It’s nice to be able to rely on family. Humans in the West are so cut off from one another; I’ve talked with otherwise genius doctors who could not name their grandparents. Atomized. Adrift. Almost by design.
There was once a pharmacist who I, politely, made an example of. This was years ago, when ancestry.com was still pretty much free. I started in 17th Century England and clicked from one name to another, him watching next to me. Click, click, click. “And here,” I concluded, “is fifteen-year-old me standing next to my mother’s mother.”
Almost four hundred years of family. This clever guy could not fathom it. I encouraged him to look into his family but I don’t think anything came of it. Sad. We should not be alone.
That’s enough talking; I’m still moody. Let’s see what Georgie can do.
Logres made his way carefully through the marshland in the southeast of the island. It was raining lightly and if he fell his tunic would be long-drying.
Near Great Yarmouth, he thought, seeing Europa’s map behind his eyes. Whatever that means. Ah: at least the rain was stopping.
There was a flash past him, from the North Sea to inland. That flash…
Georgie sat on a tree branch about three times his height, off to his right.
“Chirp.” She said from her blue lips.
“Hello, Georgie,” he replied to her presumed greeting.
“Logres,” she said. This time she did not draw out her ‘s’ sound.
“How are things in the sky?”
She blinked once. Slowly.
“Looks clear. Chirp.”
“Oh.” Perhaps she wasn’t a talker. “I’ve not seen Joey since we met.”
“He stays under the water. Mostly.”
“Under the…? How?”
She took her hands from each side of her on the branch and pointed at her neck.
“You did not see? Slits. He breaths. I do not know the word.”
Logres considered Europa’s trove.
“Gills?” He ventured.
“Gills.” She swayed just a little and quickly returned her hands to the branch above him…
“Georgie? How high can you fly?”
She let her head track upward.
“Higher than the mountains of this land?” Eagerness crept into his voice.
Her calm gaze came back down to him.
“Yes. The Moon was too far, though. Chirp.”
That was part one. Now part two.
“How much can you carry? Specifically, can you carry me?”
He tried again.
“Can you support me while you fly?”
“Why would I want to carry you?”
“I need… there is a very tall wall on the land across the sea. I need to get beyond it.” He hoped she was getting this. “I thought if you could carry me over it…?”
She dropped from the branch and fell without her wings. Her knees only flexed slightly at her landing. She walked over to him. Now, looking at the height difference, he was no longer so sure of this idea. Perhaps thinking the same thing, she moved away. No, she was clambering up onto a fallen tree trunk. Now their heads were level.
“Come here, Logres-brother.”
The same. He felt and saw her arms pass under his then clasp her hands together across his chest. A sudden great ruffle of feathers…!
“Uff,” escaped her lips.
He did. The sun broke through the clouds in places. Her hands tightened again. Had she thought of something?
“Logres-brother. When I say jump, do so.”
He nodded and flexed his knees, pulling her down a bit with him.
Matching the great downbeat of her wings, he leaped with all his strength!
There were several more beats of her wings, holding them just off the ground, but getting them no higher. This wasn’t going to work. She must have recognized that, too, as she set them back down.
“I am sorry, Georgie,” he began as she let go of him. “Thank you for – ”
“I am older. We must start somewhere higher. Chirp.”
“How would that help?” He asked, turning to face her.
“You have inertia but no mass.” As she spoke the words, he learned their meaning. “If I can overcome that, I can carry you.”
“Inertia without mass is not possible,” he said from his new knowledge.
Another of her rare, slow blinks.
“Yes, it is.” She swatted the top of his head with her small hand. “Don’t think you know everything just because you’re older!”
“I apologize, little sister!”
“Good. I shall meet you atop the white cliffs, where we met.”
“Oka-” Her wings were out and she was gone.
Inertia, huh? He walked south.
He stood staring out at the land across the sea. He’d just arrived. Would she know that he was here…?
“Logres-brother.” She dropped the last five feet just in front of him, furling her wings as she did. “Chirp.”
“Georgie. Thank you, again, for helping me.”
Her white eyes seemed to stare right into him.
“You love that girl. The one from the Other Side.”
“Yes.” But: “Other Side?”
“That wall is there for a reason. You really should get out more.”
He ignored the second part.
“We are…” She seemed to consider her words, “adversaries, Logres-brother.”
He recalled every moment he’s spent with Europa. Not once had she been… adversarial.
“I think you are mistaken,” he said.
“Am I? Oh?” She let her mouth make an ‘oh’ while touching her chin with her index finger. He had to smile at that.
“Let me rephrase,” she said. “Others are adversaries. We are just their instruments. Chirp.”
They were what? He did not understand…
“Hold your arms like this!” She said abruptly, her arms akimbo.
“This?” He asked, copying her. A nod.
She turned and ran to the cliff’s edge, as she jumped, her great gray wings flared from her back. He watched her gracefully arc up and behind him, coming upon him low and fast. He looked forward, now with some idea of what would happ –
“UFFF!” She hit him very fast and very hard. They were over the edge and halfway to the water before her steady beat bought them altitude. Her chest was pressed to his back, but his legs dangled uselessly. She quickly remedied that by wrapping her little legs around his and pulling them up. Such strength!
“You are not suited for the sky at all, big fat brother!” She shouted from behind him. Even so, they were higher and faster. The land was coming on quickly. They passed over the beach of France. Higher. Faster.
“You often do this by yourself?” He yelled into the wind.
“Although this world has many walls, there is no place I have not been!” She shouted back. “Ah! The Rhine! I must turn to lose energy and slow down!”
He didn’t follow, but she banked them right, left, right. He felt them slow, seeing a glint on the eastern horizon: the wall.
“How far inside can you take me? Ow!”
She had sharply banged her forehead into his spine.
“Such aggression would end poorly for everyone, big, fat, stupid brother!” She banked them again, now in parallel to the wall, but twice as high. Wait. What was…? There was some dark-winged figure mimicking their movement but on the other side.
“My opposite is here. Prepare yourself: I shall land us atop the wall.”
Atop…? From where they were the top was a tiny ribbon. And didn’t Europa say…
She braked with her wings and then put them into a downward spiral.
“Georgie! I must not touch the wall!”
Her smooth approach floundered somewhat.
“You might have mentioned that sooner!” She shouted. He thought he heard another ‘stupid!’
They were now only several tree heights above the top of the wall. She let go of him. What? He was in freefall down… Her head came between his legs, her small shoulders under his thighs. Her wings – which were larger somehow – flared as they dropped.
“Ouch!” She cried as her feet hit the surface. She ran on about twenty paces, her hands now on the top of his thighs to steady him, trying to dissipate his inertia. At last, she stopped, her body heaving for breath.
“That was the ugliest landing I’ve ever seen!” A young man’s voice from behind them. Logres wanted to turn and see, but couldn’t unbalance his little sister.
“What do you want this time,” the other continued, “my enemy?”