If one looked really closely from the west Tennessee cornfield, one could see it. A tiny speck slowly moving across the sky, obviously a far-away airplane. Silent, evidently too far away for the engines to be heard.
No one would bother to use binoculars or a telescope on such a mundane sight, but if one did one would see that it was brown, an unusual color for an airplane, and also an odd shape. No wings. An odd bulge on the bottom near the front, or maybe two bulges. Landing gear? But so high up?
A really strong telescope would reveal it was the totally naked form of a thin but muscular, tiny-waisted, large-breasted young woman, zipping through the altitudes at several hundred miles an hour, silently, long black hair whipping behind her. Even in these times of heightened security she was invisible to radar or other detection systems, which are designed to pick up metal, not flesh and blood.
The thing to do was get out of town. Dareen needed some kind of breather. At work she had had to endure another Friday, hearing Jamal and Billy speculate about NakedGirl in the kitchenette. Sweating in her kerchief and long skirt and floppy, double covering to hide her breasts, the air conditioning not being up to full strength.
Jamal was starting to lighten up. "O.K., I have to admit, it's cute. She's also a little fine looking, for a white girl that is." Blink! blink! blink!
Dareen felt like saying, "The real NakedGirl isn't white," but of course, she couldn't.
"I think it's just a matter of time before someone gets a picture of her, then we'll find out what she really looks like," Billy said. "Maybe a few days."
"Did you ever think she doesn't WANT to have a picture taken?" Dareen suddenly found herself blurting out. Then decided it was O.K., there was no way these guys would suspect anything.
"She flies around naked, pops up all over town, and you think she doesn't want people to see her?" Billy said reasonably.
Dareen shrugged. "I don't know. This whole thing is a total mystery." Then she said, "If she really was the pride of the South, I hope she helps out with these hate crimes."
"There haven't been many," Billy said. "Just some bad words."
"It could lead to worse," Jamal said. One could forgive him; his great-great uncle had been lynched in 1924.
"Hope not. It's understandable in a way," Billy said, which caused Jamal to roll his eyes. By way of making peace Billy said, "Maybe NakedGirl can come to the rescue."
Blink! blink! blink! Dareen winced with every flash of those infernal plastic breasts. She'd seen this stupid plastic figurine sold on street corners, there was one on the bar in Alfredo's, and of course wherever it was, guys were clustering around it. Those were HER breasts, she alone knew. Being tweaked in public with each blink. Yet she couldn't say, "I find that really offensive," because one, she didn't want to seem like a humorless feminist, and two, if she wasn't really NakedGirl, she probably wouldn't have minded it that much, it being one of Billy's many lapses into political incorrectness.
Like the NAAD incident, for example. A few months ago a very boring, pompous bureaucrat came in to talk about a new "Native American Awareness Database" the library system was going to implement. A worthy cause, and actually a good idea, but she went on and on and on about it . . . Finally during a pause, Billy said, "Did you hear about the Indian who drank too much tea, and died in his own tea-pee?"
Ms. Hom quickly admonished him, and Billy apologized, but through the rest of the presentation Dareen and Jamal were trying to hide a bad case of the giggles. Fortunately the bureaucrat was too dense to detect their tortured straight faces.
Blink! blink! The flashing lights got her attention again. Heavily clothed and protected as her nipples were by the sturdy bra, cotton blouse and double-knit sweater, Dareen felt the urge to cover them with her hands. She resisted, of course.
Jamal was right, though, things were getting ugly in town. A federal official was on the Cobb News Network talking about "secret intelligence" linking the pulse bomb to a Middle Eastern country. There were reports of Muslims, or anyone foreign and dark-skinned, getting harassed, and new defacements on her own mosque and others. Fortunately it seemed limited, nobody had been seriously hurt. But Elly got heckled yesterday by a couple of white guys while walking down the street. When she got home she was a little shaken, and she decided to go hang out with her folks in New York for the weekend. And now, Dareen's brother Sanny found out his unit was being shipped out to Iraq, something they had all been dreading but half-expecting for weeks.
Ahhhh... Now flying high over the cornfields on this beautiful Saturday afternoon, she felt cool and clean and alone and free. She had launched from her fire escape last night, gliding around the city, then felt the urge to go west, into the cool air over the mountains, then further, further . . . As she sky got lighter blue she thought of turning back, then dithered until it was too late. She couldn't risk flying around the city in daylight, she would be seen for sure. So she kept going, flying high up, avoiding populated areas. I'll just come back tomorrow night, she told herself.
Going so fast, even the thinner air up here was thick and lush, like swimming through water, and it felt just as good as swimming through her favorite pond past Thomasville. She enjoyed the sensual feeling of the air whooshing by her nipples, through her toes, over her butt cheeks, and then there was the bracing feeling of air in her face, in her eyes, waking her up, making her glad to be alive. This cannot be a mistake. Allah wants me to feel these feelings, feelings that no other human can experience. And there is no shame in being naked up here, with no one to see. Thanks to Allah.
Going faster, she learned, was a matter of straightening out her body, putting her head down, pointing her toes. Turning her palms, she spun onto her back, and now she was flying on her back, looking up at whipped-cream clouds as she passed under them. The lower ones she was actually passing through, giggling as the cool droplets hit her like millions of tiny little icy needles, leaving a sheen on her brown skin which quickly dried off. Now, she slowed down and had some fun: straightening up, running in place, doing cartwheels across the sky.
Early August and the earth is bursting with food. Dareen was getting hungry and took notice whenever she passed over orchards of oranges, lemons, then as she got to the mountains, apples (though these were not ripe yet). It was so easy, she could see the individual fruit without any strain to her eyes. There were people working them here and there, tiny figures she could see from far up and she avoided them. Now over the cornfields, she saw an unattended stretch, and slowed and landed right between two stalks, strong bare feet impacting the hot dry stony soil.
It was technically stealing, she supposed, but then thought of Jesus eating corn with his disciples, against the rules. "The Sabbath was made for Man, and not Man for the Sabbath." One of her favorite sayings from scripture. The Koran had things to the same effect, but Jesus put it most succinctly. Allah wouldn't mind...
Corn tastes better when it's raw, she decided, having husked a few ears and sitting now cross-legged, enjoying the warm earth pressing up against her bare butt, pigging out on one ear after another, so moist that she kept brushing juice that dripped onto her melon-sized breasts. She never realized how hot and airless it was in the middle of a cornfield. And buggy, though oddly none of the many gnats circling around her got close enough to be a bother.
Stretched out in an "X", looking up past her brown mountains at the sun, feeling it warm every inch of her body, beads of sweat on her forehead and above her breasts, she felt her hips undulate, the command of a feeling she was getting more often these days, and felt the last eaten cob in her hand and without hardly thinking slowly brought it down to between her legs and did the natural thing...
She kept away from towns, away from planes, easy to do because she could sense them from miles away, she would look in that direction and she could see the shape of the plane and read the letters on it like it was close up. A refreshing dip right into the Mississippi along a deserted stretch -- she could recognize the wiggly wide shape from maps -- and she was off over the dry, wide plains of north Texas.
This was truly deserted, a brown-yellow sun-baked expanse of short brown grass, the occasional untraveled road, no houses or buildings. It went on for miles and miles, even picking up speed Dareen could not get to the end of it. Taking a closer look she detected strings of animal trails. It seemed like prints from hooves of horses, and sure enough she saw one horse, then a couple more coming over a rise. Now in the distance there was what she could only call an oasis, a little pond with trees around it. A dozen horses were there, standing around or drinking with warm, placid bowed heads. Dareen flew past it, then pointed her feet forward to ascend and went further on over the near-desert, wondering where it would end.
This must be federal land. Maybe a test range? No, those were more to the west, Nevada or Utah. Dareen had been across the country once, the summer after she got her bachelor's degree, driving with her friend Susie to her new job in California, and remembered the evil chill from seeing the Nevada road map with those mysterious boxy red markings south of I-80 near the salt flats "Danger Areas". Ordinary shooting ranges? Fallout from bomb tests of the 1940's? Extraterrestrials? Yeah, right. Susie believed in such things -- she had spent way too much time on the internet, and spoke about millions of Americans being abducted by aliens and the government knowing about it -- to which Dareen could only sigh. "Susie..."
Dareen was always quite the "down to earth" one, but now... Further west the grass got sparser, it was mostly sand dunes. Could that be? Swooping down for a closer look Dareen stood, spread-X'ed in mid-air twenty feet up. Yes, it was true. A trail of bare footprints, human. Maybe female. They gathered and ended and there were little sweeps in the sand, then just a set of hoofprints, leading back to where she had come.
Dareen felt drawn back to that oasis and soon was hovering over it. She descended down, down, until she was right next to a tree that overhung part of the little pond. Oddly, the horses did not run or seem scared; in fact they looked up and seemed to be waiting for her to come down. They had no saddles or bits. These were wild horses. She wondered how they could find enough grass to eat here on this desolate range, but here they were.
Facing downward with arms and legs stretched out in an "X", spreading her fingers and toes, Dareen found she could hover motionless a few feet above the pond. She felt the urge to jump in but something made her wait. With the horses leaving off their drinking to look at her, the pond became still and in its natural mirror Dareen saw her super self clearly for the first time. At first she disparaged it. Two big melons stuck to a bean pole, a comic book body, looking like an Arab Wonder Woman after breast implants, except no costume.
But then she looked again. There was a strange handsomeness, a strange symmetry, to her features. True, almost a caricature of the object of male lust, but the strong, thin and buxom body, with its luxuriant violet hair and pubes, could almost be called beautiful, even by women. Indeed, for the first time she didn't seem to be a mutation; she seemed an intentional, balanced, internally consistent work of creation, one of Allah's beautiful and perfect creatures just like these horses. Islam tended to frown on focusing too much on the body (it was a sign of idolatry) but there was no denying the "rightness" of her new body. It seemed more "right" than her old one, which was flabbier and with breasts that were destined for serious sagging and scheduled for reduction surgery.
Surgery ughh! Cut into this perfect body?
Dareen exhaled and shook her head and uprighted herself, drifting down to the pond. She was getting too caught up in herself. This NakedGirl business was a pile of trouble. As for the surgery, that was a question for another day.
She found herself saying, "Ahhhh..." as her toes submerged into the surprisingly cool water. By now well practiced in controlling mid-air descent, she felt the water rising up to her ankles, then her knees, past her crotch, into her lower crevices, then up past her concave tummy, then the sense of displacement as her breasts went in and then her head. She remembered being told to imagine such slow submersion into cool water long ago, in a psychology course when studying hypnosis, as a relaxation technique. But this was real, and the cool relaxation more engulfing and penetrating.
She opened her eyes in the depth of the pond and could see the sunlight filtering down, the roots of the tree, then felt her toes sink into the cool squishy mud. Up she went, shooting up from the pond, water coursing off her brown skin as she hovered just over the surface.
The horses were enjoying the show. It was almost like they were used to being visited by a naked girl. And not freaked out by a girl who flew, a big, strange-looking bird to them. She had heard that horses were naturally skittish; though such big animals, they protected themselves by running away because they were so good at it. But with her these horses were relaxed and unafraid.
Dareen had a sudden flash of insight: I am part of creation, not a threat, I am somehow more at one with animals than before, more at one than the ordinary human. Not minding if her wet hands got pasted with hairs, she petted one of the horses, then hopped on it, and it carried her around in a jaunty circle as if showing off while the others watched. Dareen felt the warm, unclothed flesh and blood under her own, muscles and bones moving under her own. All her worries seemed to fly from her mind.
She stayed with the horses all day, playing with them, scooting around in the air as they tried to smack her with their wet noses, like a wood nymph of mythology cavorting with a herd of Pegasuses. She swam around in the cool water and drank from it and ate the ripened fruit of the tree, which turned out to be a fig tree. She was so glad to be alive, so glad to be a naked girl, so glad to be NakedGirl. A super heroine on her day off, where there were no people to see her nakedness.
As dusk fell she sat her bare butt on the sandy soil, she looked at the setting sun and crystallized the thoughts that had been circling around in her unconscious mind. I'm NakedGirl, a super hero. I go to where there's trouble and help out; that is what I do, that is the role that Allah has assigned me. At the same time, I do not escape the commands of the Koran or the need to protect the sensibilities of my family. I will use my creativity to pursue every call in a way that preserves my modesty to the extent possible, and that keeps my identity as Dareen Alkaras a secret. As for those silly plastic white statuettes and the talk of NakedGirl around town and in the media, it really is nothing to get upset about. It's not really me, it's just an image people have, perfectly understandable. And in the case of the statuettes, actually pretty funny.
She exchanged her wordless goodbyes with the horses, and banked up and out and across the dark dry prairie, knowing that she would return someday.