Emma Gere used to be happy. Years ago, when she could barely walk, she had a loving family, a house, and no one was cruel to her. Then they started to grow. Theybegan to sprout from her arms when she was five. Her mother and father thought it was some kind of fungus or growth and took her to every doctor in the country, but none could give them any answers. They didn’t stop growing until they dragged on the floor when she walked. Emma’s wings, with their graceful curves and snow white feathers, were her enemy.
She tried to cut them off, but it hurt too much. She watched the other boys and girls from her window. Those children could leave the house and play outside without someone screaming in horror. They didn’t have feathers. Emma spent her days in her house and because she couldn’t go to school, when her parents were working, Emma would read. She spent her days in her room with all the books she ordered online. God forbid Emma go into a library! They would just throw her out and send her to some kind of correctional facility or something. That’s what she had been told by her mother. So, Emma read something new every day. She liked books about places and maps the best. Emma had a list of places she wanted to see, but knew she never could. Italy, Prague, Morocco, Spain, they were all waiting for her, but she could never visit them. She couldn’t step out her door or walk around her little English neighborhood. Maybe, it was just the people where Emma lived that would think her wings were scary. Perhaps, if she could get out of England, Emma could find people who wouldn’t run from her while she walked down the street.
On October twelfth at two seventeen in the morning, Emma turned fourteen. On October twelfth at two seventeen, Emma Gere also decided to run away. She slipped down into the kitchen and brought herself supplies: food, a canteen, and a pocket knife. She piled all this into a backpack. In this bag, she also put a map marked with all the places she planned on visiting and a change of clothes. Emma opened her window and cut the screen. She stepped out onto her roof. In all her life, Emma had never attempted to fly. There’s always a first time. She had read a lot about birds and how they flew, so she understood the basic principles. She felt her stomach churn as she took a running start off her roof. In seconds, there were no more shingles under her feet. Emma flapped her arms began to rise higher and higher, but quickly started losing control. She began to spiral down, into the houses below her. Emma felt panic start to close up her throat. Then something the book said came back to her and she stopped flapping. She stiffened her arms. For a heart stopping moment she was free falling and she thought this was the end for her. What a foolish thing to try! She saw the yard below her come closer with every second. Then her feathers bristled. The wind nestled itself inside them, giving them life and the will to do the impossible. The winged girl’s heart pounded inside her rib cage. The yard started to get smaller and smaller. Emma was flying.
Emma looked down at the sparkling lights of the city. A scream tore from her mouth. It was like the feeling that could overcome you on a roller coaster. No matter how much you tried, you couldn’t suppress the cry of excitement when the car raced down the tracks. Of course, Emma had never been on a roller coaster. She glided over the bridges and towns with her short, straight, blond hair flying behind her. She was overcome with euphoria. She was going to see the world like she had always wanted. She could finally find people that would accept her! Emma watched as a thin band of light started to rise above the horizon. The dark night sky began to morph into a symphony of colors as the sun rose and swelled with pride.
Emma knew she had about an hour or so before people would start to notice the thing that was too big to be a bird but too small to be a plane soaring above them. She spotted a cluster of trees on a hill that would make great cover. She started to drop in altitude, but she realized too late that she hadn’t slowed down enough to land on her feet. She tumbled down the hill the second her feet made contact with the ground. There was a blur of green and blue before Emma stopped rolling. She ached and smarted all over, but other than a few cuts, she was not injured. She ran back up the hill and hid in the trees. Under a green roof, Emma took out her map and a packet of trail of trail mix. She was somewhere near West Sussex. It would be a straight shot from here to the coast to Rome. There would be nowhere for her to stop because of the vast ocean between Italy and England. Emma savored the image of her flying over the Pantheon in her mind.
So, Emma began her journey across the sea that night. She climbed up the tallest tree she could find and took off into the cold English night. She passed over towns and farms for an hour before the blue of the ocean was revealed. Emma shivered as she flew. The air over the ocean was brisk and she was forced to land before she could cross it so she could put on a jacket.
Emma walked up and down the beach before she took off again. As she stared out across the waves, the enormity of her endeavor hit her like a brick wall. From where she stood, it looked as if the water went on for an eternity. Terror set in, just as darkness does when a fire starts to burn low. It slowly enveloped Emma and she turned away from the water. What am I doing? I should just go back home. I’m such a dolt. I belong in the city with my family, not here! Back home I can… Emma spun on her heels and turned back to the ocean. There was no reason for her to go back home. There was nothing there for her but solitude and sorrow. Out there, she might have a chance to make a friend, to be part of something, and to see every place on her map. Back home, none of that was possible. She couldn’t do anything trapped in a little house! Emma took in a deep breath of salty air and closed her eyes. The waves stirred endlessly, and so did Emma’s desire to meet the world. She squared her shoulders, and charged towards the ocean, but just before her feet could meet the water, she carried herself into the air.
The first part of Emma’s journey went smoothly. She watched another sunrise and took in the breathless view of the water, which shone underneath her. But as the sun rose higher, it began to beat down on Emma’s back, and she started to cook in her own jacket. She plummeted towards the water trying to remove it. When the fabric was out of her eyes, she realized that she was only feet from the deadly blue beneath her. Winds tugged at her feathers, too. They tried desperately to pull her off her course. Their pull tore at Emma’s wings, causing agonizing pain that tore up and down her arms. The sunlight that reflected on the waves nearly blinded her and she nodded off in the air, causing her to plummet once again. The only thing that kept Emma alive through this misery was hope that she could walk with others by her side and not have to hide any longer. Emma landed on the outskirts of Rome exhausted and barely conscious. She fell fast asleep where she landed: on the roof of an abandoned factory.
On Emma’s first night in Italy, she stuffed her feathers into the sleeves of her jacket and went walking. No one looked at her strangely. This elated her. After a while, she forgot about her wings and went into a café that over looked the magnificent city. Emma was seated at a table outside on a balcony where she could see all of Rome. She watched the beautiful lights of the skyline glittered like stars that had fallen to Earth, and the old buildings standing side by side with the new ones in harmonious juxtaposition. Emma stared out for hours, mesmerized by the feeling of being shoulder to shoulder with people. She wasn’t confined in the walls of her house. She felt as if her eyes were opening for the first time and before her was the world, in all its glory, and in all its rawness.
Emma spoke with people from all over the world. Travelers from France, Germany, Canada, America, and even India shared their stories with her without hesitation or fear. Emma’s heart swelled, for she finally felt free of burden that hiding was. She didn’t have to watch herself with so much caution now.
Before long, the Italian summer air inched its way under Emma’s skin. The heat was too much for her and she took off her jacket. Her wings unfurled like white flags. At first she figured that no one would mind, she was out of England after all. But she noticed the stares. Phone cameras appeared. Emma was surrounded by flashes and then he heard someone scream.
The noise curdled Emma’s blood and sent a chill down her spine. She felt weak and petrified. She dropped her jacket and took off. Emma cried as she flew. She had ruined everything. Why couldn’t they understand that she was just like them, though she had feathers? They were the only thing that set her apart and the only thing that made her a “threat”.
Helicopters came after her. They yelled at her through a bullhorn in Italian, probably trying to get her to land. Emma knew they would just lock her away. They would test and probe and poke her, just like the doctors did when she was little. Emma flew until her arms were leaden. The rolling country side was spread out below her, but Emma couldn’t enjoy the view. She had to get away from Rome. She had to run. Another sunset met her as she flew; only this one was blood red.
The helicopters started to shoot at her. Emma dove low to the ground and shot back upward into the sky to avoid their bullets. These people shot at her because they didn’t know what she was. They didn’t know what she was, so they assumed she had to be dangerous and frightening. They didn’t know that this was the first time she’d left the house in ten years and that she was twice as terrified of them as they were of her. They didn’t know that all she wanted was to walk alongside everyone else.
In those moments, when Emma was being peruse, bullets where whistling by her head, missing by centimeters. As she felt Death brush his fingers against her soul, she realized that she had no place here or anywhere and that no one on this planet would ever accept her. She was a villain to all, she was someone to be feared, ridiculed, and shot.
One of the helicopters finally managed to burry a bullet in her shoulder. Pain over took Emma’s mind. She tumbled out of the sky without trying to brace for the landing. There was no point. She fell through the branches of an olive tree by a farmer’s house. The farmer’s son found Emma. He was around her age and somehow, he wasn’t scared of her. The curly haired boy approached her with apprehension at first, but then walked without to Emma without caution. He came to her side and spoke to her in soothing Italian. Emma couldn’t understand a word of it. She sobbed and succumbed to the pain that continued to spread through every inch of her body. She knew that she had lost a lot of blood. Why didn’t they just let her be so she could check every place off her list? Prague, Morocco, and Spain were all lost to her now. She babbled this to the Italian boy. He nodded and tried to stop the bleeding in Emma’s shoulder by pressing the wound. Emma wriggled his hand off her and shook her head. That wasn’t going to help anymore. She watched as the red stains on her wings grew.
“Sei un angelo?” He asked. Emma understood this. He had called her an angel. She looked helplessly into his brown eyes and shook her head.
“No. I have wings. Everyone thinks I’m a monster. But I…” Hysterical laughter erupted from Emma’s mouth, “I am not. Not …an angle, not a… monster,” she gasped finally, “I am Emma…Gere.”
The next morning, Doctor Ellio De Niro came to work at his private laboratory in Revello, a town on the Amalif coast of Italy. He found that the Roman police department was waiting do him. A man introduced himself as the chief of police.
“Dr. De Niro, we need you to perform an autopsy. This is an urgent matter. The body has been placed in your lab already. Work quickly, the British are breathing down out necks. If I get one more phone call...” Without any further explanation, two police men escorted Dr. De Niro into his laboratory. The doctor wondered why all these men were acting with such urgency. He preformed autopsies for the government every now and then, but this held a different air.
A slab was already in place. The shiny metal and white walls completed the eerie feeling that was creeping up on Dr.De Niro. On the slab, a lump was resting under a white sheet. The doctor pulled back the sheet to reveal the face of a young blonde girl. He was taken aback. He pulled the sheet back further to see that the girl had a bullet hole in her shoulder, but more importantly, she had feathers sprouting from her arms. The doctor took a second to take this scene in.
“What happened to you,” he looked at the name tag on her foot, “Emma Gere?”