Flight

WRITTEN BY LYDIA BAE

Her feet never left the ground, but her mind was always on the sky. Toes skimming past concrete, eyes lifted up, as if at any moment, she was going to take flight.


Choose, they had said. The sky or the ground.


She wore a heavy backpack, weighed down by stones washed clean in the sea. It pulled down her shoulders, left red marks on her skin that wore down to raw sores. But she couldn’t trust herself as long as the clouds welcomed her to their heights and birds soared inches above her head.


Choose, they had said. The sky or the ground.


They talked about gravity as an inescapable force, but gravity was little more than a suggestion to her. Her bones were hollow and she was filled with more air than blood. 


The sky tugged at her. It reached down with long fingertips, brushed against her soul, left the taste of mountain air in her mouth. The wind tangled her hair and stung her skin with pinpricks of rain. Only the stones in her backpack kept her captive, chaining her body to the ground.


Choose, they had said. The sky or the ground.


She remembered flying. It was freedom, concept turned to life. She had soared past trees and mountains, absolutely weightless and untethered. She had floated, carried by drifts of wind, watching cities and lakes turn to patchwork patterns.  There was a quiet to the heights that could never be reached on the ground. The noise here was never ending; it only ebbed and flowed. 


Choose, they had said. The sky or the ground. 


Her parents had told her to choose, one or the other. Hushed stories of children, made or born strange, stolen away under the darkness of night or even in the bright afternoon sun, turned their wonder into fear. Sometimes, the children returned as strangers in half-familiar bodies. They walked in the stilted, shuffling steps of prisoners and captives, the scars on their body too thin and precise to be accidents. Other times, their bodies emerged from rivers and trashbags, bruised and bloodied, drained of marrow and missing organs. But mostly, the children vanished. 


They’ll take you away, they had said. As long as you fly, you’ll never be safe. 


In the sky, she was untouchable. She could rise up until she was just a blot on the blue horizon, invisible and indistinguishable from the birds.  The heavy, clumsy planes and helicopters could never hope to catch her. But a girl drifting down from a hundred feet up, weightless and controlled, drew eyes anywhere she went. And her parents were hopelessly, utterly human. 


They’ll take you away, they had said. As long as you fly, you’ll never be safe.


As a child, they had weighed down her shoes with concrete. Later, they had planted saplings, oak and redwood, around the edges of their land. With pipes of metal, they bent the trees down, slowly, gradually, until the young branches grew parallel to the ground and the trunks curved inwards. In time, the trees had enclosed the house in a labyrinth dome of wood. 


They’ll take you away, they had said. As long as you fly, you’ll never be safe. 


But the endless walls and roofs and ceilings, the home that her parents called safe felt more like coffins to her, suffocating and air-tight.  She had been born, half-wild, with a piece of the sky in her soul. It called for her to escape from this foreign land. 


Choose, they had said. The sky or the ground.


But she could not subsist on air and flight alone. She was no bird. She could not swoop down to catch fish nor peck the dirt for bugs nor hunt for mice in the prairies. She could not spend the rest of her life nesting on trees and floating on bits of high wind. 


I’m sorry, she had whispered. I’m sorry.

Lydia Bae is a Korean American immigrant in Washington State. She attends Interlake High School as a Junior. In regards to creative writing, she mostly focuses on flash fiction and poetry.