“Now,” said Todd Rodgers, his voice rising again. “Now it’s time to stop talking. We’re done talking. Talking time is over. Today,” he said. “Today is the day we spread our wings!”

The audience rose again, and Deb stood with them.

“Now,” he said. “Now is the time, to launch!” He unfurled his wings, opening them out behind him, and the audience roared. Some stomped the ground; others flapped and cheered. The music, which had been unnoticeable, swelled, and Deb found herself drawn in, calling and clapping with the rest.

Todd Rodgers moved to the back of the stage but his voice still carried.

“I know you’re sick of hovering around success,” he said in a tone of both concern and reproof. “You’re fed up with being anchored to mediocrity.”

“Yes,” cried the audience, “yes!”

“Well then,” shouted Todd Rodgers, taking a running start, “It’s time to get up and fly!” As he said it, he spread his wings and lifted almost a foot into the air, gliding for what would have been his last few strides to land delicately at the edge of the stage.

Deb leaned forward. The pulse of energy around her seemed to bear her up, and she could not help flexing the taut muscles of her back and mantle. The row where she stood seemed too crowded all of a sudden and Deb made her way towards the aisle, squeezing past excited attendees towards the open space beyond. Todd Rodgers had begun to clap rhythmically to the music and the audience joined him. Deb found herself nearer the stage, looking up and clapping as well. He seemed so serene, so sure — his wings loose, his eyes bright. It was how, up until last night, she’d pictured herself. 

She made her way to the very front and stared up at Todd Rodgers as he called out for the audience to realize their true potential. It didn’t matter anymore, none of it, not Carl, or the people in 1278, or anyone. Deb lifted her wings and let doubt fall away.