Learn to Fly: Part One
I squinted through the midmorning sun at my friend standing on top of his roof. “Are you ready?” I called up to him.
Rob shifted back and forth nervously. “Move the mattress a little to the left, just to be safe.” The tension was obvious in his voice.
The thick mattress seemed to weigh a ton. Somehow, I managed to pick up an end and move it a foot. “Is that good?” I glanced up at him and was immediately blinded by the Tyrannian sun. He slowly spread his wings and flapped them uneasily.
“I’ll try,” Rob shouted back. His wings suddenly snapped to their full span, and he edged closer to the border of the roof. “Here goes nothing!” With an abrupt hop, my friend threw caution to the wind and leapt off the rooftop.
Perhaps I should provide some background information before you become totally confused. Rob was neither a daredevil nor an idiot, however reckless he may seem at times. He was simply a Tyrannian Scorchio taking his first steps towards learning how to fly.
The colony of Scorchios I grew up with is known to be the most aerodynamic, swift, coordinated group of flyers in Tyrannia, possibly in all of Neopia. Above my settlement, the air is constantly dense with adult Scorchios flying with grace and ease. Sometimes I sit on my roof, just watching the endless bustle in the sky. Never once in my thirteen years on the Tyrannian Plateau have I seen two creatures collide in midair. The sheer maneuverability of the adults never ceases to strike awe in children hoping to inherit such skill when they come of age.
Perhaps the renown of our tribe is due to our leader – Glubgar. His escapades have made him famous across Neopia. The game created in his honor barely even captures the elegance of his flying capabilities. One time I saw him flying above my home with a few of his advisors in a V-formation – the beauty of their arrangement took my breath away.
A little-known fact about Scorchios is that we are not born with the ability to fly. Our wings are folded and weak when we first enter the world, and we can barely flap them, let alone take to the skies. The specific age ranges anywhere from ten to fourteen years, but our wings don’t become fully mature until we do.
Rob had finally met the age.
When he had woken up that fateful morning, his wings were abnormally sore, he told me afterwards. He didn’t think much of it, as our gym class was known to tire muscles quickly. However, as soon as he looked in a mirror, he was met with a shock... his wings had finally unfolded! Seemingly overnight, a thick layer of muscle developed over his wings, and they spread to span several feet. “I was ecstatic,” he admitted to me later.
On average, wings sprout at twelve for Scorchios. Rob was an early bloomer – he had turned eleven the week before. No matter how pleased I was about Rob’s new talent, there was a downside. I was fourteen, and my wings were still the shriveled protrusions they had been since I was born.
Rob plummeted to the ground like a stone. His wings flailed in the gusts of updraft he was experiencing. As I watched in horror at his surely fatal fall, a noticeable change occurred in Rob. A solid determination materialized in his countenance – the willpower observable in his face was overpowering. And he began to flap his wings.
The result was dramatic. He came to a complete standstill in the air, flapping his wings with a vivid fervor. I fell back on the ground in awe. The sun silhouetted his hovering form, and he was a breathtaking sight.
As I looked up at Rob hovering in the air, the shriveled flaps hanging from my back seemed all the more awkward and embarrassing. I quickly stood up, flushing with shame. Rob could see that something was wrong from ten feet in the air. Before he could ask me what the problem was, I started dashing towards the road, towards freedom. Everything became a blur behind me. I didn’t notice Rob falling to the mattress below in disbelief, bewildered as to why I was running away.
I ran down the empty road, praying that no one would notice me. Roads were deserted normally, true Scorchios took to the skies when they wanted to travel. This observation would upset me on most days, but I was just glad that I would remain undetected today.
Ahead of me, I noticed a tall, slim Scorchio emerging from his house. My heart dropped – it was Dr. Rollarg, one of my closest friends. Should I have avoided him? Even today, I am unsure of what the correct decision would have been... Maybe, if I had hidden off to the side of the road and missed the doctor, my life could have taken a completely different path.
But I did not know the future on that fateful summer day. I stopped to see the doctor. “Hello, sir,” I greeted the doctor.
Observant as always, Dr. Rollarg peered over his eyeglasses to inspect me. His pure white lab coat was a stark contrast to his dark, wizened features. “Sam...,” he began, concerned, “is there something wrong?”
Embarrassed and out of breath, I turned away from the doctor. “It’s nothing, sir,” I mumbled, trying to make it seem offhand.
He raised an eyebrow, clearly not fooled. “Why don’t you come into my office for a bit?” he said, putting an arm around my shoulders. I trusted the doctor, so I went willingly, but I couldn’t help but feel apprehensive.
We passed a dozen houses before arriving at Dr. Rollarg’s office. I allowed the doctor to enter the structure in front of me, wishing that I had just kept on running when I first encountered him. In my apprehension, I failed to notice how incredible the interior of the office was. From the outside, the doctor’s office appeared to be primitive, but the inside gave the opposite effect. If I hadn’t been caught up in my own matters, I would have been overcome with awe. The entire ceiling was lined with bright lights, casting an eerie white glow across the building. Practically all of the floor space was occupied by flashy equipment with complicated readouts and thick wires.
The doctor led me to a hospital bed crammed between two massive machines. I felt dwarfed by the technological grandeur in the room. Again I wondered why the doctor had brought me here. Then he cleared away any doubt when he began to speak.
“Sam, I’ve noticed how self-conscious you are about your wings.”
I was stunned by his directness.
“There is no need to feel ashamed;” he continued, “wings develop at different times. I myself didn’t get my wings until I was fifteen.” He noted my shocked expression. “It does happen!” he admitted. “Almost every Scorchio eventually develops his wings, even if it does take a few years.”
Even though I knew he only intended to comfort me, that “almost” hung in the air like an unexploded mine.
“Thank you, doctor,” I said to him as I got up. “You’ve been very supportive of me.”
Dr. Rollarg looked concerned. “Just give it some time, Sam,” he admonished. “Don’t get worried.”
I walked briskly away from him, nodding once to be polite. Above all, I hoped he didn’t see past my hopeful guise.
The startlingly bright sun caught me off guard. I shielded my eyes as they adjusted to the abrupt change in light. As my vision cleared, I noticed a hunched form standing in front of me. My heart sank as I registered who this was.
“I couldn’t help but notice your distress,” cackled Kyrugg.
Ever since I was little, the adults in my settlement had advised me to avoid Kyrugg. They called him a scoundrel, a lunatic, and, more than once, a good-for-nothing-lazy-scumbag. In our village, he filled the role of an apothecary of sorts. However, instead of creating treatments approved by Dr. Rollarg, he dabbled in mystical treatments. Known to offer medicines such as powdered Duocorn horn and fossilized Monoceraptor claws, Kyrugg was denounced as a fraud by most of the adults in my settlement. At least, I hoped his medicines were fake.
He hobbled up to me with a pronounced limp. “Your predicament is quite... unusual,” he muttered to me, “but it can be cured.”
Uneasy, I began backing away from the old apothecary. “What do you mean?” I managed to choke out.
“Come with me into my shop,” he cried, his eyes lighting up with trickery and malice. “I can fix you!”
With another twisted laugh, Kyrugg dashed away from me with surprising speed. “Follow me!” he called again. “You can be fixed!”
I looked around. No one else was outside other than the insane apothecary. With a growing sense of dread, I followed the wizened old figure.
Later, Dr. Rollarg told me how he watched my interaction with Kyrugg from a window above, hoping that I wouldn’t give in to the madman.
To be continued...