Here’s a story written by Stephen Landry in response to an image prompt posted on our Facebook page.
by Stephen Landry
I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to believe it. I ran up to the edge but I was too late. She fell.
I stood at the edge looking down. It was the closest I had ever felt to the world below. If I had lost my balance I surely would have followed her down into the clouds. I wish I knew why, and I can’t stop thinking that I could have done more. It wasn’t fair. I wanted to do more. I wanted to know more. Why was she here in the kana district? It was the edge of the city. She didn’t look like us, she didn’t belong in our district. I only saw her for a second but it was clear she was from the towers. Had things gotten so bad that even the high and mighty were jumping now?
The city sits on the top of a man-made mountain above the dust clouds and the dried out ground. I remember once looking through old photography books and seeing pictures of the world below. It was a world full of life and dreams. The only thing we dream about now is our next meal, and maybe taking the free-fall elevator to the world below. Solar flares destroyed most of the world several thousand years ago. Since then we have been divided. The lower class like me live out on the edges while the upper class thrive in the towers, watched over by their machines.
Some say the machines are the ones that saved us. They tell stories of a war between men from the ground and men from the stars. We made the machines to protect us, and when we lost the war they constructed this city as a shelter, high above the radiated Earth, far below the conquered stars, neither up nor down but trapped somewhere between.
In my hand was a small amulet. I’d snatched it from here hand as she fell. Snatched is the wrong word, I reached out for her and got the amulet instead. For a second it connected us and I could have used it to pull her in, but she let go.
I stayed up for several nights staring at the amulet, wondering what significance it held. Was it an heirloom? A gift? I made up story after story in my head as to why she was there standing on the edge, why she let go. I knew the amulet was important, and I got the feeling she wanted me to have it – or somebody at least.
Days turned to weeks. I thought about selling it. I even took it to an antiquities dealer. He had no idea what it was and couldn’t price it. It was beautiful but worthless.
So I kept it. It was a reminder that no matter where we went we were all trapped. Prisoners of this precarious city. Prisoners of the mountain and the sky, and of whatever it was that really happened in the distant past.
A small group of soldiers came looking for the girl not long after she fell. It wasn’t uncommon for the poor to jump. No one thought anything of it, even if she was dressed in fine clothing. Nearly every morning I went to the ledge where she had fallen and looked at the birds flying below us. I thought somehow I would see her again, or a vision of her ghost. It was here that the soldiers asked me about her and whether or not anyone had found anything strange.
I thought about asking them about the amulet. Perhaps it was the strange item they wanted to know about. But I kept it close to my chest. I didn’t want to give it back. I followed them back to the gates of the tower. I wanted to know more about them and their world. The walking machines scanned their wrists as they entered, and that was when I saw it. On each and every soldier, wrapped around their wrists, was an amulet identical to her’s. The amulet was their key to get inside the gates!
In the slums we were free. Free to fall. To live our lives fighting for survival on the outskirts of the towers. We couldn’t walk a single alley without feeling fear. The girl that fell had given me a way out. For years the Kana district had been my home but now I held a way out.
It was time for a change, this world be damned…
There were two ways to leave: up or down, and I was going up.
Written by Stephen Landry.
Stephen is a graphic designer, author of the upcoming novel Deep Darkness, and contributing author on Project Aspire. Check out Stephen’s blog for examples of his rather excellent graphic artwork.