At thirty years of age, he stood thirty stories above one of the world’s busiest cities. Down below the people moved across a palette of black almost as tiny dots, or a moving photographic negative of ants on a perfect, white table.
At such a height the wind is tremendous: lifting the spirit to heights of contemplation that beg the body to soar in choreography. He, the man invisible to the teeming world below, stepped nearer the building’s edge, and felt by the clutching of his stomach how close he was approaching.
Even as his head peered over the side, no one knew below. They had a life to live, a schedule to keep. Men who look at them from such absurd heights are confounded with the insanity of that position. Both held their own ground: one too distant to discover the importance of the milling crowd’s motions; the others too involved to notice a man’s body continuing toward the edge of a precipice.
He lined his toes with the edge of the rooftop, and stood straight as possible, fixing his eyes on the building opposite. For a moment his fear was not of falling, but of forgetting where he was, and carelessly taking a step forward as if to stretch the cramp from his legs.
Each time he lowered his eyes, a rush filled his chest so suddenly it almost stole away his reason and usurped control over his body. Yet for a moment it was challenging, to look down at the dust specks of people, and to contend with the natural, downward force which longed to draw one into their midst.
They always tell you that a person can’t fly; that if he didn’t have wings, it was a sure sign that he wasn’t meant to fly. But what native abilities does a man have? Left to his own, there are few animals as defenseless and less offensive than he. Instead, nature bestowed her gift within, with the encouragement that we follow the example of a seed and effloresce according to the bounties of our nature.
From thought we produce capacities which place us first in the chain of predators and defenders. If a hide we lack, we produce it; if a longer reach we need, we create it. Then why not wings?
He felt for his wings inside the lofty vault of air and stretched them out. They reached, one to the horizon, the other to the sun. So great they were that the people below mistook them for the air itself, and never noticed that the tiny man between was now greater than the expanse of heaven. Still grounded, they thought; better to come down from such heights before falling into trouble.
They always say that; they continue to say that, ad nauseum. Any distance above an ant’s knee is too great a height! In a creature with no natural ability to soar, they assume he lacks the potential as well.
With a derisive laugh at those who persisted in ignoring him, he filled his infinite wings with air and launched into the great space between him and the rest of the city. At first it seemed that Earth would not welcome him with her beckoning call, that he would simply float away, but in the next moment he began hurtling downward, hearing nothing but the whistling of air inside his ears, and the furious flapping of his clothes.
At this point the passers-by, some of them, took notice. The shock of it stunned them into a deep silence, but they recovered quickly to a sense of horror. He seemed to fly faster, faster – until the imagination alone could predict where his destination might be.
It all passed for him in a moment of such intense exhilaration that his senses expired and he fell dead to the crowd, flattened entirely by the rapid velocity of his journey and never to rise again in their sight.
He is dead, they say. But I, who saw too, wonder what he would’ve had to say about that.