She crouched in one of the uppermost branches of the sturdy gray-barked zomay trees, staring out over the misty green canopy of the surrounding jungle. It was the wilderness known among the Tupai as the Swallowing Screech.
Eela hugged herself with leathery wings as she shivered with nervous anticipation.
It was her day, finally. Her first launch; her first free flight. Her family watched from an observation platform on a neighboring tree, more than a hundred feet below her current perch. They had gathered to see if Eela, now of age and presumably trained by the best aerobatic coaches in the Six Villages, would make them proud or prove an embarrassment like her twin brother.
Eelo’s flight, just three days earlier, had ended within seconds after it began. He had launched himself from this very point, lofted in an arc above the jungle canopy, and then plunged to his doom.
He hadn’t screamed. Most of the failures shrieked with horror all the way down, but not Eelo. His sister suspected that he had seized up in mid-launch, panicked, and then just plummeted to his death.
Now it was her turn.
She flung herself out over the leafy abyss and spread her wings wide. She savored the loamy scents of the jungle through her blunt pug nose. And then Eela soared.