Year 820 p.a.
"Are you sure she'll be okay?" a voice asked above her. It seemed familiar, Aira's muscles relaxed immediately when she heard it. She tried to open her eyes, but her eyelids were too heavy.
"A few days rest and she should return to normal", a dusty and foreign voice answered. Somebody got up and moved around her, this was when she felt the presence of at least three other people. With a last straining attempt Aira forced her eyes up. She was home, in her bed. Her parents and sister were at her side. She could see their faces light up, when they realized she had woken.
"Oh you're awake", the dusty voice said. She turned her head slowly. An old man was standing in the door, his beard reached the top of his chest, though his head was balding. He was hugging a raggedy bag.
"Now miss, you have to stay in bed. You suffered a nasty head trauma, but nothing rest can't fix", he grinned and turned on his heel. His footsteps echoed down the staircase.
"We're so relieved you're okay", her dad said and squished her hand gently.
"What were you doing outside?" her mom intervened, a stern look on her face. But Aira never answered, because in that moment her sister crawled up on her bed and threw herself around her neck, hugging her dearly.
"I was so worried Aira", her sister whispered. Aira hugged her back hesitantly. She still couldn't believe the hooded man had fooled her.
"We should let you rest now", her mom said and Aira couldn't help but agree. She was groggy and her body felt heavier than ever before. She wanted to feel light, the covers suffocating. Finally her sister crawled down and followed her parents.
"Sleep well", her dad whispered, just before closing the door.
Aira woke up with a pounding heart. She felt an urgency she couldn't explain. She tore away the covers and swung her legs over the edge of the bed. The sudden movement made her dizzy and her decisiveness was momentarily halted as she tried to make the room stop spinning. She cursed under her breath at the hooded man. Faintly in the background she could hear the fat man and his friends chant and protest against her scientific endeavours. They would stop her, she knew now. They would do anything, but they hadn't realized she would too. Despite the dizziness, Aira got up. She had to prove she was right once and for all. She scrambled to her desk, onto which the tome was open. She glanced over the now familiar pages. It was open on the flying ritual of the Followers. She had read those pages countless times now. She knew them by heart, but still she skimmed the text. She needed a robe, candles and a way to draw on the ground. The Followers had used whitened sand, but she had no such thing. Aira recalled that her dad had purchased a sack of salt. It was perfect. She had candles of course, but the robe... Now that was another matter entirely. The ancient ones were covered in feathers, which were braided craftily out of hair willingly donated. Aira wasn't sure how to make the feathers, even though the book had described it in detail. She had to do the second best thing. She looked out, it was late. She had to do it before the sun set.
She left the book, caressing its edge as she moved away, and went to the door. She opened it and leaned out:
"Dad!", she yelled. He appeared at the end of the staircase moments later.
"Can you bring me some food? Extra salt, but in a container next to it", she asked. He nodded.
"Of course darling, it's great you're hungry, it means you're getting better", he wandered off with a smile on his lips.
Aira left the door open behind her, so she could hear him approach. She gathered the candles from her room. There were four in total, but she only needed three. She took a moment to carefully select those she thought the best. She put the three on the desk next to the book. Slowly she moved to her closet, opening it, she looked over her clothing. She had nothing that was really robe-like and it was worrying. What if this would cause her to fail? Aira leaned heavily on the closet door as she rummaged through the pieces of fabric. She had a dress, never worn, and a buttoned up shirt with sleeves that were too long and very flowy. Putting the two together could be a fitting alternative. However no feathers. On the back of the closet door was a mirror, the girl within returned her glance. Long, brown hair framed her rounded face. Of course.
A step of the staircase creaked and her dad appeared.
"Here you go sweetheart", he said as he put the tray down on her bed. "I've made your favourites", he announced.
"Thanks dad", Aria replied and added: "I'm going to sleep for a while. Rest, get better. Can you tell mom and Elyn not to disturb me?"
"Of course Aira", He smiled when leaving.
She sat down on the edge of the bed. On the tray was a selection of root sandwiches, a glass of water and a little bowl with salt. Over the years Aira had requested many weird things, so at this point her parents hardly asked questions any longer. The salt seemed enough to get the deed done and satisfied with her work so far, she decided to eat. The sandwiches filled a pit in her stomach she hadn't realized had formed. It gave her renewed energy and faith in what she was doing was right. They would see.
Too eager to see her task completed, Aira couldn't rest long enough to finish her meal. She would have jumped from the bed, but still feared the spinning. She approached the mirror of the closet door, scissor in hand. She took great care in cutting of only big locks of hair. They would be easier to attach this way. Luckily she had needle and thread in her room.
The sky had darkened and blossomed in crimson, she still had time. It wasn't much, but it would be enough. It had to be.
She donned her new robe; looking in the mirror she felt giddy at the sight. It was spectacular. She twirled and locks of hair stood out like the tail of a scared cat. It wasn't feathers, but she had never had prettier plumage. Aira opened the window and gathered the three candles, the salt (which she had poured into a bag) and the tome of the Followers of the Bird. She was ready. With care to her robe she climbed out the window. It was tilted and allowed her to crawl the meter and a half to the built in steps, which served as an access ladder to the chimney above. She could hear the chanting choir of the fat man below and was pleased. They would all see.
She ascended the steps with only one hand to spare, the other was used to secure the necessary items. Finally she reached the top of the roof and stepped onto the flat space that ran alongside the length of the building. Aira had never been sure why, but her mom had said it was important, so she didn't question it. In any case it served her well now, otherwise where would she had poured the salt? Aira took a moment to take in the cascade of colours the setting sun painted on the sky above. Perfect. She smelled the emerging, crisp evening air deeply, its coldness tickled her exposed skin.
In the ebbing light Aira worked quickly. Looking from the book to the flatted roof top beneath her, she started copying the ancient, ritualistic patterns. They twisted circularly with a focus on the naked center. This was where she would stand just before the completion. She had drawn the pattern in notebooks and on the wall behind her door, where nobody but her looked. So she knew it well, but had to make sure it was perfect. Finally Aira straightened up and took in her work. Given the circumstances, time pressure and unusual media in the shape of kitchen salt, she thought she had done well. The patterns were beautiful to look at, and for a moment Aira wanted to look at them always. With a sigh of excitements and longing for what would come next she threw the salt bag off the roof. There was still some salt left in it, which enabled it to fall in an artful arch towards the fat man's choir. A cry of surprise and pain made her smile from ear to ear. They were looking up now, it was time.
She turned a page in the open book and started chanting the olden words at the top of her lungs: "Le oche solitamente si accoppiano con lo stesso partner per tutta la vita!"
She spread her arms out to embrace the sky and the wind promising to lift her.
A faint voice emitted from the gathered crowd of the fat man's choir, three strangers were among them. But Aira had no ears for what happened on the ground anymore and didn't hear her dad shout. Aira looked to the sky, moved her arms up and down a few times as it was custom and said "Lift me above the cloud, let me soar among the stars", in a ceremonious voice. Then in a leap she took off.
For one perfect moment she was flying.
YOU ARE READING
The effect of gravityScience Fiction
A post apocalyptic short story collection aiming to explore how unstable gravity affects people through the centuries. The world as we know it ended when the gravity disappeared. Many years later the gravity has finally stabilized enough to only van...