He blinked. His eyes immediately dropped to the ground below. He had no recollection of the path in front of him. Odd, he thought, he didn’t have much recollection of anything.
He began walking.
Of course he began walking. Why wouldn’t he begin walking?
His feet, snow white and crisp on the ground, danced across the umber path. Each step brought him one step closer to an answer of a question he didn’t know he’d asked.
The canyon stood in front of him. The canyon? Is that what it’s called? How did he know that? He entered the clearing in front of him, and stood, facing only the certainty of gravity. The wind began whispering into his ear.
Hello my child said the wind.
My child, it’s time to fly.
With no hesitation, he took off, steps thundering through the heart of the land in front of him. Roots, tangled, were no match for the quickness of his stride, the assumed agility appearing innate. Reaching the end of the canyon, he jumped. Laughter erupted from his mouth. He flew, just like he always knew he would.
He blinked. It’s been a while since he had seen this path. The soft folds of childish fickleness had fallen from the skin of his feet. Callousness naturally fell into place, jaded blemishes of heart and body dominating every inch of what used to be so pure. He was strong, yes, but now he knew the pain, the weight, the cost of each step he took.
Once again, he found himself facing the certainty of gravity, the canyon erupting in his sight. As he neared the clearing above the canyon, the wind began whispering once again.
Hello my son said the wind.
My son, it’s time to fly.
He took a look down at his feet, calculating the speed he could run, certain that he could once again launch himself into the firmament. He took off, steps echoing briskly into the night. The roots, so deftly, so swiftly, so nimbly danced around before were not so easily evaded. One by one, the roots reached up from their rot, beginning their dance of pain, of instability, of volatility. Bracing themselves around his ankles, he found himself sluggish, creaking slowly to a stop. With a roar of determination, the fire in his chest gushed forward, his will proving too strong for the permanence of any root. Singed ends of that pain fell away. He would deal with the scratches and gouges later. He reached the face of the canyon, and he jumped. A smile passed slightly across his face, usurped by the grimace of determination.
He flew, because of course he would.
He blinked, the sand of sleep and time eroding from his eyes. It’s been a while since he had seen this path. His skin, no longer taught, reminded him of the pain of the world with each staggered step. Blood gently kissed the earth that he trod along. He was in no hurry. He knew exactly where this path led. He paced his way, drinking the sounds of the trees, hearing the gasps of the earth, tasting the notes of the air. His feet weren’t fast anymore. Agility had left long ago. He paused, sometimes for minutes, to catch both his breath and these moments.
Once again, he found himself facing the canyon.
Facing the certainty of gravity.
He reached the clearing. The wind started its whisper.
Hello my friend said the wind.
My friend, it’s time to fly.
He did not move. Rather, he reached down to touch his feet. Sinking to his knee, he began moving his hands slowly across the memories affixed in scars. He remembered the way forward, of course, but he also remembered the pain. The roots reaching up to grab and pull and hold and prevent.
He rose, and began tottering forward. The dance of his feet had long left him, and once again, he found the roots of the Earth rise to meet him. He cried out in pain, but could not jettison the roots that quickly encompassed his feet. He reached into the pit of his stomach hoping to find the reserves of fire that he knew had faded long ago. He fell to his hands, striving forward, only upsetting the roots. Quickly, his hands became bound as well. Still he yearned forward, for the canyon, for flight.
He stopped, encompassed by the roots that he thought he had conquered long ago. A guttural roar escaped from his throat, his mouth, his soul. Is this where he would die? The roaring continued until the roots had abducted even the breath in his lungs.
A solitary tear collapsed from his face towards the ground.
As it fell, the wind gently rose and pushed the tear back to a sole sector of ground that remained uninhibited by the roots. From behind him, he could hear the wind grow, the whisper to a breeze, to a bluster, to a squall, to a roar. The roots fell trembling to their holes of the earth, fearful of the unholy anger the wind was about to unleash. He could feel the tension of the trees vacate, the shackles unfastening, the slave cut free.
He stood up, and tried to face his emancipator. The wind would have none of it, and pushed him back to the floor, the earth’s only cushion was the fear in his body. He stood again, and the wind answered his pleas with returning him to where he was from, his dust mingling with the dust whipped up by the coursing wind.
He looked over his shoulder, and saw the canyon.
The certainty of gravity.
He knew that his death was coming, the ledge of the canyon would arrive long before he could will himself to fly. He stood again, seeking something, anything to brace himself from the onslaught of the wind’s power. For a third time, the wind blew him over, and then, the ledge was there. Grasping with all his strength, his power, his blood, his body, his past, his future, his fears, his failures, his joy, his sadness, his being, he held on to the ledge.
With a shriek, the wind fell silent.
With the faintest revelation of security, he sighed. He held onto the ledge searching for his misplaced breath.
He knew shouting for help was futile. Yet, he cried out again and again until he was merely sobbing. It had been dark when he departed, and he was no closer to finding his way home. His body, his mind, his soul was no longer young, and soon it would be time to fall. All night, he held on to the ledge, waiting, waiting, waiting.
A lifetime later, he looked up. He knew he still faced the certainty of gravity, but he looked to the east. The first trickles of sunlight fell onto the drought of his eyes. As he smiled, he heard the voice of his friend the wind, tickling his ear once again.
Hello my old friend said the wind.
You almost killed me! You knew I couldn’t handle the power that you displayed so clearly.
My old friend, did you forget that I’m the reason you fly in the first place?
And with a final gasp, the wind swelled, and he lost his grasp on the ledge.
But instead of falling, he flew.
He cried tears of joy, because he knew that he could not would not should not fly.
Yet here he was, flying once again.