Learn to Fly: Part Four
“You will find your supposed ‘detriment’ to assist you in your journey.”
I repeated those words silently, hoping that I had interpreted them correctly.
“You will only reap benefit from your wings!”
The ocean hadn’t looked deep from dry land, but I knew how much water could distort images. I stuck a toe into the nearly still sea, expecting it to be warm or even hot. Its temperature was freezing – even the scorching sun did nothing to heat the waves.
I reasoned with myself: even if I was able to swim skillfully, would I be able to endure the journey? I had no idea how many kilometers I was away from Tyrannia. For that matter, I didn’t know which direction to swim!
But I knew I could essentially fly in the water, which was the important part.
Earlier that morning, I had woken up refreshed for the first time since the sailboat sank. Overcome by the worst case of boredom imaginable, I decided to take to the water. At first I was apprehensive to dive into the waves, but the serenity of the deep blues and greens lured me away from shore.
When I submerged myself into the water, it felt like I had entered liquid music. I was able to maneuver swiftly any which way, using my shriveled wings as fins. My body responded to every muscle I moved. To go faster, I only needed to kick my feet with added power, and for extra control over my movement, I spread out my wings to their full span. In my head, I compared my abilities in the water to most Scorchios’ talents in the air. I was able to open with eyes underwater without experiencing any harmful effects from the saltwater.
I swam for hours, practicing maneuvers and tricks that would terrify me on land. The strange thing was, even after exerting myself for such a long time, I didn’t feel tired at all. In fact, I felt strangely relaxed as I resurfaced on the beach. For the first time since the crash, I reassured myself – I would make it back to Tyrannia. All I needed was a huge amount of stamina and a pinch or two of luck.
I sat under the palm tree, hoping to avoid sunburn. A Pawkeet slowly spiraled above. I wondered how he had gotten so far out to sea. With a squawk, he abruptly dived for the island and landed beside me. His head was cocked to the side. I reached my hand out for him, and he quickly hobbled away. He cried out in pain. I saw that he held his left foot to his side awkwardly, and it seemed like it was sprained or broken.
“Come here,” I whispered, “I won’t hurt you.”
The bright green Pawkeet looked at me with something like uncertainty, but my expression must have calmed him because he hopped back to me. I looked at the creature, slightly ashamed of myself. Here was a living animal unable to walk or perch, and he lived without a word of complaint. My wings hadn’t developed yet, and almost every day I whined and complained about my slight problem.
Then again, the Pawkeet gave me hope. If he could continue to press on, why couldn’t I? I would start my journey today.
A few hours later, I was prepared. My stomach was full and my muscles rested. I looked to the setting sun, knowing that it was the west, and turned ninety degrees to the right. This would bring me straight back to Tyrannia.
Disregarding the dangers of sea monsters, exhaustion, and hunger, I leapt into the water. It was like jumping into a pool of liquid energy. The surrounding ocean rejuvenated my tired body. I started out slowly, but I picked up speed as I went along. In school, we had learned the approximate swimming speeds of aquatic Neopets, and the Maraquan Scorchio could travel 13 kilometers per hour. I knew I was travelling at least at that speed.
In the first hour of my journey, I came across a school of Pfish. They were taken aback by the sight of such an unusual creature underwater. Never before had a Tyrannian Scorchio been known to enjoy swimming!
The Pfishes’ reaction brought up a new question for me – would I be able to cope with my tribe’s reaction to a water-loving Scorchio? What would my friends think, how would my elders respond? I tried not to dwell too much on what my community would think of me, even though I didn’t want to be isolated as a freak.
For generations, Tyrannian Scorchios took to the skies exclusively; swimming underwater was unheard of! Who was I to deviate from the mold? Mental images of mockery and isolation swam in front of my eyes.
I didn’t see too many living creatures in my journey. Every so often, when I went up to the surface to breathe, I would see a few birds flying, but the fish population avoided me. Why would my community accept me when even fish thought of me as a freak? Unresolved questions pounded through my skull.
I was so caught up in self-pity that I slammed right into a hulking, massive giant squid. Its gargantuan eye turned to look at me. My heart thudded hopelessly in my chest. I had swum for miles just to die at the hands – or tentacles, rather – of a giant squid. But I had thought too soon. As soon as the squid recognized what I was, its expression furrowed into one of confusion. It turned away from me, looking puzzled. Suddenly its tentacles snapped into motion, and the enormous squid motored away from me into the distance.
I would have almost preferred the squid to eat me. Instead, a new realization came to me – I had scared away a sea monster! The king of the deep was so bothered by my presence that he ran away! I was horrifying to a squid – I definitely would be shunned by my fellows back home.
Only a few more miles passed before the ambush began. I had just taken a breath when I realized that the water beneath me had become considerably darker. I looked below the surface, and I nearly fainted. Thousands upon thousands of squid swarmed below me. All of them were the size of – if not bigger than – the squid I encountered before. And they were all looking at me.
In my young life, I have only been scared for my existence once or twice. This situation far exceeded any event before it in terms of how horrifying it was. I stood perfectly still in the water, barely able to keep from shaking. The first squid approached from my right. The gleam in its eye spoke not of benevolence or even curiosity, but of pure malice. Squids were feared all across Neopia for their voracious appetite for any living thing they encountered. In a few seconds, the squid had halved the distance between us. My heart could double as a drum.
But as it drew closer, everything began to make sense to me. I would not be eaten by a squid – I would live to tell the tale. Complete confidence in my skill shot through me.
And in that instant, my wings developed.
In a moment, thick muscle rippled across my back, and my wings shot out to their full span. Pure adrenaline rushed through my veins. Moments before the squid could reach me, I exploded out of the water like a rocket. I flapped my wings smoothly and powerfully, and I ascended towards the heavens. From the ocean below, thousands of squid eyes watched me intently.
Soon, I was even with the clouds in the sky. A bright green bird flew beside me, and I laughed. It was the Pawkeet from the island! He looked at me with confusion, wondering how I could fly when before I was so grounded.
And like him, I pondered why my wings had developed so suddenly in a time of need. In a flash, the answer came to me. Wings didn’t develop when you were physically mature – it was all about confidence. Tyrannian Scorchios form their wings when they are confident in their abilities, like I was when I faced down the squids.
I was even faster in the air than I was in the water. It was amazing how far I could fly without using much of my energy. The mystic’s words of wisdom came back to me, and I realized that he was right – even when I couldn’t fly, I had the ability to do great things.
Then I remembered how I had treated my friends and elders back home. My behavior towards Rob, towards Dr. Rollarg, towards even Kyrugg was inexcusable. I forgave Kyrugg for deserting me; he was just an old man looking out for himself after all.
I flapped through the air, towards Tyrannia in the distance, and finally, after so many years of uncertainty and frustration, my heart was at peace.