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.
She was drifting slowly in weightlessness, in complete darkness and silence, free of all of her troubles, worries and fears. There was a blissful eternity around her, and it made her feel calm and sleepy. She didn't even feel her own body and was just following this invisible stream, having no need to worry about anything. It was a wonderful feeling...
She didn't know how long it had lasted. But she didn't care. She felt so good...
"Lisa, wake up..." she heard a distant voice again.
The feeling of bliss was gradually disappearing. Only darkness stayed, one that made her feel more uncertain than calm. She felt herself lying on something soft. Memories suddenly rushed into her mind, breaking the sweet dam of her amnesia like a fierce river. She remembered that sunny Sunday morning, their trip into the green hills, her and Bart playing in the glade, her own self falling down into the abyss... She started and opened her eyes. Bright light blinded her.
"Thank God you're back..." Marge said.
"Where am I...?" Lisa asked.
"You're at home, in your bed. We brought you here yesterday. You've been unconscious for the whole night. How are you, honey?"
"I'm okay... but my shoulders hurt." Lisa rubbed her forehead. Marge watched her with concern.
"You're lucky you've got neither fractures nor serious injuries... just a few bruises and scratches. It's a miracle you're alive and unhurt, Lisa. As for your shoulders... you've got your brother to thank for that.
He nearly tore them away when he tried to dig you out..."
"Them? Who's them?" Lisa asked bewildered. Marge looked at her shoes, as if they could answer that question.
"Lisa, do you remember what happened then? I mean, when you fell down the canyon?" she asked.
"I remember I was falling down... that's all," Lisa became nervous. "What's happened to me, Mom? Stop tormenting me, tell me the truth already!"
"Calm down, Lisa. Nothing terrible happened to you. Just... oh, how do I explain this?... when we found you, you had... wings. Real wings... just like any bird has."
"What?! Is this a joke?" Lisa turned her head to the left and saw it. Unable to believe her eyes, she stroked the wing with her right hand, felt its warmth... and simultaneously felt the touching of her hand.
She started and looked at her mother with horror in her eyes.
"That's... impossible..." she whispered.
"We thought the same thing at first."
"But... how?! Oh my God, I'm doomed... please Mommy, help me!" She clutched at Marge, like a child wanting nothing more than to bury their face in the warm safety of their mother's chest, and forget about their problems and worries. "If someone ever finds out..."
"No one will know, please don't worry about this, honey." Marge looked at her daughter with love and hugged her. "Oh Lisa... I know how you feel. You're scared, but try to look at this from my point of view: I was always calling you an angel in our family... but now you've become a real angel! I don't know how and why it's happened, but I know that without them, you'd already be dead. So please, don't be scared. We'll help you, Lisa... we're your family, and family looks out for each other, right?"
Lisa embraced her, feeling how Marge's calmness and confidence gradually passed into her. Finally, she looked at her mother again.
"Thanks, Mom," she said. "It seems now that I have to start a new life..."
"Maybe so." Marge smiled. "I suggest you start it in the bath."
Lying in the bath and enjoying the warmth of the water, Lisa felt the pain in her shoulders gradually dissipate. The feeling of deep disappointment was slowly leaving her, being replaced with calmness and logical arguments, the traits that she was always proud to carry. They had never let her down before, and now she could rely on them as usual.
Before taking a bath, Lisa had done her first, but very important experiment. Its result upset her very much. It didn't seem that she would be able to fly in the near future. She wasn't able to control her wings - she failed even to move them a little. It wasn't because they didn't obey her commands; it was because she hadn't known how to issue those commands.
Well, she thought finally, maybe there's nothing odd about it. Only in fairy tales could a hero use any acquired ability at once, as if they had always had it. But it was impossible in real life - any newborn child would spend a lot of time learning how to control their body, to get used to it, to fix these abilities on the subconscious level of their mind... it seemed she had to pass the same as well.
Lisa had the weird feeling again that all of this wasn't real. It's just a dream, she thought, only my imagination playing tricks on me, right? Maybe I ate something bad yesterday... right now I'll wake up in my bed with a scream, Bart will come into my room, I'll tell him about this crazy story, and we'll laugh about it together... She pinched her arm and winced in pain. If it was a dream, it was getting all too real.
Lisa tried to get out of the bath. It wasn't easy, her wet wings were pulling her back. The water was dripping down from her feathers onto the bathroom floor. Lisa somehow managed to wrap herself up in a big towel, sit on the edge of the bath, and lose herself in her thoughts again.
To fly by her own power - could it be real? After all, there was nothing strange that people couldn't do this so far, inventing various complex machines instead. She read something about this in one of her scientific books... a man couldn't fly for only one main reason - he's too big for it. The lifting ability of any wing depends on its size squared; and the weight of any object depends on its size cubed. Starting from a certain point, the weight began to dominate and a successful flight came to be a mere fantasy. The question was where Lisa had stopped - before the critical line or after it? She didn't know the answer...
The knock at the bathroom door interrupted her thoughts.
"Lisa, are you okay there? Do you need some help?" she heard Marge's voice.
"I guess so... come in, Mom," Lisa answered. Marge entered the bathroom, looked at Lisa, and giggled.
"Oh, honey, you look so cute... Stand here, I'll help you to dry them out." Lisa climbed on the stool, Marge knelt beside her and started wiping her wings with a towel, as if she had been doing it every day. Then she took a hair-drier and continued drying the feathers with the hot air. Lisa looked guilty.
"You know, Mom, I feel so embarrassed right now... These wings will bring so much trouble. It seems that I've become just a big problem."
"Lisa, please don't say that. You're not a problem. We're a family, and we should help each other. Remember when I had broken a leg in the mountains? That time it was you who'd been keeping house and you did it perfectly! So please, don't worry. We've been in worse situations." She smiled and continued on to the other wing.
Homer and Bart were watching TV in the family room. Maggie was sitting on the floor, intently playing some kind of music on the child's xylophone. But when Marge and Lisa came down the stairs, everyone looked at Lisa with a glowing admiration.
"Wow, Lis..." Bart said. "You look... awesome!"
He wasn't far from the truth. Her wings, now clean and dry, arranged and smoothed down, were quite regal. On the upper side, the feathering was dark brown, like an eagle's, and at the bottom, where the longest and widest feathers were located, it was a brilliant, shining white. They seemed to shine from within. She looked like the perfect star for any '80's rock music video.
"Well, Lisa," Homer said, "I must admit - I've never seen anything so beautiful in my life... except that huge donut the guy on the top of the donut shop holds..." he began to drool, then reconsidered. "No, I think you're more beautiful Lisa. You're like ten giant jelly-filled donuts! Mmm... jelly-filled..."
"Thanks, Dad," Lisa giggled.
"So, sister, when will we see your first flight?" Bart asked.
"I don't know, Bart." Lisa's mood darkened. "Maybe never. I can't control them." She briefly explained her doubts to her family. & quot;Not only can I not go out now, but it seems they're just unable to take me off the ground." She looked at the family for their reaction. There was a short pause.
"Books, shmooks..." Homer sniffed. "If I were you, I would never worry about that stuff."
"Besides, Lisa, it meant an adult, but you're still a child!" added Bart.
"I don't know much about this," Marge responded. "But I'll never believe that some supreme being has given you wings, and forgotten about your ability to fly. I'm sure it's some kind of a test that you should pass. Just don't give up, and you'll figure it out. You always do."
Lisa looked at them gratefully.
"Thanks for believing in me, guys... I hope you're right."
"Oh!" Marge exclaimed. "Dinner's ready!"
The family was sitting at the table in the dining room. They were eating and talking as usual. Bart and Homer argued, and Marge tried to calm them down. Maggie ate like a small piglet, getting a significant portion of her food on the table and her clothes. Lisa watched all of this indifferently. There came a thought to her mind and though she tried to suppress it, it was in vain... it was like she had heard somebody's voice in her head. You're not a human anymore, you've become something different, it repeated. Look at them - they behave now as if nothing has happened, but that's not true, and you know it. They're afraid of you, and envy you...
Lisa shook her head. Don't ever think so, Lisa, or you'll have lost, she ordered herself. Your family is the only thing of value you have now. She sighed and went on eating. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.
"Who could that be...?" Marge wondered aloud. She went to the window and looked out the curtains. "It's Milhouse!" she hissed.
"What should I do, Mom?" Lisa asked anxiously.
"Don't worry Lisa. Just stay here, I'll take it."
She went to the door and opened it. Lisa tried to listen to what they were saying. "No, you can't see Lisa right now, Milhouse," Marge answered... "But why, Mrs. Simpson?"... Milhouse obviously didn't give up... "Because she is... hmmm... she's sick. Very sick. Nobody should see Lisa, it can be dangerous for her."... "Please tell me the truth!"... Lisa heard her friend's tearful voice. "Is she dying?"... "No, she's not, but nevertheless, she can't meet anybody, so... Milhouse, where are you going?!"
This was it, Lisa thought. Now he would come in and see her... but instead she heard Milhouse running down the street, crying loudly. Lisa sighed with relief and sank back into her chair. Marge closed the door and went back to the dinner table.
"Sorry for saying such a thing about you," she said with guilt in her voice.
"It's okay, Mom, I understand." For some reason Lisa became grim. "I think I'd better go to my room. I will try... you know..."
"Sure, honey," Marge responded. "We won't bother you."
Lisa entered the room, closed the door, sat on the bed and concentrated on her whole body, examining it mentally, trying to find a way to control her wings... but she couldn't. She felt them very well, she could easily tell with closed eyes where each of their feathers was located, but they still didn't obey her. It was no use.
Maybe I should try this outside instead of sitting in my room? she thought. But I can't just go out of the house, right? Right, but... I think I can do it later, at night, then all the others will be asleep. Yes, that's a good idea. Lisa drew the curtains, made her bed and set the alarm clock to midnight. She then laid on her bed without changing her clothes, and closed her eyes.
She was dreaming about the sky. The bottomless, boundless sky, brilliant blue, that no artist could ever paint. Lisa was there, hovering in the air, bathing in the sunrays, enjoying the total freedom and the feeling of eternity around her. She flew up, to incredible heights, where the skies were going dark and first stars become visible, and then she abruptly flew down, hiding in white clouds that seemed to be solid from the distance, but were so soft and milky inside, more like a mist. She wasn't afraid of getting tired - she was just enjoying the feeling that no one person in the whole world could have, except her...
Suddenly the sky went dark. Lisa raised her head and saw huge storm clouds forming far above, blocking out the sunlight. Without any warning, lightning struck and thunder blasted, blinding Lisa. She shouted out, but couldn't hear herself over the thunder. And then came the rain. A stream of water smashed into her like a fist, made her wet to the bones in a moment, soaked and stuck her wings. Lisa realized with horror that she was spiraling downward and could do nothing about it. She looked down - the spinning earth was quickly coming nearer. I'm dead, Lisa thought, this time they wouldn't save me, this time they'll find me dead... She closed her eyes and got ready for the terrible, crushing blow...
Lisa jolted awake, feeling her heart pounding in her chest. She looked at her clock - it was a quarter to midnight. She stood up, went to the window, and opened it. Feeling the gentle breeze on her face, she looked outside. The backyard was hardly lit by the moon, which was almost covered with the clouds. She stood at the window for a few minutes, slowly coming to herself and feeling her heart slowing down. Finally, she went back, turned the alarm clock off, and put on her sandals.
There were two ways outside. The first was to get out of the room, quietly go along the hall up to the stairs, come downstairs into the family room, and finally go to the yard via the back door. The second way lay right through her room's window. Lisa climbed onto the windowsill, trying not to lose the balance and carefully stepped on a tree branch that grew near the house. The rest of the way was just a matter of practice. Lisa worked her way to the crown of the tree and came down by the boards nailed to its trunk.
She stood at the center of the small yard, closed her eyes and got concentrated on her wings feeling the light breeze playing with her feathers. "There must be a way to do it..." she thought. She stood still for a few minutes, feeling that she stopped in front of the blank wall again. Finally, she opened her eyes and looked at the dark sky with despair.
"Oh God..." she said quietly. "If you really exist, please help me... I have no idea what to do..."
"Lisa..." a solemn voice suddenly answered her, coming somewhere from above. Lisa jumped.
"Lisa..." went on the same voice. "I order you not to give up. You'll do it... just listen to your heart..."
This time Lisa thought that the voice sounded curiously familiar to her. She looked up to the crown of the tree and saw some motion there.
"Is that you, Bart?" she asked. Bart jumped down to the ground, looking guilty.
"Yep," he smiled. "Sorry for this silly joke, Lisa, but you really looked like an angel asking God for the order to fly, so I decided to play along." Lisa looked at Bart indignantly. "Oh, come on, Lisa!" he continued. "I really want to help you... but I don't quite know how." Bart pondered the subject for a minute. "I think I've got an idea."
"Really?" Lisa looked at Bart with hope.
"Try to strain your whole body and then to relax it."
"Wait... what for?"
"You see, you cannot control your wings just because you don't know how to do it, right? But if you strain your every cell, every muscle, maybe you will catch those ones that you need to, at least by chance... I'm not sure if this will work, but I think you should try. And I'll be near to tell you if they move."
"Okay, let's try this..." Lisa answered. "In any case, things won't get worse."
Lisa stepped away, took a deep breath, held it, closed her eyes and strained her entire body - her arms, shoulders, chest, stomach and legs. She stood that way for a few seconds, feeling like she was going to pass out. Then she slowly relaxed, opened her eyes and looked at her brother. Bart shook his head negatively. She had failed again. Despair captured Lisa.
"Bart, I really don't know how to do it!" She was almost crying. "Stupid wings... Is there any use of them if you can't control them?!"
"Hey, hey," Bart came closer. "Don't be so disappointed, Lisa. I believe in you. You've made it through military school - you'll make it through this, too. Just don't give up and try again."
"No, Bart. That's enough for me. I don't want to hemorrhage trying to do more than I can." Lisa turned around, heading to the back door. Bart put his hand on her shoulder.
"Lisa, please. One more time."
Lisa looked into his eyes. There was something in them... confidence? No... most likely belief, the true belief in her abilities. Lisa sighed. Once again, somebody believed in her more than she did.
"Okay, Bart. One last time." She took a deep breath again, closed her eyes... but this time it was different. A new and strange feeling appeared in her... she held onto it tightly and strained her body like the last time. Bart gasped.
"Lisa, they moved, I swear!"
Lisa had felt it as well... it was only the beginning, but now she knew how to do it, and there was no need to strain herself at all... She tried again, much more gently, and made her wings spread wide and fold back. Bart watched this with amazement.
"Lisa, you know, it's hard for me to say this..." Bart said, "but I'm proud of you."
"Thanks, Bart," Lisa answered with a radiant smile on her face. She wanted to add something, but just then Marge's sleepy face appeared in her window.
"Bart! Lisa! Are you insane?!" she hissed sternly. "What if someone sees you?! Come back inside right now!"
"But Mom, I think I've achieved something!" Lisa responded.
"That's great, honey," Marge yawned. "I'm glad for you, but it's so late... tell me about this tomorrow, okay? And now you both go back to your beds, do you hear me?"
"Yes, Mom," answered Bart and Lisa together and went inside the house.
The Simpsons were sitting around the kitchen table, as if they were having some kind of negotiations. They were looking at each other - the kids with curiosity, Marge with anxiety... it was hard to read anything from Homer's expression, maybe discontent at the fact that he was away from the TV. The family meeting, a rare occasion lately, had begun. Marge started her speech.
"Okay... kids, Homer, we have a lot of things to discuss, that's why I gathered you here together. Now that Lisa has... hrrmmm... changed, especially after last night, we need to make some changes to our lives. The situation is, to put it mildly, unusual, nothing like this has never happened to us before... so I suppose any of you can talk as an adult now."
All of them unintentionally looked at Maggie, who was trying to reach Lisa's wing from her baby's chair.
"What's the problem?" Bart wondered.
"Bart, we have to make a choice. We can keep on hiding Lisa from people, but this isn't easy. The rumors are spreading across the town already, and we can't stop them. I was at the hairdresser's today... all my friends were there, talking as usual, but when I entered, they completely stopped talking! They've never behaved like that before... I'm starting to fear that someday we'll see a mob in front of our house, trying to break off the door... it's not like we haven't seen that before... but they'll be here for Lisa this time. Besides, Lisa lives as if she's under house arrest now. " Lisa nodded. "She can't go out, can't see anybody... but she needs freedom, now even more than ever."
Lisa nodded again.
"So what's the second option?" Bart asked.
"The second option... we can just show Lisa to the others, and try to live as if nothing has happened to her. She'll spend time with other kids as usual, go to school..."
"I wouldn't like that," she said quietly. "I don't have any friends who can accept me like this. They'll turn away from me... and other kids will mock me... they did this even before, but this time it would be much worse, since they'll have a better reason..."
"I understand, honey," Marge answered. "It's just one of the possible options, and I like it no more than the first one. But there is the third option... we can move away from this town, at least for some time, and settle in some abandoned place, far from any curious eyes. You'll be safe there."
"There is also the fourth option, Mom," Lisa said darkly, her head lowered. "Remove them, before the situation has gone beyond our control. We can find a doctor who can hold his tongue... Dr. Nick, for example. I'm sure he can easily perform such an operation..."
They all looked at Lisa with shock.
Homer shook his head. "Oh, sweetie, don't say that... it's kinda over the edge. Your Mom's idea sounds much better to me. We can move, if we need... after all, we've done this before so many times already."
"Lisa... do you really want to do this...?" Marge asked.
"I don't know... like you said, it's just one of the possible options." Lisa raised her head and looked at her Mom. "Of course I don't want to do this, Mom... I want to learn to fly... but I don't want to put you in trouble. You've gone through too much of this already."
"Bart, what do you think?" Marge turned to her son.
"Hey, what do you expect from me?" he answered. "You think I like this crappy 'move' idea? Of course I don't. Unlike Lisa, I have a lot of friends here, favorite places... damn, my home is here! Why should I leave it all behind only because of Lisa's problems? But it seems like you've already made up your minds, so I'll just sit quiet." Bart folded his arms.
"You wouldn't be sitting here if we wanted to make it without you." Marge frowned. "Don't you understand, Bart? We're talking to you and Lisa like adults right now. We can't just order you to obey, you have to make the decision by yourself. And if you're really against this idea, we won't move anywhere. We'll stay in Springfield."
"Really. Well, I guess the meeting is over... and things remain the same..." Marge looked at the others and got up.
"Okay, okay... wait a sec!" Bart looked at Lisa. "Why are you guys always making me feel like the bad guy? I said I didn't like this idea, and that's true... but we can move, if we have to. Maybe this is really the only way."
"Are you sure?"
Bart paused, then nodded his head. "Yes... at least, it's better than hiding from the people here."
"Thanks, Bart." Marge smiled, the first time this morning. "Well, kids, seems like we're moving again?" Bart and Lisa nodded, even Maggie started to suck her pacifier vigorously, showing that she agreed with them. "Okay... me and Homer will start searching for a new house. I think we have to visit estate-selling agencies right now... you're staying home alone, and please, for God's sake, don't go out of the house, like last night. We can't risk so much now."
The evening came. The sun was falling slowly behind the horizon, painting all things around it in fiery orange colors. Lisa stood at the window in her room, watching the beautiful sunset, when she heard the sound of the arriving car. Homer and Marge came in. They looked noticeably exhausted, but had content expressions on their faces.
"Kids, we're home!" yelled Marge, coming into the family room. Lisa padded downstairs.
"How was your trip, Mom?" she asked.
"It was good, Lisa. We found a suitable house for sale outside town. It's located in a small village to the southwest of the river, almost on the coast. The best thing is that the place is abandoned; nobody lives there right now. And our new house is on the very edge of that village, almost hidden in the forest. The area is so nice, and natural. I'm sure you'll like it."
"Wow, you didn't waste your time," Bart said, coming to them.
"Well... actually, we didn't buy the house, we just rented it," Homer replied. "We just don't have enough money to buy new houses... anyway, just think of it as ours now."
"So when are we leaving?" Bart asked.
"We'll start packing our things tomorrow. Then we'll wait till dusk, and try to leave town as quietly as we can," Marge answered.
"Sounds like an escape..." Lisa sighed. "Wait, what about Snowball II and Santa's Little Helper? They're going too, right?"
"We'll take them too. And remember, kids: when you pack your things tomorrow, note that we can't take everything with us. Take only what's most important to you - your clothes, linen and so on. If we need to, we can take the rest of our things later. Just pretend that we're going on vacation."
The next day passed in a bustle of activity. The family was packing their things into suitcases and piling them into their cars in the garage, without even leaving the house. The only person who had once appeared outside was Marge; she had to drive to the Kwik-E-Mart in the morning to buy some food. Even Homer stayed at home. However, he made a call to the nuclear plant and claimed that he was sick.
"You know, Lis..." Bart grunted, desperately trying to force another suitcase into the car.
"I never thought we... nrgh... had so much indispensable... nnrgh!... stuff."
Bart strained again. The suit's locks popped open and all its contents fell into the car and onto the garage floor. "Damnit!" he cried.
Packing finally came to an end. When the evening fell and the street outside the windows went dark, the Simpson family assembled in the empty kitchen one last time.
"We're leaving very soon, now..." Marge said distantly, more to herself than the others. "Kids, Homer, let's go over it one more time - do you think we missed anything?"
Lisa shook her head along with the others. Her private life consisted only of her diary, saxophone and small amount of books that she could not go without. All of these items were packed in the car already.
"Well... let's go then."
Homer went downstairs into the basement to cut off the water and electricity. His muttered swearing was audible for some time, then all lights in the house simultaneously went off. Lisa looked around. The quiet, dark, and empty house that she had spent her entire life in, now looked so foreign to her.
Bart, Lisa and Maggie took their seats in Marge's car. Marge sat on driver's seat and started the engine.
"Are you ready, kids?" she asked, turning to them. Bart and Lisa nodded.
Homer was already sitting at the Sedan's wheel. He opened the garage's front door with the remote, and they carefully drove out. The door closed behind them with soft knock, as if marking the end of their current life, and the beginning of the new one. The Simpsons started on their journey toward another life...
The ray of bright light touched Lisa's face, waking her up. Lisa turned over, but it didn't help. She raised herself a little, trying to draw the curtains without opening her eyes... but her hand met empty air where her window should've been. What the...? she thought.
Lisa opened her eyes and looked around. She was in a quite unfamiliar place, a small room with dingy green wallpaper. The room, brightly lit by the morning sun, was almost empty, except for the wooden bed and big wardrobe in the corner. A couple of suitcases lay helter-skelter in the corner, and her saxophone case was among them. In a moment, Lisa remembered the events of the previous day...
...They were leaving quiet and sleepy Springfield, the town that had suddenly become like a dream to them. Two lonely cars on the seemingly endless highway, lit by the stars... Homer's car was ahead as he led the way. Marge with the children were following him a short distance behind. They were quiet and subtle in their departure, disturbing the surrounding calmness only with their headlights and motors' low noises. They were acting almost like outcasts... and this was not far from the truth.
It was the dead of night when they arrived at their new home. They stopped the cars, unpacked some of their possessions, and entered the house. They were so exhausted by the ride that they were barely able to find their rooms, make their beds, and collapse into the weightlessness of sleep...
Lisa awoke to that feeling of extra weight behind her shoulders that she had become almost familiar with. She waved her wings a little, just to feel them again, to make sure that they hadn't disappeared since last night and still obeyed her. She then opened her door, stepped into the hallway, and looked around. The house plan, at least that of its first floor, was very similar to the previous one - the same stairs leading to the hallway, the same narrow corridor between the bedrooms. The pleasant smell from the kitchen reached her nose... Marge was cooking something nice. Lisa remembered the door which she just had passed through, and went downstairs.
"Good morning, honey!" Marge smiled. She stood at the stove, making pancakes on the hot plate. Bart and Maggie were sitting at the table already, eating their breakfast.
"Good morning," Lisa answered somewhat uncertainly.
"How did you sleep?"
"All right... when I woke up, I didn't even realize that we had moved somewhere. All of it had happened so quickly... and where's Dad?"
"He left for work." Lisa looked at her mother, worried. "Sorry honey, I know we're hiding from people, but he has to continue working at the plant anyway. Otherwise, Mr. Burns will fire him... and this is definitely not a good time for that. We have to settle here before burning all our bridges behind us."
Lisa lowered her head. Marge went to her daughter and hugged her.
"Cheer up, Lisa! Things aren't so bad. To be honest, I've wanted to change our surroundings for a long time. Your father likes our new home too. Besides, it's such a beautiful place here! You should look at it. There's a forest all around us, big mountains to the west of here, and the coast to the south... we couldn't have found a better place to spend this vacation."
While she was talking, a weak smell of burning things spread into the air. Bart twitched his nose with suspicion.
"Mom, the pancakes!" he yelled. Marge quickly returned to the stove.
"Okay Lisa, eat your breakfast. I know, you can't wait to go outside, but you have to eat something first."
Lisa sat down at the table and started eating. Bart asked her about something, but she didn't hear him. Her thoughts were far from here... she felt like a wild bird had settled into her soul, calling her to freedom. Bart looked at his sister and decided not to repeat the question. He only rolled his eyes and returned to his plate.
When breakfast was over, Lisa got up from her chair. She thanked her mother, gently asked Bart not to spy at her today, and stepped out of the house without into the beauty of nature. It was a beautiful forest, but she was hardly interested in it now. She found her bike in the shed near the house, got on it and pedaled her way to nowhere, disappearing into the forest.
The further she moved away from the house, the higher the anxious feeling rose in her heart. She wanted to test her wings so badly. She had to do it sooner or later... and finally, there was the perfect opportunity to do that.
But what if she failed? What if they were unable to even lift her off the ground?
Lisa realized that she could not bear this uncertainty anymore. She stopped her bike on the edge of the small glade. It was covered with thick grass, like with a soft green carpet. She leaned the bike against a tree trunk, stood in the middle of the glade and tried to calm the trembling in her hands.
Heck, what am I afraid of? she thought. Even if I'll fail, what about it? What will I lose then?
You will lose your dream, not more and not less, she answered to herself. No... I'll do it. I must do it.
Lisa summoned all her courage, spread her wings, and made her first real flap, putting all of her strength in it.
The result was so unexpected that Lisa was absolutely unready for it. The sharp tug at her shoulders area had thrown her up and forward about a meter. She lost her balance instantly and turned over in the air. Feeling that she was falling back to the ground head first, Lisa forgot about her wings and stretched her arms forward instinctively, to cushion the fall. It helped - to some degree, at least. She crashed down on the grass and was carried some distance by her momentum, plowing into soft dirt with her nose.
Lisa was lying on the ground for some time, catching her breath, before she stood up again. Whoa, she thought, I'd better be careful. She returned to the center of the glade and tried again, much more gently this time, flapping her wings and feeling like the ground was disappearing from under her feet with every flap. She increased the speed a little and then suddenly realized that she was hovering in the air at a height of several meters, swinging up and down smoothly. "Am I... flying??" she said to herself.
"I'm fly-y-ying!!!" she cried happily when this simple idea became clear to her.
Lisa's common sense told her not to get up too far until she was used to using her wings. Nevertheless, she flew up above the tree tops to find her way home. The house couldn't be seen anywhere. Lisa tried to turn around in the air and nearly fell down. Flapping brokenly, starting to feel tired, she regained her balance with great difficulty, and found the familiar roof in about two kilometers from her location. She noted the direction, landed smoothly and folded her wings back, starting to feel a respect them. Then she got on her bike again and headed back home.
When Lisa appeared before her family again, she was looking anything but pictorial. Her whole dress was stained with the green spots of the crushed grass. There were several spots of dry dirt on her face, and her swollen nose was also notable... but the grin that she wore said that she could care less about her appearance.
"Lisa!" Marge gasped. "What's happened with you?!"
"I'm okay, Mom!" Lisa answered. "Just my first flight experience, that's all."
"Oh! And... how was it?" Marge asked.
"Not bad, I think..." Lisa tried to speak calmly, but gave up and began to laugh. "Oh, Mom, what am I talking about, it was wonderful! I did it! I really can fly! To be honest, not very well yet... but I will learn. Now I really believe this is possible. Mom, it's like a miracle!" Lisa was giddy with excitement.
"I know, honey... I always believed in you. Go wash up, change your clothes and come back. Your father has returned from work already; at dinner you will tell us your story."
Lisa nodded and stepped inside the house.
The next two weeks were probably the happiest in Lisa's young life. She woke up every morning, had her breakfast, then went far away into the forest and disappeared there for the whole day, coming back only at dinner time. She didn't want to escape from her family - she just needed quiet and calmness around for her practice... or at least, she sincerely thought so.
It was horribly hard to learn to fly. Lisa wasn't a bird; she was only a human with a bird's wings. She didn't have anything like a tail that could act as a stabilizer or help to change direction in the air, and her body was too far from a bird's smooth shape. All she had was a strong pair of wings, and the irresistible desire to learn to use them... and that was quite enough. Her attempts were getting better and better every day, and Lisa couldn't stop admiring her wings. During practicing, they had become noticeably stronger and tougher. She could fly for several hours continuously now, without any visible detriment to herself.
Keeping in mind her dream, she was wary of flying when the sky was cloudy. She preferred to spend this time at home instead, reading her favorite books or exploring the ornithology course, which Homer had brought from Springfield for her.
"You know, I've really loved the rain lately," Marge said to her on one such day. The storm was rumbling outside the house, the Simpsons were sitting at the kitchen table, and playing Scrabble. It was Homer's turn.
"Why?" Lisa looked at the window with annoyance. She was eager to get outside... but today wasn't her day.
"Because that's the only time you spend at home. You're disappearing 'round the clock recently... I'm starting to forget what you look like, Lisa."
Marge was referring to something that had happened some days before. Lisa had flown so far away from the house that she couldn't find the way back before nightfall, even from the air, and had to spend the night in the forest, on a tree branch. When she returned home next morning, she was shocked by her Mom's frightened expression and the tears on her face. Marge couldn't even call the police to find her. That day Lisa made a silent vow not to get too far away... but it was so hard to keep.
While she went over these thoughts, Homer took his turn, and placed the "T" letter before the "V" one. Bart immediately started to argue with him about using abbreviations.
"Sorry, Mom," Lisa answered. "You're right... I really have to spend more time at home. But if only you knew how hard it is! To just sit here while there's a whole world just outside the window..." Lisa trailed off and suddenly felt the prick of her conscience. Her mother, like all the others, was unable to feel the sensation of freedom that came to her in the sky. Maybe it wasn't fair to talk with her about this... but Marge responded like she had read her thoughts.
"I understand you, honey," she said quietly. "Maybe it's hard to believe, but I know how you feel - because I'm still your mother. Live the way you want to live - to restrict your freedom is the last thing I want to do now. Just don't forget about your family... I don't know why, but I've had a strange feeling lately. I'm starting to fear that some horrible day you will finally turn into a bird and fly away from us forever..."
"Oh, Mom, don't say that!" Lisa shook her head, but started to think about Marge's words. Her mother definitely had a point. The last days Lisa had completely isolated herself, lost in contemplation about her wings and stopped thinking about anything else... when she did things like this, it was easy to become wild.
"Your turn, sister." Bart interrupted. Lisa cast aside her thoughts and returned to the game.
Several days had passed. On one day Lisa was returning home from her daily practice. It was right after noon, and although Lisa wasn't tired at all, she knew that if she didn't return home in time, she very likely could lose her dinner. Approaching the house, she could hear Marge's anxious voice beneath her.
"Bart! Why did you came back alone?!"
Lisa landed near her brother, almost knocking him off his feet with the wave of air.
"What do you mean 'alone'?" Bart had just came back from his 'outskirts raid', which he did when he was more bored than usual. He looked puzzled. "With whom did I have to return, I wonder?"
"With Maggie! She went after you this morning. I told you to keep an eye on her!"
"I don't remember this!... and I didn't see her today, anyway." Bart looked around.
A worried expression appeared on Marge's face. She walked around the whole house, looking everywhere and calling for Maggie. Nobody responded. Finally, Marge came back to Bart and Lisa.
"She's nowhere to be seen... oh, what should we do, kids? There's a forest all around, even an adult can get lost easily here, let alone my baby... and your father's still at work, I can't call him!"
"Calm down, Mom," replied Bart. "We'll find her. Let's make a big circle around the house and call her at the top of our lungs... if she's somewhere near, we'll find her. Or we'll lose ourselves."
"Yeah, Mom," added Lisa. "You two go on, I'll try to find her from above." Without wasting any more time, she flew up again.
Lisa quickly realized that that was much easier to say than to do. It was almost impossible to find anything from the sky. The forest that stretched down there up to the horizon looked like a monotonous green surface. Lisa flew down and kept going at a level with the tree tops, almost touching the leaves with her hands and frightening away the birds. She made several incremental circles like this, looking down and calling out Maggie's name frequently.
She was lucky her younger sister was dressed in her usual blue baggies, easily noticeable against a grass background. Maggie was sitting on the ground near a small tree, leaning against its trunk and sobbing quietly. She hadn't even thought about giving a shout in response, despite the evident fact that she had heard Lisa's yells - Maggie always was an incredibly quiet baby. Lisa landed nearby, ran up to her sister and hugged her, and Maggie calmed down.
"I've found her, she's okay!" cried Lisa to the forest.
"Well done, Lisa! Come on back home!" Marge's distant voice sounded with relief.
Lisa took Maggie's hand in hers. "Let's go, Maggie. We worried about you so much!" She stepped homewards, but suddenly felt some resistance. Lisa stopped and turned around. Her sister stood still. A questioning expression was on her face.
"What's wrong, Maggie? Don't you want to go home?"
Maggie rolled her eyes, as if she was surprised at her sister's dullness. Then she raised her hand and poked her finger into the sky, sucking her pacifier.
"Oh... I see. You don't want to go home... but Maggie, I really doubt that I could lift you up. I'm neither a plane nor balloon, and I can hardly handle my own weight..."
Her sister watched her without blinking. Lisa realized that she couldn't say no.
"All right... let's give it a try. But we have to find an open place first. I can't fly up right here - the trees are growing too densely." She took Maggie's hand again.
They found a tiny glade in a few minutes. Lisa stood in the middle of it and picked up Maggie with some difficulty, embraced her under her armpits and connected her own hands together.
"Hold onto my hands, Maggie. Are you ready?" she asked. Without waiting the reply, she spread her wings and flew up, with some surprise to herself.
It took only few minutes to get used to this extra weight. The practice definitely wasn't just a waste of time - her wings were quite able to handle it now.
The next half hour passed like in a dream... Maggie, giggling happily in Lisa's hands, was pointing her finger to the places where she wanted to go, and Lisa obediently carried out her silent orders. They were hovering above the forest, passing by their house and looking down on Marge waving to them. They were flashing by the mountain range to the west from the woods... they were crossing the plains, watching their own shadow outrunning them far below... they flew abruptly up, to the heights where Lisa started to feel dizzy... they flew down, planning their flight in the very last moment - Maggie didn't care about the possible danger; she just wanted more and more. Eventually, Lisa started to feel tired and started to head back home.
"Sorry Maggie," she murmured in her ear, "but we have to go back. My wings are getting tired..."
Maggie made a disappointed face, but didn't object. Lisa returned to the house and smoothly landed down near Marge.
"Phew," she said, panting. "Here she is, safe and sound. Sorry we're late - we had a small detour to take there."
"Maggie, my baby!" Marge grabbed Maggie and hugged her, then looked at her with a frown. "Don't you ever do that again!"
Maggie started to suck her pacifier. "I regret nothing", could be read on her face.
Bart ran up to them. He was gasping.
"Mom... Lis... I think we have some problems." He pointed to the road.
Lisa looked and noticed a dust cloud far off in the distance. It was gradually increasing in size. Without any words, Lisa rushed into the house, went upstairs, ran to her room and looked outside through the window. It was a big column of cars, with the familiar Channel 6 van among them.
TV reporters, Lisa thought with despair. They had finally found her.
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.
Sitting at the table in her room, back at their old house, Lisa intently nibbled the tip of the pencil, staring at her diary. It wasn't easy to describe everything that had happened to the Simpson family during the past month... but Lisa wanted to do it, while the memory of it was still clear in her mind. It would be even harder to do in the future - because this story was so incredible and dream-like, and even now she could hardly swear that all of it had really happened to her.
After that final night, things had advanced in a natural way. The Simpsons' uninvited guests examined her, then collected their stuff, got into their vans and drove away, visibly disappointed by somebody's stupid joke. No-one mentioned that they had seen Lisa in the sky - maybe they had considered that as just their imaginations - a momentary lapse of reason. Or, more probably, decided that they had seen an ordinary bird there, and Brockman acted like the others. Shortly after the Simpsons returned to their old house on Evergreen Terrace, they received a notice of appointment for Homer. Judge Snyder, who knew the Simpsons very well, decided not to delay the case and ordered Homer to apologize to Brockman... and he did so in the blink of an eye. After that their life had returned to its usual routine.
Lisa wrote a few more lines and stopped, feeling already exhausted. She closed the diary and looked at her reflection in the mirror above the table with frustration. Somebody knocked on the door.
"Come in!" she shouted.
The door opened, and Bart stepped inside the room. He looked as cheerful as ever. This is the one person who wasn’t affected by those events at all, Lisa thought, and grinned in spite of herself.
"How are you, sis?" he asked, sitting down on her bed.
"I'm fine... hey, since when did you become concerned with my well-being, Bart?"
"Heh... I just have a feeling that you're still upset about... you know."
"You think I miss them?" Lisa chuckled. "Oh no... no. It was wonderful at first - especially when I learned to fly, but then they started to sink in... I felt like I wasn't a human anymore... and when something started to threaten my freedom, I nearly went crazy. I don't want to go through all of that again, Bart, really." Lisa lowered her head and added, "The worst thing is that I forced all of you to go through it with me..."
"No worries, Lisa. It was just another crazy adventure for us. Don't worry about it... but this isn't the only thing that's got you upset, is it?"
"Well, you see... the past few days I've been starting to ask myself - was it real or just my imagination? You know, when we returned home, it appeared that there wasn't any evidence that somebody with wings had lived here." Lisa sighed and shook her head. "This was the most bizarre, uncommon thing in my life... and now I'm just sitting here and asking myself, was it just a dream of mine?"
"It wasn't." Bart stood up and carefully took something out of his pocket. It was a folded sheet of paper. "I found this in my room yesterday... this is from the day when we found you alive in the canyon. I thought I'd lost it, but... well, I think it's yours."
Lisa stood up from the table, accepted the sheet and unfolded it. There was a feather inside... her own feather. Long, wide and a brilliant white, it seemed to shine from within, even against a paper background. Lisa took the feather in her hand and looked at it, hardly believing her own eyes. Finally, she put it down and turned to Bart, smiling.
"Thank you..." she said, tears beginning to roll down her face. She turned to her brother and hugged him tightly.The End