dream (4)

everything is slanted.

all the houses here are tall and pastel-colored, their roofs and driveways sloping down in the same direction. luckily, my house is near the top of the hill, so it’s easier for me to just start running. i begin at the edge of the sidewalk, my eyes on the downtown buildings far across the road, and then i’m off the ground. running isn’t about how quickly i can run a certain number of miles. instead, it’s about how long i can run, and how much i can cover before i stop. when is it safe to keep pushing myself? when should i stop?

today, however, is different. i reach the outskirts of downtown much quicker than usual. as i slow down to a jog, i notice an old man crouched near the gutter, pouring water into the street. when he sees me staring, he beckons me to come closer.

hello, i say, a little out of breath.

he nods and continues to pour water out of a glass pitcher.

do you know how to run, he asks. his eyes seem to glow, even in daylight. i hesitate.

i think i do, sir. i run every morning. the old man drops the pitcher. we watch as millions of tiny fragments scatter across the ground, gleaming under the sun.

no, the old man says, there’s a much better way to run. you have to jump.

jump, sir?

yes, jump. reach for the sky.

but – that isn’t running.

he nods again. that’s right. it’s better than running. jumping will let you touch the stars. try it.

when i jump for the first time, i’m not in the air for very long. the old man vigorously shakes his head.

that’s not how you do it! you’ve got to get a spring in your step.

i try again, rolling onto the balls of my feet as i push myself off the ground. this time, i fly up and reach the third-story windows of a nearby building.

how does that feel, the old man calls up to me.

i can’t answer him at first. then i find my voice.

amazing, i shout down, my response feathered by the wind. amazing!

the old man chuckles when i finally float back onto the sidewalk. do you ever want to run again, he asks, when you now know you can fly?

not at all, i answer. he grins as he pours more water from his pitcher. the glass shards in the street have disappeared.

good luck, he says.

i don’t ever go back to running. i jump instead, relishing the extended periods of time i spend in the air. jumping is addicting. i do it all the time, not just in the morning. i can fly over a flight of stairs with a single, well-planned jump. i can swim through the air, too, and do all sorts of flips and twists. but the sensation of floating in the air is even more addicting.

soon, i can’t even sit still. i’m jumping, always jumping, always looking for the highest place to reach. a few months after meeting the old man, i find myself at the edge of a seaside cliff, preparing to jump again. i can smell the salty ocean zephyrs as i propel myself into the air with ease. seagulls encircle me in awe as i fly past them. i’ve never felt so liberated, so free, in my life.

but something’s wrong.

i’m not coming down.

it’s been ten minutes already, but this jump shows no sign of ending.

i keep rocketing into the sky, reaching the clouds. i try to swim back down, panicking, but it’s useless. i fly higher and higher until i’m among the stars.

eventually, i burn just as bright.

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