Your childhood is a fragile thing. At least that's what most psychologists would say. But those of us who can remember the magic of being a child know better. We were able to leap with reckless abandon into bodies of water that were less than a foot deep, not knowing what lay beneath their murky surfaces. We were the ones who thought that, like Mary Poppins, we too could float off the roof by opening an umbrella. When we fell to the ground and broke our arms it was because the umbrella was broken, not because the laws of gravity were aligned against us.

I thought that I was a superhero back then, a changeling dropped onto my parents' doorstep by elves that sheltered under trees. I would actually try to outrun cars. Waiting at the corner of a city block, I would give a car a head start before tearing down the sidewalk after it. My naked feet barely grazed the cement, as I seemed to fly past driveways. I always beat the car to my house, something I felt proved my unusual birth. Now as I look back on it, I can rationalize that the cars were going less than five miles per hour: the mystery of my triumph lost in the knowledge that age brings. The one place that logic and reason couldn't touch, and still can't, was in my dreams. There I could do and be anyone. I could fly above the treetops feeling the cool winds against my face or I could be a beautiful woman able to save children from all things evil. Sometimes I could even "channel surf" through my dreams, choosing the one I wanted to stay with, eliminating nightmares almost completely. My greatest feat was to continue a dream, see it to what I felt was the end, instead of allowing my subconscious to do so. I never stopped to wonder how I could remember a dream when I was still in the middle of it. I just used it to control my dream, to help other characters and myself when we became trapped in a nightmare.

I don't know when dreams became so important to me; it just seemed as though they always were. Even now I find myself waiting for the day to end so that I can go to sleep and dream...the scent of scorched earth filled the air as the shuttle landed. Morgan pressed closer to the chain-linked fence to get a better look at the new arrivals who were already beginning to descend to the landing pad. They were among the first of the Exiled to return since the treaty had been signed. Morgan had never before laid eyes upon a member of their species. She had been an infant during the purge, too young to remember the people who had once lived among her own. There was a sense of comfort about her when she looked upon them now, something familiar and warm.

Their faces were more pointed, almost birdlike, and there was something about the eyes. Other than that she could see nothing that would mark them as different. She wondered what they were like, what their culture contained that would cause her people to force them to scatter among the stars. Her people were known throughout the galaxy for their technological advances. It was something they were proud of, which is why they signed the treaty with the Exiles. Their pride was tainted with the shame of their actions in the past. The only information that Morgan could gather about them came from old broadcasts from space stations. She recorded them from the memory banks of the shuttles she helped her brother repair. It was almost a hobby to gather the little blurbs that appeared in the computers. Most often the broadcasts were about their location, something she found irrelevant since she was stationary. Recently, though, she came across a digital broadcast that referred to the Exiles as the Avis. When she had looked the word up in her translator she'd been surprised to discover it was an old Earth term for "bird." She had often wondered why they call themselves that. Now, looking at them, she understood it was their physical attributes that had secured the name for them.

While she had been examining them, they in turn had been examining her. She was startled to discover that several of the new arrivals were staring at her from the other side of the fence. Blinking her eyes rapidly, she wondered how long they had been watching her. She could feel her face redden under their stony scrutiny. Morgan understood that they were exhibiting their irritation at being treated like animals on display. Two of the three turned and moved on: the third, however, continued to stare at her. She couldn't contain her curiostiy and found herself staring back at him. He was distinctly different from the others she had seen. His features were less pronounced, and his eyebrows were thinner and more arched than the others had been. Raising her eyes to meet his one last time, she turned and walked back to the garage.

She could still feel his eyes on her as she furthered the distance between them. After entering the deeply shadowed garage and slipping from view, he too turned and followed the others to the awaiting transport. Releasing the breath she hadn't known she'd been holding, Morgan lifted her eyes to the mirror that hung behind the door. Her hand lightly stroked her long braid that fell over one shoulder, curling at the end just under her breast. She wondered what he had thought of her red hair - it was a color she hadn't seen on any of his people. Her eyes were distinct as well; she had inherited the deep green from an Irishman somewhere on her father's side. He had been the first to settle this planet after Earth had become too crowded. Her features were a symbol of her status on the planet - only her family had hair as deeply red. A smile graced her face as she wondered if she would see this strange Avis again. Her face flushed and her heart pounded from her excitement as she turned back to the transport she was supposed to be repairing...

Every morning when I wake up, I fight to stay in bed a little longer, hoping to retain as much of my dream as I can. I'll use any excuse to stay wrapped in the comfort of my cool sheets and soft pillows, any excuse to hold on to the memory of that dream that transported me away from my life. Every morning I try to discover how I would continue my dreams as a child, a secret I seem to have forgotten. Was it the position I awoke in? The last thing I was thinking about that night? Or was it simply my innocence which allowed me to live a lifetime in a few minutes of REM? I may never find out, but I'll keep dreaming, hoping one day to unlock the secret that, as a child, I knew.

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