped at the very edge, ignoring the danger to himself, fixated on his sister's small figure disappearing in the deep. "Oh, no..."
"What happened, Bart?" Marge and Homer asked, running towards him. Bart slowly looked back and turned to his parents.
"Lisa... she... there was nothing I could do... it just... she... Mom, she fell!!"
"What?! LISA!!!" Marge cried, running to the gorge and seeming like she was going to hurl herself in after her daughter. Homer caught her. She started breaking away, crying.
"Lisa... my little girl... oh no, not this! Anything but this..."
"Did you see her falling down?" Homer asked, looking at Bart.
"Yeah," he whispered, barely audible. "But I... I couldn't help her... she was too far away..."
"Go to the car," Homer said impassively, and he then turned to his wife. "Marge... Marge!" He shook her up, she looked at him. "Let's go to the car. We can do nothing here. We have to go down and try to find her. Maybe there is still a chance that..."
He broke off right there. He didn't even believe his own words. The depth of the pit was several hundred meters at least.
They slowly went to the car. Bart and Maggie already were inside, looking very frightened. Homer put Marge in, then sat himself in the driver's seat and started the engine.
"It's all my fault," groaned Marge then they went a little away. "It was my idea to make a picnic. If I hadn't made that suggestion, she would be alive."
Homer stopped the car and looked at her. "Don't ever say it," he replied. "It wasn't your fault. It was an accident that could happen to anyone, anywhere." He looked down at his boots and added gloomy.
"I think it was just my fault. It was me who brought you here, though I knew how dangerous this place could be, but that time I didn't think about it..."
Marge glared at him but said nothing. Homer sighed and accelerated the car.
They had been moving away from the place of the tragedy for some time, looking for the slope to the canyon, and got to the narrow path, leading somewhere down. They had been descending the twisting serpentine road for a long time. Homer tried to drive the car carefully, but his arms were shaking. They reached the bottom. Homer turned the car and they went on along the gorge bottom, up to the place where Lisa should be. No one could say a word. The road was all in ruins so Homer could hardly find the right way. Finally, he stopped. It was impossible to drive further.
"She should be somewhere near," he said. Bart took Maggie in his arms, and the family got out of the car and proceeded to look around. Marge was crying silently, the teardrops running down her face like small rivers.
It was Bart who discovered her first. He handed Maggie to Homer and raced to his sister's side.
Lisa was lying on her back, almost covered with gravel and small stones. Her arms were spread out, her eyes were closed. Her face looked so peaceful, like she had just lain here for a small nap, and was going to wake up any moment. Bart kneeled down over her, his eyes welling up.
Could she really be dead? he thought. Could it all finish here like this? There would be a ceremony at the church, Lovejoy would make a silly speech for the mob around, with every person acting sad, like they realized just what had happened, that two children had lost their sister and two parents lost their eldest daughter. Yet behind their disguise, they were indifferent to his sister's fate. Then there will be a funeral where only his family, and maybe Grampa, Patty and Selma would be. Then his sister would be buried deep down, beneath tons of tightly packed earth, alone, and he would never see her again... and Bart realized that he couldn't stop himself from crying. He never imagined, even in his most incredibly morbid fantasies, that he would outlive his younger sister.
Homer and Marge came towards him and stopped several steps away, looking in silence at Bart who was on his knees near Lisa. Minutes passed, and Homer felt like he had to break the awful silence. He opened the mouth to say something comforting to his son... but at that moment Bart looked up at them, a look of confused curiosity replacing his grim expression of seconds before.
"Did you hear that?" he asked. Homer stupidly stood still with his mouth wide open.
"What? What is it, Bart?" asked Marge, some trace hope appearing in her voice.
Bart didn't answer. He bent down closer to Lisa and heard a faint sigh again. He carefully touched her neck. An eternity seemed to pass while he could feel her weak pulse.
"Mom... she's... alive..." he said with great relief in his voice.
"Lisa, oh my girl, you're alive!" Marge left Homer, ran towards Lisa and kneeled down near her, kissing her, touching her body that now felt so full of life to her. She could hardly believe this. Yes, she was alive, although she was unconscious. Could it be true? No one could have fallen from such a height and survived. It was incredible, she thought to herself.
"You'll be all right, honey, we'll drive you to the hospital," Marge whispered. "Everything will be okay from now on. You're alive, and that's the most important thing." The tremendous stress she had undergone caused her to shake all over. She tried to lift up Lisa from ground, but realized that she wasn't able to.
"I'll do it," Bart said. Marge nodded, got up, and stepped back toward Homer, who was still holding Maggie in his arms.
Bart embraced his sister, putting one arm around her neck and the other one under her knees, and tried to pull up. Lisa didn't move. He tried again, harder, and Lisa let out a soft moan, still being unconscious.
"Bart, what are you doing?!" cried Marge.
"What the..." said Bart puzzled. He moved a little away, shoveled the ground aside and tried once again. Dust, sand and stones were falling aside and suddenly he saw them.
"Oh my God..." said Homer and Marge simultaneously looking at Lisa with amazement. Bart might have said something different, and almost dropped Lisa out of surprise. He could hardly contain his hysteria.
"Damn... what the heck are they?" Bart exclaimed, looking at them. Under other circumstances, there was nothing special about them, just a pair of wings looking like bird's wings, but, of course, much bigger. But a human with wings? Bart had a feeling that he had been sleeping and he would wake up now in his bed, at their house... but he didn't. It could only be reality. He was standing here, holding his eight year old sister on his arms, and she had suddenly grown her own wings. Bart giggled.
Eventually, Marge regained her ability to speak.
"It's a miracle..." she said.
"Yeah right, I don't believe in that crap," Bart scoffed.
"There's no other explanation... God has given her wings so she could save herself. It's a real miracle."
"Mom, please, don't start this again!"
"Bart! We all know that I'm the only person in this family who really believes in God. Now I've got one more proof of His existence. It's up to you whether to believe me or not. But you'd better try to explain it your own way before criticizing me, young man!"
"Okay, Marge. Let's think of it as a miracle," Homer said, coming towards them. "But what do we do now?"
"What do you mean 'what do we do now'? Of course we'll take Lisa to the hospital. She's still hurt..."
"Are you kidding?! Look, Marge, let's imagine what'll happen when we get Lisa to the hospital. Rumors about a little girl with wings will spread around the town. She'll be chased by the photographers and newsmen, everyone will be staring at her. Her life will be ruined by the paparazzi! Do you want that?"
Marge bent her head while thinking. She knew that Homer was right, but it was still hard to accept it. She glanced at Bart as if asking him for support. He nodded, agreeing with his father.
"I'm not sure..." she looked at Homer again," but I'm afraid you're right. So, Mister Smarty, I'm ready to listen to your own ideas."
"Ideas? Mmmm, ideas... Well, I think we should quietly drive her home. And then we'll decide what to do next."
The way back was very long. When they arrived on the highway leading to the town, the sky had turned dark. Homer drove the car, Marge gradually fell asleep holding Maggie in her arms - there wasn't enough room for her on the back seats. Bart was sitting there, Lisa's head lying on his knees and staring at her wings. Though they looked a bit dirty and dishevelled, and some feathers were broken or torn away, they seemed to be something enchanting. Lisa looked like a small angel taking a rest after a hard battle with dark forces of some kind. Bart sighed. Their life had changed a lot today. They probably would even have to move somewhere else... Homer was right, nobody should see Lisa while she looked like this, at least until they found out what had happened to her.
Feeling curious, Bart moved his arm and pulled out an almost torn-away feather. Holding it in his hands, he examined it very carefully, stroked it with finger, even tickled his nose with it... just a feather. It looked like any usual one, though a little bigger and tougher. Bart turned the feather in his hands and finally put it into his pocket.
The car stopped. They were home.