Once upon a time, in a place where it snowed more than it rained, a penguin named Tux was observing his other friends on a block of ice reserved only for younger penguins. They were enjoying themselves by running up, sliding on their white bellies, and launching themselves into the icy ocean below using a jump they had worked together to create earlier. The other penguins were enjoying the sheer thrill of the fleeting moment as they soared through the air, but Tux was taking the activity a lot more seriously than they were. Running, sliding and pretending to fly were no longer satisfying to Tux and, as his friends repeatedly launched themselves into the water one by one, he stood off to the side, taking notes to figure out how to finish off his flying machine that would finally get him off this frozen island forever.
It came down to the challenge. Tux’s parents loved him dearly and he enjoyed being at home very much, but he had heard stories of adventurous penguins before him and couldn’t believe that most other penguins were satisfied with remaining here knowing that there was an infinite number of things to discover beyond the glaciers they called home. The thought of flying away had become an obsession for Tux over time, and the other penguins now accepted the fact that Tux was not going to play with them, but was going to stand off to the side and draw temporary diagrams in the snow, adding them to his notebook if he felt they contained vital information regarding flying. One penguin in particular, Lilly, would sometimes get in trouble for waiting too long to run up to the slide because she would be watching Tux from a distance, wondering how much closer he was getting to discovering the secrets to leaving this place.
Every evening, while the other penguins enjoyed their dinner, Tux would make his way down to the shore to review his notes in peace and to fill in any gaps he may have missed in his hurried attempt for his hand to catch up with his thoughts. One evening, Lilly snuck away and bravely walked down to the shore to interrupt Tux’s train of thought. “Pretty difficult stuff, hey?” she asked with some hesitation in her voice. Tux stopped writing in his notepad and looked up over the horizon, not making eye contact with Lilly who stood behind him. When the silence became unbearable, Lilly spoke again. “It’s OK if you don’t want to talk about it, I just thought that…”
“There’s always something missing,” Tux interrupted.
“Something missing?” Lilly asked
“Yeah,” Tux responded. “Every time I think I’ve figured it out and try out a new idea, there’s always something missing.”
“You mean, you’ve tried flying machines already?” Lilly asked with added curiosity.
Tux turned around to face Lilly. “Only one,” he responded.
“Can you… can you show me? I mean… you don’t have to I…”
“Sure,” Tux said.
Tux took Lilly by the hand and guided her around the outside of where the other penguins were sitting down, telling stories about their days. Tux told Lilly to wait for a moment as he went behind two giant pieces of ice and slowly pushed out a machine that resembled a giant flying bird. Lilly accidentally let out a little chuckle but quickly hid it behind her hands.
“I know it’s strange, but it works better than anything else I’ve tried,” Tux said as he stared at his invention. Lilly waddled closer to Tux and his flying machine. “I just can’t figure out what’s missing,” he said.
“You mean, like a missing number or a missing part?” Lilly asked, grateful that Tux was opening up about his project.
“Well, that’s the strange thing,” Tux began. “All the numbers add up and all of the parts have a purpose and a place, but every time I try and fly, it won’t let me move anywhere.”
Lilly thought carefully about what she was going to say next as she didn’t want to upset Tux.
“Maybe it’s more about the things you can’t put in your notebook,” she said. Tux asked her what she meant. “Well, why are you so eager to fly out of the colony?”
Tux didn’t hesitate. “Because I worry that I’m going to be stuck here forever knowing there’s so many things to explore out there.”
“But, what’s better about being out there without anyone else when you can stay here with everyone you love?”
Shaking his head as if to say Lilly wouldn’t understand, Tux went to push his flying machine back behind the ice. To his surprise, Lilly grabbed one end of the machine and stopped him and the flying machine from moving. “Let me fly with you,” she suggested.
Shocked by the comment, Tux quickly replied, “That’s not what it’s designed for.”
“It’s designed for adventures isn’t it? Well, what good is an adventure without someone to share it with? If you designed the machine well enough, then that’s something it should know. There’s even enough room for two.” Before Tux knew it, Lilly had climbed up on to a piece of ice, jumped into the machine and got comfortable.
“This won’t work,” Tux said as he found himself hopping up the ladder and sitting beside Lilly.
“You have nothing to lose by trying,” Lilly said softly.
Tux pushed down the handle beside him and his machine started to move forward. It rolled over the cliff and, after a moment of nervousness, the machine started flying in the direction Tux wanted it to go.
As the machine took off, it caught the attention of the other penguins below and Lilly and Tux were flying low enough to see the shock on their faces. With a smile on his face, Tux made a few adjustments and directed the two of them towards the now bright orange sunset. They looked at each other and Lilly took Tux’s hand. Wherever this adventure was taking them, at least they would have each other.