Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Short story project: Unidentified Flying Object, Part 1

When I was ten years old I discovered I could fly, although back then I didn’t so much fly as hover a few inches above the ground. This unique skill was revealed to me one lazy summer afternoon while I was climbing the trees that lined the north most boarder of my parents’ farm. I wasn’t supposed to, but like any self-respecting child I disregarded my parents’ orders and climbed them anyways. I was near the top of a particularly tall maple, trying to find a way to manoeuver up those last few feet when I lost my footing. For a brief moment I continued to hold on, flailing my legs uselessly, then my grip gave out. I screamed, and tensed the muscles in my body preparing for the impact—but it never came. When I unclenched my eyes, I discovered that I was floating, my horizontal body brushing the top of the grass.
Now, seventeen years later I was seated on the edge of the roof of the Sears Tower, more than thirty stories up. I swung my feet as I looked out over the darkened city. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, just...looking. When I was in university I tried to play superhero, but I quickly learned that my services were frequently undesired or unhelpful. More than once I earned a solid slap or punch from a young woman I had, from my vantage point, judged to be in danger. And, as a relatively thin young woman myself, oversized victims would often weight me down and we’d both wind up in jeopardy. I wasn’t superman.
I pulled my flimsy denim jacket closer around my body, then dug into my pocket and pulled out my iPod and a half-empty pack of cigarettes. My numb fingers fumbled to untwist the earbuds, but managed to sort out the wires and jam them into place. As loud music filled my ears, I withdrew a cigarette and tapped it on the pack before I lifted it to my lips. The inevitable, rumbling cough followed my first inhale. I’d never enjoyed smoking, I hardly even did it out of habit. It was more total disregard for my health that kept me lighting up. I’d been given my unusual talent for some reason, and sooner or later I’d be made to pay. The way I figured it, my smoking gave me some limited power in saying when that debt was going to be collected.
Nothing much happened in this part of town—a conscious decision on my part, so I wouldn’t feel compelled by any heroic compulsions to do something stupid. Those out at this time of night were mostly young lawyers, financial analysts, or government civil servants staying late at their offices, trying to get ahead in their fields. A shiver rocked my body, almost causing me to drop my cigarette, and I knew it was time to go. Stubbing the remains of my cigarette out on the ledge, I shifted forward so I could jump off when a noise erupted behind me.

To be continued...check back on Thursday, March 13th for more of the story.

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