It was on the morning of Empath’s 150th birthday. Papa Smurf and Brainy were in Handy’s workshop early that morning, helping Handy push his single-winged, double-seated smurfplane out of the hangar and onto the open stretch of land being used as a runway.
“I don’t get it, Papa Smurf,” Brainy grunted as he pushed the vehicle forward. “We’ve always trusted the cranes to smurf us anywhere we need to go that’s too far for us to smurf on foot. Why are we smurfing this contraption to bring Empath back home?”
“First of all, Brainy,” Papa Smurf huffed, “those cranes are our friends, but they’re also living beings, which means we can’t smurf too much advantage of our friendship with them to smurf anything we want with them. Secondly, Handy smurfed this vehicle and is very capable of flying it as well. And thirdly, I believe Empath would want something special for his 150th smurfday, such as smurfing a ride home in Handy’s new invention for the first time.”
“I heard from Reporter that Tailor’s already smurfing up something special for Empath’s smurfday, Papa Smurf,” Handy contributed.
“Oh, really?” Brainy snorted. “I really wonder what it is this time — another white suit? For a Smurf who claims that he knows fashion when he smurfs it, he seems to be smurfing centuries behind the times. I can't believe he won't even smurf me a new suit that shows how smurfisticated and intelligent I am as a Smurf. But no…a Smurf suit like that just wouldn't smurf traditional or very distinguished, so he smurfs.”
“I’m smurftain that whatever Tailor is creating for Empath will be a surprise for everyone to smurf,” Papa Smurf responded.
“That smurfs up another thing right there, Papa Smurf,” Brainy continued. “The fact that there are six Smurfs in the village that do not know who Empath is. Even Smurfette, who's smurfed with us for five years, should have known by now about Empath, the Smurf whose popularity is only rivaled by that of me, Brainy Smurf. Or even Baby Smurf, the one Smurf I know will smurf after me when it comes to having the intelligence to smurf with the everyday life of his fellow Smurfs.”
“I am pretty much aware of that, Brainy,” Papa Smurf shot back, getting tired of hearing Brainy's annoying ranting. “And I will let them know as soon as possible. Today, though, I am going to be busy teaching Baby Smurf some new words to smurf, so I want you to oversmurf the party preparations until Empath arrives.”
“You can count on me for that, Papa Smurf,” Brainy said, feeling confidence in his abilities. Handy just rolled his eyes, unsure if he could trust Brainy to do his job without messing things up somehow.
They stopped pushing the smurfplane forward as they reached the spot near the open stretch of land Handy was going to use to take off. Handy pulled out his flight gloves, goggles, and scarf from his backpack and suited himself up for the journey.
“I’ve got the directions to Psychelia down smurfed, Papa Smurf,” Handy told him. “What do you want me to do once I get there?”
“Just wait for him outside the domain, Handy,” Papa Smurf instructed. “The Psyche Master isn’t very fond of beings like us smurfing in there without his permission. Sometime today, the Psyche Master will excuse Empath from his duties and smurf him on his way home. It’s very important that whatever happens, you do not smurf one foot inside the domain of Psychelia.”
“You’ve got it,” Handy replied. “I’m on my way there.”
Papa Smurf and Brainy watched as Handy got the motor of his smurfplane going and then zoomed straight down the open stretch of land before it lifted off into the sky, circling once around the village before heading off in the direction of Psychelia.
"I'm only wondering, Papa Smurf, why this Psyche Master doesn't want us smurfing around in his village," Brainy queried as he and Papa Smurf saw Handy's smurfplane disappear from sight.
Papa Smurf sighed, not sure how to answer that question. "Something that smurfed between me and him long ago before Empath smurfed to the village for his first visit, Brainy. Not that it is really much of our concern, since I doubt that Empath will be smurfing back there this time around."
"Empath's not smurfing back to Psychelia after this year?" Brainy asked, surprised to hear that coming from Papa Smurf.
"Yes, Brainy, and right now I don't want any Smurf to know that until the time of Empath's smurfday party," Papa Smurf directed. "I want this to be as much of a surprise to all my other little Smurfs as it would be to Empath."
Brainy nodded. "Believe me, Papa Smurf, even a wild Wartmonger can't smurf out of me what you just smurfed me about Empath to the other Smurfs!"
This response now made Papa Smurf roll his eyes in disbelief.
Handy whooped as he zoomed high over the forest, scaring off some high-nesting birds in the trees. He could see everything there was to see from up here, except that he was in control of his flight. He even passed by Gargamel’s dilapidated castle, being very careful not to be noticed, though he couldn’t see hide nor hair of the wizard, his apprentice Scruple, or his cat Azrael.
He then headed high over the mountain range that bordered the Smurf forest, spotting the mysterious snowbeast they had encountered five years ago. Apparently, he was too busy looking for food in this barren snowy place to even notice anything zooming past him overhead. Handy still waved down to him.
Past the mountain range, Handy could see the place Papa Smurf and Empath called Psychelia. It was his first time seeing where these Psyches lived, and he was amazed by how it looked. Polished stonelike structures, simple in design and arranged in a specific logical pattern around a larger towering structure, filled the area outside the trees, with polished stone walkways threading their way through the structures. It was a beauty that surpassed even the disordered quaintness of the mushroom cottages that made up the Smurf Village, yet everything looked mechanical and lifeless.
As Handy took the smurfplane down toward Psychelia, he also saw the Psyches for the first time as well. Resembling humans more than they did Smurfs with their hair and Caucasian-colored skin, these Psyches looked as every bit as lifeless as their surroundings. Wearing black bodysuits with silver cuffs on their wrists and ankles, the Psyches appeared to go through their daily routine of working and studying without much talking and with blank expressionless faces. To Handy, it seemed that a Psyche’s life was only work and no play, no joy, not even sorrow.
Handy sighed at that thought. At least he was glad to have lived in the Smurf Village where work was balanced out with play, and nobody needed to hide their feelings from anybody.
He found a clearing outside the walled-in domain of Psychelia and landed the smurfplane on the clearing, being careful not to run into any Psyches that happened to have walked in front of the oncoming vehicle. Those that passed in front of Handy looked at him with a slightly hurt look, and then just continued on their way, as if Handy wasn’t even worth the bad attention he was accidentally drawing upon himself.
Handy brought the smurfplane to a full stop and then cut the motor, making sure he didn't waste any fuel that he had put into the motor's tank that morning. He then looked at the entrance to the domain of Psychelia where the guards stood with their crystal-tipped spears, preventing any unwanted visitors from entering. Finally, he looked at his pocket watch, noting the current time. Empath had not yet showed up at the entrance. But Papa Smurf did say that Empath would be excused from his duties in Psychelia sometime today, so that meant from now until whenever, Empath would eventually show up.
Meanwhile, within the domain of Psychelia, Empath was with a group of Psyches, dressed in the same black bodysuit as they were, his head bald and exposed. He was helping them clear down trees with axes, using his mind power only to make sure the trees fall without landing on a Psyche. He was about to start cutting a felled tree into logs when his instructor approached him. "Empath Psyche, the Psyche Master commands your presence in his chamber immediately," he told Empath.
"This one acknowledges," Empath replied without any hint of emotion. He turned in his axe and headed straight for the towering structure where he knew the Psyche Master monitored everything the Psyches do.
The chamber in the tower was dark save for a rainbow-colored beam of light in the center, where a face that barely looked anything like a Psyche appeared. This was how the Psyche Master chose to appear to all, for he barely concerned himself with having to leave his chamber to attend to his Psyches. Empath saw that face emerge within the light after he entered his chamber.
“Empath Psyche, designation 1137-K, acknowledging his presence," he announced.
“Empath," the Psyche Master spoke in an omnipotent tone, "I believe the being you call Papa Smurf requires your presence in his village to celebrate your birthday, as he does every ten years. Therefore, I shall grant you permission to leave here for the Smurf Village immediately."
"This one acknowledges, Psyche Master," Empath replied, with an eye-level bow.
"However," the Psyche Master continued, "this leave that I grant you this time is permanent. Once you leave Psychelia, you are never to return here again."
Empath looked surprised. "Psyche Master, this one does not understand why you do not wish this one to return here. This one's training as a Psyche is not yet complete."
"As I see it, the remainder of your training has now been officially terminated," the Psyche Master answered. "I will not continue to train a Psyche whose mind is clouded by feelings and ideas that do not belong to a true Psyche."
"But I am not a Psyche," Empath explained. "You know that I am a Smurf, and having feelings is part of what being a Smurf is."
"Don't call yourself 'I' in front of me, Empath," the Psyche Master rumbled, shaking everything in the temple as well as Empath with his voice. "I know you are a Smurf, but you were raised a Psyche, and here in Psychelia you must behave like one. Papa Smurf should not be wasting your time trying to teach you about such trivial things as feelings."
"Wait a minute, Psyche Master," Empath shouted, feeling insulted. "Papa Smurf has been everything but trivial or a time-waster. He cares enough to be with his little Smurfs, including me, not above them all day like—"
"Silence yourself!" Psyche Master commanded. In that instant, Empath felt an incredible burst of pain in his head that made him fall to his knees.
"Now you will do as I say, Empath," he continued, with Empath still on the floor, feeling the pain. "You will leave for the Smurf Village immediately. You are now permanently disconnected from the link of your fellow Psyches, and you are never to return here again...ever. Is that acknowledged?"
"This one...acknowledges,...Psyche Master," Empath forced out from his lips. He had no choice but to obey.
The pain vanished, and as the cuffs on his wrists and ankles came off and clattered noisily on the floor, Empath picked himself up before leaving the Psyche Master's chamber.
Back in the sleeping quarters he shared with another Psyche, Empath changed from his black bodysuit to his white Smurf hat and pants, which he knew would not be decent being seen in around the Psyches, but since this would be a permanent departure for him, he might as well wear what identified him as a Smurf. His bunkmate, Polaris, watched Empath pack his belongings. "This one sees that you are leaving for that other village again," Polaris said.
Empath nodded. "This time, this smurf will no longer be able to return here."
"Maybe it is time you need to be with your own people for more than a year," Polaris explained. "If only this one can go to this Smurf Village with you, this one would."
"This smurf understands," Empath answered. "There is nobody here this smurf would want to have with this smurf in my village other than you. But you belong here, as this smurf belongs with my own people. This smurf will miss your presence."
"As this one will miss your presence here as well," Polaris replied as they looked at each other for one last time. “Farewell forever, fellow Empath.”
“Farewell forever, fellow Polaris,” Empath nodded. And then he headed away from the domain, where he knew a flight back to the Smurf Village was waiting for him.
Handy was getting a little impatient waiting for Empath to leave the domain. He was loosening up his flight gloves and removing his scarf when he finally saw Empath walking toward him with his backpack. Empath looked surprised to find that instead of a crane, there was Handy and some invention he had only seen before in his visions. At that moment, Handy felt glad that Jokey wasn’t the only Smurf who can spring surprises on anybody — particularly with Empath, who could already know what was hidden underneath the packaging.
“Great Ancestors!” Empath exclaimed as Handy put his flight gear back on and got inside the plane to start up the motor. The propeller started buzzing again.
“This is my latest invention, Empath — a smurfplane," he called out over the noise of the propeller. "Not that you'd need something like this to fly, but since it's a long smurf to the village,..."
“It's an interesting invention, Handy!" Empath shouted back his compliment. "This smurf knew you'd someday find out how to fly."
"Hop in and smurf for yourself," Handy invited.
Empath did. This would be interesting, indeed.
After Empath was comfortably seated with his belongings in the rear seat, Handy turned the smurfplane around and headed it down an empty stretch of land, causing the Psyches to flee from the oncoming vehicle. Slowly it lifted itself off the ground and circled away heading toward the Smurf Village.
Empath looked below to see Polaris waving him goodbye, then looked forward and relaxed in his seat as he and Handy climbed high over the mountains separating the Psyches from the Smurf forest.
“How does it feel to fly in something like this, Empath?” Handy asked, speaking a little louder because of the noisy buzz of the plane’s propeller.
“It’s…different!” Empath answered. “Just a bit noisier than riding on the back of a crane’s neck, but somehow a bit safer. This smurf hopes you are skilled enough to fly this invention of yours safely.”
“Don’t worry about that, Empath,” Handy called back. “Just enjoy the view. I’ll smurf us safely home, you can count on that.”
"This smurf hopes you're not still jealous over the fact that this smurf could fly on his own, even though it is not this smurf's intention to make anyone jealous," Empath said.
"You've got your way of flying, Empath…now I've got mine," Handy answered. "Of course, if it weren't for you, I would never have been inspired to smurf my dream of flying."
"Up until 37 years ago, this smurf never thought I would be able to have the ability to fly like this smurf is capable of," Empath admitted. "To even inspire someone to fly when they don't yet have the capability of doing so is not something this smurf takes lightly. Learning how to fly requires you to take the risks of falling, and believe me, this smurf has fallen many times on my previous attempts to master flight."
"Don't I already know how falling feels, 30 years ago when I tried to smurf in the air just like you," Handy commented, reminiscing back to those earlier days.
Empath also remembered those days, including the day it all started.