Flygirl

 

Flygirl

The air was cold and cutting up here, ripping past my face and through my hair, tangling knots that I would never forget. Stirring up, lifting up, until I thought I couldn’t go any farther. But I didn’t stop. It was exhilarating and addicting. Every moment was filled with fear, but I never fell. The air was pure up here, tasting like ice crystals from a fresh fall of snow, and I inhaled it slowly so as not to freeze up my lungs. My skin prickled everywhere in the thrill of the speed. I pushed ever so slightly, pushing forward, going faster. I hovered horizontal, then shot vertical, and horizontal again, pulling farther and farther from the ground. You can’t have me, I said. I’m too far from you now.

“You’ll fly someday,” she said, “but not today.”

I vaguely remember her. She had long black silk hair, sharp features, wide black eyes, and was very tall. At least it seemed that way from a child of six years. She would wake me at six in the morning sometimes. This was not easy for a six year old girl who was born a night person.

“We’ll get donuts,” she said to me as I grumbled in bed. “And then we’ll walk to school.”

That did it. That always does it for a child. Sugar. Well, why the hell not! I’ll get up. I didn’t even hear the school part. She’d brush my long golden hair with slow and gentle strokes. She was always careful with me, as if she was afraid she’d snag a knot somewhere and force a cry of pain from me. Then we’d walk to the donut shop a few blocks away from home. The donut shop was through the tall green trees and across the busy street. I was never allowed to cross the street by myself. But Gretchen was with me. It was okay this time.

She held my hand tight as we crossed, her long fingers wrapped around my tiny hand. Her fingers, long and thin. I would look up at her, her hair flowing long and black and straight. She was always so pretty, I thought.

We walked into the donut shop and ordered a box of donuts, some cake, frosted, crème-filled, bearclaws, and my favorite, glazed rope twist. We sat down on a bench near a park by my school and she handed me my glazed rope twist. I finished it in seconds. I was about to reach in for another donut—I had my eye on the chocolate frosted one—but she held me back.

“These are for everyone else,” she said. “You have to share.”

I pulled my hand back silently. I was tempted to say that nobody else eats donuts, but I couldn’t help but feel a sense of guilt. I could have eaten the entire box, and the idea of sharing was so frustrating.

I looked up at my aunt. She didn’t have a donut. She never ate, not that I saw. She sat quietly, with one arm around my shoulders, staring across the park. The park was empty, which was something I rarely saw. Normally it was filled with kids running, playing tag, with bouncing backpacks on their backs. There was nobody out this early. This’ll be my first day not late for class, I thought vaguely. My father usually took me to school. I always got up too late and we always arrived too late…or barely on time. I’d always be the last to walk in.

Not this time! I thought happily. But it would be my last time.

“You know something?” Gretchen said, breaking the silence. I almost forgot she was next to me.

“What?” I responded.

“We are very special,” she said, but she didn’t look at me. “You know why?”

I shook my head no.

“We are flyers,” she said. “You fly sometimes.”

I opened my mouth to say something, to say how did you know?, but shut my mouth. I always felt like I could fly, and that I did sometimes, but never told anyone. How did my aunt know that I could? But she said she could too.

“I’ll be flying again soon,” she continued, still staring across the empty park. “But I won’t be coming back.”

“Where are you going?” I asked curiously, looking up at her. Her face was pale, always pale and colorless.

She didn’t answer. Her black eyes glazed over and I didn’t understand.

I followed her gaze, across the thick green grass, the soft brown dirt outlining a child’s baseball field, the silver metal swings, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. My aunt continued to stare, however.

“I want to fly there too,” I said absently, if for no other reason but that I didn’t know what to say.

“No,” she said, turning to look at me finally. But her body remained still and cold. Her arm around my shoulders never felt soft, but boney and hard. “You can’t go there. Not yet.”

“How come you’re going then?” I said.

“Because it’s my turn,” she said. “I don’t belong here. Neither do you, but that’s okay. I just can’t stay anymore. You’ll understand, someday.”

“But where are you going?” I pushed. I hated never having all the answers.

“Far away,” she said. “Just for a little while.” But that last comment seemed like an after thought, as if she was saying it just for me.

A blew out a puff of air in frustration. Bad enough I couldn’t eat another donut, but now my aunt wasn’t giving me straight answers. Adults always did that. And I hated it. I crossed my arms in defiance.

She laughed and pulled me close then. “It’s okay, hunny,” she said. “You’ll fly someday. But not today.”

Later, not long after, she died. Shot herself. At least that was what I had heard. A part of me imagined she wasn’t really dead, that she had flown off like she said she would, and that the body in the coffin was just her doppelganger or something.

She flew away to the other side, wherever that may be.

At six, I decided I’d try to follow. It was windy out, so that would help lift me, I thought. The trees’ branches swayed and brushed against the roof of the house. I stood on my bed, leaning out the open window. The wind, warmed by the summer sun, gently played with my long golden curls. My blue-green eyes widened in anticipation. I stepped out the window, my bare feet gripping the rubbery black-blue shingles, and jumped.

I didn’t need a running start, like I thought I would. I hovered a few inches above the roof of my house. I felt heavy, like the ground was trying to pull me back down, but I pushed away with my hands and lifted higher. I pushed again and again until I was a good distance above my house and the trees. I averted my gaze from the ground to the sky, overcast in grey-white clouds, as was typical of Chicago. The sun glowed brightly behind them.

That’s where I was heading. The sun. I pushed hard this time with my arms and flew straight up. The air instantly cooled around me, tugging at my hair, clothes, stinging my eyes as I flew faster. I was aware that I had stopped breathing and couldn’t catch my breath as I continued farther up. I didn’t care. I didn’t need to breathe. I had the air lifting me instead. I pushed through the clouds. Cold moisture immediately layered my body, prickling my skin. The clouds slowed my progress, so I pushed even harder until I broke through the grey and into the bright gold light of the sun’s rays.

Warmth engulfed my body, drying my wet skin and hair. The air was barely a whisper up here just a few feet above the roiling clouds. I stared at the sun.

“You can’t come here,” she said. “Go back.”

“But I can fly there and fly back,” I said.

“No,” her voice echoed from somewhere all around. “It’s not your turn.”

“But I don’t belong here either!” I shouted to the sky. “I want to leave and go where you are!”

“It’s not your turn. Not today.”

“I can’t stay here! I can’t stand it! I’ll fly far, I will!” My feet brushed the tops of the clouds as I said this, briefly catching moisture on my toes. That’s when I realized I was sinking. The pull was strong on my ankles, and then it reached my knees and soon I was waist deep in the grey clouds.

“No! Don’t take it from me,” I cried helplessly, trying to push away from the deep of the clouds, flailing as I was falling through. “I want to go too, I want to go too!”

“You’ll fly someday…but not today…”

And I dropped. I fell backwards, watching the sun vanish behind the roiling grey-white clouds, watching as the puffy moisture swirled as I cut a path through its travels, watching as I broke through only to see a darkening layer of rain cloud forming above me. I reached out as if to grab a hand, but there was nothing there to grab. I continued my fall, my hair clinging and whipping my face as if it were desperately trying to reach out to the sky as well. The air was colder now, cutting through me like icicles. And then I finally landed, flat on my back, in the cushion of green grass. I laid motionless for what felt like forever.

Then a little droplet of water fell into my eye, strangely warm and soothing. I blinked it away and propped myself on my elbows. I was in the park near my school. And it was starting to rain.

But I didn’t care. My wings were gone.

The rain came hard then, soaking my gold hair to dark, sticking my clothes to my skin. And I sat there in the green-brown grass, letting the rain flood my eyes, staring up into the sky, waiting for the day when I could fly again. Someday.

Stargirl: part 2

 

Superman Returns by John Ottman

Listen while you read.

stargirl

I left Earth once.

I was sixteen years old and I was standing on Endor’s fourth moon, surrounded by the dark jungle of giant trees, smelling the damp earth rise from beneath my shoes, and the warm air, still and clingy, engulfing me as I watched Luke finish building the fire pit. He didn’t want help when I offered.

In the distance, I could hear the Ewok and Rebel Alliance celebration: singing, cheering, the clanging of instruments.

I was still in my shimmery red gown, smelling of burnt skin and silk. My flesh felt like it was pulled so tightly over my frame that if I dared to move, it would split and spill my insides out.

Luke didn’t seem to notice his similar injuries. He had finished the fire grave and was levitating his father’s body on top. And then he lit it with a torch. Fire enveloped the wood and soon Darth Vader’s body, the terror of the galaxy, his ashes floating up into the sky.

Luke stood watching in solemn silence. I moved to stand next to him. He didn’t seem to notice me there. I felt his sadness, but beneath it was a sense of hope. It was finally over. And he hadn’t failed. He saved the only father he’d ever known to have, even if their reconciliation lasted for only a few minutes. There was hope still, for him, Leia, Han, and the Alliance. Where they would go from here, who knew?

“I’ll be leaving soon after the celebration,” I said quietly. I had decided my time in this universe had ended. But Luke wouldn’t know that. He would only think I was to disappear somewhere in his galaxy. It didn’t matter what he thought, after all. My adventure—my experience—was over. I had learned what it was like to be outside my world and that I couldn’t change the things to come.

“I’m sorry—“ but that’s all I could make out. What I was going to say sounded stupid and pointless. He won’t care that I tricked him into thinking I was someone else (and I really was someone else anyhow) because he wouldn’t remember me after I left.

I looked at him, his melancholy profile shadowed in firelight. He didn’t look back. This was as close as I’d ever be. And he hated me. I didn’t sense it, so to speak, but I might as well have guessed it.

Without another word, I turned and left Luke alone in the red-orange firelight and returned to the Ewok village. I wanted to feel what the others felt (joy, love, real happiness) before I left.

The celebration was wild and jumping. The bearlike Ewoks singing in a language I could not understand, but it felt like victory words. Leia, Han, the Wookie Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian all gathered in a tight circle, laughing, embracing. Wedge Antilles and the other Rogue Squadron pilots stood off to another side, clapping each other’s backs, playfully pushing each other around. They paid no attention to the girl in the red dress, obviously overdressed and sticking out like a warning beacon in the midst of browns, greens and greys. They didn’t care. The battle was won. But the Empire wasn’t beaten yet. It still had control of the capitol planet, Coruscant, and it was the Alliance’s job to overtake it. That would happen on another day, though.

Tonight, they drank, ate, and cheered each other and their survival.

I stood off to the side, watching in wonderment. R2-D2, the silver and blue astromech droid, bumped into my leg. I glanced down and smiled. R2 tweeted and cooed at me, and remained at my side.

“Luke!” I heard Han call out.

And there he was, smiling and embracing his sister Leia, coming in for another by Han Solo. Everyone gathered around Luke, relief flooding through those who hadn’t known if Luke had survived the destruction or not.

It was time, I thought. I turned away, but then in front of me, flickering into view were the soft white-blue silhouettes of Ben Kenobi, Yoda, and then, finally, Anakin Skywalker. They were looking right at me, smiling. I thought they wouldn’t have recognized me, but somehow they knew who I was.

Then I noticed Luke standing directly beside me. I hadn’t even realized it until he turned to smile at me. All the hurt was gone. He seemed more at peace now.

“Where will you be going?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, although I knew exactly where I was going. “Somewhere away from all of this. To start a new life, I suppose. The Empire will think their only other rightful heir was also killed in the destruction of the Death Star. The Moffs will be fighting for power. It’ll be the perfect time for me to disappear.”

Luke nodded slowly, then said, “You could stay here, with the Alliance. They could use someone with your knowledge. It will definitely help the tide of the war.”

I shook my head no. “I’m not sure if that would be a good idea. If I were discovered alive…well, let’s just say the Moffs won’t stop to try to kill me and anyone near me.”

Luke then turned me to face him, his blue eyes full of sincerity and confidence. “You are now exactly how I met you. Alone, your family killed. If you stay with us, you’ll have somewhere to be. You can start again. Think about it, Christalee. And if you still don’t think it’s a good idea, you can always leave any time you want.”

I wanted to stay, more than anything. Looking into his ocean-blue eyes, I felt suddenly like I belonged, that this was where I was meant to be…maybe…possibly. I smiled and Luke embraced me in a warm hug.

“Come on,” he said brightly, “I’ll introduce you to Leia and Han.”

***

I decided to try it for a couple of days, to see how long I could stay in this universe. Days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months, and before I knew it, I was apart of a culture I only ever dreamed of. Luke and I had agreed to keep my identity as the Imperial Princess a secret, even to Leia and Han. I became a Rogue Squadron leader, fighting alongside Wedge Antilles, helping break through the security defenses of Corsucant and fighting the Empire into a little corner of the galaxy. This took years, of course, and before I knew it, I was in my late twenties. I had helped bring up the New Republic after the Empire had been finally beaten. I became Leia’s personal aide and guard when she became Chief of State. When I wasn’t with Leia, I was with Luke, helping him create the Jedi Academy. There were many times when I tried to leave, or when I thought it was a “good idea” to leave. Luke and I would have an argument about his decisions. I would tell him not to do something, or not to trust somebody, and he would fight with me on my reasons. Those reasons being because I couldn’t give him one. I couldn’t tell him how I knew certain things were to happen because I would give away my real identity: which was that I didn’t belong there.

I knew bits and pieces of the future, but it didn’t help. I would save Luke’s life in extremely impossible situations, and he’d wonder how I did it. It pained me that I couldn’t let him know who I really was, or how I was able to seem invincible. And I wondered on that too, how I was able to have nearly unlimited power. The longer I stayed in Skywalker’s world, the more powerful and knowledgeable I became. I slowly began to forget home, becoming fully integrated into this other world.

Before long I was in my thirties. Luke and I had become very close friends, but there was something else. There was romance somewhere, but we both buried it far below. I knew Luke was afraid to let anything more happen between us because of his bad luck with women (every romantic relationship he’d ever had either ended up in betrayal of the worst kind: assassination attempts, death, or mysterious disappearances). I was afraid because I knew I’d have to leave someday.

Luke and I were two of a handful of Jedi Masters at this point, with an academy going strong. Leia and Han had been married and had three children who attended the academy. I was still involved in the political affairs of the New Republic, splitting my time between the Jedi Academy and the capitol. Lando wanted to sweep me off my feet, much to Luke’s annoyance, and I let him take me out on a few wild space nights. Nothing that amounted to anything but a good friendship in the end.

By the time I was in my late thirties almost forties, I had resigned as a personal aide, left the academy temporarily to embark on some “legal” smuggling missions with Mara Jade and Talon Karrde. A year flew by and I had been out of touch with Luke, Leia, and Han. Then a rescue mission forced Luke and I back together. That was when we had decided to forget about our inhibitions (that made no sense anyhow!) and allow ourselves to grow into more than just “close friends.” This rescue mission had me nearly drowning in cave of water when Luke openly cried out, “I love you.”

I found it to be perfect timing.

In all this time, I had been kidnapped, tortured, stabbed, brainwashed, seduced, shot, enslaved, hunted, and exiled.

And in all this, I had fallen in love.

Then the Yuuzhan Vong came, an alien race from another galaxy that existed outside of the Force, and they nearly wiped out our civilization, changing our planets to adapt to their lifestyle. The darkest years of our lives painfully crept by. Every day knowing you survived was a day to be grateful. But then you feared to sleep. Leia lost her youngest son to the Vong. Chewbacca was also lost. Jacen, Leia’s oldest son, and I were captured during a near-fail mission to eradicate one of the Vong’s most brutal weapons to the Jedi: acid spitting wolf-like creatures undetectable by the Force. Jacen was tortured, but after a year, he escaped. I was tortured as well, and became the plaything for the fleet commander Warmaster Tsavong Lah. He was fascinated by the Jedi and the “magic” we could wield. So he kept me as a pet on a leash. I eventually escaped, stabbing the warmaster straight through the heart with his own amphistaff.

Through the years of fighting for our lives, our homes, our planets, Luke and I had a child: a boy we named Ben. I couldn’t believe it! I had a little boy with little blue eyes and a little nose and a little mouth, little feet, hands, toes and fingers.

I never felt anything like it. The feeling of overwhelming love. The connection I felt with him through the Force was unimaginable. He was my child. Every day was a wonder—and a nightmare, because the war hadn’t ended yet. An animalistic side in me grew when I fought against the Vong. I wanted to wipe them out, one by one, so that my baby could grow up in a safer place. I refused to lose my child the way Leia lost hers.

Suddenly the tides had turned, and we finally had the upper hand. After finding a solution between our two peoples, that solution being a living planet called Zonama Sekot, which seemed to be a portion of their homeworld, a wary peace finally spread across the galaxy.

Sitting across from my child playing in our apartment on Ossus, the new home for the Jedi Academy, I watched him attempt to levitate a ball off the floor. He was barely two years old. It reminded me of when I was two years, sitting next to my cousin, fighting over a doll she thought best to pull away from me. My mother surprising both of us. I froze, thinking I was in trouble for “not sharing.” But then my mother pulled out a camera and flashed us with a bright light. Just a picture. She only wanted a picture. So I’m not in trouble after all—

Mother? What mother? I was grown in a tube. —No you weren’t, you were grown in a womb.

I sat, watching my son lift the ball successfully into the air, smiling and giggling as he let it bounce back to the floor.

“I could never do that at two,” I said to Ben, smiling. Ben looked over to me, a wide smile spreading across his face, a few baby teeth glistening in the pale yellow sunlight which flooded the room from the large viewport.

“Momma!” he burst, then crawled towards where his ball rolled away to.

Of course you couldn’t at two because there is no such thing as the Force where you’re from.

I frowned. Where am I from? Coruscant. No. Corellia. No!

I was forty-six years old, with a two year-old child, and—No you’re not! You are not forty-six. Forty-four? No. Forty? No!

Well then WHAT AM I ???

I sat in silence. Ben was staring at me, a tiny little crease indenting his forehead. His big blue eyes showed worry. I gasped in air suddenly, realizing I had not been breathing for a handful amount of seconds, and tears began to burn my eyes. I’m not from here.

“Ben—“ But I stopped, my throat closing in on me. I already knew what needed to be done. I had stayed too long, far too long. I took Ben into my arms, pressing him tightly against my chest, and rushed to a neighboring apartment, one where Ben had spent many nights when Luke and I were away on missions.

Corran Horn’s son, Valin answered the door. Valin was a Jedi Knight. I told him I had to find Master Skywalker quickly and that it was very important. Ben’s little fingers gripped my shirt-blouse and wrapped into my long golden blonde hair. When I tried to place Ben in Valin’s arms, he pulled a part of me with him.

“Mommy,” he called out. He could sense my despair and knew something was wrong. His tiny fingers reached out for me. Valin held Ben tightly, but was becoming worried himself. Valin must have been only thirteen or fourteen.

OR MAYBE SIXTEEN!!!

“No!” I barked. And I realized I made Valin jump away, scaring Ben too. “I’m sorry, Valin. I’m sorry, Ben. It’ll be okay,” I said. My eyes began to burn again. “Valin, I want you to contact Mara Jade quickly. Tell her that—“ My throat closed again. I swallowed a couple of times until it cleared somewhat. “Tell her that I need her to watch over my son.”

I turned away as fast as I could before the look on Ben’s desperate, round face changed my mind. I had to go home. I felt something was wrong there. I had to get back to my family, to my life that I once knew, but couldn’t seem to remember too well.

You don’t belong here. You never have…

I kept going, even as I heard Ben crying for me to come back, and made my way to my ship, the Starfire. From there I sent Luke an urgent message with coordinates for a meeting place.

When I finally arrived on the Sanctuary Moon of Endor, I landed my ship in a field clearing. Exiting the Starfire, I walked up to a hill that looked over into a valley of forest. The breeze was cooler for Endor this time of year. I could still hear the distant tribal hunting calls of the Ewok, the smaller, more subtle clicks of the insects, and the rustle of leaves and creaking tree trunks as the wind played gently through them.

“You know I can feel your panic from thousands of kilometers away,” Luke said from behind me. “’Urgent’ message is rather redundant, don’t you think?”

I smiled. He was nervous. He knew I was thinking of doing something. I could barely hide anything from him these days—these years!

“Where are you going, Christalee?” he said. He was now directly behind me. I could feel his warmth radiate off of him. And I was going to have to give this up?

I turned slowly to look at him, his deep blue eyes accented by subtle creases of age, his mouth bent into a soft smile, but there was tension behind it.

“You know how you’ve always wanted to know how I know things?” I started. “Things that I knew would happen and did happen. And I said to you that I couldn’t tell you. It used to drive you crazy.”

“Yes,” he nodded, still smiling. “I remember. And I decided to stop pressing you about it because I figured eventually you would tell me.” He pulled me in close, wrapping his arms around my waist. “Is this that time?”

I looked up into his eyes, my throat constricting on me again. I swallowed hard, my face hardening as I did so.

Luke’s smile melted away. But his body stayed calm, no twitching of nervous muscles, and he kept a solid grip around my waist.

“Yes,” I barely made out. I cleared my throat again. “Yes, this is that time.”

Luke stayed silent.

“I am not who you think I am,” I continued, and as I spoke, I slowly slipped from Luke’s embrace. “I wasn’t supposed to be here this long.”

Luke kept quiet, but I could see the multitude of questions forming on his face.

“The night we met on Endor was supposed to be it,” I said. “But I stayed because I wanted to know what it was like to be a part of this—your—world. The longer I stayed, the harder it was to leave. I fell in love with this place. And I fell in love with you. And it seemed as if everything was okay here, that I was allowed to be here. I forgot about where I came from and the life that I had had. I made a life with you. With Leia and Han. Chewie and Lando. I didn’t want to let it go.

“But the longer I stayed here, the more my world fell away. My world is in danger now and I have to go back. I have to help save it.”

Luke was dumbfounded. “I don’t understand,” he said. “What world? What danger? Let me come with you to help you—“

“No, that’s the thing, you can’t,” I said, and a sudden serenity fell over me, even as I saw the panic grow in Luke’s deep blue eyes. “Where I’m going, you can’t follow. Our two universes can never meet.

“Let me show you who I really am.” I took a step back and a white-gold shimmer haloed around my body. My face, lined with the same age as Luke’s, dissolved into my younger self, and the jumpsuit I wore was replaced by jeans and a simple t-shirt. Then I pointed towards an empty spot on the hill. White light shot from my fingers and opened up a portal. Inside the portal was, at first, black with stars, then, rising into view, my home planet.

Luke stood in completely awe, watching a blue and green planet merge into view on the other side of the portal.

“This is where I’m from,” I said, wistfully watching as the image moved past the planet’s atmosphere, through thick white clouds, racing over the blue-black oceans, reaching city-scape, forests, rolling dunes, deserts, mountains, and then—

“My home,” I said, as a medium-sized house flew into view. “I’m from Earth.” I turned to Luke.

He stood there, unable to move, a deeply sad understanding sinking onto his visage.

“And I can’t come with you,” he said, and it wasn’t a question.

I shook my head no. “It’s too far away from here,” I said. “Luke, I never belonged in your universe. I have to go back and save my world.”

“Don’t do it,” he said suddenly, moving forward ever so slightly, as if afraid one more step would make me run. “Don’t leave us. You can’t.”

I went to him, wrapping my arms around his neck, knowing that this was it, that this was my last chance to feel this, before it all went away.

“Luke, when I leave…” my voice trailed off. I cleared my throat. “After I leave, you won’t remember this.”

“No, you can’t—“

“You won’t remember anything and all will be as it should be,” I said firmly. “The way it was meant to be. But I will always love you. Know that.” I choked and my eyes burned so hotly that I couldn’t stop the tears this time.

“You and Ben will always feel loved,” I continued brokenly, “even if you don’t know where it’s coming from.”

“Don’t…” And then I kissed him before he could try to say anymore. I knew this was my last chance, my last kiss, my last moment to feel this way, before reality sucked me into the portal. It was beyond anything I could imagine, this feeling. Kidnapped, tortured, stabbed, brainwashed, seduced, shot, enslaved, hunted, exiled, and loved.

And loved back.

I broke the connection. I stepped towards the portal. My home was in there. The sun was shining bright in both worlds. The wind picked up, a burst of pine rode with it, and it was even cooler this time in my Earthling t-shirt. I looked back at Luke one last time before stepping through. Clad, still, in all black, his lightsaber dangling at his side, his brown hair ruffled by the wind, and his blue eyes glittering brightly in the sunlight.

“Christanna,” he said. How did he know my real name? “Will you remember?”

I smiled. “I’ll remember everything.” I stepped through the portal.

***

I was back.

I was nineteen years old. I stood standing in the gravel outside my parents’ house. Time had passed by, but not a lot. The sun beat hotly on my skin and I felt a trickle of sweat trail down my spine.

“Mom? Dad?” I called out. No one was home yet. That was usual. I wondered if they even knew I was gone. That I went to the stars and back.

I looked behind me where the portal had been. There was no trace of it. As if it never happened. But I remembered everything.

Sweat built up on my brow, I made myself move towards my parents’ house and go inside—shut the door—waited for them to come home—and never looked back.

But, every once in a while, I’d look up.

Stargirl

 

 

Superman Returns by John Ottman

Listen while you read.

stargirl

I left Earth once.

I was sixteen years old, home alone, watching Return of the Jedi. It was dusk, and I knew I would have the house to myself again, a medium-sized house in the middle of a mountain pass surrounded by nothing but forest and brush, all half dead and dried-out. I spent most of my hours alone in the Family Room, marathoning movies like Aliens and Star Wars until I’d had the entire series memorized.

This night felt different. My attention was split between the television screen (Luke, Leia, and Han entering the Sanctuary Moon of Endor’s atmosphere) and the red sun sinking behind the mountainous terrain outside my window. A blanket of star-studded black inked out the red sky. Luke and Han were being held hostage by the Ewoks. I felt a wave of yearning like little pinpricks across my skin. How I wanted so much to be apart of something else, to live in a different world and time, to travel beyond the mountains and the moon and the stars.

I blinked my attention back on the screen. Threepio just assisted in the release of Han and Luke’s capture, and Leia came out greeting them both. Blink—the sky was fully black with only half of the moon reflecting a soft silver light. If I wanted, I could go there. But I would have to do it now. This was my only chance.

I took a deep breath, looked back at the television screen, Luke and Leia were just discovering each other’s familial relationship, and I blinked hard.

I kept my eyes shut. A warm breeze floated by and the sound of night animals echoed in the distance. It smelled like pine and rich green lush, damp, with a hint of earth.

I opened my eyes. I was surrounded by trees, their tops disappearing in the darkness above. Distant stars glittered faintly through the thick foliage at the top, and the animal sounds became more distinct. They were the creatures called Ewoks, their tribal calls echoing throughout the jungle of giant tree trunks.

I shivered slightly, despite the warm air. I glanced down. My clothes had changed. I wore only a crude leather skirt and top, two pieces that barely covered me, and I wore sandals made of simple flatwood and string. The entire outfit looked to be more Ewokish than human, but big enough to be fitted onto me.

Why was I here?

Oh yes! I remembered. I was sent down to Endor by my father, the Emperor. I was on a secret mission, that’s right! To make certain that Vader did not betray my father and join Luke Skywalker in a revolt. I had to make sure that Vader took Skywalker to the Death Star and that he was brought before my father, so that, in the end, Skywalker and my father could negotiate a way of peace and end the war between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance. I knew that Luke was Vader’s son and so did my father. If Luke could be persuaded, the rest of the Alliance would follow.

Of course, I knew the truth. I knew the Emperor wanted Luke to join the Dark Side of the Force and that my “father” was evil. But I was here now. I had to play along, otherwise they would all discover I didn’t belong.

I heard footsteps suddenly, off to my right and further down a bit. It was Luke Skywalker, fully dressed in a black jumpsuit, lightsaber hanging by his side. He was moving towards the direction of the Imperial shield generator.

I couldn’t believe it! It was really him!

I moved to follow, quickly in order to catch up. I only made it a few steps before Luke whirled on me, his right gloved hand trying hard not to rip at his lightsaber. He was, after all, preparing to surrender to the Imperial forces.

Surprise washed over his sullen face, his blue eyes glistening in the dark. “Who are you?” he demanded.

I paused. Who was I, after all? I had to think up a name fast. Lee, Chris, Lilliya (no, that’s another story!) Christalee!

“I am Christalee,” I said. I was elated. I couldn’t believe this was really happening. It took all my willpower to keep myself from springing around in some sort of wild ecstasy. Focus, Christalee, or else Luke will become suspicious and I will lose this chance! “I am with the Ewok tribe,” I lied, grimacing at my pathetic excuse. I should have rehearsed something before… “I followed you here because I overheard that you were going to the shield generator—to turn yourself in.”

“That is true,” he said, cautiously. But he said no more, starring at me in bewilderment, probably wondering why he hadn’t sensed me following him.

“You shouldn’t go.” What?! Of course he should.

“I don’t know you,” he said, coming a step closer. “But I think it would be best if you returned to the village.”

“If you’re going to the generator, I’m coming with. You’ll need someone at your back,” I said.

His mouth twitched into a wry smile. “Thank you for your concern, Christalee,” he said, shaking his head. “But what I’m doing must be done alone. Go back to the village. It’s safer there.”

He turned and continued steadily towards the shield generator. I followed (and I couldn’t believe that I was following!).

Luke stopped and turned around. “I’m very serious,” he said. “Please go back to the village. I won’t be able to protect you.”

“I’m not the one needing protection,” I said. “The Empire killed my family, Luke. I have nothing left. My decision here is my own and if I choose to follow you, so that I might have a purpose in life, to face the dangers with you, to fight next to you, that is my choice.” As the words tumbled from my mouth, I was astounded. My lie was getting better and better!

Luke stood there, struggling to argue back, but the expression on his face said that he felt pity. There was nothing he could argue against what I said, because he was that person too.

“I don’t know why you want to do this,” Luke said. “But I guess I can’t stop you. Remember, I won’t be able to protect you.” With that, his face fell sad, and he turned to continue towards the generator.

And I followed. I followed Luke Skywalker, the man with the green lightsaber. My adventure was beginning.

It all happened so quickly. Once we reached the perimeter, we were surrounded by Imperial troops. They shackled Luke and me, taking us into the base. There, Vader stormed in with his usual stride. I felt his surprise when he looked upon me (that’s right! I now had the Force). He recognized me and ultimately knew I was there to watch him. He gestured for the stormtroopers to take me into the shuttle, leaving himself and Luke alone for a minute.

As I sat inside the shuttle waiting, I could sense Luke’s struggle to convince his father to turn good again. The writhing battle of emotions: anger, sadness, and a strange hint of betrayal, all came at me in one blow. I choked, a wave of dizziness coming over me, and I fought back the urge to cry. I had to figure this Force stuff out fast before it overwhelmed me; it obviously took me by surprise that I had any connection at all.

But of course I did! I was the daughter of the Emperor, genetically engineered to be the strongest human in the Force. I had been bred in a tube, injected with midichlorians every growth cycle. I was one of many, but the only human to have developed successfully. All the others were terminated.

Soon, Luke joined me in the shuttle, Vader following a few minutes later. We took off for the Death Star.

Luke didn’t speak the whole trip. But I knew what he was thinking: that this was either the end or the beginning, that he might be on his way to die, that he would fail and the Alliance would fail…that this girl next to him might die too.

When we reached the moon-sized space station, Luke and I were separated. However, my experience was quite different. Everyone recognized me and stiffened noticeably when I walked by. I pulled an android aside to escort me to my quarters (because I had no idea my way around this station!) The android took me without question. (It’s all here, it’s all real!)

As soon as I changed into something more regal, a shimmery red gown, the material fitting around my sixteen year-old body in a way more appropriate for adults, I made my way to the Throne Room. I knew Luke and Vader would be there already, and I had no trouble finding this place. I reached out for Luke and found him. I also caught a glimpse of my so-called “father.” My skin crawled at the vast darkness I sensed in him. It was as if there was a deep, black hole in which something with teeth lurked, and if I got too close, it would grab me and drag me down to eat me.

I arrived at the Throne Room.

“Ah, my child,” the Emperor said, his voice drawing a shiver up my back. “Join us. We were just discussing the future of the galaxy.”

I made my way up the black, metal stairs, glancing at Vader who did not acknowledge me, glancing at Luke, whose eyes were full of accusation and shock as he stared me down, and then I finally dared to meet the Emperor’s burning gaze.

He smiled. Not a nice smile. It was full of evil and contempt, power and murderous desire. Pale light glinted off his rotten teeth. I repressed a shudder.

I stood by the left of my father’s chair. Vader was on the right. He hated me. I could sense it. Luke almost hated me too. It occurred to me that my father wanted this, so that I could assist in the turning of Luke to the dark side.

Luke gave me one more disdainful look before turning back to the viewport. Out in space, the battle was raging between Imperial and Alliance ships.

“…now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station!” I heard my father say.

And then it started. A few more taunts and Luke was ripping his lightsaber off the Emperor’s chair, swinging. I cried out, No!, before I even realized it. And Vader interjected his red blade to block Luke’s green one.

They fought. The Emperor laughed. I stood helpless. There was an uncontrollable urge to run out there and stop them, father and son, from cutting each other down. Then Luke yielded, briefly, flying up to one of the higher-up walkways. Vader let loose his blade, vibrant red slicing neatly through black metal, sparks flying, and Luke’s platform crashed with him on it.

I moved forward instinctually, but the Emperor grabbed my wrist—knobby, cold fingers wrapping like an iron shackle.

“Wait, my child,” he murmured, his voice like a whispery husk.

I could feel Luke’s fear and pain and hopelessness. He was failing. And I couldn’t help him. And then a sudden rage built up from beneath the Throne Room’s floor where Luke was hiding and Vader was hunting. The rage was followed by a scream so strong it cut through the air as hot as a laser from a lightsaber: the word Never!

And then Vader was being overthrown by Luke wildly swinging his saber in every direction. One blow after another blow. Until Vader fell to his side against one of the bottomless shaft’s rail guards. Another blow, swing, crash, slice—Luke sheared through Vader’s right hand, it and the red lightsaber disappearing down the shaft. Luke pointed the tip of his green blade beneath Vader’s mask.

The Emperor laughed. “Good,” he said. “Good.”

Then something happened. Luke stopped, looked at his right hand, then disengaged his lightsaber. “I’ll never turn to the dark side,” he said. “You failed, Your Highness. I am a Jedi. Like my father before me.”

Silence. I watched my father carefully, who had moved ever so slightly down the metal stairs towards Skywalker. But he was perfectly still. And I felt it—what was coming. An unstoppable wave, dark and suffocating. I knew that if Luke didn’t join my father, he was to be killed.

“So be it,” the Emperor said. “Jedi.”

“No!” I screamed out, flying forward to intersect the arcs of lightning that shot out from my father’s fingers.

I crashed right into Luke, knocking us both down in writhing electrical spasms.

The Emperor’s golden, burning gaze stared at me in horror. Then anger. Then a strange mix of serenity and control reflected in his eyes. “My child,” he said. “You too, then, shall die.”

Luke and I lay there waiting for the coming blow. It came all too quickly, the flesh burning under the arcs of electricity. We couldn’t help but cry out in response. Seconds passed like hours, it seemed, and death couldn’t be any slower. The Emperor would stop and start and stop again just to torture us with words of victory.

And all Vader did was watch. But through all the painful spasms, lightning licking at my limbs, crawling up my skull and injecting my eye sockets with fiery needles, I could sense in Vader his own torment. His sudden sense of doubt.

I thought I heard Luke scream out Father!, but I couldn’t be sure. I was deaf from the pounding in my head. So I yelled out, “Vader! Do something!” My teeth clamped back down together in another violent wave of convulsions.

Suddenly, I heard a new voice join the screaming, an old man’s scream, and the burning ceased. I looked up and saw Vader carrying the Emperor—my father—towards the shaft. Lightning crackled down my father and into Vader. And then he released, throwing my father down the shaft, screaming all the way. A few seconds later, a blue energy erupted from the hole of the shaft. Vader collapsed. And my father, the Emperor, was dead.

Luke was next to me, watching too. He glanced at me, gasping for breath, and then forced himself up to cradle his own father, the father he never knew, and would never know. I watched, stunned, my skin smoking. It smelled like charred meat and metal.

After what seemed like the longest minutes of our lives, we were able to get to our feet, sling Vader’s arms about our shoulders and carry him to a shuttle. The Death Star was about to explode, the evacuate sirens were blaring. Luke and I collapsed at the shuttle’s lip. I ran inside to start up the engines. I don’t know how I knew, but things were starting to just come to me, as if I’d known all along. By the time the engines were warm enough to take off, Vader had died and Luke was dragging his father’s corpse onto the ship.

Metal beams and platforms were crashing all around the shuttle as it slowly lifted off the floor. A fireball followed closely behind us as we left the landing bay. Luke and I both gasped in relief. The Death Star exploded in a glittering firework frenzy behind us. And we rode the trip back down to the Sanctuary Moon of Endor in silence.

—TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 2—