Zack’s feet only slipped part way through cloud floor now. Still, he weighed more than a sylph, which, he learned, was what Liulah and her kin were, but they were more commonly known as cloud shepherds.
Liulah chattered on as Zack, finally abandoning all attempts at escape, settled into posing FAQs: “Everything looks the same. So how can you tell where you’re—”
“Only at first. We’re going to my favorite watching spot.”
“For watching the ground, silly!”
Almost from the moment Liulah pulled him into her cloud, Zack had noticed he had an unquenchable thirst. As he stumbled after her, he tore off chunks of cotton candy cumulus and popped them into his mouth. “ This is nothing more than mist,” he said. “How can it taste so—?”
“Good?” There was an odd mix to Liulah’s expression, half smile and half something else. Guilt?
Zack traversed Liulah’s cloud with her for several hours—it was five miles wide and ten miles long. He was single-minded for the first hour, relentlessly repeating, “I have to find my sister Gina!”
But Liulah continued to ignore him–no, not ignore, laugh at him. It wasn’t that she was insensitive; the words “Gina” and “sister” simply had no meaning for her, so she giggled, assuming he was making funny noises to amuse her. “Blah-de-goo-be-blah-de!” she would gleefully reply.
Zack finally gave up, and began focusing on getting his cloud-legs. Oddly, his anxiousness about finding Gina decreased as his appreciation for cloud life increased. After he’d eaten a huge amount of cloud matter, he began appreciating the different tastes and textures. “Hey, wait! I want some more of that spicy berry stuff!” As he bounced over to the “berry patch,” he noticed that he barely slipped through the surface anymore.
Was he actually beginning to weigh less? But how could that be? Maybe he’d changed. How long had it been, anyway? He’d lost all sense of time. “Hey, that cave over there is massively cool!” He pointed to a particularly colorful cloud grotto. How could he not have noticed it before? Maybe it’s like being in a cave, he thought, only the opposite because instead of getting used to the dark, here your eyes have to get used to the light.
“This is it,” Liulah chortled, “my favorite watching spot!”
Zack bounded across a fifty-foot chamber in just six steps. “Whoa! I didn’t know I could do that! That was amazing!”
Liulah was lying on her stomach looking through a hole in the cloud floor. “That’s Spalgreff, the highest village in the world. The people there have big round chests!”
Zack flumped down next to her. Liulah smiled coyly and scooted closer, brushing up against him. He felt weird, sort of hemmed in and sort of happy all at the same time. After staring at her white gold hair for a long while, he forced himself to look down…
But all he could think about was Liulah.
Thought: Have you ever changed, for good or for bad, and only later realized you’d ceased to be who you were before?
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