The wind whipped at me and I suddenly seemed to realize just how far I’d climbed. High, in short. Nauseatingly high. And this balcony? Not quite a balcony. More like a thin walkway that you could see through. Very thin.
I mean, it certainly was, what, five crows wide, but to me right then it was like a tightrope. I squished myself up against the wall and felt my heart pound in my throat.
Then I heard laughter. “Very well!” a man cheered.
I nearly jumped out of my skin. Whoa? Someone was here? Where? I looked all around before I realized that the voices were coming from within the building.
Help! I thought. Someone help me!
Feeling like every step was a gargantuan task, I began creeping forward, digging my fingers/claws in through the holes of the grid. Looking up, I crept my way around the corner. There, I poked my head around and up – and saw in through a large window.
Inside, from my bizarrely low angle, I saw Mister Macmillan and several other men I didn’t recognize. They looked like parents. Filthy rich too. They were pale like glass, wearing crisp white clothes like you saw in the magazines, and were lounging on a sofa. They were all in a sloppy ring, and at the center was someone, who was bowing to each person in turn.
“Thank you for summoning me,” the person said in a feminine voice. As they straightened, shudders slid down my spine and all my feathers poked up.
The woman had slick black hair that fell into her face. Her eyes were a brilliant orange. Her features were strange. I couldn’t place her lineage by sight, which was strange. For though she had pale skin paler than I had ever seen, her features weren’t wealthy. There was something familiar to her, like she could have come from my own family. Her suit was an impeccable black and tailored to flatter her in every aspect, but it shimmered and sparkled with sequins like an evening dress. Oh, and she was wearing a little black bowtie.
“We expect you to do exactly as we say,” one blonde man was saying.
The woman laughed, a strange and high-pitched cackle. She flipped a hand up and rolled her eyes to the sky. “Of cou-urse!” she laughed. “I just can’t tell you all how excited I am to be here! It’s an opportunity I’ve been waiting for-“
The men interrupted her. Typical. “We have arranged everything. You will be set to work straightaways. And,” this man, whom I could not see, added emphasis to his words. “We expect results.”
Again, that twittering laugh. She planted a hand on her hip and swung a hip out, looking down to her left at where the man must have been seated. “Don’t worry about that! I am the ah, result-maker?” She laughed at her own bad pun.
The men were not amused. Sure, they were smiling, but it was as if they weren’t seeing her. They were seeing beyond, imagining the results they so spoke of.
“So!” the lady clapped her hands together twice and up high with a flourish. “Let’s do this!”
There was scuffles of chairs being scraped back. The woman began, in quiet tones that were still so nasally high-pitched, speaking to one member. I saw her place her hand on his shoulder as they walked away.
A door creaked open, and footsteps led away. I held my breath and counted to four. The business meeting was over – and now I just had to go through the window and follow them. Well! With a flap and a hop I propelled myself up to the window.
I smashed unceremoniously into the glass. Green shimmers marked it as being marked with a barrier. No souls could pass through.
With a flop I landed on the grid-like landing. My mind careened, not just in pain. This room was magically locked? How was anyone supposed to get out in case of an emergency? I thought all buildings, per protocol, had to be magically transparent to allow safe evacuations. Maybe that’s why no one came up to this tower. It wasn’t safe!
Curious and just wanting to get a look at what was surely a forbidden area, I hopped up onto the ledge. Inside, there was a dusty room, a dusty coffee table, and a few leather chairs from a few decades ago. I blinked, not even seeing a file folder or trace of the meeting.
Then, fleetingly, it struck me that this was a strange place to hold a parent-teacher meeting, or whatever kind of meeting it was. In an unsafe room, at the top of an unused tower, and in uncomfortable chairs.
Weird, but I had a bigger predicament facing me.
Turning around on the ledge, I looked into the void.
Behold, a poet would have said, the void looked back.
Well if the void looking back was a thing, it went ‘Boo!’ at me. Because right then, as I was turning around, the wind buffeted me and I saw, far far beneath me, my Aaliyah whacking away at three sprites that were surrounding her. Worse! There was a ring of spirit creatures, our classmates, around her and watching.
My blood boiled. How dare they make fun of Aaliyah! How dare they leave her helpless against three sprites!
I lunged from my perch, my thoughts full of rage and no such thing as common sense. Careening, I sped on recklessly as fast as I could.
It was about halfway there that I realized they were cheering her on. Aaliyah whacked out one sprite, then another, and the third cowered in fear. More cheers. Aaliyah was flush with victory, and our classmates were pounding the earth in support of her.
It was her glorious moment and I, shooting through the sky like a fluffball of idiocy, realized I was about to make a joke out of it by ‘rushing to her rescue’.
Cursing loudly in my head I tried to slow down. It was the worst pilates class ever. Clench those buttcheeks! Flap the wings – oh not that way!
I found myself cartwheeling, flapping, and, I’ll admit it, shrieking my lungs out as the world spun and the earth came closer.
For a horrid blink all I saw was Aaliyah zooming up to me, spinning with the earth – and then something green flashed over me.
Snap! Giant teeth caught me and I was squished by a soft tongue – then unceremoniously spat on the ground. A giant set of claws pinned me to the earth and a snarling jade snout shoved into my face, complete with golden mane and horns.
I froze. My heart pounded in my chest. Jade. Jade dragon, my classmate. Oh, how embarrassing.
Looking left, I saw a horde of creatures staring me down in dismay. Looking right I saw more classmates – and Aaliyah’s shoes.