He awoke with a
start; suddenly, kicking in response to the sensation of falling backwards
through his bed. His arms and legs spasmed in response to the familiar
weightlessness that often accompanies arousal from sleep. Groggily, he
kept his eyes closed. He had the disorientation of a man who did not
realize that he had fallen asleep. It was several more moments before he
even became aware that he still felt like he was falling backwards.
A few moments passed. Then, a few more. Somewhere within his mind, an
alarm began to sound. The nascent scent of fresh air was in his sinuses.
"Who am I?" he questioned himself. That internal beacon of identity - that
portion at the core of self - had been replaced by a pervading
sense that something was terribly wrong. "What - what is my name?" he asked
himself again, futilely.
He suddenly became very much aware that he was breathing; that his heart
was beating. Had he ever stopped, he wondered?
Carefully, he controlled his breathing -- in through the nose, out through
the mouth. He counted backwards from ten, finding that he paused
tentatively after every other number. "10, 9... 8, 7... 6, 5...4, 3...2...1..." He drew out the last two digits with a sense of impending
dread, as he prepared to open an eye.
He opened his right eye.
"I'm still asleep," he thought, as he immediately shut his eye. His heart
began to thump in his chest, and he found that he was losing his careful
control over his breathing.
Swallowing hard, he mustered the courage to open both eyes, to verify what
he had seen.
Above him, where he had expected to see the comfortably boring pattern of
his ceiling, he instead saw a vista of stars. They shone more brightly,
more clearly than he had ever before seen.
He became aware that he was cold. Wind was rushing past his body, upwards,
from beneath him. It was then that he realized that nothing was beneath
In astonishment and shock, he felt his mind simply switching off. For what
could have been minutes or hours, as if frozen, he stared upwards at the
With a sense of urgency, he forced open his eyes and inhaled sharply.
Somehow, beyond his comprehension, he had drifted back to sleep. He had
tilted forward; his feet were pointed downward, and wind whispered up across
his face, and through his hair.
As before, he saw stars ahead of him.
Slowly, trying to make sense of what was taking place, he turned his head
to his left, and then to his right.
"I must be dreaming," he said out loud, somewhat insistently. Even as he
said it, he knew it wasn't true. Yet, there was no way for him to make
sense of what he saw, other than to cling to the conceit of that belief.
He was falling. And, as far as he could see, all around him, other human
beings were falling, too.
They were all falling together through a perfectly clear night sky. And
none of them, not a single one, appeared the slightest bit concerned about
what was happening.
He took in a sudden deep breath, opening his eyes and flailing his limbs.
Somehow, he had once again drifted off to sleep.
After a moment's pause, he registered that there was a young girl, no more
than 13 years of age, directly in front of him. She was staring at him,
unflinchingly, with a smile playing across her lips. Like he himself, and
everyone else within his field of vision, she was falling.
"Do you see them?" she asked. A horrifying tingle crept up his spine, as
she spoke. She spoke with the raspy, sarcophagal voice of a very old man.
"They're like vultures," she continued in her ancient intonations. "They
Following her gaze, he looked upward.
Above the two of them, and all the rest, far in the distance, he saw
lights. They were moving, swarming around the sky. More than this he could
As the lights circled above, he saw that they were dropping something.
What appeared to be small pieces of tissue paper, burning brightly, were
falling from the lights.
As one such ordinance passed closely enough for him to feel its heat, he
saw that what they were dropping was much larger than pieces of tissue.
These towers of fire were large as city skyscrapers.
"They're waiting for
us," she said cryptically, with her deep inflection.
A pillaring blaze was now falling towards her. Sensing its heat, she
looked upwards, directly into it. She hugged herself. As the inferno
engulfed her, she smiled broadly. Her clothes burst into flames. She
relaxed every muscle, and crossed her legs. He watched as he saw her flesh
melting. With sinew and bone, she giggled, until nothing of her remained.
As strangely as she had appeared, she was now gone.
He began to hear her words, echoing again and again. "They're
waiting for us,"
he heard in the ancient voice, growing louder and louder, until his ears
began to bleed. He cried out in pain.
He yelped, and opened his eyes again. He heard the echo of his shout,
dying off in the distance.
He had tilted forward a bit more. He had no sense of how much time might
At the bottom of his field of vision, he saw a glow. He bent his neck to
look downward. Beneath him, he saw a planet that he knew to be his own.
Staring for moments, slack-jawed, he noted that it was not quite the world
that he knew.
The entire northern continent was beneath him, and it was engulfed in
flames. Squinting, he saw that the fire possessed the distinct shape of an
And it was towards this blazing shape that he, and everyone crowded around
him, was falling.
As if from a nightmare, he awoke again from a dreamless sleep, into his
strange reality. The inferno beneath him was now much closer. "I'm still
alive," he noted to himself, with an odd sense of satisfaction. He smiled
He looked to his left, and to his right, and saw men and women of all ages
and walks of life. He called out to many of them, but none -- not a single
one -- even looked back at him. They had looks of utter peace and
contentment on their faces. The heat from below was now causing him to
"I worry too much," he thought to himself, as tongues of flame began to
lick at his feet. An expression of tranquility, of worrilessness, overcame
him; the same look possessed by all those around him. He relaxed his body,
and slowed his breathing. His slippers melted, and his sweat pants caught
fire. He paid no mind to this, as he continued to plummet, and it was no
longer possible to distinguish him from those all around him.
All work is copyrighted
property of Jess. E Hadden.