Short Story: Lucem Ex Tenebras

I was sitting at my desk arranging the desktop icons into the semblance of a middle finger when the chat window popped up. 
 
“Tony, are you there?”
 
I finished giving myself the finger and began to type: “Sorry, but this isn’t Tony.” and I was about to press enter when I read:
 
“I’m drowning in a sea of shit Tony, except I’m the sea. I could really use someone to talk to.”
 
It occurred to me that Tony might not be available to talk to whoever this person was. That is precisely what had happened to me, the day before, except her name was Michelle, and she’d gotten sick of how often I needed her help.
 
Besides there appeared to be no one else at any of their desks, anywhere on this floor.
 
I wrote: “Okay. What’s wrong?”
 
They said: “IT’S fucking stupid. I’m being stupid.”
 
“Whatever IT is, If IT bothers you, then it bothers you. And that’s okay.”
 
They didn’t type anything for awhile. 
 
Then they wrote: “On the subway someone’s phone went off. The ringtone was Don’t Stop Believing by journey and I wanted to cry because of it, but I didn’t want anyone to see so I picked up this newspaper and there was this stupid picture of a soldier upside down and he looked like an idiot so I started laughing but I was crying at the same time and then I realized I was holding the newspaper upside down and that everyone would know why I’d done it.”
 
I waited.
 
Typed “lol” then deleted it. 
 
They wrote “See, it’s fucking stupid.”
 
I typed “Why did the song make you cry?”
 
They wrote it all out. How their face had been scratched by the windshield of their car whilst they listened to what used to be their favorite song. How they had lost who they were and that reminded me qof how I’d lost Danielle, and how simple things that shouldn’t be, did. Like waking up. And breakfast,
 
Except Danielle was definitely still alive and waiting for me at home with the next episode of Game Of Thrones.
 
Later they wrote “Thank you I fucking needed that” so I thought it was time to type: “My name isn’t actually Tony you know. Though I am in tech support…” which is when I woke up from the dream, into an empty bed, on top of a duvet too large for one person because Danielle was still dead and I’d forgotten again. 
 
It took me sometime to get dressed and go to my real desk, out in the real world. It was somewhere around noon when I realized that I’d left my latest prescription at home. My supervisor let me go, told me to stay home, and I knew he meant well but why couldn’t he understand that I would come back the moment I took my pills and that the last thing I needed was to be at home. That auditing the accounts of a popcorn company was bliss in comparison. 
 
The pills didn’t seem to do anything except make day time TV somewhat more bearable. The romance, between an ancient concubine and some kind of half-man, half-bird creature was particularly enthralling, especially since I do not speak cantonese and so made up the words in my head. My stomach growled so I put some instant dimsum in the microwave and pressed some buttons. At some distance from the couch the microwave started beeping. I figured that now that it was cooked, that it would keep, for several hours if necessary. Later the washing machine started making noises. I remained on the sofa, listening with half-shut eyes to the nonsensical patter of another Chinese soap. 
 
Of course my phone had to go off right next to my head. An unknown number. I prepared to be polite. If it was all I going to do today, I was going to be polite to his poor, underpaid telemarketer.
 
“Hello.” I said, in my polite voice.
 
She said: “Hi there! I’m calling from tech support! Why so glum chum?”
 
“Excuse me?”
 
“What’s on you mind man! I heard you’re kind of down.”
 
“From who? Who is this?”
 
“Well, I got this memo, said you’re kind of down. Got it from the sysadmin. He assigned me to you I think. I’m not sure. But who cares, whatever, you sound like ass, you really do and for what it’s worth you shouldn’t bottle it all up. Let’s see here…Danielle…lovely name that. Come on man, tell me about her. I’m listening. You can tell me whatever you like.
 
I tried a few Well’s, some But’s and it’s just’s- she waited for me to finish one of my sentences but I failed to. I only breathed slower, and harder, till I was gasping.
 
She said “Danielle would want you to treat yourself well, I mean, that’s love right?”
 
“That’s…what the fuck…” And it just spilled out of me. In a babbling mess. I confessed about how I’d finally found someone that made me feel everything I’d ever dreamed of, right when I’d given up all hope, right when I was at my most overweight and tired, and then out of nowhere, just like that she’s gone and all the pills in the goddamn world weren’t enough. I told her how I hadn’t really been happy to begin with. How Danielle just accepted me and that was the definition of love.
 
The tech support lady said: “Self-acceptance counts too.”
 
And after that I poured the rest out. And after that I tried to thank her. “That was so much better than these pink pills I take.”
 
It turns out we took the same pills.
 
She had been swearing a lot. I asked: “Have you…ever been in a car accident?”
 
She said Yes.
 
“And do you have a friend, a good friend named Tony?”
 
She said What the fuck.
 
The line began to crackle. I remembered then, being transferred to tech support, the empty office, and a middle finger made out of desktop icons and: “LOOK, IF YOU’RE AT THE OFFICE TONIGHT, MEET ME AT THE PHOTOCOPY MACHINE!”
 
She managed to ask: “The pink one?”
 
“YES THE BRIGHT PINK ONE!!!!!” and the line went dead and I woke up opposite the TV and I made a mental, then a written note to bring all this up with my psychiatrist. Then I did my washing, ate the dimsum, and went back to work.
 
I was so excited that getting to sleep took ages.
 
It felt like I was about to go somewhere new. Meet someone new. It felt like my first date with Danielle and the debate I had about what flowers to buy. So I still thought I was awake even when I found myself at the bottom of a lift shaft, with only a ladder and the distant sounds whirring office machinery. I climbed and counted the floors, perpetually afraid I had lost track, that I was going to miss mine. It made me want to start all over again but my arms were tired and what if I wouldn’t be able to go back up? 
 
The silhouette of a head peeked out, far above me. “About time! I couldn’t find a single freakin’ photocopy machine anywhere. Its like the end of the world up in here.” 
 
At that point it became easier to climb, until I stood on the other side of the shaft from her, the gap in between too large to jump. “Jump it!” she said. 
 
“I’ll fall.” I replied.
 
She extended her hands and it occurred to me that if I ran really, really fast, then maybe I’d outrun gravity. So I did, and I was only a foot away from her when gravity caught up to grab me by my ankles, “OH HELL NO!” She yelled, then her hands clasping mine, pulling me up till we stood, face to scarred face. She kissed me and I didn’t ask why, or feel guilty at all despite the fact that she looked nothing like Danielle.
 
“I checked out the company directory, none of it makes any fucking sense, but I’ll tell you what- the sysadmin’s office is on the top floor. Come on, we’ll take the stairs.”
 
So we ran hand in hand up an interminable fire escape. Eventually we emerged into a white marbled lobby. At the end of it, large and imposing, were a set of double doors. One black, the other white, with a drop of the other color in each. Holding hands we shouldered both open together.
 
Inside the sysadmin dropped the dimsum he’d been eating. Then he tripped over a bundle of wires covered with what looked like unwashed clothes. He stuttered: “Who the…what the…you guys aren’t supposed to BE here! At the same time! Oh jeez, you’re even holdin’ hands.”
 
I gently disconnected from her.
 
The sysadmin sighed and circled us, humming and hawwing to himself. I said: “Excuse me, we would very much like to know how…”
 
“Shhhh.” He gently pressed one finger to his lips. “Shhhhhhhitttttt I see it now. Wow. You guys. The pills you both take. They messed with the system! Fucking PEOPLE!” His hands flew up, beseeching a red neon sign above him, composed of Chinese characters I did not understand. “Always messing around with the mind, like idiot children. Damn pills got side effects. Ought to put that on the label.”
 
“Look sir, is she real?”
 
She turned on me: “SAY WHAT? Fuck you, are YOU real?”
 
“YOU’RE BOTH FRICKIN REAL!” he said. “Look. Here’s the thing. There has been a teensy little screw up. You aren’t ever suppsoed to be together in the same place and time. The same place-time. That isn’t how it works,”
 
“How what works?” One of us said.
 
“The…buddy program. For broken people- not unlike yourselves. What happens is when one person is really low, like, down in the sewers low, then another person, quite like them, but- and this is crucial- not feeling the same way at that exact moment in time, contacts you, and you have a bit of a talk, to alleviate the symptoms of existence. Now you are both, if I may say so, HIGHLY QUALIFIED buddys in your own right. Seriously top notch traumas you’ve both sustained. But the algorithm’s screwed up, there shouldn’t be a recurring relationship. Not like this. There shouldn’t be anything tying you to together. Except for the goddamn pills your quack of a psychiatrist gave both of you. Same pills, same connection, and now you’re freakin HOLDING HANDS!”
 
He sighed again, said: “There is only one thing left to do now. Gotta reset the system.”
 
“Reset?”
 
“Yeah, turn it on and off. Works most of the time.”
 
“And then what, we just…”
 
“Wake up, and all of this is forgotten, and later on you help someone different instead.”
 
I asked him: “But wait, you mean, we go to the same doctor? We could see each other…outside of…work?” 
 
She asked him: “Hey dickhead, what if we don’t want to forget, did you ever consider that?”
 
The sysadmin paused, hands hovering over the console he had been typing at. “Sorry. Really am. But if I don’t do this you guys might end up perfectly happy, and then so much for balancing out the others. And you’ll know all about the backoffice. And you’ll start some frickin cult and invariably in a century or two it’ll all get fucked.”
 
I held her hand again. “What does it mean?” I asked.
 
I was pointing at the neon sign, which had changed from Chinese to latin. “Lucem ex tenebras; from darkness, light.” The sysadmin massaged the top of his forehead. “Even if I reset the system it won’t be over for you guys. You’re on your way up. The darkness, without it you wouldn’t understand each other. You wouldn’t care. Not as hard. Not as much. And for what it’s worth there are a lot of you guys out there, trust me.” He gestured to the stack of servers: “You’ll find someone else. Or you won’t. I don’t know. It’ll be like a dream- you’ll forget the details but you’ll remember the point.” He squatted and reached into a space between two servers.
 
She turned to me, her smile melding with the scar that traveled from her jaw to her forehead. “I’ll remember you.” She said.
 
And then he flipped the switch.
 
I woke up late on top of a duvet too large for one person. I was pretty sure I’d dreamt of Danielle. What little I had slipped out of my grasp, leaving only a few word that made no sense.
 
So I googled Lucem Ex Tenebras and went back to work.
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Flash Fiction: Time Displaced

What’s wrong, she asked, when I went soft as pudding. Now usually I’m kinky enough that all the previous orgasms, guys or girls, adds up. Hum around my head. So it feels like an orgy with ghosts. But there where her head lay I could feel the tears she’d spread. Rising up out of her pillow. I had to go. This is the problem with my condition, being time displaced.
 
I was not born time displaced. And contrary to what Reddit says, it is not contagious either. You cannot get Deja Vous from someone else. What you are feeling is akin to when a depressed person walks into a room, and brings everyone else down with them.
 
Instead I was told it was a bad drug interaction. Between LSD, the antibiotics, and that ginseng extract bullshit Aunty Vie sent me again.
 
Since then I get horny in the weirdest places; library corners, certain alleys. The worst was my parent’s apartment’s balcony. I cannot go clubbing anymore. Or at least before one; I need the place full, I need everyone drunk- or they’ll see me stumble in during the day whilst it’s empty and all the combined sadness, desperation, euphoria and release, drives me crazy. I once had to walk in to use the toilet. By the time I got out my friend accused me of being an alcoholic.
 
The pretentious call it ‘psychic energy’. A measurement of the events that have taken place there. An attuned, temporally displaced observer does not only see the moment in front of them, but all the moments that have been there. So that is why I did not take the house tour. Because bedrooms are rather potent. And now I never go over. Because homes are filled with them. I suspect some artists might have been afflicted, which is why they kept writing about forests and paths. those places are silent, peaceful, even after we’ve sheared them away. They stay, pockets in time, hedges that cushion the present, stretch away like a white margin, pristine. I once hung around a mall being built, pile drivers thundering, curses flung past knocked hard hats. And sighed. It was amazing. So quiet. Between the sweat and the precision there was the past.
 
I have heard that the severity of the emotions, the distance away in time,
the sheer number of experiences; all of these contribute proportionally to the emotional response of the observer. I have heard that ghosts can be explained by this. That when people die they die forever, but their actions ripple, drops falling. Again and again and again.
 
I like window shopping. The dopamine surge of satisfied shoppers. Stadiums are dangerous. Full of hate and rage. And once I went back to France, had a panic attack as we went past an empty field. A desperate fear I only saw again in the eyes of a homeless man.
 
There are certain places on this earth I can never visit. And the thing is, I may not care as much about the tears you cry, I cannot help it. I know it will pass. And I’m telling you that if one of my kind starts to feel rather terrified, Ill or disturbed by a place with no negative history, no heartbreak, then one should be concerned about the future.
 
They say space is silent. The vacuum up there. But none of my kind have become astronauts yet. There is almost no place on this planet I have been that isn’t covered with the sweat of pain. Except on tall hills. Vast, empty fields. Deserts. And certain beaches, and only when I am lying down, staring up.
 
I used to think it were lovers that made beaches so great. But that isn’t what I’ve found with hotels. Except once lying down, I saw a clear, starry night and realized what I’d felt was hope. Some of it on the floor, below, where others had looked up. Most of it like rain. Traveling down from the future. From the sky. Onto us.
 
 

My Captain

Too often and like too many others I have

suffered silently choked by your words your callous stares,
Your ‘cheer up cheer ups’ your verdicts of self indulgence
Your condemnations of angst
But no more, not for him,
For the man who made me laugh,
Made me smile,
I will not stay silent for Peter Pan.

Oh captain, my captain,
I’ll say it plainly.

Robin Williams fought every day and today he lost. There is no comfort for him, no afterlife, just robbed time, just broken hearts, today the devils win. The shadows that asphyxiated him, the black that paid no heed to success, fortune, or fame. The invisible illness, the change within his mind. They took my hero and strung a noose around his head, they dragged him, beaten and bloody to the stocks and placed the rope around his neck and gave him no chance to speak, no dignity, no solace, they only promised that life was worse than nothing, and nothing is what they offered.

So many of us will not look into that abyss, will not dare allow it to rise and up fill us, and chill us, and gape at our mortality, our fragile happiness, that is why you call us weak, self-indulgent, liars and losers because the alternative is horror. Yes I will bend and buckle and break, I will kneel my head, avert my eyes, hold my stuttering tongue, will allow the heat to suffuse my face and your words to echo on my bed, and the tears to leak from my face, I will let you tell me I am not enough, but I will not let you tell that

To him.

To Robin Williams.

My first Peter Pan, you cocked that mobile phone before I knew what lawyers were. Stood bewildered among children, you were like the adults who crushed me till, you flew, you fucking CROWED, saw bright balls of goo where no food was threw it around never in my life have I seen a meal that looked as tasty as that.

You remembered how to fly again, bangarang my friend. The pan arises, the hook sinks. I saw hook at least ten times and love it still.

So you look Peter Pan in the eye and tell him he isn’t ill.

I never had a friend like him. Never had anyone who could be there all the time, who could take it. Who could stay the night, it was too much, day after day when I didn’t recover, hour after hour whilst I still cried. He never had a friend like me.

They taught him between jabs, between trips to the bar, between white lines and whilst he cried the demons taught him what matters, that people lie, that old men think they know what’s important, what life is made of; money, exams, rules and regulations, what to wear and say and do and when lest you become different. Robin took all that darkness and within it he found hope. Maybe he couldn’t be happy himself but he’d be damned if he did not try to make you laugh instead.

So when Robin whispered the dead men’s words and said, Carpe Diem, he knew you had to seize the day because those days when you can, they won’t come all that often, and when they do when you beat back those snarling fucking demons you gotta leap up, gotta make them all laugh, and all those lines you wrote in tears you’ll unleash them on the rest. The despair in their eyes inside their heads, the depressed we can see them, can smell the enemy on you, and Robin fought like Peter Pan, his sword, his sword was laughter, he was a knight, a bright white ball of happiness man that man burned away your misery because he knew, he knew, how bad those days could get.

Oh captain, my captain,

Carpe diem.

I will not say rest In peace because you did not die at peace, you were killed, you were murdered and me and mine will not rest either. Will not pretend we did not lose a brother in arms, a friend, will not bow our heads in shame, will raise our fists, not our glasses, will do the best we can; we’ll make ’em laugh, we’ll make ’em sing, we’ll dance our dances, write our plays, we’ll swing with the best of them, we’ll take it on the chin and get back up, one more time, one more time, again and again Robin. I promise you I’ll write a bit harder, I’ll try a bit harder, I’ll get up one more time more because I cannot let the demons know they’ve won. They don’t get to win, not anymore.

Carpe Diem.

The father on screen. You made Will Hunting love. Made him feel human, because despair and loneliness can make one kind, makes one brave, makes one bold enough to stand and speak and laugh and joke because those that live in darkness, know the value of the light and the secret to create it. You said it’s not your fault till I believed because it isn’t our faults dear friends. We lost one of the best today. So I will not say:

Raise a glass,
Rest in peace,
I will not claim
It is now easy,
Bow your heads,
Mourn and walk away.

No.

That is not our way. It never has been. We do not move on. We do not forget. And maybe we will never be whole, never be healed, never know peace and too many of us will die too early in this war we fight, we fight every day so to all the ignorant, selfish rest, to all the others too afraid to face someone else’s suffering, that do not accept what this is like, that do not know how daily despair tastes, to them I say laugh on, laugh on, laugh at our jokes that is what we do, but to you my brothers and sisters, captains and comrades, you know who you are, you that forget you are legion, today or tomorrow or right now you are surrounded but to you I say in my hero’s name:

Fight on, fight on, fight a  bit harder for him.

The demons do not get to win.

Show them what we are made of. Put on your red noses. Throw on the clown shoes. Hell forged, battle born, our smiles are scimitars, our bright eyes shields. Sing your soul out. Cut out pieces of you. Fling your pain upon the canvas, take the shadows and make balloon animals out of them. Dance to wake the light, burn brighter, to make up for the star we’ve lost today. Fight on, fight on, for the fallen, the fallen, for our

Captain, our captain,

Carpe Diem

Do not let him die in vain.

The Tower

Today I look back at that poem I posted before and already I’m starting to hate it. All the things that aren’t perfect, the rhythm, the rhyme, word choice. Et cetera et cetera.

It’s a common thing, I know so many of you have the same doubts, maybe not about your writing, but of all the things you wish you were better at.

There is this unhappy thing I wrote, a long time ago when I was incredibly depressed. It is all I can do sometimes- write, when I have these black moods during which there seems no point at all. I can’t help it. It’s just who I am, it’s the only way I know how to fight back. I ask the question: What happens next? And then I answer it.

And I realize that might not make any sense.

You see sometimes there is a mountain in my head. A massive, cold mountain, with blizzards and comfortable caves and a moaning wind that will not cease. Sometimes it is a dragon who I know well, and all I have is a rusty sword and a wooden shield. Sometimes it is a place, sometimes a person. All I know is I am terrified that I might not make it there. Or that when I do I will fail.

I do not usually show people the words I write about that thing. After all the words are so far from perfect, and what if it is embarrassing? But that is not the point. The point is to climb It.

Sometimes It is a mountain.

Sometimes It is A Tower

A man dreams of a tower made of steel and glass, filled with the kind of shiny windows that reflect the world around it like some strange mirror.

A penetrating edifice, warping reality inside of it, till the clouds themselves dance slowly across it’s titan form. The tower is so smooth, the tower is so new, so modern, the tower is human, not natural at all. It stands at the top of an impossibly tall mountain, and wind and blizzard whip at it’s babel-like form for eons and eons, and still it stands, this office building, this monument to human progress. The climber makes it to the peak of the mountain, only to find this smooth, steel tower, revealing his reflection- what a weathered climber he is, how small, how incredibly tiny, in front of this vast challenge.

Impossible to climb.

No handholds. No help. What is at the top?

He did not come so far, leave so much behind, and hold on for so long just to sit in it’s shadow.

So he grabs hold of smooth glass, and presses his legs against the sides of the steel bars, and slowly, so slowly, he pulls himself upwards. It takes him almost an hour to make it a few meters, he keeps sliding down. He continues, waiting for a night that never comes- there is no more sleeping at the top of the mountain. Each time he see’s his own cheeks puff, his own muscles strain, reflected by those glass windows. Each time he falls.

Lying in the snow, he redoubts his efforts. With cunning learnt from years of climbing he finds the tiniest handholds, the secret imperfections, and he makes it higher, and higher, leaving the summit behind. As he climbs he see’s into the windows, now transparent. What he see’s lashes at his heart far more than the blizzards he encountered below. Scenes from his life, friends long gone, now inside and warm, with families, with love, with success and security, these scenes right in front of him remind him of what he cannot have, what he does not have. He screams, pure agony, pure animalistic pain, and collapses back down to the ground. Has it not been enough? Is it not enough to contend with shadows? Is it not enough to have fought his own reflection every day, to strain and rise with no one to watch or care. Now he must also be taunted by the happiness of others, over and over again, he must feel his solitude.

The climber collapses on the ground. Snow begins to fall. Coating his body. He wonders at all the white piles around him. He wonders at all the others that despite it all made it this far, only to be forgotten in death, only to lie buried in snow, white piles for others to stumble over, reminders and warnings for the foolish. Then the climber remembers. He is not foolish. He gets up. He is many things. He thinks himself weak, and he puts one hand on a hold. He thinks himself broken, as he jams one cold foot against a bar. He thinks himself different and cursed and unable to be like all the others, as he lifts himself above the snow. But he is not done. Not yet.

The climber uses his fingers to smash holes in these windows to other people’s dreams and his own bad memories, small fractures to allow for grip, which cut into his palms, till the blood flows like tiny streams down the side of the titanic tower. Upwards he goes, and upwards. Here there are no caves to rest in, no checkpoints to mark his progress. Here he either climbs or falls, and the climb is so far, and so long, and no one else cares.

He peers into a higher window, one he hasn’t seen before, and what he see’s cuts him far deeper than the cold he usually contends with. The climber’s hands fail him, and he plummets again to the ground.

This is it. This is the end. He lands with enough force to break. And break he does. Shattered on the peak of this mountain he thought would lead him to peace. His body useless. As are his dreams. A thousands jagged pieces, each a reflection of a battle lost- a desperate shard taken as a lesson, heaped on a pile he called hope, telling himself that all the suffering was worth something, anything, that the pile would mean peace, that if he could just put all the pain together it would amount to something beautiful and it would all have been worth it. Now he lies, broken, and slowly bleeds.

A distant cry travels up the mountain.

The climber turns his head. It’s a cry of pain. A cry of anguish. He knows it well. He has emitted the same noise from his own mouth far too often. Someone else is in pain. The body wishes to die. The climber will not allow it. He remembers the jagged lessons, the way he put them together into something resembling a dream. He has trained himself to piece together hope, thus he shall piece together his body. The cry is that of another. He is not alone. Others suffer. He has not met them, but he knows them. He looks at the rope he used on the mountain, and promises himself one last thing. The rope is not useful, not on the tower, not here at the end.

But if he could bring it to the top and throw it down, then his brothers and sisters could use it, to help themselves. The climber slowly, so slowly, gets back up. His arms are not as strong, having been shattered in the fall. He carefully winds the rope around himself, his useless arms flapping in the wind.

He looks up at this vertical behemoth, this shining example of everything good and warm that he cannot be a part of. He considers smashing through the window, but he knows, that was never his way. That was denied to him at the outset. Some are brave, they climb because they dream of peaks, because they are the trailblazers, the pioneers who will not settle. Some climb because they need more, and more, and more, until death they are driven, always to seek more, and they are the ones that drive the race forward, these ambitious leaders. Some set their sights so high, and do not turn away, and work, with others, towards greatness. The climber is none of these people. He is a coward.

Because some are being hunted. They are chased, forever, wherever, by dark demons for reasons unknown. They learn, from an early age, to run. To run, and run, and never look back. Sometimes they are cornered, and forced to fight, sometimes they lose, and always, always they carry the wounds of these battles.

The climber has run all his life. He has trained for this. And right now there is only one thing left inside of him. Something more than hope. Now he knows that there are others like him. That they are crying for help, as he has done before- that they wish they had backup, that they are alone, so terribly alone. He hears them below, shouting “Where are you?” And he has one thing left to say.

“I’m coming.”

He shoulders his rope. He must secure it to something high.

He runs towards that vertical tower. His footsteps stop sinking into the snow. He runs and runs, till he reaches the base of that steel tower.

His feet leave the ground, as he runs up it. One step, two, three, thirty. He does not stop, running against the gravity of his darkstar, defying physics, straight up he runs, his eyes fixed on the top, his arms trailing uselessly. His mortal heart beats, a drum sounding like a call to arms, all he can hear are the drums. Step after step, so fast he doesn’t have time to fall. Past old friends, past old memories, past lost loves, past easier choices, past life, past fear, past it all, upwards and upwards, he is almost three quarters of the way there….when he see’s her.

She’s happy now. She’s married. She has children and they are all smiling. Everyone is smiling.

He trips.

No.

He falls. Plummets down to earth.

He thinks he hears laughter. It’s the tower. The tower is laughing. It has finally won. Don’t you know? It asks, don’t you know how many of you fools I shake off everyday? Count the deaths. Count the ones that do not make it. You are another mistake, and I am ridding you from my perfect world.

The voice gets quieter, the farther from the top he falls. The ground approaches. The climber tried. He was not strong enough. He was not fast enough. That is the way of the world. We do not all win. As he comes near to the ground he thinks he hears other voices, those from far below.

Help. Please. Help me. Where are you?

The climbers thrusts his broken arms to either side, and learns one last lesson.

His broken arms, shaped by pain- he flaps them, harder, faster, till the ground itself is held at bay. He aims himself at the peak of the tower. He say’s “I’m coming.”

Looking up, at the enemy so far above. “I’m coming for you.”

He’s trained for this his entire life.

He flies.