Dove is my winning entry in the Audiomachine’s Heroes of Phenomena contest. The challenge was to create an original Superhero, geared toward young adults, inspired by the Audiomachine track “Fortress of Solitude” from their awesome new album “PHENOMENA.”
Dove will be featured in the upcoming companion ebook to Audiomachine’s “PHENOMENA” album entitled Heroes of PHENOMENA. Available June 2, 2014.
Take a look at the breathtaking cover, designed by the talented Jennifer Redstreake Geary.
It’s difficult (at least for me) to write a story in 1200 words. I enjoyed exploring Dove, my Superhero, so much that I’ve started on an outline for the full-length version. Stay tuned!
Please enjoy listening to this emotion-evoking song while reading:
The cherry red ultralight clears the tops of the trees, heading straight for the craggy, boulder-strewn side of Mount Hope.
The walkie-talkie strapped to my wrist crackles, and Dad’s frantic voice squawks, “Dove, bank left!”
I maintain speed, breathing deeply as cool air rushes past my face, sending ribbons of hair trailing out behind me. The deadly rocks loom closer, and a mix of exhilaration and fear rush through my bloodstream.
“Remember your emergency protocols!”
My fingers encase the throttle so tightly, it might have to be pried from my hand.
“What’s happening? Jesus—”
I regret how helpless my father must feel, believing his only child is about to slam into the side of a mountain. Is he thinking of her, my mother, how he’ll be truly alone in the world if the ultralight ends up crumpled like a discarded ball of paper?
My veins burn. My chest expands and contracts at the same time.
There it is.
At the edge of certain death, I wrench the controls—working hands and feet feverishly—and the ultralight veers up and to the left, slipping past an outcropping. It’s almost as if the space was carved out in anticipation of a reckless, sixteen-year-old girl searching for the ultimate rush.
When the wheels finally touch down, I’m already unstrapped. My father is huffing hard from running, but he’s there, throwing himself at me, lifting and cradling me to his chest like a toddler. He turns around and around, the hazy orb of the sun playing peek-a-boo with me.
His eyes are shut tight, lips mumbling as if in prayer. Then the tears come, and he sits down in the tall grass and holds me close. The bright green blades tickling my cheeks wave proudly around us.
On the way home, the “What the hell were you thinking, young lady?” never comes. It never does. Over and over I stretch the limits of what’s possible, watching my father age before me.
Dad turns on the radio, fingers tapping on the steering wheel. “Do you want to stop for ice cream?”
“No, thanks.” I don’t deserve it.
Guilt is an ugly troll under the bridge of life.
I rest my cheek against the cool glass of the passenger window, wondering why he didn’t mention the impression of my sneaker molded into the floor of the ultralight or the misshapen throttle.
When we arrive home, I pull out my Lofstrand crutches—the annoying walking sticks I use to get around. Right now, I could run or jump or break concrete blocks with my legs and bend steel with my bare hands. For Dad’s benefit, I pretend to struggle out of the car.
A few hours from now, the struggle will be real.
I have a rare disease. It’s so unique, my deceased mother and I are the only documented cases in the world.
Mom died when I was six. My memories of her are mere impressions: warm hugs, soft lips against my ear at night to banish monsters, a cascade of dark curls tickling my skin, striking blue eyes, the voice of an angel singing to me . . . all mashed up with the pain of losing her and memories of Dad walking around like a shell of himself, trying to stuff his feelings inside. I kept watching, waiting for him to explode like a canister snake. I can’t say he’s healed over the past decade, but he copes.
Mom died of “complications” from our mysterious illness. Sometimes Dad looks at me with dread in his eyes when he thinks I’m not looking. I guess I can’t blame him.
After we go inside, Dad disappears into his office, and I disappear into my room. I sit by the window overlooking the backyard and rest my chin on my hands, allowing the gravity of my burden to settle inside my gut and swell—a thirsty sponge sopping up my fear, loneliness, and desire for someone to share this with.
The first surge happened on a roller coaster. As the centipede of cars tipped over the top of the highest summit, adrenaline shot through my veins. I screamed and whooped, but not with fear—with pure joy. And my foot punched a hole in the bottom of the car. For the first time in my life, I didn’t need to lean on anything or anyone in order to walk. The burst of strength lasted six hours. Since then I’ve had to do progressively wilder things to recreate the phenomenon, and each burst seems to be shorter than the last.
An effusion of restlessness invades every muscle and tendon inside me until they’re singing with desire. I need to move or suffer the inevitable pain that comes when I don’t.
I pull a sweatshirt over my head as I pause by the door to my father’s office and knock lightly. “I’m going for a walk.”
I press my cheek to the door. “Love you.”
“And I love you.”
For show, I use my walking sticks to make my way into the woods behind our house, but once away from prying eyes, I collapse them and use the homemade straps I designed to sling them across my back.
Beneath the thick canopy of trees exists a different world, where the sounds of human life melt away. The pungent perfume of damp earth and decaying leaves envelops me. I find a familiar path leading into the valley and start to run, each shockwave reverberating pleasantly up my legs.
I end up at the same place as always, an old train trestle deep in the woods. I love to sit underneath it and scream as loud as possible when the train goes by. The screech and roar of the cars overhead swallow secrets. No words are taboo here; the silence that follows cleanses it all away.
I pick my way through the metal and wood supports until I reach my favorite perch. Anticipation builds inside as the blare of the whistle sounds, the rumble of the arriving train growing louder.
A sudden rending crack splits the air, and the entire trestle shudders. A section of the bridge buckles, sending chunks of debris plunging into the creek. The train will derail!
I scale the metal support closest to the sagging track and crawl onto the crossbeam that runs just below it. Shrieking a war cry, I raise both arms above my head and straighten to full height, becoming a buttress.
As the train barrels over the trestle, I clamp my eyes shut and pray, certain the quaking reverberations will shake me apart. The thundering bullet doesn’t go over me—it surges through me, making me part of its glorious power and creating a rush of adrenaline like no other that explodes through my veins.
After the train is gone, silence returns, carrying forgotten words my mother whispered to me before she died, words that permeate my soul.
“The genetic mix is perfect this time. You will do what I couldn’t, Dove. Be strong. Be brave. Be amazing, sweet girl. I love you.”
My mom knew. I will honor her memory by discovering my true purpose.
PHENOMENA Available NOW