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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Sitting in the kitchen, Marge thought desperately about what she was going to do. Homer was still at work and knew nothing about what was happening here, her kids were staring at her - Bart and Maggie with expectancy, Lisa with fear... it was obvious that Marge could only rely on herself now. It wasn't something unusual for her - she'd got used to rescuing her family from different situations over the last years. Usually it was Homer's fault, but less often, Bart's. But that which had happened to them now was too uncommon... it looked as if all her life's experience was useless.
"What do we do now, Mom?" Lisa whispered.
"Nothing," Marge answered quietly. "Just wait until your father comes home. Up to that time we'll pretend there's nobody home. Don't open the door or the windows, don't answer to anyone, and don't turn the light on. Lisa, please don't worry. We'll think of something, I promise."
Bart rolled his eyes. "Genius, Mom," he said in a low voice. "They'll see your car, our stuff that has been left outside, the house locked from the inside... and after that then they'll be sure that there's nobody here, right?"
"You have any better ideas?"
The last hour was very tense for the family - their visitors were no joke and were already trying to break into the house. Fortunately, the door and the windows held them at bay, despite their efforts. Looking at the guests through the chink between the shutters, Bart saw something that didn't make him happy - this was not just the townspeople's idle curiosity, nor another case of TV reporters' search for sensation. Most of the arrived vans were from the military, and the men inside them looked like servicemen and scientists. Bart didn't know how Kent Brockman, the mediocre Channel 6 reporter, had managed to make their acquaintance, but suspected a bribe or something similar. Or was it even his own initiative...
Another long hour passed. Lisa had locked herself in her room. Bart, having no idea what to do, went to his room too, and Marge still sat at the kitchen table, holding a sleepy Maggie on her hands and waiting for her husband nervously. Finally, she heard the sound of a car arriving. Marge stood up and walked to the door.
"Sir! Sir! Is that your house?" an unknown voice spoke.
"Yes, what's going on here?" Homer's voice answered. Marge sighed with relief. It wasn't really that she believed in Homer's ability to find the way out... but after many years of living together, she had gotten used to receiving support from him, at least in the moral sense. And usually he didn't betray her trust. Marge put her ear to the door, trying to listen to the conversation.
"Sir, you have to let us in," the stranger was saying forcefully.
"Why?" The surprise in Homer's voice was genuine.
"You see, there is someone inside the house who we are very interested in seeing... actually, it's your elder daughter. We have to talk to her."
"Okay, I'll ask her. Just wait here." Trying to open the door without success, Homer gave up and knocked on. "Marge, are you there? Open the door, it's me!"
"Make that other guy step back first!" she shouted.
"You heard her, buddy. Step back, otherwise she won't let me in. It's useless to argue with her, believe me... okay Marge, you can open it now."
Marge opened the door with caution. Homer stepped inside, and Marge slammed the door right away."Where were you, Homer?" she whispered, ignoring the persistent knocking at the door.
"At work... what's happening here?"
"Well... Maggie got lost in the forest, and Lisa managed to find her. And then they appeared... oh Homey, I'm scared." Marge looked at Homer with eyes full of maternal fear. "Do you remember what you told me there, at the bottom of the canyon? This is much worse - that's not only reporters, but the military out there, and I'm so afraid that they'll take her with them, and we won't see her anymore..."
Tears appeared in Marge's eyes. Homer hugged her along with Maggie.
"Don't worry, honey. We'll think of something, I promise... we always do," he answered, unintentionally repeating her own words. At that moment, a familiar voice sounded from outside.
"Mrs. Simpson, do you hear me? It's me, Kent Brockman. Open the door, please."
Marge fastened the doorchain and opened the door a bit.
"What do you want, Kent?"
"We just want to see your eldest daughter... to talk to her, make some shots, nothing more."
"She doesn't want to see you. Please, go away, leave us alone!"
"I'm sorry Mrs. Simpson, but it's my job. Just imagine - a little girl with real wings, could I ignore this or not? She's really got wings? That's not just a rumor, right?"
"What are you talking about?" Marge tried to make the amazement in her voice sound credible, but without visible success. She wasn't used to lying to people. "Don't make me laugh, she's a normal girl, everything is normal with her!"
"If so, why did you lock yourselves in the house? Just show her to us, and we'll leave!"
"I already told you she doesn't want to see you."
"Mrs. Simpson," Brockman was starting to lose his patience. "Listen, we'll see her anyway, whether you want it or not. We've surrounded your house, you have nowhere to go... after all, a lot of the military is here. If you won't cooperate, they'll enter your house by force. Don't be silly! Let's get this out of the way in a friendly manner, okay? You'll get some popularity, and I'll get a great story!"
Marge had lost her ability to speak. Fortunately, at that moment Homer decided to break into the conversation.
"All right, that's it! I'll talk to him..." he said, pushing her aside and taking off the doorchain, hiding something behind his back.
The door had opened. Brockman stepped onto the threshold... and froze when a shotgun barrel was leveled against his face. Homer was staring at him with a very aggressive expression. Brockman stared down the barrel and raised his hands.
"Mr. Simpson... no sudden movements, okay?" he said. Fresh beads of perspiration burst out across his forehead.
"Homer, what are you doing?!" Marge yelled. She ran up to him, grabbed the shotgun's barrel and turned it aside. "Stop it now, do you hear me? You might kill somebody!"
"Calm down, Marge," Homer muttered out of the corner of his mouth. "It's not even loaded... see?"
He pulled the trigger, and the shot thundered. Brockman dropped his microphone and stepped back in shock. The others scattered in various directions - behind the vans, or behind the house. Some just dropped to the ground.
"Simpson, you're crazy!" Brockman screamed, retreating. "I'll sue you for that!"
Lisa was sitting on her bed, shaking with fear. She could hear the voices below, and although she couldn't understand everything, the tones suggested that things weren't going very well Everything she had before was ruined by these wings now. It was obvious that those people had come here just to take her... to some lab or hospital, to examine her there like an unknown animal, she thought in despair. What wrong had she done to them? All she could do now was just sit in her room, hoping that her Mom and Dad would protect her...
Then she heard a gunshot. It startled her badly - something really bad had happened. She felt like the fear in her mind was going too far, becoming uncontrolled, overriding her. Forgetting about everything, Lisa opened the window, climbed onto the sill and fluttered outside, flying almost straight up as quickly as possible.
Fortunately, the fuss caused by Homer's trick had drawn people's attention away from her. She flew high up enough and headed west, to the forest, before she was noticed.
"There!" somebody shouted, pointing to Lisa, who had already become an almost invisible figure in the distant skies.
"Are you getting this, Steve?" Brockman asked.
The operator turned the camera around, trying to catch Lisa in the finder. Marge rushed outside, ran up to him, snatched the camera's handle and turned it away with a power unexpected in such a delicate woman.
"Don't you dare do this, you bastards!" she growled through clenched teeth.
"Somebody stop that madwoman!" cried Brockman, trying to push her away. The operator finally regained control of his camera, but by that time Lisa had almost reached the skyline, dissolving against the bright sunset background, and it was impossible to shoot into such brightness. Suddenly she dropped down and disappeared into the forest. The operator frowned and shook his head.
"Sorry, boss," he said, turning the camera off.
Brockman turned to Marge, furious.
"You'll regret that, I swear! We won't leave this place... you can sit at home as long as you want. She'll return sooner or later, she has no choice... we'll wait for her, and you won't be able to stop us. As for you, Simpson," he turned to Homer, who was still standing near the door with Maggie on his hands, "I'll see you in court!"
Marge, admitting defeat, went back inside the house. Nobody followed her. She stepped inside, closed the door and fell on Homer's neck with tears. He tried to reassure her as best he could. Minutes passed, and Marge began to calm down.
"I'd better prepare something to eat," she said with a toneless voice, trying to distract herself from her sad thoughts.
"Bart! Come down here!" shouted Homer, setting Maggie on her baby's chair.
Nobody responded. Marge rushed upstairs, feeling anxiety take hold once again. Bart's room was empty, as well as Lisa's. The open window told her that Bart somehow managed to leave the house and follow his sister. Marge slowly returned to the kitchen and looked at her husband.
"He's gone, too..."
Marge sat at the table and stared at Maggie, as if she was her last chance not to lose her mind.
Lisa was making her way through the forest, unable to see anything, feeling a great hopelessness slowly consuming her. Hunger hurt her stomach, but she didn't notice it now. She had lost everything she had in this life - her family, her future, her dreams and her hopes. At least, so she thought. She didn't intend to return home - nothing good awaited her there, but if not home, where was she to go?
After a while, Lisa raised her eyes and looked around in shock - she had left the forest and reached the coast. She walked to the cliff. An endless ocean stretched in front of her, restless before the approaching storm. A cold north wind puffed, and huge waves were crashing into the rocks far below.
This can be the way out, Lisa thought suddenly. She stepped carefully to the very edge of the cliff and looked down, clutching her shoulders with her hands and shivering in the wind. She didn't feel afraid - despair had absorbed all other feelings in her being, and she couldn't see any other options in her current state. I have to forget about my wings, forget about their existence just for a few seconds... She thought. After that, all of it won't matter anyway. It's all their fault...
Bart was running through the forest like a madman, gasping and feeling the pounding of his heart. He wasn't quite sure why he was doing this - he didn't have any idea where to find Lisa, but he knew that he had to try anyway, or something terrible would happen. Shouting her name every minute, he stopped in exhaustion from time to time, putting his hands against his knees or resting against a tree trunk. After taking a short rest, he continued on his way. A couple of times he thought that he could see his sister far ahead - and then as he surged forward with fresh power, time after time it turned out that he was wrong.
He had nearly lost all hope and strength when he finally did see Lisa - she was walking slowly to the cliff's edge, obviously not seeing anything. Bart could hardly run or shout anymore - summoning the rest of his strength, he went after her. Lisa stopped at the cliff's edge and looked down. Bart's blood ran cold with terror.
"Lisa, WAIT!" he shouted as loud as he could, but a gust of wind carried his words away.
Lisa closed her eyes, and stepped forward.
The feelings of the void, the uncertainty and fear, wind whistling in the ears... and then a terrible, crushing impact on the water's surface. Lisa sank deep down into the ocean's icy clutches, opened her eyes but still couldn't see anything except a dark-green muddy veil. Unable to resist her instinct of self-preservation anymore, she tried to swim up, waving her arms brokenly, but the strong current had grabbed her by the wings and dragged her back down. I did it, Lisa thought almost with pride, before she was choked with water and lost consciousness.
"Oh no," Bart thought, standing on the cliff's edge and looking down helplessly, like last time. "Not this... not again. Why did she do this?! We could've thought of something... this is not a solution!"
Gradually, the terror in his stomach started to turn into anger. "No way," he thought, "I won't let you just run away from your problems, sister." He took off his shoes, took a couple of deep breaths, closed his eyes tightly and jumped down after her.
The cold water had beaten all his body and, however strange it was, strengthened him and let him think more clearly. He opened his eyes and tried to look around. Waves were tossing him from one side to the other, but he could see a dark-red, blurry spot deep below, and he swam towards it. He couldn't see much at that depth. Acting by touch, Bart clutched at the first thing that came to his hand - that was her elbow, grabbed her, and started to swim up, hoping he had enough energy left to do that. Lisa was heavy... too heavy for him. Damned wings... leave her alone! Bart thought, realizing suddenly that he couldn't save his sister, and now he would drown here along with her.
When Bart had regained his consciousness, he found out that he was on his knees up to his neck in the salty ocean water, coughing, and still holding Lisa's arm in his hand. Thinking vaguely, he dragged her to the land. Now I know what passive resistance is, he thought for some reason, remembering when his sister was trying to put him to bed, acting as his babysitter. It seemed now it was her turn to complicate his life as much as possible.
Not even his sister's look had drawn his attention, but the trace that her body had left on the wet sand. It was too... too narrow, Bart thought, and looked at Lisa. Unable to believe his eyes, he turned her sideways and felt her shoulders. It was true - there were no wings anymore, they had disappeared, without a trace of scarring. Bart scratched his head and stared at Lisa again, who still showed no signs of life.
Bart put his hand on her chest, trying to feel her heartbeat. The pulse was barely perceptible... and was getting weaker and weaker every second. Lisa was slowly dying in arms. What do I do?! shot through his mind. I have to do an artificial respiration to her, he realized. Barttried to recall what they had been told in the school's safety lessons... or whatever they called it... almost the whole lesson he had been chatting with Milhouse, but something had been buried in his memory nevertheless. He clasped his hands together, palms down, and made several hard pushes on her chest, trying to catch the rhythm of her weak pulse. After that he took a deep breath, held Lisa's nose with his hand, and breathed out the air in her mouth. Lisa started and began coughing, the water gushing out from her mouth and nose. Finally, Lisa opened her eyes.
"Hey sister," Bart said, very pleased with himself.
Lisa looked around, then her sight stopped on Bart. The undisturbed expression on her face turned into anger and horror when she realized what had happened.
"Bart, why did you do that?!" she whispered almost with hatred. Bart looked at her with a no less aggressive expression.
"At first, tell me why you did that?" He stood up and extended a hand to her. She grabbed it, trying to stand on her knees.
"Bart, you don't understand! I had no choice... I won't let them take me with them only because I'm different... I won't let them deprive me of my family... they're the only thing I have. It's best that I go away by myself..." Bart shook his head, listening to these words from an eight year old. Lisa continued, "We should've removed them earlier, before the move, I suggested that... why didn't you listen to me then?! Now they won't let you do that!" Lisa started to cry, and Bart finally lost his temper.
"Lisa, quit it! Your wings disappeared, you aren't in danger anymore!"
Lisa looked at him through the tears, then shifted her gaze to her shoulder. Unable to believe her eyes, she touched it with her hands. For as long as she pondered this fact, a range of different expressions appeared on her face - anger and fear turned into surprise and uncertainty, then sadness and regret came after them... but not for a long time. All negative emotions left her face eventually, replaced with an endless relief. At last, she smiled.
"You know, Bart," she said, "I should be disappointed now... after all, I've lost my ability to fly... but I don't feel it. Maybe I will, but now I'm just happy to be a normal person again." She shifted uncomfortably. "So... how did it happen?"
"I dunno, Lisa... I didn't do it. When I dragged you here, you were out cold." Bart sighed with relief. "Well... let's go back home, okay? I wanna see Brockman's face when he finally gets a look at you!"
"Yeah... Mom and Dad must be going crazy there..." Lisa stood up, turned to Bart and suddenly hugged him. "Thanks for saving me, Bart. I don't know what happened to me there... please, don't tell Mom and Dad about it, okay?"
Bart nodded. "Okay Lis, but if they'll ask us why we're all wet and sandy, you'll have to explain it yourself. By the way, I'd better find my shoes... I left them up there somewhere..." Bart lifted his head, looking at the cliff towering in front of them, and shook his head. "I still can hardly believe it really happened to us. It feels just kinda like a weird dream..."
Lisa nodded. She wasn't too worried about where from her wings had appeared in the past, and where they had gone to now. All of what had happened with her seemed to be totally unreal... and all that she wanted now was to see her parents again, her younger sister, to hear their voices and to feel like a human again.
The way through the forest was long, but they weren't afraid of getting lost - after living here for almost a month, they knew these places well. It was late at night when they finally reached home. Lisa stepped out of the forest and walked to the door, ignoring the vans that were randomly parked around the house.
"Go!" she heard from somewhere in the darkness.
The lights came on from all directions, illuminating the glade in front of the house as bright as daylight. Lisa stopped and covered her eyes with her hand, and looked forward with no fear at the group of strangers who had rushed towards her... but suddenly stopped and stared at her with stupid expressions. The door opened, and Marge stepped outside.
"Lisa, my little girl!" she cried, running to Lisa and hugging her.