The previous part to this story can be found here.
I take a breath. “You’ve got The Transporter, right?”
He nods, once. “Yeah.” He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a smooth, milky stone that faintly glimmers. There are very few in circulation; they’re given only to those who, for whatever reason, cannot fly. They lose their hours proportional to the distance traveled, and when they die, they can pass it on to whomever they wish. Adam is fortunate to have gotten one from our late professor, Kylar Jansen.
I get up, water running down my jeans in little rivulets. Adam extends his hand, and I place mine in his. He squeezes it, lightly. Then he closes his eyes, and everything around us shifts and jolts around, as if it’s about to collapse on us. In a moment, I can see clearly again, and we are more than three miles above sea level, staring out at rolling, verdant meadows that stretch out for miles in all directions. The air is delicious and balmy, a constant wind blowing against my face. No one else is here, not surprisingly. They are too busy in the vain attempt to get just another hour, another day, another month. They take it all for granted, squandering their precious time away, like I have been doing. Instead of cherishing what we have been given, we demand more, more, more.
I breathe in, sucking in as much clean mountain air as I can. Adam is still holding my hand, and I am suddenly filled with an overwhelming sense of undeniable, grateful love. My only friend is here with me, sharing these final days—or hours, I do not know yet—with me, and while I may not know what will happen to me or Adam or the rest of the places below that I have come to call home, I know that I have always loved him and will continue to love him even after I leave this mortal plane, because yes, I may be young and inexperienced and even impetuous, but I know that I love him, I love him, I love him.
But I cannot articulate any of this, and so I squeeze his hand, and he squeezes back. And I am grateful.
“What do you want to do now?” he says, his voice so low it’s almost as if he’s whispering in my head.
“I want to let go. Fly. And forget.”
“Till the end?”
I take a deep breath. Swallow. Nod. “Yes. Till the end. I can’t think of a better way to go.”
So, without letting go of each other’s hand, we step off the mountain, defying gravity. We walk forward on invisible footsteps, hovering above the ground. It is like walking on a glass platform, but somehow even better. We are sequestered from society, away from its void and ceaseless demands that wear away at its people. And each step we take solidifies the decision.
It’s like this: actually living, or self-actualization, or whatever you want to call it, doesn’t work on some sort of hierarchy of motives. You don’t have to have certain needs fulfilled before you can stop existing and start living. And to live, you need to strip away all the supposed rigid societal norms and demands and breathe. Just breathe. And remember that you were made for so much more. That your intrinsic worth is more than you can imagine. And that because of what you were given, you can live. I can live. We can live.
And that is what we do.
With each minute that we spend flying, an hour is subtracted. But that no longer concerns me. All that matters is that I am here with Adam, and he is here with me, and we are together, and we are alive, and I am grateful, so very, very grateful, and all I can do is live and love and live some more.
We run through the clouds, the temperature not too cold, not too hot. We dance among them, sprint through them, skip over them. But we never go down. Never stop flying. Just keep going.
24 hours, 13 minutes.
Exhausted but laughing, we sit down on the air, Indian style. Clouds swirl by us, enveloping us and passing through. It’s so quiet it’s almost eerie. But it’s not. A few minutes pass that way. Just sitting.
“How much longer?”
“Twenty-one hours, ten minutes.”
“It’s really just 21 minutes, isn’t it?” he says.
“Yeah. But there are no regrets. Not anymore. What about you?”
He shakes his head. “Me neither.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t say anything, then.”
I take off my backpack. Anything on you during The Blink vanishes as well, and I don’t want that. “Here. Keep this. My journal’s in here. I want you to have it.”
“I’m going to miss you,” he says. He’s fighting to keep his voice steady, and he refuses to look me in the eye. It hurts so badly to see him hurting. He’s always been there for me. Soon I will have to leave him. I feel like a traitor.
“Promise me you won’t forget me.” His voice is so quiet and so fierce that I couldn’t have said no even if I’d wanted to.
“I never will. And I’ll be waiting for you. Up there.”
“I know.” He toys with my backpack, unzips the zipper. “I love you, you know.”
“I love you, too.” I lean over and put my head on his shoulder. He drapes his arm around me. “Be brave,” I say.
“And you,” is all he can manage. He buries his face in my hair, and I feel him cry. I wrap my arm around his waist, trying to impart whatever strength I have left in me, as he has done for me so many times.
But throughout this all, we do not stop flying. We do not stop living.
“It’s time,” I say. “Less than two minutes.”
He disentangles himself from me and turns to face me. “You’re ready?”
I am taking small, quick breaths. I force myself to calm down and nod. I try to smile. But I can’t. I should not be afraid, but I am. “I’m ready.”
“If I could, I would go with you. I swear I would.”
“I know. But you have to stay.” I am almost hyperventilating.
“There’s so much I want to say.”
“I know. I know.”
He is crying. So am I. I cannot hold it in.
“Be brave, Gemma.”
“Be brave, Adam.”
He takes my hand again. Squeezes. I can’t squeeze back.
“Let go,” he says.
“The fear. Let it go.” He pulls me to my feet. I get up, stumbling. He stands behind me and puts his hands on my shoulder. “You can do this,” he says. “Strip it away. Now.”
“I don’t know how.”
“Let it go.” His voice is insistent, dangerously so. “Do it now.”
And somehow, inexplicably, I do. I cannot explain how, but I break free, or transcend, or just let go—but I do. I do. Because no matter how little control I have over the external, seemingly arbitrary events that are really part of this great, well-orchestrated master plan, this still is my life and it’s up to me to make of it what I want to. I’ve been given this gift, no matter how short, and these internal factors are left up to me. And in that moment, I banish the fear, and I am free, finally free, and I turn around to look at Adam one last time, and I say, “Now I understand.”
He nods, his face somehow broken and composed at the same time. “Now you see.”
“Thank you,” I say. “Remember.”
“I will,” he says. “Now you have to go.”
And so I do. I go into the light.
The previous part to this story can be found here.