There are powers we do not understand, and people who possess those powers. Therefore, we (probably) do not understand them. They can be those with the powers, and then those who are the parents of those with the powers. Given all that, never try to separate a mother from her child…
Sharlee weighed three hundred and fifty pounds, and the worst part of every workday was climbing the black metal stairs that twisted and branched up the canyon wall. She pushed herself up another step and onto a landing, which rang dully underfoot, and paused to catch her breath. There was no railing to lean on. Beyond the edge of the landing, and visible through the narrow gaps in the black metal platform, was a sheer drop to the river far below. Sharlee leaned against the bright yellow curve of the house behind her. Three more flights to go.
Sharlee’s dog Spitz flew twice around her head, then floated in the air in front of her, his expression eager and his large black eyes full of love. Then he soared away, up to the next landing and back again and barked once. Spitz enjoyed his daily outing.
Sharlee let the wall take some of the weight off her feet, and looked out and up. It was one of these beautiful spring days when the early morning sun shone the length of the canyon, bringing out the bright colors of the myriad houses that clung to the canyon wall like swallow’s nests. Except for a few days in spring and fall, the canyon walls blocked the morning sun, and Sharlee climbed in darkness, broken only by yellow lights from the scattered windows of early risers.
The houses clustered on the canyon walls were built from huge seed pods, spheres with a protruding blunt wedge around the equator. After capturing the pods as they floated by, hollowing them out, and building internal walls, the flyers painted their houses yellow, pink, or sky blue, with the wedge around the middle a contrasting color, usually bright red or dark blue. On both sides of the canyon, a spider web of black metal stairs curved and branched. The houses on the far side of the canyon reminded Sharlee of the toy houses her daughter Alisa played with.
Sharlee wore pink sweat pants, a pale yellow t-shirt as big as a sail, and comfortable shoes. She heaved a deep sigh and resumed her climb. More nimble climbers squeezed past her on the stairs. She knew them all, and called a cheery good morning to them as they hurried up to work.
At last, she reached the round green door of Missus Tarser’s house. There was a Mister Tarser, of course, but Sharlee had never met him, and so she thought of the house as belonging to the Missus. Sharlee always felt a little sorry for the Tarsers, because they had no children. She took a key out of her large purse and let herself in.
Sharlee checked the house to be sure that Missus Tarser had flown, opened the door to the upstairs linen closet for Spitz, so he could sleep in his special place on the top shelf, and then got a cold drink out of the icebox and flopped down on the sofa in front of the entertainment wall.
The first person Sharlee called was her daughter, Alisa.
“Hi, Honey. Did you eat your breakfast?”
Alisa appeared on the huge, round screen, hovering in mid-air. When Sharlee saw Alisa flying, she looked over her shoulder in fear, even though she knew nobody was there. If anyone found out Alisa could fly, they would take her away. ‘Alisa, honey, down on the floor please.”
“Yes, Mama.” Alisa settled slowly to the rung. “I took a bath and I dressed myself, and Mister Snuggles took a bath with me, so I hung him out to dry, and I ate my breakfast, just like you told me, but I like jelly better than jam because jam has bits in it.”
Sharlee snuggled down into the sofa and her fear faded, replaced by a deep sense of warm contentment. After the long climb, this was the way she liked to start her workday. When Missus Tarser was home, she had to start in on the dusting right away, and couldn’t call Alisa until the Missus went out. Sharlee took a sip of her cold drink.
Alisa got tired of talking before Sharlee did, and wanted to watch her cartoons, so Sharlee let her go, and called up the astrology channel. Sharlee’s favorite horoscope was called “The Wishing Well”. Under a line drawing of a wishing well were rows of letters, and under each letter was a number. Sharlee added today’s date to the day of her birth, and took the last digit to get her magic number. Then she read every letter that had her magic number under it. She frowned. “Bad times coming.”
The stars never lie, but there’s nothing you can do about it, so Sharlee finished her cold drink and started work.
As Sharlee climbed down the stairs toward home, the bright red ball of the sun hung in the west, framed by the canyon walls. Moving upright through the air, all the brightly dressed people were flying home, toward the welcoming yellow windows of their pod houses. Slowly, a step at a time, Sharlee made her way down, down into the gloom of night, part of the long line of workers returning to their dwellings on the canyon floor. She stepped off the last metal step into the dusty street, and made her way along the riverside path. It was too dark to see the rushing water, but Sharlee could hear it roar. A stiff breeze blew down the canyon. Sharlee looked up toward the sky. Overhead, the last of the flyers, still in sunlight, hurried home.
Her feet knew the way, and Sharlee pictured Alisa in her arms, soft cheek pressed against her wrinkled cheek. She fitted her key into the lock and opened the door.
It was a shock to see a strange man dressed in bright red and yellow robes sitting in her very own easy chair, and Alisa standing, chewing on her lower lip, in the corner.
“What are you doing in my house?” Sharlee demanded. Spitz flew past her into the room, saw the strange man, and growled, showing strong, white teeth.
The stranger stood and made a very slight bow. “My name is Master Plotus. You must be Sharlee, Alisa’s mother.”
“I must be,” Sharlee said.
“I’m from the school. Alisa hasn’t been in school for several days – ten days, to be exact.”
“I kept her home with me.”
“But you, in fact, were not at home. You work.”
“And how else do you expect me to keep food on the table?”
“Of course you have to work. And while you are at work, Alisa goes to school.”
“She been sick.”
“She seems well enough now.”
Sharlee had had enough of this stranger. She hurried to Alisa, picked her daughter up, and hugged her. “You all right, honey?”
Alisa started to sob. Sharlee turned on the stranger. “Look what you did. Get out.”
The man sketched a formal bow and went to the door. “I expect to see Alisa in school tomorrow. If she’s not in school, I will be back.”
He opened the door and flew up into the night sky, not bothering to close the door behind him.
Sharlee pulled the door to, set Alisa down, fell into the easy chair, and opened her arms. Alisa crawled into her big, comfortable lap. The child laid her head on her mother’s breast.
“I tole you not to let strange men into the house.”
“I know,” Alisa said in a small voice, choked with tears. “But he banged so loud Mister Snuggles was scared. I wasn’t going to let him in, realio trulio, but he said I better, and kept on banging and banging. Why didn’t you come home?”
“I come home as quick as I can, honey. You know that. I don’t like that man. He from your school?”
“Yes,” said Alisa, almost in a whisper.
Spitz had waited as long as he could. He flew up to Alisa and began licking her face, washing away salt tears.
Alisa gave a scream of joy and when Spitz flew off, Alisa flew after him, round and round the room. Sharlee felt dizzy and sick.
“Alisa, honey, you mustn’t do that when somebody can see. They take you away.”
“I know, Mama. I’ll be careful.”
Sharlee could not share in the joy of the flying child and dog. Ever since Alisa had flown for the first time, ten days ago, fear had been a black lump somewhere deep inside Sharlee’s heart. She remembered her horoscope.
The next day, Sharlee took Alisa outside and locked the door behind them. “Run along to school now, honey. And remember.”
“I’ll remember. I love you, Mama.” Sharlee listened to the clatter of Alisa’s feet as she vanished down the darkened street and then began her long morning climb. That night, as she returned home, she was afraid every step of the way. Her hand trembled as she turned the key in the lock. But Alisa was there, sitting on a kitchen stool drinking hot chocolate.
“’Lo, Mama,” Alisa said.
“Come give your Mama a hug.”
Sharlee bent down so Alisa could wrap her arms around Sharlee’s neck, and then lifted her and squeezed her tight.
“I kept my feet right on the ground-around-around,” Alisa said, and Sharlee felt hot tears filling her eyes.
The fear never went away entirely. Even in church, singing her favorite hymn, the words took on a new and frightening meaning.
“And on that day of our reward,
“We too shall fly up to our Lord.”
A month went by, and life was just like always. Every day except Holy Day, Sharlee cleaned house for Missus Tarser. When she came home, exhausted, she read Alisa her a bedtime story, and then collapsed into the easy chair and watched her stories on her tiny screen.
And then one day, when Sharlee returned home, the house was empty. Her heart stopped. She fell into her chair, but in less than a minute, she jumped up and ran to her neighbor’s house, old Miss Nance, too infirm to work. Yes, Miss Nance had seen a man come and take Alisa away. He had flown up into the sky with her. That was all Miss Nance knew.
Sharlee called the ground police. As usual, it took them a long time to answer. Finally, a plump, red face appeared on the screen. Sharlee told him that her daughter had been taken away. He didn’t know anything about that. He could not suggest anything Sharlee could do.
With trembling fingers, Sharlee typed the words “sky police”. She had never called the sky police before. The call was answered right away. The round screen showed the torso and head of a middle-aged man wearing somber blue and black robes. “Can I help you?” he asked.
“You took my daughter,” Sharlee said, trying to keep from yelling.
The man glanced down for a moment. “Your name is Sharlee? Daughter’s name Alisa?”
“Yes!” Even though she knew better, she allowed herself to hope.
“One of your daughter’s teachers reports that she saw your daughter flying. She’s been brought in for testing. I assure you, everything is fine. She’ll be kept overnight, and returned to you in the morning. There’s no cause for concern.”
“Why didn’t you tell me. You could have told me.”
“A notice should have been left.”
“There wasn’t no notice,” Sharlee said, raising her voice.
“If you want to register a complaint about the lack of a notice, I’ll be happy to report it.”
“Yes, I want to register a complaint. I want my daughter back.”
“I’ve already explained that your daughter is safe and will be returned to you after we conduct a few tests. You’re very lucky. It’s rare for a groundling to have an offspring who can fly.”
“I want my daughter back.”
The sky policeman said patiently, as if talking to a child, “Your daughter will be returned to you tomorrow.”
“I want to see my daughter now,” Sharlee shouted.
“I regret that that is not possible at this time.”
Sharlee jammed her finger down on the off switch, rose from the chair, and began to bang her fist against the wall until the plaster cracked.
The next day, Sharlee called in sick to work. The day passed slowly. Sharlee was too distracted to follow her stories. As darkness came on, Sharlee again called the sky police. The same man she spoke to yesterday he offered meaningless reassurances and said Alisa was being held for further tests.
Sharlee could not sleep. As soon as it started to get light, she put down food and water for Spitz and started up the long, black stair to give the sky police a piece of her mind. She would get her daughter back, no matter what it took.
The sun was high when Sharlee reached the top of the cliff. She felt dizzy and her legs ached. She had never been this high before. The buildings on the flat cliff top were shaped like giant honeycombs. People in bright robes flew everywhere. Sharlee could not see anyone walking, or wearing pants instead of a robe.
Most of the buildings had no opening at ground level, but the blue and black office of the sky police had a small door. Inside were more stairs to climb, narrow and badly lit. Sharlee emerged into a bright, clean office. The walls were blue above black, with chrome trim. She looked around for the man she had spoken to on the screen, but he wasn’t there. There was a round desk at which three people sat, two men and a woman, all wearing blue and black robes. In the center of the desk was a three-sided screen. Each of the three had a keypad and notebook.
“I want my little girl,” Sharlee said.
The woman looked up. “I beg your pardon?”
“I want my little girl. You took her.”
The woman pursed her lips and shared a look with her two companions. “Maybe if you told me your name.”
“My name is Sharlee. My daughter’s name is Alisa.”
“Just a moment.” The woman typed on her keypad for a few seconds, looked at the screen. “Oh! Your daughter can fly! How wonderful!”
“I want my daughter back.”
“Of course you do. And I’m sure she’ll be back with you just as soon as the tests are finished.”
“I want her back now.”
The woman looked puzzled, looked to her two partners for help, found none. “I don’t… .” She typed some more on her keypad. “Alisa is at the Child Services Center. Maybe someone there could help you.”
“Where is this Child Services Center?”
“It’s the big cream-colored building on the North Rim. You can’t miss it.”
Sharlee began to scream. “Oh my god! Oh my god! The North Rim. I know what the kinds of things they do to children on the North Rim. You got to get her back.”
“Don’t be silly. The people on the North Rim are just like us. We fly back and forth all the time.”
“Don’t lie to me. Oh, God! Alisa! Alisa!”
The woman stood up, scowling. “If you insist on making a scene, I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
“I’m not leaving here without my little girl.”
With an affected patience, the woman said. “I told you, Alisa’s not here. You have to go to the Child Services Center.”
“How am I supposed to get there?” Sharlee yelled.
“I’m sure I don’t know,” the woman said, and turned away.
When Sharlee got home, it was dark, and the house was empty, except for Spitz, who flew in circles around her head. Sharlee pulled him to her breast, and hugged him until he yelped, then let him go and collapsed on the easy chair, where she slept fitfully through the night.
There was a bridge across the river, an ancient stone arch. Sharlee had never heard of anyone crossing it. Terrified, she put her feet on the stone surface and walked to the top of the arch, where she could see down into North Side.
The people in the street were dressed in strange clothes. Men wore baggy trousers with suspenders; women wore short pants and halter tops. To Sharlee’s eye, the women looked almost naked. That building there, at the foot of the bridge, must be a church, but no kind of church Sharlee had ever heard of. Sharlee thought about Alisa and walked down off the bridge. People looked at her, and then averted their eyes.
The winding, branching black stairs looked just like the ones Sharlee climbed to work every day, but as soon as she began to climb, everything about them was wrong, the twists and turns unfamiliar. But Sharlee knew which way to go – up.
Several times, she came to a dead end at a landing in front of some stranger’s door and had to retrace her steps, but she kept on climbing, pausing only to catch her breath. When she overtook other climbers – on their way to who knew where, she pushed past without a word. Nobody spoke to her. Nobody would look her in the eye.
Once, resting on a landing, bent over with her hands on her knees, Sharlee raised her head to look across the canyon to her dear, familiar South Side. She tried to make out the yellow globe, dark blue trim, and round green door of Missus Tarser’s house. It was lost amid myriad brightly colored homes, all webbed in the fine black veil of winding stairs.
At last, she reached the top of the cliff. There were beehive buildings of all sizes everywhere, but none was cream-colored. People flew overhead, but there was no one here on the ground who Sharlee could ask which way to go. Well, that was all right with Sharlee. She did not want to talk to North Siders if she could help it.
She walked east, staying as close to the canyon rim as she could, for more than an hour without finding a cream-colored building. The sun was now high in the sky. She started in the other direction, stepping into her own shadow, retracing her steps as closely as she could. After a long time, a cream-colored building came into view, perched right on the edge of the canyon. Sharlee walked all the way around the large structure without finding a way in. She began pounding on the curving wall with her fists.
A tall, thin man with a narrow mustache, wearing blue and black robes, settled down from the sky next to her. “You’ll have to stop that, Ma’am. You’ll break the wall.”
“I want my daughter back!”
“Of course you do. I take it your daughter was picked up by Child Services?”
“They took her away from me.”
“Now, now. No need to shout at me. I haven’t done anything.”
“I can’t help you, Ma’am, unless you tell me what it is you want.”
“I want my daughter!”
“I can’t do anything about that. Not my jurisdiction.”
“I want to get inside that building. They’ve got her in there.”
“Ma’am, if Child Services picked up your daughter, I’m sure it was for her own good.”
“I want to get in. I want to see her.”
“Well, Ma’am, I don’t know if they can let you see her, but I’ll help you talk to them. Wait just a minute.”
The sky policeman spoke into a hand-held screen. “This is seven two oh. I’ve got a one one niner. Send a four seven to my location.” There was an unintelligible reply. “I’ve sent for a cargo lift to carry you up to the landing.”
Sharlee stepped off the flying cargo lift onto a curved, cream-colored platform. The sky policeman waved and flew away, taking the lift with him. It was only after he was gone that Sharlee realized that she had spoken with a North Sider. It was strange. He had not seemed any different from the sky police on the South Side.
The thought of going into a building full of North Siders filled her with dread. Once inside their walls, they could do anything to her they liked, and there would be no one she could turn to for help. But Alisa was in there. She pushed through the round door, which divided down the middle to let her in.
There were people inside, including a number of children, but no sign of Alisa. Balling her hands into fists, Sharlee marched up to the first desk she saw. It was just like the desk in the sky police building on the South Side, with three people sitting at it, all women. “Take me to my daughter,” she demanded.
“Name, please,” one women said.
“Sharlee. My daughter is Alisa. I want her back.”
After consulting her screen, the woman said, “Please have a seat over there,” waving to a contoured bench running along the wall.
“I said, I want to see my daughter now.”
“And I said, have a seat. Someone will be with you soon.”
Sharlee considered smacking the woman in the face, but restrained herself and plopped down on the bench, which creaked under her weight.
She waited a long time. Three times she demanded to see her daughter; three times the woman told her it would only be a few more minutes.
Finally, a woman dressed in cream and gilt came out of a distant door and motioned for Sharlee to come with her. Sharlee followed the woman to a small, windowless room with a table and two chairs. The woman waved Sharlee toward one of the chairs. Sharlee eyed the chair doubtfully, and felt it give alarmingly as she lowered herself onto it.
“I want my daughter.” She felt like she had said that a thousand times now, and was close to despair.
“My name is Mistress Ball. I’m your case worker. I assure you, you have nothing to worry about. On the contrary, you should feel honored. You don’t know how rare it is for a” – the woman hesitated – “for one of your kind to have a child who can fly.”
“I want my daughter back. Now.”
“All in good time. Now, does Alisa have a father?”
“Of course Alisa has a father. What do you think? His name was Winton. We lived together for ten years. Then he died. Now Alisa is all I have.”
“So I take it this, ah, Winton was not a – I mean, he ah – could not fly himself.”
The woman was quiet for a while, so Sharlee said again, in a louder voice, “I want my daughter back. You have no right.”
“Actually, we have a perfect right to do whatever is best for the child. The welfare of the child must come first. I’m sure you agree.”
“She’s my daughter. I know what’s best for her.”
“Please, just think. She can fly. That makes her different from all the other children down in – well, down there. She needs to be around her own kind, go to a good school –“ the woman caught herself, “—not that your schools aren’t just as good. What I meant to say is, she should go to a school where she’ll fit in. She needs to be around children like herself.”
“Give her back to me. I’ll ask her what school she wants to go to. Let her decide.”
“You can hardly expect a child to decide something this important. I’m sure you are a fine parent, a good mother. But a child who can fly should be raised by a family who – who cares – I mean who knows how to care for – a family who can give her opportunities which you cannot provide,” Mistress Ball finished in a rush.
“I want to see my daughter.”
“Don’t you think that would just confuse her?”
Sharlee stood with such force that the chair flew away behind her and crashed against the wall. “Confuse her! She must be scared out of her wits by you people. I want her back, now.”
“That’s not going to happen,” Mistress Ball said. “She’s already been placed with an appropriate family. This interview is at an end. Good day.” She stood and held the door open for Sharlee.
Sharlee raised her fist and Mistress Ball flinched. Sharlee lowered her fist. “North Sider,” he said.
“You see,” said Mistress Ball triumphantly. “That’s just the kind of prejudice a child needs protection from.”
Sharlee stomped back into the main room of Child Services, planted her feet wide, and folded her arms over her chest. In a loud voice she announced, “I am not leaving until I see my daughter.”
People looked up and then looked away.
A small man in a white robe came up to her. “Perhaps I can help,” he said in a soft voice.
Sharlee looked down at him. “Can you help me find my daughter?”
“I may be able to. I’m a councilor. That gives me some standing here.”
“Then help me get my daughter away from these North Siders. God only knows what they’ve done to her.”
“I’m a North Sider,” the man said. “Do you still want my help?”
Sharlee stared at him. “If you can get my daughter back, I don’t care if you’re the Wicked One himself.”
“I can work with that. My name is Abadee. You should address me as Councilor Abadee, at least when anyone else is listening. Respect for my office is half the battle. Now, let’s go over here and sit down and you tell me what has happened.”
Abadee – Councilor Abadee – arranged for Child Services to provide Sharlee with a place to stay. The bed was too small – the apartment was usually used to house children – but Sharlee did not complain. It was better than climbing down all those stairs in the evening, and then up again the next morning.
As soon as she got settled in and caught her breath, Sharlee called Miss Nance and arranged for her to go next door and feed Spitz until she got back – she would mail her the key. Then she called Missus Tarser and explained what was happening. Missus Tarser was sympathetic, but said, “I just don’t know what I’m going to do without you.”
Days passed. Sharlee had taken all of her savings out of the sugar jar before she left the house, but even the cheapest food in the Child Services cafeteria was rapidly using that up. Councilor Abadee came to see her every day, and told her, bluntly and without embellishment, what he had or had not accomplished. She still had not been allowed to see Alisa.
Then, on the last day, Councilor Abadee came with clothes over his arm. “I’ve finally gotten a judge to hear your case. He’s not sympathetic, so don’t get your hopes up, but he has agreed to allow Alisa to decide where she wants to live. The family she’s been placed with has a lot to offer a child. Frankly, they can give a child a great deal more than you can, in terms of material possessions. I don’t know Alisa, so I don’t know how important that will be in her eyes. It may help if you are dressed like a secretary instead of like a maid. Put these on. I’ll wait outside.”
Sharlee’s heart was pounding. She got into the unfamiliar suit of clothes, washed her face and hands in the small sink and brushed her hair. Councilor Abadee led her to a small platform and held out his hand to her. The platform was almost too small for the two of them. Sharlee said, “You fly on down. I’ll be all right.”
Councilor Abadee looked sharply at her. “You don’t know,” he said.
“Don’t know what?”
“What the white robes mean.”
“I thought they were a Councilor’s robes.”
“No. The white robes signify someone born into the upper class who cannot fly.”
Sharlee had never seen grass before, though of course she knew what it was from her stories. The large circle of green was surrounded by a white walkway. Councilor Abadee landed his flying platform outside the walkway and led Sharlee out onto the grass. There were a lot of people gathered there, most wearing bright robes; a few, like Sharlee, were dressed in suits. People were talking animatedly. Sharlee was relieved when none of them paid her the least attention. People were constantly coming and going, but none of them flew over the grass.
Councilor Abadee took Sharlee’s arm and led her into a small crowd clustered around a raised platform in the center of the circle. He motioned her to lean over toward him and whispered to her, “Don’t speak unless the judge asks you a question. It is very important that you don’t get on his wrong side. His decision in this case is final, and he did not want to hear the case in the first place.”
The hubbub of voices was suddenly silent and a shadow moved rapidly across the grass. Sharlee looked up. An elderly man a crimson and scarlet robe flew down out of the sky.
“I am Judge Breen. Here today under God’s blue sky, I swear to render justice to the best of my ability.” His voice was not loud, but it carried.
Rapidly, Judge Breen disposed of one case after another. Occasionally, he asked a question, but usually he simply rendered a decision and the people involved moved silently away from the dais. Finally, his eyes fell on Councilor Abadee. He did not look at Sharlee at all. “Petition of Councilor Abadee, to restore the flying child Alisa to her natural mother Sharlee. All parties have agreed to allow the child to choose where it prefers to live. I have just spoken to the child in my private grove. The child chooses to remain with the parents with whom she has been placed. Petition denied.”
Judge Breen turned to another group of petitioners, and Abadee tugged at Sharlee’s arm, but Sharlee did not move. “No,” she shouted. “You have no right.”
For the first time, the Judge actually looked at Sharlee. Then he looked away, and motioned with his hand. Down out of the sky flew two burly men dressed in blue and black.
Flying from another direction came a smaller figure. She shot in front of the sky police and threw her arms around Sharlee’s neck. “Mama. Mama. I’m sorry. Please don’t be mad at me for flying. I know I’m not supposed to fly when anybody can see. But I heard your voice. I was over there in the trees, and I heard your voice. Oh, Mama, I’ve been so scared. They came and got me, and they wouldn’t even let me take Mister Snuggles. They said I’d have all kinds of toys in my new home, and I do, but I hate it. They said you didn’t love me anymore. I know that’s not true.”
The judged glared at the child, and motioned to the sky police. “Remove the child. Return her to her foster parents. This case has already been decided.”
Councilor Abadee’s soft voice interposed. “One moment, if you please. Alisa, did this man ask you which parents you wanted to live with?”
Alisa buried her face in her mother’s hair. Sharlee lifted her a little higher. “Answer the man, Alisa.”
“He told me to say I didn’t want to live with Mama. But I wouldn’t say it. I want to be with you, Mama. I want to be with you.”
“That’s a lie,” Judge Breen said, raising his voice for the first time. “The child is lying.” But a crowd had gathered, and was growing larger.
Home at last, and the simple pleasures that Sharlee had always taken for granted were now like heaven: her easy chair, her stories, Spitz flying circles round the room, and most of all, Alisa snuggled in her lap.
The next morning, Sharlee and Alisa were out of the house while it was still dark, though the sun’s rays already lit the heights. Sharlee kissed Alisa goodbye. “Tonight, you’ll tell me all about your new school.”
Sharlee tossed Alisa into the air, and the little girl flew away. Sharlee watched her until she could no longer make out the small form rising into the sky. Her tears were tears of joy, because she knew Alisa would be waiting for her when she returned home. Then she started toward the winding black metal stair. “Missus Tarser will be glad to have me back,” she told Spitz. Spitz flew on ahead, then spun around, hovered in midair, and barked.