He woke up. He was laying in the grass in his back yard. The dew had made his pajamas uncomfortably damp. He rolled over, got up, and climbed in his bedroom window. His alarm clock read six-thirty, which meant he had just enough time to get ready for school. Just as he finished changing, his mother opened the door. She told him his breakfast was cold, and that the bus would be arriving soon. His sister had already left for the bus stop.
He ate his cold eggs, but left the toast. When he arrived at the bus stop, the bus was pulling up to the corner. It stopped with a hiss and the doors opened.
This was the first stop, so he always had the pick of the seats. Other than the ones his sister and her friends always wanted: the two farthest-back seats. He sat quietly during the long ride, mostly staring out the window or examining the imprints made in the back of the seat. He’d heard they were called “smiley faces” but he didn’t think they looked much like a smile. There was also a smattering of graffiti, most of which consisted of crude drawings of various parts of human anatomy. There was a doodle of a triangle that caught his eye: it had lines extending from its points at an angle, and lines going inward, meeting in the center. He traced the lines with his fingertip several times, wondering who drew it—and feeling like he almost knew.
He enjoyed school. He received much better grades than his sister, though he thought his parents might have gotten the idea that D’s were better than A’s, since they always praised his sister’s accomplishments and ignored his.
That night, they ordered pizza. He was always a slow eater, and by the time he finished his first slice, his sister had already finished two and took another. Which happened to also be the last piece. He thought of protesting, but that would only give her more pleasure as she ate it.
After a couple hours’ TV-watching, during which they watched everything but the things he was interested in, he retired to his room. He turned on his reading lamp, and changed into his pajamas. As an afterthought, he put on his windbreaker. Just in case, he thought and smiled.
Dream-like. That’s how it felt. That’s how it always felt when it happened.
He stood on the roof of his house, looking out over the city. The lights of the city twinkled in the night air, and the occasional breeze made him shiver. He’d have to remember to wear shoes next time it happened. Not that he was ever awake when it started. Perhaps that was part of the reason he always felt like he was dreaming.
Maybe he was dreaming. He always accepted the possibility—and usually immediately dismissed it. There was almost always some evidence: Dirt on his clothes, or holes, and one time he was completely soaked after an encounter with lawn sprinklers.
For some reason, he usually ended near his own house. To him, this was odd because his house was the last place he wanted to be. He also suspected that his desire to leave was the origin of the… Well, it had to be, didn’t it?
Maybe he wished himself somewhere else so strongly that he’d actually caused it to happen. Maybe when he was sleeping, it was easier to tap into whatever supernatural power pulled him away almost every night.
Every day after school, he had to come home to his parents’ constant fighting, and his older sister’s constant treating him like slime. After dinner, when he could finally go to his room, he felt like it was a sanctuary where they couldn’t hurt him anymore. He’d always get drawn into his parents’ arguments, and his sister was always hitting him, blaming things on him, taking things from him, and taking all the positive attention from their parents.
But in his room, none of that mattered. He could be alone; at peace. He’d listen to music and read books, build models and eat junk food (which his sister would have taken from him outside his sanctuary). And then he’d crawl into bed and sleep. The kind of peaceful sleep he had when he knew that no matter what was going on outside his door, he was impervious to it. The kind of sleep where you feel as if you’ll never voluntarily leave your bed again.
But it was never undisturbed. It wasn’t his parents or his sister—it was himself that constantly ruined his peaceful rest.
Not once in the last year had he gone through an entire night without waking up in odd locations. At first, it was on the floor of his own room. Then on the soft grass in his back yard. One time, he woke up in his neighbor’s pool.
He still didn’t know what was happening. His dreams always involved flying. And at first, when he would wake up he always felt as if he’d just hit the ground: his chest and neck hurt, his legs were sometimes twisted under him, and when he woke in the pool, he heard a large splash as he woke.
This time, he became half-awake while still doing it… While still… Flying.
That’s all he could call it. He didn’t know what was actually happening, but he knew what it felt like. He was floating in the air; he could move with a thought; he could be perfectly still. He could fly.
Tonight was the night. He’d come awake while flying. Before when that had happened, he fell; but this time, he’d been able to control it and had come back to his roof—where he usually ended up anyway. When he’d found he could control it, he was amazed that it took no effort. It was like moving your arm: you don’t think about it, it just moves.
He tried lifting himself from the roof with the same instinctive thoughts. At first he couldn’t do it. And he knew why: he wasn’t sure if he actually could. He doubted. As long as that doubt was there, he would be forced to wait until he slept to fly again.
He wanted desperately to feel it again; to fly far from here and never return. He didn’t know where he would go or how he would make his way, but it didn’t matter. He just knew he had to leave.
He tried to convince himself that he’d just been flying, so it was possible. After about ten minutes of mental debating with no results, he decided that he would try one last thing.
He closed his eyes, and began to walk. Step after step he kept wondering when the roof would end. As he had planned, he just kept walking. He never felt the roof stop. There was a silly picture in his mind of himself just walking in midair, but when he opened his eyes he found he was wrong. He’d stepped off the edge of the roof and just hung there, moving his legs but staying in one spot.
Wrong muscles, he thought and laughed at himself.
He kept his eyes half closed, with the hope that he’d be able to control it better the closer he was to actual sleep. He began to move forward. Now he was having fun with it, he assumed the clichéd poses, like Super Man and Peter Pan, and then, he decided he’d invent his own: He flew forward as fast as he could with his feet forward and his back facing the ground—in a sleeping position.
Not long afterward, he actually did fall asleep. The sun had come up and he’d slowed down, so the cold was no longer a problem. He just slept, and drifted in the sky.
When he awoke, he heard voices. He opened his eyes to see the bright blue sky above him. He rolled over to try and see the voices.
There were about twenty people below him, all talking to each other without taking their eyes off him. He assumed a standing position and floated gently to the ground. When he touched down, he lifted himself an inch just to make sure he wouldn’t have to walk off any more roofs, and finally settled firmly to the ground.
He looked around. He’d never seen any of them before, but somehow, he knew all these people. He knew they were like him.
He felt half-awake. Like when you realize that you’re dreaming and you find you can control the dream. He felt like he’d been here before, seen all this before—but at the same time, everything was new and confusing.
“Welcome, Adam,” one of them said. She was a woman of around forty, with shoulder-length brown hair.
He listened while she and the others told him how they’d all gotten there. She had been there the longest: Nearly nine months.
During the long talks, he’d noticed that he was atop a large mountain, inside a small alcove that overlooked endless white clouds. As it became dark, some of the people went deeper into the alcove and found places to sleep on the hard stone floor.
But he couldn’t sleep. He sat on the outside edge of the alcove, looking out at the clouds which seemed to glow. He just stared at them. Thinking.
This can’t be real, he thought. People can’t do these things. I can’t do these things.
Or I shouldn’t be able to.
But I can.
He looked up. Above him was a full moon, looking larger than he’d ever seen it. And stars. More stars than he’d imagined could exist, brighter than any he’d seen.
And what is this place? He thought maybe he was on Mount Everest, but it wasn’t nearly cold enough, nor was it hard to breathe at all. He thought he’d heard a rumbling emanating from within the mountain itself.
The woman Adam though of as their leader had emerged from the alcove and approached him.
“Can’t sleep?” she asked. He gave a slight shake of the head. “Do you know why we’re here?” Again his head shook. “We’re next.” The simple statement sounded strangely ominous to Adam. She could see he hadn’t understood. “The rest of them—down there—are going extinct. We’re the ones that will fill their niche. Destiny, evolution, God—something has chosen us. We’re next...” She went on and on. Adam became concerned, however, when her talk turned to speeding the process along. She intended to kill the regular people.
“We think you’re special,” she said. “When you arrived, you were surrounded in a soft white glow, like those clouds.” With that she finished, leaving Adam alone to think.
And he spent the rest of the night thinking: About himself, the strangers, the stars, the moon, the glowing clouds, and the extermination of the human race.
Time seemed to be moving quickly: The sky became brighter, the moon disappeared. But the clouds below never thinned or parted.
He heard the strangers’ rustlings as they woke up, and the sun rose over the horizon of clouds.
They approached him. The woman spoke to him. They meant him to do something. They’d help, of course, but none of them were as powerful as he could become. He’d have to be the one to do it.
“No!” he screamed. He flew as fast as he could—anywhere but with them. Just…
It felt like a nightmare. He felt like he was being chased, and he couldn’t move as quickly as he wanted to.
He only wanted to get away, but no matter how fast he flew, whenever he looked back, the mountain was only a mile or two behind him.
And one of the others was behind him, closing the gap fast.
He couldn’t believe their plan, and what they expected him to do.
He might have accepted that they were the next step in some grand plan, or the next evolution of humans—But this? He wouldn’t do it! He couldn’t.
Then he thought of his house, his room… his sanctuary. The clouds below him parted, and suddenly he recognized his neighborhood below him. The answer was obvious now: He wasn’t getting anywhere because he had nowhere to go; his only goal was getting away, which got him nowhere. But once he had a destination in mind, he was almost instantly there. That had to be how they kept their mountain hidden.
And there, below him, was his house. He landed on his roof and turned to face the one pursuing him.
And she wasn’t far behind. Within seconds she was floating directly in front of him, five or six feet away.
“I won’t do it!” he said. “And I won’t let you do it either! It’s not our place!
“Just because we may be superior doesn’t mean we should wipe them out to make room for more like us!”
“We must!” she said. “It is the way things are. Survival of the fittest.”
Adam launched himself from his roof directly at her, his fists stretched out before him. She attempted to dodge, but he was too fast. He glanced off her side, but the impact was enough to make her yelp with pain. They floated then, facing each other in the air.
She’d already told him he was special. So he flew, as fast as he could, pushing more and more. The air around him began to glow faintly yellow, yet she pursued. He focused all his energy into flying, and the air began to darken, to thicken around him. Orange, then blood-red. But he flew within the flames unharmed, apparently protected by the same power that allowed him to fly in the first place. As he pushed harder, the air began to glow white-hot. He looked back and saw that his pursuer was falling behind.
When he felt he’d gotten a sufficient lead, he reversed his direction, creating a unique double sonic boom. He accelerated directly toward her, and she was so focused on the pursuit that she couldn’t alter her course in time. One of his fists landed squarely on her shoulder. He felt the bone pop out of place as his own bones shattered. Now it was she who led the chase, flying back in the direction they’d come from.
After forcing himself to ignore the pain in his hand, he followed, increasing his speed and closing the gap quickly. She stopped.
Adam was so focused on her now that he didn’t see where she had stopped. He put out his fists, aimed directly for her, and pushed his flight as fast as it would go. He closed his eyes just before impact, wincing in anticipation of the pain.
Because of this, he didn’t see her move. Adam continued forward at supersonic speed directly into the ground. The grass around him smoked and smoldered. His ruined body steamed in the cool night air.
The woman clutched her shoulder, staring at Adam’s body.
“You must come!” Said a voice behind her. She turned to see two of the others approach.
The other said, “Something’s happening on the mountain.” They hardly waited for acknowledgement before turning and leading the way back to the mountain.
With a rueful glance back at Adam, she followed them.
In the morning, his parents found him. He was laying face-down on the ground, with his arms twisted awkwardly under him.
The police and paramedics arrived. They said it was suicide; he’d jumped from his roof. There was extreme blunt trauma to his rib cage, his right hand and forearm were shattered, and his organs were destroyed.
“He was only twelve!” his mother cried.
An officer pulled his father aside. “Sir, do you know if your boy had any abnormal interest in fire?”
“I don’t… think so,” he replied at length. “Why?” The officer led him over to where his son had been found, the body now moved to an ambulance.
“See this grass?” The officer squatted down and touched the blackened grass.
“I don’t get it.”
“It looks like the grass was burned before the impact.”
The boy’s father just stood, staring at the impression his son’s body had made.
“Sir, I assure you, I’ll do my best to figure out what happened to him.” He looked again at the boy. “No matter what it takes.”
The boy’s father looked up, as if jerked from a trance. “Thank you. We’d appreciate that, Officer…” He saw the badge on his uniform, “Officer Blake.”
“You can call me Miles,” he replied.
Officer Blake pulled the sheet up over the boy’s head.
© 1996–2009 JCRogers