The Wild Cards universe has been thrilling readers for over 25 years, and “The Flight of Morpho Girl” conjures up an adventurous new tale from the imaginations of acclaimed sci-fi writers Caroline Spector and Bradley Denton.
Adesina, known as “Morpho Girl,” is used to handling the weird that is her everyday, but life has dealt her a tricky new hand. First, her mom, the crimefighter Amazing Bubbles, has been off since her last mission. Second, Adesina recently aged from ten to sixteen, making everyone think she’s even weirder than she already is. On top of everything else, her best friend goes missing. What’s a newly-teenaged joker need to do to catch a break?
Yesterday, the day Ghost was kidnapped, Mom came into my bedroom after breakfast and jumped out the window.
I’d gone out that way before dawn, and I’d come back in the same way. Like, it was super practical and, bonus, Mom didn’t know—which was hella best for both of us. There was no way I was telling her I’d been flying.
We’re on the eighth floor, and I heard a sick thud as she slammed into the concrete below. I ran over to the window and looked down. Mom got to her feet and waved. She was fatter now.
“I love you, honey!” she called in this weird, peppy voice. I was thinking, like, please don’t do that—because it was giving me the sick willies. “Have a good Monday!” Then she jogged away, and the people on the sidewalk parted for her like water.
She’s been doing that a lot lately. Jumping out my window, I mean. She used to use her bedroom window when she wanted to put on fat, but ever since she came back from Kazakhstan she’s been different. As in, so not normal.
Of course, “normal” for us isn’t normal at all. After all, Mom’s an ace. She’s a totes famous ace. Between her modeling (she’s been a model since she was a kid, even before her card changed) and her work with the Committee, she’s either on the front page of every political website, or she’s selling cosmetics and stuff like that to all the nats. She’s always filled with the fabu—even when she’s heavy. Maybe especially then.
But me, I’m a joker. I couldn’t pass for a nat no matter what. My iridescent cobalt-colored wings—the same color as a morpho butterfly—make sure of that. And I still have four vestigial insect legs on my torso from when I was a little girl. Oh, yeah, did I mention that until four weeks ago I was a little girl? Overnight I went from being, like, ten to being, like, sixteen. See, the bad stuff that happened in Kazakhstan, well, my little-girl self was so frightened by what she saw in her dreams that she went into a cocoon. When I came out, I came out as something the size of a teenager. And my wings, well, they aren’t just pretty anymore. They’re awesome.
So Mom and I both emerged from that whole Kazakhstan thing… changed. And I think my changes have been freaking her out. But then, freaking her out isn’t a difficult thing to do these days. Like, she went noodley over the fact that our water has started to turn a gross color kinda like orange Gatorade. Okay, so anyone would be grossed out because, ew. But she got crazy noodley when the super said to tell the city about it, not him. She threatened to make him drink it. Also, our HBO keeps switching to Spanish for no reason, and we’ve had to buy a new remote control because she got pissed about that and bubbled the old one into powder. Not pieces. Powder.
I guess that’s why she’s gone into full-blown Mom-of-the-Year mode. It probably makes her feel like she’s in control of something. So she cooks. She cleans. She even tries to help me with my homework. Which is amazeballs, but in a bad way. For one thing, she’s even worse at algebra than I am. But I have to pretend that I couldn’t do it without her.
And she’s pretty much gone wild with the cooking. Like, she’s been channeling Martha Stewart, except Mom doesn’t have a prehensile tail.
Yesterday morning, before the window thing, she made eggs, bacon, toast, pancakes, and fresh-squeezed orange juice. It used to be, when it came to breakfast, she could barely put cereal in a bowl. So most of the time we’d just grab a bagel with a schmear at the deli at 14th Street and Avenue A. The deli crowd were all used to me when I was a little girl, and some of them even smiled at me once in a while. But now, if we go there at all, everyone avoids making eye contact.
Sure, I look like a teenager now, and my wings are a lot bigger than they used to be. So maybe I knock a few things off a table when I walk past. But I’m still me.
I mean, I’m mostly still me. I haven’t told anyone this… but how I think is different now. It’s like I got smarter and dumber at the same time. I know things I didn’t know before, and I can do things I didn’t do before. (I can play the bass! Really!) But I cry, like, at the drop of a hat. At stupid stuff. Like, tragic love scenes in movies. It’s mega embarrassing.
“Adesina, eat up, honey,” Mom said. “You’re too thin.” Which should have been hilarious, coming from her.
I gave a groan and pushed away my plate. “Mom, I’ll be in Snoozeville, like, all day if I have any more.”
As usual, she didn’t seem to hear me. But she swept away the dishes and loaded them into the dishwasher. Then she polished the sink faucets for, like, the sixth time. As if that would make them any shinier.
“Mom,” I said. I wanted to tell her she didn’t have to do all this stuff—that it would be fine by me if she just went back to being like she used to be. But she still didn’t seem to hear me. And I hated the look on her face. It was blank, and her head was cocked to one side as if she were hearing something. Something bad. But the only sounds were the usual noises coming up from the street. The taxis honking, the exhausted sigh of buses, and people yelling at each other. Nothing that would make Mom blank out like that. It was the worst.
I got up and went to my room. Leaving Mom alone when she got like this, I’d decided, was the only thing to do. She couldn’t hear me, and getting her attention by touching her would only freak her all the hells out. I knew this because about a week before, I’d tried to get her attention that way. Just by touching her shoulder. And she had almost bubbled me.
Oh, she used to make a lot of bubbles for me. When I was a little kid. But they’d always be softbubbles. We’d play with them in the park or knock them around the bathtub. Or she’d encase me in a bubble for a few minutes and I’d roll around in it. Stuff like that.
Copyright © 2018 by Caroline Spector and Bradley Denton
Art copyright © 2018 by John Picacio