Sunday, October 25, 2015

Moon Over Springfield

I'm proud to be part of Broad Universe, a professional organization for women who write speculative fiction. I'm also excited to be participating in the Broad Universe Full Moon Blog Tour (with prizes! See the rafflecopter at the end). I hope you enjoy my side story for Jessica Roark, one of the characters from Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel and the upcoming sequel Change of Life:  Another Menopausal Superhero Novel. 

Moon Over Springfield

Jessica Roark stood on top of Springfield Elementary's roof, staring out at the playground on the hill. A full moon seemed to rest between the jungle gym and the swing set. Its white light brightened the entire grounds, throwing eerie shadows on the blacktop where the kids played kickball during recess.

Her son Frankie had suggested the school as a place to practice. "If you go up at night, Mama, there's no one there. It's high but not too high, in case you fall." He was right. Jessica had parked on the other side of the bus lot, along a side street that was very crowded during drop off and pick up time, but completely deserted at nine o'clock on a school night. The school itself was set back from the road and nearly surrounded by tree line. Even if someone did drive by, chances were low that they would spot her.

It was the perfect place to practice flying without getting caught.

She'd walked up to the school and climbed the access ladder, after walking around to make sure there weren't any unexpected security cameras. Finding none, she pulled her hood up around her ears to hide her blonde hair and shadow her face, checked to make sure that the airpack was in place and secure on her back, then removed the ankle weights she wore to make sure that she stayed on the ground.

Ever since Dr. Liu's tea had changed her relationship with gravity, Jessica had been afraid that she might just float up one day and keep going, drifting higher and higher until she ended up too high to breathe. While she had the ability to make her body lighter than air, it didn't come with momentum or force of movement beyond what she could muster by jumping or leaping. More than once, she had been stuck, floating aimlessly, unable to reach anything to pull herself back to earth or use for leverage to continue her trajectory. It was terrifying.

But now that she had the airpack and had been working with a trainer at the Department, she was anxious to see what she could do out here in the open. With the airpack, she had support. If she ran out of momentum, she could click a button and get a little push in the direction she needed. She was getting better at timing it, knowing when her natural momentum would run out and clicking the button in time to keep her flight steady.

The school had a flat roof littered with vents, aerials, dishes, wires, and other devices that kept the building and the machines inside it running. It was surrounded by a foot-high ledge, making it effectively a box. There were a good dozen playground balls, several frisbees, and other recess detritus trapped up there out of reach of the staff and children. No wonder the teachers were always asking for more playground equipment!

Smiling to herself, Jessica gathered several of the toys in her arms and stepped up onto the ledge. Making sure the controls for the airpack were in place in their straps around her wrists, she crouched and sprang out into the air.

The moment of leaping was always a thrill. As she moved through the air, continuing not to fall, she whooped with laughter. Now that she was no longer afraid, she never felt as free as she did when she flew. Jessica rolled in a tight log roll, enjoying the whip of wind around her body as she hurtled towards the hillside below. As her momentum began to slow, she steadied herself, and somersaulted to the sandbox, burping to release the gasses that kept her aloft. It was a smooth landing and she congratulated herself for her dexterity. She arranged the toys she had brought down with her into an arc, imagining the teachers and students finding the horde at recess the next day. Only her son would know what miracle had brought the return of all their lost playthings.

Next was the harder part, moving from low to high. When she'd been a gymnast, she had loved using the springboard to fling her small body high into the air. But, springboards were unlikely to be lying around on the missions she ran with the Department. She'd have to learn to find her upward momentum without one. Like her trainer said, she had to learn to use whatever the environment provided, just like Jackie Chan.

Standing with her hands on her hips, Jessica examined the playground again. There was a simple high bar for the kids to play on. Perfect! she thought and ran over to it. With a practiced set of motions she grasped the bar and pulled herself into a crouching knee hang. Tucking her stomach muscles, she swung around the bar, spinning once, twice, three times, then letting go just as her body came over the top.

With a quick burst of air from the airpack to support her flight, she burst into the night sky, spreading her arms wide with joy of it. Concentrating, she directed her body back towards the school building, using the airpack once more to push her a few inches higher so her hands could reach the edge of the rooftop. At the last second, she fumbled, hanging awkwardly for a moment, unable to fall or climb. There was a moment of panic, and then she pulled in a deep breath and let go, waiting while her body floated up another foot or two, then burping loudly to drop to the surface of the roof again. Clumsy. 

She spent the next hour carrying the toys from the roof to the playground and working her way back up. After four more trips, she was exhausted and exultant, thrilled with her progress. For her last flight, she aimed herself at the moon, then paused in mid-air when the wide, white orb filled the sky behind her. She pulled out her camera and snapped a selfie to send to Walter. "Moon Over Springfield" she titled it, sending it. She couldn't wait to show him what she'd learned.


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