Learning to Fly

Will A. Sanborn


Revised 5/4/97

Consciousness came to me slowly, as I drifted from my long slumber and realized that I was awake. I slowly opened my eyes, and blinking a couple of times, my vision cleared to reveal my surroundings: a typical Somani hospital room. I was disoriented at first from my long period of unconsciousness, but then everything suddenly clicked into place, and my memory returned to me. It was then that I excitedly craned my neck, looking over my shoulder, trying to see as much of my back as possible. I didn't have to stretch my neck too far though, as my large wings, lying there spread out behind me, now covered a substantial part of my field of vision.

Yes, it had finally happened, after weeks of eagerly waiting, what once seemed like a foolish daydream had now become a reality. Laying there in bed, my mind racing wildly out of control, I tried to fully appreciate how this was going to profoundly affect my life. Of course I'd thought of that before, thought it out to great lengths, but now that it had finally happened, my thoughts from the past months came flooding back to me.

I'd been living on the Somani homeworld for just about eight months now, as part of the newly-developed cultural exchange program between our two worlds. Having discovered hyperdrive a few years ago, Earth had sent several exploration missions throughout our part of the galaxy. It was our hope that we'd discover that we weren't alone out in the great cosmic expanse. We'd been very lucky, and by some phenomenal chance had met up with the Somani a little over two years ago.

The discovery of the Somani was absolutely wonderful for us, but not without its strangeness at first. The Somani were basically a race of winged felinoids, walking upright on two legs, which came as a bit of a surprise. Then again, these were aliens, and after the initial confusion, people from both worlds began to get used to the other's form.

After the settling-in period, when both races had gotten to know a little about the other, diplomatic relations had begun. Everyone had been optimistic, which proved to hold true, and both our planets came together in a friendly and open alliance. Since both our worlds were now at peace, we'd settled upon several ways in which our two societies could help each other for our mutual benefit.

The Somani weren't as technically advanced as we were in the areas of space travel or artificial intelligence, but their general level of electronic and computer technology wasn't all that far behind us. They had many of the basic instruments that we had, just not a lot of the higher-end equipment. Anyway, to make up for some of their technical shortcomings, they'd surpassed us in a couple areas of science, especially in their medical techniques which were leaps and bounds ahead of us. Most of their scientific efforts had been focused on genetics, and their technology in that field was outstanding. Already several technological exchanges had taken place, and both worlds were benefiting greatly from them.

Then there was also the profound social implications of the whole situation. Soon after the initial diplomatic issues had been resolved, sociologists from both planets had flocked to the new world for the rich information and background they held.

It was also soon decided that in order to tie the two races closer together, that a cultural-exchange program should be set up, bringing members of both races to the other's homeworld. Humans and Somani from all walks of life were chosen to represent their people, as they were carted light-years away toward a fantastic, exotic and slightly strange new world.

Upon hearing of the program, I'd jumped at the chance, and made my appointment for the screening interview as soon as I could. I'd always considered myself a little shy, and would never have imagined that I'd be going so far from my familiar surroundings, but there was a reason that prompted me to be so adamant about wanting to make the journey.

I'd always had a secret dream of being able to fly like the birds, and had never quite outgrown it from my childhood fantasies. I still would sometimes lie on my back gazing into the blue heavens and imagine myself soaring up there amongst the ether. Knowing that the Somani were winged creatures, I held them in very high regard and was fascinated with their abilities of flight. I realized that just being amongst them would fulfill more of my fantasy than I'd ever dreamed possible. Just being able to see them fly would at least allow me to vicariously experience my dreams.

During the interview I'd been a little nervous and it had showed fairly obviously, but they were impressed with my eagerness. Of course I hadn't told them the real reason behind my desire to embark on the exchange. Afraid of being thought a little foolish, I'd skated around the situation by talking about what a wonderful race the Somani seemed to be and how I was interested in experiencing their society, which of course was by no means a lie.

The next week I'd waited in anticipation until they'd finally called me back with the wonderful news. For the cultural exchange to be the most effective, they'd said it was necessary to get as diverse a group as possible. Although many college students had applied, not too many of them had been in the technical fields like myself, so that had almost assured my position. Also, they told me that my genuine eagerness had impressed them and had made up for my slight awkwardness. Secondly, although extremely-outgoing people would have an easier time adjusting to new cultural surroundings, to recruit only those types of people would give a false picture of our population. So a certain percentage of the selected few were chosen to be a little more reserved, such as myself.

I couldn't believe how outstanding my luck had been. I was walking on air for the next two weeks before I was to report for my indoctrination into the exchange program. First there was a rather thorough and almost grueling series of medical exams. There was also an operation we needed to undergo, in which a small translator chip was implanted in each exchange member's head. This wonderful device allowed us to become instantly fluent in both written and spoken Somani, as if it was our native tongue. These chips had been in use for close to a century for communications between members of foreign countries, and had been one of the driving forces behind global peace.

Once the exams were finished, and we'd received a few vaccinations against the new strains of diseases we might encounter, we were ready to embark on our fantastic journey. The trip took slightly less than a month at our extreme speeds. During this interim we were thoroughly educated on what was already known of Somani culture.

Then, after all of the waiting, we were finally there. It was such a wonderful, yet also an overwhelming experience to step out of the ship onto such vastly foreign soil. Their world was similar to ours in some ways, such as having a blue sky, but it was also strangely different. Even the sky was not the same as the familiar color from back home, instead its hue was of a deeper shade of blue. The landscapes had some similarities to Earth, but a lot of the vegetation was different. Like variations on a theme, the flora on their homeworld had some vague similarities to plants back on earth, but with their own strange twists on them.

Their architecture was also vastly different, using primarily curved edges in contrast to our straight lines and angles. Their cities were not as crowded as ours either, with their population density being a little less than half of ours. Therefore the cities didn't seem quite as crowded as ours, and they felt very spacious, sprawling out over the landscape.

Then of course there was the Somani themselves. I'd seen hundreds of images of them, but that didn't compare to seeing them in the flesh, face to face. They were basically large cats, whose spine had changed enough to enable them to walk upright. Although they were bipedal, they didn't have flat feet like we do, instead their feet and lower legs resembled that of a cat's. The feet and legs were thicker than ours to support their weight. Only their toes came into contact with the ground, while the rest of their foot came up at a slight angle.

From the knees up, they were roughly the same as humans, if you overlooked the thick tail extending from their lower back, reaching down to the ground giving them the balance they needed to offset the unsteadiness from the construction of their feet. Their upper body, arms and hands were again much like those of humans, although small retractable claws extended from the four digits on each hand.

Their heads were pretty much what you'd expect to see on a large feline, although their eyes were easily much more expressive, reflecting their intelligence. There were two exceptions to the design of the feline head which immediately caught the eye. First of all, the top of their heads was covered in a mane of long fur, much like human hair, and their ears were larger than you'd see on a cat of that size. Their ears appeared to be a bit more vulpine than feline, but the added effect was rather nice.

The coloring and fur patterns of the Somani was extremely varied. Colors varied from blacks and browns, to tans, to yellows and oranges, with many individuals having wild swirls or stripes of various colors, or even leopard spots. Also, having dark mitts and boots of coloring on the hands and feet was fairly common. Some Somani had coats of uniform color, while many of them had a patch of lighter coloring along their abdomens. Just like terran cats, their looks were wildly varied.

Then there was the asset about the Somani, which I'd found the most exotic, their wings. Although they stood about equal in height with humans, as soon as you added the extra foot or so from the wings, they sort of towered over us. Their wings connected to the body just below their shoulders and ran down to about the middle of their back. When fully extended, their wing span was about seven or eight feet, which was very impressive. The wings had several vertical ridges of bones running through them, which not only supported them, but allowed them to fold inward against the body when not in use.

Their wings were covered in fur of the same color as their body, although it was slightly thinner there. The tips of the wings came to just over a foot above the head, while the lower edges extended to just a few inches above the ground. It was obvious that with their wings, the Somani took up much more space than us humans, and their buildings and vehicles reflected that. Every seat, table, doorway, couch and bed, was larger than its terran counterpart to accommodate their expansive wings.

Stepping off the ship and being confronted by all of those alien sights threw me for a bit of a loop. Standing so close to the Somani was quite an experience, but nowhere as wonderful as seeing many of them flying gracefully through the air above and around the city. They were so elegant and fluid, they were pure poetry in motion.

The first few weeks on the Somani homeworld were kind of hard for me. I was part of the first group of the cultural exchange, consisting of only one thousand people. This had seemed like a large group on board the ship, but once we'd landed we were quickly separated into much smaller groups. Each of these groups were spread throughout the surrounding continent so as to maximize the effect of the cultural exposure.

Being a college student, I was assigned a position at the local university, along with only fifty other humans. Since the university had over seven thousand students enrolled in it, we quickly became a vast minority. Then we were even further spread out throughout the campus. The dorm that I was assigned to only had three other humans in it, amongst the one-hundred fifty residents, so I quickly began to feel pangs of loneliness and homesickness.

It was particularly hard on me since I was a little shy to begin with. Also, since I was a little shorter than average, only a bit taller than five and a half feet, the height difference between the Somani and I was even more pronounced. That tended to make me feel even more uncomfortable, but luckily for me my floormates made up for it. There were several outgoing Somani who lived nearby, and who took it upon themselves to make me a part of nearly all of their activities. After we got over the awkwardness of dealing with aliens, and got to know one another as individuals, things began to go really well. By my first month there, I'd made several close friends.

So the last several months had been extremely invigorating, exciting and lots of fun. It hadn't been without its small upsets though. Sometimes the differences between our two societies would be remarkably profound, and there were a few awkward moments here and there. The biggest one of these was the fact that the Somani tended to be a lot more physically expressive than humans do.

To them hugging or lightly touching the arms, shoulders or the legs were just simple signs of friendship, nothing more than a handshake or a high-five was to us. This had caused a couple of embarrassing incidents early on as I received these attentions from both males and females. Noticing my uncomfortable reaction, they'd been confused and even a little hurt, which had caused both of us to become rather uncomfortable. Again I was lucky that my new acquaintances were very understanding. We'd been able to discuss the situations and easily resolve them. I'd then begun to adjust to the laxness with which they treated personal space, and as time wore on had been able to freely give and receive their acts of friendship.

I'd gotten quite close with one or two of the Somani, and our friendships had become very deep. We'd sometimes sit up talking until late in the evening, with topics ranging from discussions of our different cultures, to deep philosophical conversations, to random and rather silly ramblings caused by loose associations and our tiredness. Even with these aliens and their new world, some things were still the same. College was still fun and I had many good times with my new friends.

One of my closest friends, had asked my what had prompted me to come on the exchange program in the first place, noting the fact that I'd been kind of shy at first. I hesitated a moment, thinking of just what to tell her, not knowing if I could trust her with such a personal secret. I finally decided that if I wanted to strengthen our relationship, I should be totally open with her. Taking a nervous breath, I'd slowly told her about my dreams of flight and how I admired and also slightly envied them for having that wonderful ability.

She hadn't laughed at me like a small part of my mind had feared, instead she'd been very understanding. Although, at first it was a little hard for her to grasp, and she couldn't comprehend not being able to fly since it was an innate ability of theirs. We talked late into the night, with her trying to explain to me just exactly what it felt like. It was obvious that I couldn't truly comprehend what she was telling me, but she did her best to try and convey it to me. Once again it helped me live out a little of my dreams of flight, trying to imagine what it must be like for them to soar through the air like that.

It was a couple of weeks later, when she'd come running up to me in the hallway. She was obviously very excited, and had thrown her arms around me in a friendly hug. She'd then begun talking so fast and in broken sentences that I could hardly understand her. After she'd calmed down, she was able to convey to me the wonderful news she'd just heard.

She was a research assistant in one of the many medical labs on campus, and had heard of an intriguing project that was in the works. She knew the doctor in charge of the project and had spoken to him at length that afternoon. It turned out that ever since our contact with the Somani, they'd been vigorously studying our anatomy and genetic structure. Using loads of medical data as well as some cadavers transferred from Earth, they'd succeeded, in a rather short period of time, in learning almost as much about us as they knew about themselves.

One of their big advances in medicine over us was their ability to re-generate damaged limbs, tissue and organs, thus restoring the body to its former state after any type accident. They'd already performed some of these small procedures on humans hurt in accidents, such as healing broken bones or replacing cut or smashed fingers. Since they had such a phenomenal success with these simple operations, they were eager to try something much more ambitious.

Seeing as how humans and Somani were relatively close in body structure, one possible experiment that had been suggested was trying to give humans wings like they had, reasoning that it would be something very useful and helpful to our race. This was where I came in, my friend knew of my desire to fly and had mentioned it to the head doctor. Upon hearing that, he was very interested in seeing me.

Many humans were not very fond of the idea of having new body parts grown on them, and for good reason since it had shades of Frankenstein written all over it. I however was intrigued by the possibility of actually being able to fly, and that had offset some of the misgivings I had to the whole idea. I was still worried about the idea of genetic tampering, and had several in-depth and frank conversations with the doctors working on the project.

They understood my concerns, but also showed me how their genetic engineering had been used to totally remove birth defects and many debilitating diseases. Realizing that this would be different, by adding something totally new to my body, they assured me that the operation could be reversible, if I decided that the additions were something I didn't want. They also were confident of their abilities to perform the procedure with no major side-effects. Finally my curiosity and yearnings for flight had won over my misgivings and I decided to give it a try.

First off, they started me out with several simulations, using the latest technology in virtual reality that we'd given them. In these simulations they were able to let me experience what having wings would be like, how it would feel, and how my body would be expanded. I was able to experience what it would feel like to fly for the first time, and it was a totally incredible experience. Seeing what having wings would be like convinced me that I wanted to give this experiment a chance.

Over the next couple of months, several preparations for the procedure were undertaken. First of all, they told me that I needed to strengthen my upper-body, especially my chest muscles, in order to be able to support my wings. So in addition to my daily runs, I would also spend time in the gym lifting weights. I'd never liked weight workouts, but thinking of how I'd soon be able to fly made it all worthwhile. A few of my new close friends went through the workouts with me, helping me to keep up my ambition up. It turned out that upon hearing of the planned experiment, they were just as excited as I was.

In the last month of the preparations, they'd laid down a rudimentary set of artificial nerves running along my back. The operation, although involved, had been quick by Earth standards, only taking about four hours. Once these nerves were in place, they'd given me a small portable unit, about the size of a deck of playing cards, which would send wireless signals to this nerve array. The device would detect proximity information and relay that as tactile sensations, simulating the feel of wings. That allowed me to get used to amount of space my wings would take up, and learn how to avoid bumping them into objects.

At first it'd been extremely difficult, but the gain of the sensors had been turned way down, so that even when I hit my virtual wings hard against something, or managed to shut them in a door, the pain was very light. Trying to move phantom wings that I could feel, but not see posed some problems as well, but I was able to adapt to it after a time. As I got more used to them, the feedback amplitude of the unit was increased to more accurately simulate how real wings would feel. I soon got quite proficient at avoiding obstacles, and learned to sleep with my back propped against special pillows, or on my side with my virtual wings folded against me, so they wouldn't be crushed while I slept.

I must have looked rather strange standing clear of objects with my invisible wings, but by then a lot of people had heard about the project. One good thing about Somani culture is their respect of individual privacy. Even though most everyone knew about what I would soon be undertaking, they were all very polite about it, and only my closest friends would discuss it with me. Had this been Earth, I would've been hounded by just about everyone from curious strangers to the media.

The media here was much different than from back home though. They reported only the essential news, not getting into people's private lives, nor did they have all the tabloids and commercialism which still plagued us humans. After the operation, I was told, there would be a small press conference, to be scheduled at my convenience. Even then they would be very courteous with me, I'd know all the questions ahead of time, and they'd try and keep it short.

As the date of the operation grew nearer, I became much more excited. I was still a little nervous, but I had complete trust in the miraculous Somani medical science. They answered any and all of my questions in a friendly and thorough manner. They explained that the operation would consist of the controlled activation of cellular growth, producing the construction of the wing structure from my back. The artificial array of nerves they'd laid down would be replaced by real neural pathways, then the new muscles, bones, flesh and skin of the wings would be added.

Although the wings would be of Somani design, they would also be of human genetic structure. Fully understanding both Somani and human DNA, they would be able to tweak my genetic codes, adding the desired sequences which would grow the wings. The whole process was very involved, so it would take a little over two days from start to completion. During this time, I would be unconscious, suspended on life support, in a chamber of amniotic fluid which would promote tissue growth.

As for the operation being reversible, they assured me that this would be no more difficult than the original procedure. Instead of simply removing the wings, which would leave me an amputee, they would slowly reverse the process. They would remove the wings, but would leave the nerves intact. Then, just as I'd been trained to learn how my wings felt, I would slowly be weaned from their sensory input, until my body no longer expected it.

The extra nerves would then be removed, and I would be just as I had been before. There would be some residual mental effects from this though, since I would then know what it felt like to have wings, and would to some extent emotionally and intellectually miss their presence. They reminded me though, that if I liked the wings that much, then there was no need to have them removed, and if I absolutely hated them, then getting rid of them would make me feel better.

With that knowledge, I'd decided to go with my dreams and undergo the procedure. I was still a little nervous, but I knew that if I never took advantage of this opportunity, I would always regret it and wonder what it would've been like. Now lying in bed like this, with my real wings finally spread out beneath me, I was confident that I'd made the correct decision.

With my mind still racing from all of my excited thoughts, I was interrupted as the head doctor from the project entered my room. "Hello Will, how are you feeling today?" he asked in a very cheery, yet professional tone.

"Great!" I replied enthusiastically. "I can't wait to get out and stretch my wings and see how well they work."

Noting my enthusiasm, he smiled warmly at me. He was impressed with how strong my desire to fly had been, and had been very supportive throughout the whole experience. "I'm glad you're so happy with the results so far, how would you like to take a better look at yourself?"

Seeing my second enthusiastic reply, he helped me out of bed and to a standing position. I was a little unsteady at first, since the simulations hadn't been able to thoroughly show me what the weight of the wings would feel like. Their added weight was small, and not too uncomfortable, but they did change my center of gravity a little. It took a few minutes of adjusting my posture to figure out the best way to stand with these new additions to my body. It still felt strange, but the other sensations from the wings were very familiar to me and they felt comfortable, as if I'd always had them.

Holding me steady for a few moments, the doctor then led me to a full-length mirror on the opposite side of the room, allowing me to admire my reflection. I stood there clad only in the hospital pants, with my upper body exposed. Spreading out my wings I was impressed with their full span of about seven feet, scaled perfectly to my size. As with the Somani, their tips came to just under a foot above my head, and down to about two-thirds of the way down my calves. However, unlike the Somani, my wings were made of human flesh, with their skin color being the same as the rest of my body. They looked a little strange since they were just naked flesh, not covered by fur like the wings I was used to looking at. However, I'd seen projections of what I'd look like, so I was prepared for the view.

Standing there, I admired my new appendages as I vainly flexed them for my viewing, smiling as they moved with fluid grace. The simulation they'd put me through had helped train me for this and my new wings worked flawlessly to follow my commands. I got a little lost in the reflection and was brought back to reality by the doctor's gentle touch on my shoulder. Turning to him, his smile reflected that of my own. "So I trust everything turned out to your satisfaction Will? You seem to be enjoying the view" he asked me with a quick wink of his eye.

"Yes" I agreed, feeling completely at ease with him, enjoying his warmth and personable demeanor which had been with me since the beginning of the project. "I look a little strange for the moment, but it is something I'll get used to. Already I can appreciate how good they look on me..."

"That's good, now how'd you like to try them out instead of just admiring them?"

Again I was very quick to agree to his suggestion, nodding eagerly. Seeing my response, he led me out of the room, and down the hall to a very large and expansive room. I was a little sheepish about walking around in just a pair of hospital pants, but luckily they were full pants, unlike the ones commonly seen in terran hospitals with the backs open. Also, at least in that part of the hospital, nobody else seemed to be around so I had some privacy.

Entering the room, which was the size of about two and a half gymnasiums, he explained, "this is our flying room. Sometimes we'll have a patient whose wings are badly damaged and they'll need to go through an operation much like the one you went through. Afterwards we need to make sure that everything came out okay, so we need to have a place where they can take a quick test flight. We've already done a complete physical scan on you, and things seem to be all in order, but we can't be sure until you show us how they actually work."

I practically jumped at the chance to finally test out my wings. Crouching down slightly, I spread them out and jumped lightly up into the air, flapping my wings the way I'd learned from the simulations. Again the training from the simulations hadn't been totally accurate, and I was a little unsteady at first. With work though, I soon got the feel for it and before long I was swooping throughout the room, enjoying the ability to do graceful glides and quick turns and spins.

I flew excitedly around the room for ten or fifteen minutes before remembering about the doctor waiting below, and then grudgingly coming down to a skillful landing. I'd enjoyed the times I'd spent on the simulator learning how to fly, but there was always a slight bit of unreality about it. Now after really flying for the first time, I could see how pale the simulation had been to the actual experience.

When I finally landed, I greeted the doctor with an outburst of excitement, trying to describe to him just how wonderful the experience had been for me. He stood there patiently listening to my wild ramblings with an amused smile on his face. It was also obvious from his expression that he was impressed with the amount of skill my first flight had demonstrated.

As I was babbling wildly to him, overwhelmed by my excitement, I heard a familiar feminine voice behind me calling my name. Turning around I saw it was one of my close Somani friends come to see me. In fact she was the one who'd first introduced me to the idea of the whole project. "Hello Will," she greeted me with a warm smile, "you look wonderful. Did I miss your first flight?"

"Yes you did" I said running madly at her, pumped up from the exhilaration, and extremely happy. I embraced her in a strong, friendly hug as I started to talk wildly at her. "Mazzi, it was wonderful, I never knew it could be like this, now I know what you were trying to tell me when you were trying to explain it to me. It's just so wonderful, I felt so free..."

Seeing me all hyper and excited, she giggled with her usual bubbly personality. Finally she put one of her hands gently over my mouth and hugged me a little tighter with the other one, slowly calming me down. Smiling at me she replied, "it's good to see you lose control like that. I don't think I've ever seen you so taken by anything quite this way before... It's really amusing and cute." Turning to the doctor who was watching the whole spectacle with obvious amusement, she asked "so did everything come out okay, is he ready for his first outdoor flight?"

"Yes, he's in wonderful shape, and a moderate flight would be very good for him." Addressing me before he leaves the arena, he added "everything should be just fine Will, but I'd like you to come in for a quick checkup in a week just to make sure."

I responded with a quick affirmative as he was leaving and then turned back to look at Mazzi. Over the past few months, she and I had gotten very close. I'd easily say that she was my best friend here. I'd occasionally wondered if things between us would develop into something stronger, something romantic, but I didn't want to push the issue. I was extremely happy having her as such a close friend, and I was a little reluctant to chance that and try and pursue her as a possible lover. For the moment I was content with the way our relationship was. "Thanks for coming Mazzi, this really means a lot to me."

"Well you know I wouldn't have missed this, being such an important day for you and all. Besides, I wasn't going to let anyone else take you out on your first real flight. I wanted the pleasure of that experience for myself... Oh and I brought you a present." With that she picked up the small bag she'd been holding, but then dropped when I practically jumped into her arms. Reaching into it she brought out a Somani shirt, a slit running down its back to accommodate for the wings. In keeping with the Somani's love of bright colors, the shirt was a nice radiant hue of red.

"Thanks Maz, that's really thoughtful of you, it'll go great with the blue shorts I'll be wearing."

"You're welcome, I had the feeling that since you were so excited about everything you might've forgotten about needing a whole new set of shirts, so I went ahead and got you this. We can go shopping later if you want, but first I'd like to take you to a peak near here which has a really nice view this time of year."

"That sounds great, how far away is it?"

"About fifteen kilometers." At first that seemed like a long distance to me, since I was used to running for my exercise, then I realized that by flying it would be much easier to cover the same distance in a much shorter time. Therefore, this flight wouldn't actually be too long. My exercise program had strengthened my muscles so I was ready for my first flight of any real distance.

"Okay, let's go. Just let me get changed first" I replied eagerly.

We walked out of the large flight room, and back up the hallway to my room. Then after opening the door, I turned to her, and in keeping with our playful friendship, I jokingly flirted "so you can either stay out here, or if you want you can watch me change." I finished up by winking at her a couple of times and flashing her a wide grin.

Returning my grin she playfully replied "oh I'd better stay out here. I don't know if I could stand the show... I might get all excited and pass out or something."

Laughing briefly at our silly joke, I closed the door and quickly changed, returning out into the hall to model my new shirt with my shorts. Standing there I posed playfully for her, keeping my posture as straight as I could, while flexing my wings slightly.

"Will, you look great" she complimented with genuine affection making me beam with pride. "Come on, let's get going. I'm anxious to see you fly."

Walking to the top of the building and then out onto the roof, we emerged into the sunlight of an absolutely gorgeous day. Following her lead, we ran to the edge of the roof, jumping out into the air spreading our wings, and taking flight.

Again the feelings were so new and wonderful that they almost overwhelmed me. My mind and heart almost exploded from the joy I was feeling from the realization of one of my innermost dreams. The trip to the peak took about fifteen minutes and we enjoyed every moment of it. Mazzi was a little surprised at the skill of my flight, especially as were executing a series of complicated swoops and swirls around one another.

Finally we reached our destination where the view was extremely rewarding. We stood on the top of a small mountain, which was flattened out on top giving a small plateau of about an acre or so, and gazed out across the beautiful panorama. In all my time on the planet, I'd never been up this high, in fact I'd never really been outside of the city. Now looking out across the wonderful landscape I saw the city in the distance, surrounded by roaming countryside. The sun was bright and the sky was its beautiful shade of blue as small puffy clouds drifted lazily overhead. The whole picture was just so perfect, and it accompanied my exhilaration quite nicely.

Turning to Mazzi, I looked at her and once again noticed just how beautiful she is. She stood pretty much at my height, with her wings roughly the same size as mine. Her coat is a lovely golden color, dotted with leopard spots which are very attractive. Her hair is a light brown with light waves through it, coming down in the back to just above shoulder length. Her muzzle is covered in white fur, which runs down her neck, trailing down into her shirt. She was wearing red shorts with a bright green shirt, both of which nicely complimented her fur coloring. The whole effect was really quite adorable, and in the back of my mind I once again pondered the remote possibility of us falling in love.

In a wordless agreement, we embraced each other once again in a comfortable and friendly hug. I leaned my head against her shoulder enjoying the feel of her warmth, as I was still teeming with excitement from the flight. "Thanks for taking me here Mazzi, it's just so beautiful. I can't possibly tell you how wonderful this has been and what it means to me."

She reached up to softly stroke the back of my head and ran her hand through my hair. Then with a gentle nudge, she guided my head up and back so we were looking face to face. She smiled at me with incredible warmth, and gazing into her beautiful blue eyes, I almost got lost in their depths.

In the back of my mind I realized that something was different here. There was something subtle in the way she was looking at me, a mix of emotions registering on her face. Looking up at me with those beautiful wide eyes, she brought her mouth to mine and gave me a soft, yet deliberate kiss.

As our lips made contact I was momentarily startled by the whole turn of events, yet also pleasantly surprised. I reflexively kissed her back, my lips meeting hers softly, and I also gave her a quick squeeze with my arms, holding her to me. Our kiss only lasted a few moments before she pulled away slightly and asked me "was that okay Will?"

"Yes," I stammered slightly in amazement. "It was wonderful. It's something I've been sort of thinking about for some time now... but I didn't know that you felt that way about me."

Smiling warmly at me once again she replied, "I've been becoming more interested in you over the past several weeks, but I sensed some hesitation or uncertainty in you, so I thought it would be best if we played it slow. Then lately I've decided that I should give it a chance and see how you responded... I figured today would be a good day to do it, with all the other wonderful experiences you were having. I also wanted to make the moment perfect, so I waited until I could take you out here where we could be alone in this beautiful setting."

"Thanks Mazzi. I'm glad you made the first move, otherwise who knows how long we would have waited. I still want to take it slow though. We've come this far, and I don't want to mess things up by moving too quickly."

She answered me with a quiet nod. Then pulling her a little closer, I moved my lips toward hers and we kissed once again. It was just as softly as before, but that time we stretched out the moment, savoring it. The feel of her fuzzy muzzle and thin lips against mine felt so nice, and our embrace seemed so warm and natural. I enjoyed holding her there, as we bathed in the feelings of our close friendship, which had just grown even closer.

We held each other for moments that seemed to last for ever. Nothing could happen to make this a better day, right now it had obtained perfection and would be forever etched in my memory. I finally ended the moment by softly thanking her once again for all that she had done for me. Holding onto each other a little longer, we finally decided that since it was starting to get late we should be leaving.

"Why don't we fly into town quickly and do a little shopping, since you need some more shirts? Afterwards, my parents would like to have us visit them for dinner, they are really excited for you... Then I thought we could spend the evening at the theater since there are several new movies we haven't seen."

I agreed with her on all counts. Her parents were extremely nice, and had become sort of a second family to me. Spending the rest of the day with her sounded wonderful, and the thought of cuddling against her while watching a movie was just so inviting.

Having decided how to spend the rest of our waking hours that day, we again took a running leap off of the plateau and glided gracefully into the wide blue sky. I let her get slightly in front of me for a moment so I could admire her beautiful form flying ahead of me. Then with my spirits soaring high, I rushed to catch up to her. Reaching her, I flew swooping by, and we continued the game of aerial tag we'd been playing earlier.

Copyright 1994, 1997, Will A. Sanborn - was1@shore.net

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