Boris had it all, looks, brains, an overwhelming drive. And people LIKED him, they really LIKED him, a rare trait indeed when coupled with the rest.
A beautiful infant, he could have been the next Gerber baby, were his parents so inclined. But both Mom and Dad decided early on that there son would grow up well grounded, with a secure, stable future if they had any say.
Dad, foreman at the local auto parts plant, insisted on athletics, in keeping with small town tradition. He preferred football, but basketball, baseball, or track would do. Boris's first football awaited his arrival practically in the delivery room ... Mom put her foot down about that.
A natural athlete, and with Dad's encouragement, he easily became captain of the football team and a major force in track and basketball as well. A whole wall of trophies and a thick scrapbook of news clippings celebrated his remarkable skill. Each achievement was the talk of the local coffee shop, as well as more than a few college scouts. Force of nature, they would say.
Dad couldn't have been happier, and frankly, a bit relieved. Some type of scholarship was essential for any hope of college, considering the on-and-off economy of the auto parts business.
Mom, sole English-Lit professor at the local junior college, was a stickler for academics. While pregnant, she played classical music and read to her unborn child several times a day, in keeping with the latest advice on child development. Being their only child, she made sure Boris's room was filled with the finest in educational toys, at least as much as they could afford. And in her world, TV simply didn't exist before homework was thoroughly checked to her demanding satisfaction.
As a result, his academic success almost matched his athletics. While not valedictorian, by any means, he always made honor roll and likely would finish in the top ten percent of his class. With luck he would attract academic, as well as sports scholarships. It wouldn't hurt her feelings at all if he ended up a teacher at some prestigious university. If he did not, well, it would not be her fault.
His sole failing was art. From birth, he was totally enchanted by colors, and absolutely delighted in his first box of crayons, "crans" he called them. Unfortunately his skill seemed limited to scribbling huge bands of colors across the pages. Only a few strokes ever stayed within the lines, no matter how hard he tried, and creating even the simplest of recognizable forms required monumental effort. Even as a teen this love continued, but unrecognizable bands of color were his sole product. It was painfully obvious that art was definitely not his calling.
The name 'Boris' came from Mom's pre-natal readings. A character in one of her stories, once it caught her mind, she would have no other, much to the chagrin of her husband. To his mind, Boris Allison just didn't go together, but years of marriage had taught him well just which battles to fight and which to leave alone. Boris didn't really care for it either, especially when shortened to Bori, but then what child ever does.
Yes, Boris had it made and he knew it, which made his current situation seem even worse. Out of the blue, in the middle of a football game with every scout from every major school waiting just to see him, he was literally struck down. His body simply locked up, dumping him flat on his face, couldn't move a muscle. Understandably the scouts were not impressed.
Several weeks later found his condition unchanged. Doctors came, doctors left scratching their heads. Allison syndrome, they even named it after him. But beyond that, none could even suggest what he had or how to move his limbs which remained rigidly as he had fallen. Dry, flaky skin developed, leaving him itching like crazy, but otherwise, no change.
Then as suddenly as it came it was gone, or at least nearly. Weeks in bed left him incredibly weak and several pounds lighter. No matter how hard he worked, his rehab saw no improvement at all. If anything, he lost even more weight. Physical therapists were puzzled, but a battery of tests showed nothing at all, so they simply shook their heads and kept trying.
Mentally he seemed normal, at least until he resumed his studies. Concentration on even his favorite subjects was nearly impossible. He would, almost without fail, drift into near catatonia and simply doodle. Eventually he would reach for crayons or colored pens or whatever was handy and scribble colored bands over and over and over.
To say homework suffered would be kind. After only a month, it was quite clear Boris would be repeating his senior year ... possibly several times. School officials were relieved when he finally dropped out.
Conversation went much the same as his studies. Soon even best friends stopped coming around. The few who persisted were met with a growing belligerence. Frankly their constant pity was just too much for Boris.
On the day that would have been his high school graduation, Boris simply disappeared. Unfortunately, his travels shortly concluded in his current situation, stuck on all fours in the wilderness.
And what a wilderness! To prove himself, at least to himself, or die trying, he had chosen Denali National Park in southern Alaska. The bush pilot he hired dropped him off reluctantly. Sure, his passenger was amply prepared, good equipment, plenty of food, even a 12-gauge for bears. But he was obviously not well. Every move a struggle, he could barely lift his gear. And frankly the bush pilot was tired of search-and-rescues for lost tourists. They didn't pay the gas and almost always ended the same tragic way.
But the guy offered triple his regular rate, what could he do? Hey, if the guy wanted to commit suicide, it was his right ... right?
Boris was completely taken by the majestic beauty! Before he even made camp he set off to explore. Deep in the woods, the attack struck suddenly, just as on the football field so many months past. Falling to all fours, he simply froze. At least he seemed stable enough that he wouldn't fall over and freeze to death on the cold earth. Hopefully the attack would pass soon. If not, he knew help was not even a dream out here.
The longer he waited, the stiffer he got. Feeling quickly left his arms and legs, and his chest tightened drastically, making breathing difficult. He couldn't move his head at all, and his eyes began clouding over as if the very lenses were hardening.
"This is it," he thought. "Worse than last time by a long shot. Can't even breath. At least nobody is around. I don't think I could stand that pity ever again." Slowly Boris slid into darkness. "This isn't so bad," sounded his final thoughts, "death isn't so painful, after all."
Boris awoke to a ripping sound, more of a pop, really. A cool breeze ran down his back. Feeling returned to arms and legs, but they felt buried to their tops in goo. He could move them slightly, but was rewarded only by a dim squishing sound before coming up against a hard boundary. He opened his eyes, but could see only dim light.
"Boreal ... no, Boris. Boris Allison, that's me," he thought sluggishly. "Well, I didn't die, but where the heck am I." Tentatively he pressed against his bonds, and was rewarded by more popping and tearing, and a bit more freedom. "Must have been buried by a mudslide," he thought as he sloshed again. His back itched terribly and it drove him insane that he could not reach it.
Finally the itch got the better of him and he gave a mighty shove. More cracking and popping was rewarded with fresh air as his head and torso popped out of their prison. He still couldn't see, "Mud in the eyes," he thought, but continued to pull himself out of captivity and into a crouch above his escape hole. The itch thankfully subsided, the fresh air felt absolutely delicious.
"Oh, I love this part!" squealed a voice to his side. He froze, then slowly moved his hand to clear his eyes.
"Oh, don't move too fast! How do you feel! What's your name! Do you understand me?" The words came rapid-fire, far too quickly for Boris's newly awakened brain.
Boris put out his hand, "Please, not so fast." His voice startled him. It was almost as high and as fluid as the one firing questions. "Must have effected my ears, too," he thought.
Slowly he opened his eyes and quickly shut them. What he saw was a woman, and not just a woman, but an achingly beautiful and totally naked woman. She appeared to be painted in a riot of oranges, yellows, and browns. And he would swear she had wings! "Ok," he panicked, "I did die."
Slowly he reopened one eye, then the other. The woman had drawn near and was looking quite concerned. "Are you ok? How do you feel?"
"Hallucinating a beautiful, naked woman in the middle of nowhere," he finally whispered, "but other than that .... Are you an angel or something?" Yep, those were definitely wings. And in spite of the mental fuzz, he found himself thoroughly aroused by her beauty.
"Hardly!" She giggled the most beautiful laugh and hopped gracefully back to her seat. Her wings twitched fetchingly as she moved.
"Have I been here long?" he finally asked.
"Several days," she replied. "I thought I would get here too late and miss your molting. I only just sensed you yesterday."
"My what?" Boris asked confused.
"Your molting ... oh ... I'm sorry! You don't know! How could you? Silly me! Please, sit up and look at yourself. But take a really deep breath first, maybe two or three." She giggled at some private joke.
Boris took a deep breath as commanded, and then threw his legs over the side of his perch. The force of his movement nearly sent him off the other side. Regaining his balance, he finally looked down and nearly fainted. Stretched before him were long, hairless, slender, deliciously curvaceous legs ending in dainty feet. The skin as it dried was quickly turning from pink to iridescent, not quite blue but not quite green.
"Oh! You're beautiful!" squealed his audience.
Slowly moving up the legs, he came to a small patch of dark, rose tinged hair, with absolutely none of the expected equipment to be seen anywhere. His breath came in ragged gasps. Above that was a pair of rounded hips contouring into a very slender waist, and topped by a modest, but perfectly formed pair of breasts. Rose tinged hair matching his (her?) pubic swatch hung to either breast. The color change completed well before his self-examination.
Well into hyperventilation, he began to shake. "Ok! Just hallucinating! Must be dying! Brain tricks!" he urgently whispered to himself.
The woman, now very close, reached out in comfort. "Its ok," she whispered, "just take long slow deep breaths. It's always a shock at first, sometimes just worse than others."
"What am I?" Boris choked out.
"Well, I'm not really sure and I gave up wondering long ago. Basically, you're one of us. Besides, it's more a question of who, than of what," replied the woman. "Do you know your name?"
"Boreal ... Boris," Boris answered. Where had borealis come from? Brain must still be fogged a bit.
"Oh my! You were a GUY! I bet this IS a shocker! Were you about to say 'Borealis'?" she asked softly.
"Why yes, how did you know." Boris was surprised she picked up on the obscure word.
"Then you must be the new Aurora Borealis," the woman said reverently. "You look just like the old one. She vanished recently and you must be her replacement. I think you're prettier, though!"
Boris/Borealis stared back, confused. "Funny, Borealis actually seems right somehow."
"It should," the woman replied lightly. "Molting tends to drive home the 'rightness' of it all. None of us really know how it works, but after awhile it seems the way things should be, if you know what I mean."
"Us? You said us. There are more?"
"Oh, there are many. We can't do the whole world by ourselves!" she replied with a titter. "Each has a specialty. I paint the fall leaves in New Hampshire and Vermont. Another does Maine and Nova Scotia, and so forth. Still others build dunes, create storms, make dew, shake the mountains ... though that's usually done by the guys, and on and on and on. I guess you could say we're the forces of nature. You and your twin to the south have the glorious honor of painting the auroras, a most prestigious task."
"Paint the auroras ..." Boris/Borealis trailed off dubiously. "And just how do I do that!"
"Well, you fly up there, of course," she replied matter-of-factly. "How you actually paint them, I haven't a clue. Probably the same way I paint the leaves, but you will find you just know when you get there."
Borealis, for she was quickly beginning to see HER self as such, finally looked closely at this beautiful woman. Sure enough, those really were functional wings, long and slender like a lacewing, but brightly colored like the autumn leaves and her skin. Quickly looking over each shoulder, she could see her own long graceful wings angled out to either side. But hers had beautiful bands of red and blue and green, like the colors of the auroras ... like she had tried to draw her entire life.
"So, I just fly up there and paint the auroras," disbelief clear in her voice. "Anything else I should know? You know, like do I pollinate flowers in my off time? Or how about, like, where do I live for Christ sake? And I can't exactly go around like this!"
Giving no hint of seeing the sarcasm, the woman answered. "Ok, you are going to need to focus. You're going to start drifting and getting all dreamy soon. You do your best work at night and the sun is about to go down. I really need to fill you in on the basics for your own good, so stay with me, here."
"First off, call me VT. My whole name is 'Fall Leaves of Vermont', but VT for short. Before, I was Olivia. No, you don't pollinate flowers, nor will you want to. That's someone else's job anyway. You live where you want, and you will probably want to live around here ... though I wouldn't mind if you came to visit," she continued with just a bit of lustful huskiness in her voice.
"I suggest you stay out of sight as much as possible, as explaining the wings, not to mention the color, would be rather difficult. You can will yourself smaller, to near invisibility, though I wouldn't advise it as you can get eaten by a passing bird. Your best bet is to become transparent, you will find you can do so at will with a bit of practice."
"Don't worry about clothes, you won't get hot or cold. Personally, I like what I see and you probably will, also."
"Not to be gross or anything, but that shell you just left should be solid enough to eat by now. You really should because you will need the energy. Eat the whole thing. Oh, don't make a face, we all do it! It tastes like potato chips and is full of energy. Besides, it's not like you need it anymore!"
At mention of a shell, Borealis had jumped up and turned around, staring at her perch. The jump sent her ten feet in the air, but her wings began buzzing automatically and slowly lowered her back to the ground. She found a chunk of the shell bearing tooth marks still in her hand, apparently she had already discovered it. A small bite was followed by another. This was good! Disgusting to think about, but really good! She found she was genuinely starving and broke off more huge chunks, devoured them greedily.
"Oh, that's another thing!" chimed in VT. "Careful what you do! You only weigh about ten pounds now ... the whole flying thing, ya know. But your muscles are as big as they look. If you jump hard or push against something hard you are going on a long trip, let me tell you!"
She paused, "Other than that, just be careful. You can get eaten by a bear, sucked through a jet engine, the usual things, and they will kill you. Otherwise, I don't think we ever really age or die. I changed back in 1812, not bad for 190, huh?" Borealis appreciatively took in her pirouette.
"So, I can't ever go back? What about family, friends? I guess my basic question is what's in this for me? Where's the payback?" This was starting to sound like a quick trip to death by boredom to Borealis.
VT sighed deeply. "Payback. Well, you won't really want to go back. And you do get to be your own boss and have lots of free time to do as you please. Payback. Well, payback is something you have to experience for yourself. If you follow true to form, you should be getting a strong urge to do your thing just any time now, and payback is immediate."
VT paused, then continued very softly, "I loved your predecessor ... in more ways than one, hint, hint! I miss her terribly. If it's not too forward ... and you find me at all attractive, could you come back when you're through tonight?"
"Do we do that?" Borealis asked dreamily. Her eyes were becoming mere slits as she gazed up at the darkening sky. A strange urge was slowly building, but not the one VT had suggested.
"Do we ever!" VT replied. "You know, life is not all work! You just have to be careful. Broken wings really itch when they grow back. And the guys are all rather sluggards, you know, earthquakes, tides, that sort of thing. They just break your wings, and they never call ..."
VT's voice grew fainter as Borealis looked to the heavens. The sun's energy spilled across the sky like water from a hose, but like water, drab and lifeless. Without conscious thought, and with a mighty leap, she shot upward. Up, to the midst of the stream she flew. Dipping both hands joyously into the rushing energy, she threw their contents across the darkness in swirling, seething bands of color. Each stream of color sent a tremendous orgasm wracking through her body. "Payback!" she thought. "Only fitting for creating such beauty!"
"... Radio Rich with KALK Real Rock Radio and your Fairbanks news update. Experts still fail to explain the absence of the Northern Lights this past spring, especially with the tremendous solar flare activity ... Holy Moly, folks! Get outside fast and look up ... pretty much anywhere! Holy Cow! I can see through the studio window ol' Borealis is back with a vengeance. This has got to be the best light show in twenty years! ..."
Cool story, Glory! Nice job foreshadowing Boris's "calling" -- I didn't catch the significance of drawing "bands of color" until the end. Stuff like that always makes for a pleasant surprise, at least for me. The broader theme of human beings becoming embodiments of nature has been done before, but it's done well here -- though it might have been nice to spend a little more time on describing the nameless urge that drove him to go to Alaska, of all places, at a time when his family would certainly have been arguing forcefully against it.
The chrysalis-type transformation was cool -- it was something I had immediately thought of when I first saw the image, and I was a little surprised that more writers didn't use it in their stories.
The first chapter was pretty much straight narrative exposition, which isn't the most exciting or engaging sort of writing, but you make up for it by moving into a more interesting style after the first couple of pages. VT and Borealis have distinctly different "voices", which makes them more interesting than your average pair of talking heads. The one criticism I would make in Chapter 2 -- other than a few technical quibbles -- is that the sexual side of the characters and their appointed tasks was somewhat overdone. VT's innuendo was a bit excessive -- by the time she got to saying "hint, hint", her suggestions had already become so obvious as to be a little crass. Also, there was no apparent reason why the painting of the auroras should provoke Borealis to orgasm. There are more kinds of pleasure and satisfaction.in the world than the purely sexual, and reducing her life to little more than an endless series of orgasms would drain the meaning out of both sex and life in general. I think the story would have been better served if you had described it as a deeper sort of fulfillment -- the intellectual, emotional and spiritual fulfillment of an artist who is finally released to paint her canvas. This would make her new place in the world seem more satisfying, for her and for us.
I liked the "radio transcript" at the end. A nice way to finish things up.
In summary, it was a good story, but it didn't quite reach either the level of artistry or the emotional "punch" of our winning entry. You've got a lot of talent, though, and I look forward to seeing more stories from you in the future.
Copyright 2004 by Glory. If you want to post this anywhere else, please ask for permission first. Thank you.
Back to Contest Results