It’s 3:00 a.m.
I glide, effortless, over the rooftops and church spires of my little town. I float over the park that Jez and I meet at when we sneak out at night. The empty swings creak in the gentle last-night-of-summer breeze. I drift over the wooded lot next to the park then float slowly above empty streets. The backyards, driveways, and rooftops pass below me like a miniature village, a child’s play-world.
Past the library, then I drift lazily over The Float Boat, the only candy store in town. Mrs. Forest, my Mentor, and her husband are tucked up inside, cozy against the night. My school, Bass Creek Senior Public School, drifts below me.
Correction. My OLD school. Tomorrow, I start high school at the big building further down the street.
No. I’m not flying over the high school tonight. Tomorrow will come soon enough.
So I pick up speed. I’m still not great at flying, to be honest, but I can finally go where I want, although I may never get the hang of landing. The fence tops and tree limbs float below me until I reach the last street in town. I hover and look out over the September cornfields toward the distant woods.
There’s a solitary cabin at the edge of the forest. It belongs to Mr. McGillies, a local hermit, the old bottle collector who has sworn an oath to be my Watcher when I’m out flying. The truth is he saved my life recently, and I don’t know how to thank him. I’ve been drawn to this spot all summer, watching the shape of his dark cabin against the forest as I bob above the corn like a weather balloon.
Tonight though, something is different.
I gaze past his cabin, past the trees, out toward the glow of faraway city lights. Somewhere out there the oldest trees stand. Somewhere out there the Spirit Flyers wait, starshot immortals, guardians of light and air.
Then something flashes in the muddy laneway below me.
A small lost thing lies face-up in the mud. I drop and hover above the road to investigate. It’s a tiny figure, a doll made of corn stalks. It stares up at me with bright glass beads for eyes.
This is odd. Who would put a doll in the laneway like this? What child would have visited Mr. McGillies and lost it? None, since he never has visitors as far as I know. With one hand I clasp my father’s golden feather on my mother’s chain around my neck. With the other I reach down to touch the doll, but then I swear the corn rustles next to me and a voice whispers: Gwendolyn.
I zoom up above the corn.
The corn has never whispered to me before. Then a lone figure steps out of the field onto the muddy lane. It hesitates then takes a step toward me. A dark figure with glowing golden eyes.
I streak home and dive into my bed.
I don’t know what I just saw, but I do know this: from somewhere out there, a darkness is coming.
And it’s calling my name.