Annie trudged down the steep rocky path. "Was the path this long before?"
"I - don't - think - so!" Lexi huffed and puffed up another huge hill.
"Do you guys wanna take a break?" Riley asked. Without waiting for an answer, she plopped down on a small boulder amidst the scratchy underbrush and dead trees. The others followed suit and for a minute or two, they could only breath heavily.
"Riley, can I see that rock again?" Annie asked quietly.
"Sure." Riley reached into the pocket of her running crops and handed the smooth stone to the shy girl. The other girls also held it so the rock was suspended by their fingers. The noon sun reached its highest point and shone down on the translucent rock. The three girls looked at each other questioningly as the rock began to glow and shine brightly.
"Uh, what's going on?" Lexi asked uncertainly.
"The rock - it's - it's getting hot!" Riley said in surprise.
"Hold on!" Annie cried.
The rock continued getting hotter and hotter, brighter and brighter, and just when the girls were about to drop it, the sun passed and it began to cool down.
"Um, what just happened?" Annie asked worriedly.
Riley shrugged. "Beats me." She put the small stone back into her pocket. Suddenly looking behind, she gasped.
"What is it?" Annie asked, glancing around wildly.
"Look!" Riley said. When Annie looked the opposite way, she sighed. "No, over there!" The athletic girl pointed to the right and said, "See that little ledge right there? Doesn't it look familiar?"
Lexi looked over. "Now that you mention it, I do feel like I've seen it before."
The three friends walked over to the edge and looked over cautiously.
It was about two meters to the sandy ground below, as far as Annie could tell.
"Hey, this like, totally looks familiar!" Lexi said to the others. "OMG! Look! There's the path!"
"Hey, you're right," Riley said after getting a better look at the clear trail among the bushes.
"But how do we get down there?" Annie asked worriedly.
"Chill, Annie. We'll jump!" Riley said confidently.
"Uh, guess what, Riley? We aren't all amazing star athletes with legs the length of a football field!" Lexi said, gesturing from Riley's long legs to her own average sized lower limbs.
Riley said nothing, but Annie guessed that she took the comment well. Lexi and Riley hadn't been best friends since fourth grade to get hurt by a small remark.
"Okay," Annie said. "Well, we could climb down."
"How?" Riley asked skeptically. "It's a straight drop!"
"Okay." Lexi said. "It's obvious that we could be here all day, trying to figure out how to like, get down, so let's just jump. It's not that far anyway, now that I see it better."
"Yes!" Riley said excitedly.
Annie took a different approach. "Are you sure that's safe? One time, my brother jumped from the roof of the barn and broke both of his legs. It was right before harvest too, so we all had to work way harder. It was terrible!"
"Uh, thanks for that," Riley said. "But we are still jumping. It'll be easy. Kay, ready? On the count of three."
"One…" The girls held hands and got into position.
"Two…" Nervously, Annie gulped. Lexi giggled anxiously.
"Three!" The teens flung themselves into open air. Annie screamed. But after a second of free fall, they let go of each other's hands.
Annie looked around in confusion. Why are we fifteen feet off the ground? She asked herself. Where are Riley and Lexi? What is going on?
The only thing that Annie could see were a hummingbird and a sparrow a few feet away. There was no sign of her friends, and she was suspended in midair. At a loss for what to do, Annie looked down. To her surprise, she saw bird's feet. What?! She thought wildly. Looking to her right, she saw an arched wing. What is going on?! She imagined flapping her arms. The wings moved and she sailed upward.
Annie came to the ridiculous conclusion that she was a swallow, a blue bird with a long swooping tail. Next to her, the hummingbird and magpie were coming to the same conclusion. The hummingbird zipped forward, then backward, up and down, and all around. The sparrow, on the other hand, was dipping and rising and playing in the wind.
Annie, in her swallow state, flew and rode the thermal winds. After a few minutes, her wings grew tired and she flew lower and lower until her tiny feet rested on the sandy floor. Within a second or two, she felt herself growing bigger, her wings turning into hands, her claws turning into feet. She smiled. She could fly.