Photo by Doris Cologna
Zack’s second fall was less terrifying than his first, but fraught with uncertainty. It was morning and he could see the immense curvature of the Ismaran world. He was clothed this time, jacketed and gloved, so he could tolerate the stratospheric lows, and he assumed he would slow down when he reached the ground, like he had the first time. But then what?
He tried to steel himself to face the giant bird, planning the words that might somehow convince the creature not to bite his leg off and to help him find his sister!
But just as he broke through a thick layer of cloud he saw a sudden flash. He initially thought it was lightning, but the second and third times it happened, he realized each of the flashes was a different color. And they weren’t sharp and white hot like lightening bolts, but curved at the ends like—
This is totally ridiculous, he thought, but they look like shepherd’s crooks. Is someone actually guiding the clouds? This impression was verified when the cloud Zack was passing through was suddenly yanked away. He could see it moving off at several hundred miles an hour, pulled by a creamsickle-orange light-staff. This was obviously not a natural occurrence. Somebody was doing it! But who? And why?
He’d just shot through another layer when he noticed a particularly thick cloud moving toward the space below him, almost as if it were rushing to meet him. It looked like the cauliflower cumulus he’d grabbed a piece of the first time he’d fallen into Ismara. He plunged into the on-rushing formation. It was just the way he remembered, only this time it did something it hadn’t done before:
It grabbed him!
He felt himself being swung upward by his right arm and deposited onto a spongy bed of white. But that wasn’t half as jarring as what happened next. A girl about his age stepped onto his chest, looked down, and said:
“You really are beautiful! What’s it like to walk on the ground?”
He stared up at her, unable to think of an answer.
“Oh, no!” she moaned. “I got a mute one. I knew there’d be something wrong. A human falls out of the sky into my cloud, and he turns out to be defective. Oh, I wish you could talk, if only you could talk, you’d be perfect. Maybe I could teach you to—”
“I can talk,” Zack interrupted. She obviously wasn’t the kind of girl who leaves pauses for other people to speak. She screamed with delight…
And sat down on his chest.
Thoughts: Have you ever been so drawn into someone else’s will that it seemed to replace yours?
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