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Today's Story by Summer Ross

The men’s pants she wore flapped in the breeze chilling her legs, but dresses were impractical for science.

Perfect Aside

The wings, heavier than Elise had imagined, let out steam when she pressed the button on the front of her jacket. They flapped mechanically back and forth, slowly at first then built up momentum. Her small frame lifted a few inches off the ground. Her heart raced. If the wings worked then she should, in theory, make it without incident.

She looked out over the cliff to the city suspended in air. So far, not one of her peers, all graduates in her class, had found a way to reach the city. The wings she created were her final thesis in modern science. Every graduate had to create a device, steam powered, to reach the city in order to receive their degree.

Elise took one deep breath then pulled on the second button of her jacket. The wings flapped faster. She pulled the third button and straightened her legs out to fly. The sounds of gears moving clicked in her ears as she headed for the city. The men’s pants she wore flapped in the breeze chilling her legs, but dresses were impractical for science. She slid through clouds and over the top of the high trees below.  Her heart thundered in her chest, excitement bubbling in her stomach. She would make it.

The wings sputtered and a clunking sound escaped the confines of the gears she had carefully placed together. Before Elise knew it, she fell toward the ground at an alarming rate. Her body tensed. She pulled hard on the button strings to try and steer herself back up to the clouds.

Nothing happened.

Elise refused to accept that the wings wouldn’t work. Something had gone wrong and it was her job, as a scientist, to figure out what. There were two buttons left on her jacket. She had hoped she wouldn’t have to pull either of them. Elise desperately wanted the contraption to work. She had been creating the wings for almost two years; they were like a baby to her.

She pushed the start button again to turn off the device. It shut down with a heavy sigh. She pushed the button once more and they restarted. Elise let the steering strings zip back into her jacket as the ground rushed up at her. She pulled the buttons at the same time and with a jerk, the mechanical wings caught the air and stopped her just before the rocks below. Her heart skipped a beat.

Elise stared at the brown and grey rocks; if she tipped her head forward, she could have grazed them with her nose. She let out a breath she hadn’t realized she held and her stomach turned. Literally inches from death, and all she thought about was the device. She touched her toes to the rock and stood. Elise pressed the button to turn the device off and undid the jacket as her heart slowed into the steady beat of work like a clock ticking away at time.

She moved the white material back and forth listening to the gears. Elise slid her glassicals from her forehead and over her eyes. Escaped brown strands of hair colored the view as she undid the small power box in between the wings. All the little gears inside were magnified so she could easily work with them. Elise took the pinchers she had stuck into her hair and helped each gear move. Everything seemed to be in order with the power box. She closed the lid and inspected the metal parts attaching the wings to the box.

There it was! A fat bug scrunched between the fifth and sixth gear. Next time she would be sure to stretch the cloth over the outside gears as well. She removed the bug with the wooden pinchers, slid the jacket back on, and pressed the button again.

The wings sprang to life huffing and puffing their way back up into the clouds. As Elise reached the city, a tightness stretched across her chest. She clutched a hand to her heart and pulled the button to flutter down to the crowd in the middle of the square. People gathered including professors to watch Elise’s wings fold back and forth like a metallic butterfly. Her chest constricted further until Elise was sure her lungs would not inhale. She panicked trying to gasp a breath and looked over to her science professor, her hand outstretched as if he could fix what was wrong with her.

“Professor Kinkle, what’s happening?” a male voice asked.

The professor’s brow furrowed as he walked over to Elise. She felt a tug at her neck, a twinge of shock flew to her chest, and suddenly she could breathe again.

“She’s a tinker? You made a student?” another asked.

“She’s perfect, aside from a short in her chest. But it doesn’t stop her from creating.” Professor Kinkle came back into view.

Elise tilted her head to the side, “Do I pass?”

“Of course, Elise,” Professor Kinkle said.

Elise slid the wings from her shoulders and contemplated how to attach them to herself permanently. She opened the metal box and pinched a tiny hole in the steam tube. She smiled, they were both perfect, aside from a flaw in their hearts.


Summer Ross is an editor for WiDo Publishing. If she had to describe herself in one word, it  would be “Phantasmagoric.”


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