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The Wishing Map
Chapter Eight: Liulah (Continued)
Previously: Zack had begun changing into a cloud shepherd, and in the process forgotten about his lost sister.
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It would be nice to think Zack struggled against the change. But he didn’t. He embraced it. Yet somewhere in the deepest part of his mind he knew he was sacrificing something—or someone—in exchange for the safety and pleasure he was enjoying. He just couldn’t remember who it was.
They played for two days straight. Not that they knew it—sylphs don’t count time as humans do, in fact they don’t count time at all. Neither do they sleep. But they do think, and sometime during the second day, Liulah began to think very hard. She spoke the word “sister” out loud to herself over and over again. Finally she said, “Brother,” and in that instant some long-lost synaptic pilot light was relit.
“Hey!” she screamed as she jerked Zack out of the air mid-bounce and threw him to the ground. “You said you have a sister.” She looked strangely troubled. “I think I had a brother once.” Speaking the word aloud almost seemed to cause her physical pain. “I shouldn’t have taken you. I just wanted someone to play with.”
“I know,” Zack glissed as he jumped up beside her, “and I love to play! Now we can play forever and no one will ever try and stop us or make us act like grown-ups! We can—”
“What’s your sister’s name?”
“Your sister. You said you had a sister. What’s her name?”
“Oh, yeah…uh…I forget. Anyway it’s not important.”
“Yes, it is! You said you had to save her!”
“I did? Oh, well, it doesn’t matter now. Now we can play forev—”
Liulah grabbed his arm and dragged him across the luminescent courtyard into a dull gray chamber. The floor squished beneath their feet as they walked. At the other side, she stopped and threw out her light-staff. It became flat and dotted with spikes. She pressed it into the floor. Zack heard a SLOOOOSH like the sound of a bathtub emptying, and noticed that the floor was growing whiter and dryer.
“Did you just make it rain?”
“Uh-huh.” She grabbed his arm again and began pulling him down a long hallway.
“But what about thunder and lightning? Don’t you need those to—”
“’Dunder and lyning?’ Those are just myths. We don’t have that kind of magic.”
“The Gerdan Tinkurs tried to make dunder and lyning once. Father Cloud said they almost destroyed Gerd trying. That’s why we’re here: the sylphs are the ones who move the clouds and make it rain. ‘Dunder and lyning!’ Everyone knows those aren’t real. Rain can’t just make itself, you know.”
“It does in Middleton. Hey, I think maybe I was from there once.”
“Well, Miggletom must be more magical than here!” Liulah grew sullen again. She pointed out a hole. About thirty miles away was a mountainous stack of cumulus. “We have to go there!”
She hurled her light-staff across the sky. It arced like a rainbow and then hooked into the immense cloud formation. Zack felt a jolt as he and Liulah began sailing toward the mountain of mist. A minute later they bumped into the larger cloud like a dinghy docking against an ocean liner.
“Cool!” Zack said. “This’ll be an awesome place to play!“
“No it won’t! My parents live here.”
“’Parents.’ I remember those…I think.”
Liulah grabbed his face and pulled it toward hers. There was rain in her eyes. “I had a brother once!”
“Oh…but that’s not important because—”
“Yes, it is! It’s terribly important! And you have a sister. What’s her name? Think!” She stared at him, willing him to remember.
“Gina,” he said suddenly, “her name was Gina. Was? Or is? I’m not sure. Why can’t I remember?”
“Because you’re becoming a sylph!”
Zack fell backward, but he didn’t drop to the ground like a skinny almost-thirteen-year-old human, he floated down and stuck—like a sylph. He glanced at his arm, more out of curiosity than alarm, and noticed that his red jacket was almost completely gone, replaced by a garment of cloud. “Cool!”
“No! It’s not ‘cool,’ it’s bad, and it’s my fault!”
Liulah jerked him to his feet and dragged him right through the cloud wall into the interior of the grown-up cloud next door.
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Thoughts: Have you ever manipulated someone, and then felt remorse? What did you do next? Did you fix that bridge? Or did you burn it?
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