For the longest fraction of a second, while both feet were off the icy road, Charles was excited. It was certainly the most expected emotion he could have felt at that moment, but he couldn’t help it. He had always wanted to fly, even before he knew it was possible, and he had just achieved liftoff.
It had been a near thing, too: he had promised himself this would be his last try. He had been coming to this deserted stretch of frost covered cement for just over a week at this point, trying to recreate that impossible moment from before. The sense of anticipation had been replaced by frustration, tiredness, soreness, and an overwhelming urge to give up. Giving up would mean that he was crazy after all, but it seemed more plausible than the fact that he had actually levitated at that frat party. He was growing tired of leaving Charles-sized imprints in the snow banks that covered the small ice-covered road. All that his camera showed for his effort up to that point had been fit only to be laughed at on the Internet. And there was the fact that he had been pretty drunk at that party, and all sorts of tipsy had ensued. Imagining that he had briefly left terra firma and floated an inch off the ground could’ve been written off as being just that: imagined.
That feeling made all the difference, though. It had come upon him without any warning, standing in the host’s backyard as the party sounded inside. The smell of the barbecue and the alcohol-filled sweat of the partygoers were intoxicating all by themselves. Charles had been standing very innocently in the corner, trying to work up his courage to ask that blond girl with the missing shirt if she would like to get to know him a little better. The moment where he had convinced himself to start moving finally came, and he began to move toward her.
It happened so suddenly that thinking back he could not tell if any time had passed or if it had frozen still.
That feeling of absolute calm and wonder had filled his core, seeming to drive the alcohol out of his system. A second of disconnection and weightlessness that made him feel fit to just zoom upward toward the sky at that moment, to just float away from all the rip-roaring class clowns and gyrating girls to take his place in the heavens. For the briefest part of that long second, he had a vision of his feet never touching the ground again. A world where he had become Birdman and the world on the ground would never again know his awesome presence. He did not need to look at his feet to know that he was floating, but he looked down anyway simply out of pure stupefying shock. That was when the feeling left him.
Just as suddenly as it came, it left, though his realization that it was gone did not come to him like the feeling had. When he brought his eyes down to see his feet, the vertigo seemed to rush him from all sides. His legs fell out from under him, and he sunk to his knees in the yard clutching at his desperately rolling stomach. This was as far as he could have gone from that feeling. Nobody gave him a second glance except one, and he finally overcame his nausea enough to finally look up and see the shirtless girl standing over him with concern in her eyes.
She had asked him if he was ok. He had not replied. She made to lift him up. He made no move to help himself. He mumbled thanks in a thunderstruck tone. She asked him if he had looked shorter than a moment ago, and the world stopped again. The certainty had only escaped him for a moment as he lay there groaning, but she had brought it back. He could fly.
The rest of that night had been a blur; all thoughts of hook-ups and parties had tumbled out of his mind. He had no idea how he had fallen asleep that night instead of going outside to try it again. But try he would, when he was not so hung over.
It had been a trying week for him, wrestling with his doubts and even laughing at himself for being an idiot, thinking it wasn’t real. He had tried to do it by leaping into the air and thinking too hard about it. It had become the most important thing in his world, and it had consumed his life accordingly. So for that last time, before he let common sense take over and make him go home in defeat, he tried something new. He shouldn’t force it; he had not forced it before. Why should it be any different now?
This time he looked down and the feeling never left him.
Daniel Gillett is a writer and student from Grande Prairie, AB.