Air has always been associated with freedom, but as Janice Joplin sang in the late 1960s, “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.” Road-trip stories about colorful characters traveling from place to place appeal to readers who feel trapped in their jobs and their relationships, burdened by debt and by dependents, whether these are underage children or elderly relatives.
However, few people really want to live in total spontaneity, with no daily routine because there is no stability in their lives. When homeless travelers disappear, are they missed?
In my story, “Carried Away,” the seamstress to the royal family lives in a mountainous region that is infested by were-falcons, predatory birds that are known to carry off human children and adults against their will. No one talks openly about the strategies some people use to lure the shapeshifters—also known as sirens—to meeting-places after dark so that humans can find out what it’s like to have wings and to ride the air currents.
Zephyr, the seamstress, wonders where her husband went when he disappeared, leaving her with four children. She hates and envies him for leaving without a word of explanation.
She and her eldest daughter, who is her apprentice, have to finish making a wedding ensemble for a princess in time for her last fitting, and the fairy-tale wedding is meant to dazzle all the onlookers. Will Princess Peony really be happy for the rest of her life with her husband, who is also her second cousin? Are love and happiness really the point of the extravagant plans for the ceremony?
Zephyr can barely imagine a life without responsibility, or sexual pleasure without consequences. Meeting a were-falcon would be more exciting than she can admit, even to herself.
Like most mothers, Zephyr finds her children both exasperating and inspiring. She can’t simply leave them behind to fend for themselves, even though her attachment to her fledglings makes no sense to beings who think the young should learn to fly on their own as soon as possible.
Feeling torn between freedom and responsibility is not a new dilemma, and mothers are still subject to blame either for overprotecting their children, or for selfishly neglecting them. While cultural standards of childraising change enormously over time, those who play a primary role in children’s lives can always be criticized for doing it wrong.
How can everyone’s needs be satisfied? Clear answers are as evasive as feathers in the wind.
Jean Roberta lives on the Canadian prairies, where the vastness of land and sky encourage daydreaming. She teaches literature, composition and creative writing in the local university. Her diverse fiction (mostly erotic) has appeared in many print anthologies, and in the single-author collection Obsession (Renaissance). Her historical fiction includes The Princess and the Outlaw: Tales of the Torrid Past (Lethe Press) plus The Flight of the Black Swan: A Bawdy Novella (Lethe, also in audio). A revised, expanded version of her out-of-print erotic novel, Prairie Gothic (set in a pre-millennial world of conflict and dread) will be published by Lethe. She coedited Heiresses of Russ 2015 (Lethe), an annual anthology of the year’s best lesbian speculative fiction. Her fantasy stories include “The Water-Harp” in Underwater and “Mysteries of the Dragon” in On Fire (Transmundane).