THE TIME I FLEW
by ZACHARY T. OWEN
ometimes I remember—how could I forget?—the time I flew. We, all of us, were in Michelle’s new car. I was riding passenger, Michelle at the wheel, and Missy was in the back with Rob. I remember staring at Michelle’s seat belt, which was frayed like a flat, gray snake that was coming apart, scale by scale. I remember thinking, ‘That probably isn’t too safe’. But I didn’t mention it. It really didn’t matter. I wasn’t even wearing a seat belt, myself. The Stones were kind of dripping out of the stereo, Jagger’s voice cycling in and out, and in my anger, I couldn't have cared less about being safe.
They were laughing at me. Rob snorted—he had a way of snorting that reminded me of a politician. It was a sort of telling, sickly laugh that betrayed him by revealing what an idiot and a liar he was. “You’re kidding me, right? You’re fucking bullshitting me,” he said.
“I’m not. I am not kidding you. I mean it.” I did mean it. Everybody was sharing childhood secrets. I had surprised myself by joining in. I had told them that when I was young, my sister and I, we could float. Only a few feet off of the ground, but actually float. I was careful not to use the word ‘fly’.
Michelle opened her mouth. I could smell what she’d eaten earlier that day, the fish that was stuck between her teeth in thick slivers. As she talked, she slowed the car, turning off the highway. “How can you expect us to believe that you and your sister could fly, Katy? I don’t think we can be convinced, Hon. Sorry.”
“I don’t need to convince you,” I said. “And I didn’t say fly. I said float. There is a difference.”
Then Missy cut in. I actually sort of liked Missy. I sort of liked her a lot. But I don’t think she was into girls. She was the one who had convinced me to go to the mall with all these god damned dunderheads. “So…why can’t you do it anymore?” she asked, intrigued. “Why can’t you or your sister fly a few feet off the ground now?” Even he said ‘fly’. Were they listening to me?
“I don’t know.” I didn’t. I felt stupid. I shouldn’t have shared my secret with them. I should have known they would mock me. At least Missy was genuinely curious. And polite. This was one of the reasons that I liked her so much.
“You’re such a loon,” Rob said, laughing.
I wanted to hit him. But I didn’t, I couldn’t. Not in front of Missy. But even if, I thought, just for a second, I could hit Rob—well, it didn’t matter. A few seconds later, nothing mattered..
Michelle was looking at her cell phone, trying to text her boyfriend, while Rob and Missy drilled me about ‘flying’. I reminded them that I had actually only floated. “Oooh, big difference,” Rob said. Nobody saw the semi until it was right in front of us.
Looking up, Michelle realized her mistake. She always realized her mistakes when it didn’t fucking matter anymore. She swerved, but like an idiot, she swerved into more traffic. What happened after that is a blur.
There was a cliff. It was a real Stephen Spielberg moment—a cliff just showing up like that, like the one in Jurassic Park when they’re being attacked by the T-rex. Just materializing to heighten the jeopardy…
The only thing I really remember from those moments are the loud thwacking and hissing noises, then my face going through the already cracking windshield, the glass slicing my cheeks and ears. Mick Jagger sang, “…But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need...” as I was propelled forward. For just a moment, Michelle was beside me. That snake had shed its last scales. It was like a race, only, instead of a finish line, there was only a fall into hard rock. Instead of a reward, you got a lot of broken bones and lacerations.
Despite momentum, despite our disorienting leap, Michelle looked at me. There was a funny, awe-struck look on her face. It made me feel good. Tempus fugit, mores venit, I thought. Then she fell away.
But I kept going.
I kept going and going, like a bullet. I managed to look back. Michelle had taken the full plunge. I could see her car teetering on the edge of the cliff. I thought of Missy and Rob. Fuck Rob.
Could they see me? I kept on going, and that’s when I realized I wouldn’t fall, couldn’t fall. I wasn’t going to fall because I was flying. Not floating, but flying. I kept gaining speed and thrusting upwards toward the clouds. I thought I heard the car go over the cliff, but I wasn’t sure and was afraid to look back. I could heard Rob screaming, but maybe I made that up in my head. I felt bad for Missy. I realized I would never be able to kiss her soft, thin lips, or caress her, or even really be her friend. I imagined her skeleton shattering like glass against concrete and I began to sob, my tears evaporating in the rushing air. What was happening?
The wind was tussling my hair and flowing through me as if I were made of feathers. I watched the earth below me shrink away, change scenes. I flew over a forest, a small town, a lake. I watched tiny people go in and out of their houses, get in their cars and drive down the street. I saw dogs toppling over garbage cans and sticking their snouts deep in the trash. I wanted so badly to come down, to stop moving and fall into a soft bed. I wanted to see my Mother and my Father. I wanted to see Missy, but I knew she was dead, had to be dead.
Below me, people went about their lives as I flew above, powerless to stop. I was so high up, I wasn’t sure if screaming would do any good. I screamed anyway, the contents of my lungs filling the air, my hair whipping about as I shot through the sky like I was headed for the sun. The atmosphere grew thin, but I never passed above the clouds. Sometimes I would get close to them, and then dip back down, the arbitrary hold of flight wiling me away. But my journey lead me forward—always forward.
Jesus, I thought. What will happen if I reach an ocean? Will I just keep going, over big blue waves and emptiness, where nobody can see me?
Eventually, I stopped crying. I wanted to fly straight into a fucking jet engine and be done with it, my insides reduced to a putrid mush, thrown into the sky like human-confetti.
How was I doing this? Was this some kind of cruel karma, some kind of big ‘fuck you’ from the universe?
It was after several hours later, eyes swollen from the wind and tears, that I saw Mick Jagger, in all his coked out glory, drop from the clouds and beckon me with a long skeletal finger. He said, “It’ll be over soon.”
I closed my eyes so hard that they hurt. I wanted all of this to be a hallucination. I dug my teeth into my lips and hoped that when I let my lids creep open again, I would be at home in bed clutching the teddy bear that my grandmother gave me…or in front of the kitchen table, piggishly stuffing myself with Mom’s lasagna. I had forgotten all about Rob and Missy and Michelle. I just wanted to be home. So I kept my eyes shut.
And then, when I couldn’t stand it anymore, I opened them. And I cried out. I was sailing through the sky, my body trembling from cold, staring down at a blank, black, ocean.
Sometimes I remember—how could I forget?—the time I flew.
I’m still flying.
I wish could stop.
Zachary T. Owen is the author of a horror-fantasy novelette, Beauties in the Deep, which is available in print from Short Scary Tales Publications, exclusively on their website. He is working to have a digital version put on amazon kindle. He's also the editor of the horror and dark fiction anthology Easy Reading for Difficult Devils, which features talents old and new, and is available on amazon kindle. Zach is a fan of B movies, 'possums, comic books, and white socks. You can contact him by email via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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