“Ariel Phelan is a 13 year old writer and artist living in New York City. She loves to write historical fiction and realistic fiction short stories. When she is not writing, she loves drawing and reading. She goes to Rodeph Sholom school, and has been going to Writopia and Wricampia since she was little. “
It was 12:37 AM when I first felt it. I know because as soon as my body was pulled up out of my bed and my nose touched the low ceiling, I looked at the clock on my bedside table. This was my way of mentally collecting details to make this story more believable when I tell my parents. At first, I thought the force pulling me closer and closer to my ceiling was part of some elaborate fever dream, or a cruel prank. So I pinched my arm, and closed my eyes real tight. When I opened them again, I was still floating above my bed, with my covers hanging off of me like a dress I forgot to zip up in the back. I tried to carefully flip my body over, and I looked down at my room from a terrifying new perspective.
My light pink bed, my tall bookshelf, and my soft, shaggy rug were all still there. Except, they were floating too. My bed and bookshelf were only an inch or two off the ground, but my rug was already on the ceiling right next to my feet. The shock and indifference was just starting to wear off and my breathing had started to quicken when I heard a gasp through the thin walls of my house. Soon, I heard a panicked voice through the same wall.
“Matt, what’s going on?”
“How the hell would I know?!”
Wow. Typical of them. Even at the strangest times, they were constantly bickering. I bitterly noted that neither of them seemed at all concerned with my safety. I was their only daughter now after all, and this had been a really difficult year for me. They weren’t the only people affected by Sarah’s disappearance. I guess I finally know who was the favorite daughter. I shook myself back to reality and looked at the clock again, trying to figure out why I wasn’t losing my mind, or at least getting a little freaked out like my parents seemed to be. I’m usually a very jumpy, anxious person, but something about floating in the air felt sort of nice. I got to leave all my family and life problems down on land. It was… peaceful.
Me and my little brother Frankie were sitting at the table eating a warm, tasty breakfast of buttery croissants from the bakery under our apartment when the plates and silverware started to levitate over the kitchen table. Before I even noticed, I heard Frankie scream. A plate was hovering right over his head. In a moment of impulse, I jumped over to him and grabbed the plate, saving both my brother’s skull and my grandmother’s china. What I didn’t expect was me not crashing down onto our uncarpeted floor. I just stayed up in the air, and a moment later, Frankie joined me. His little 6-year-old body swam through the air to the tall lamp next to the fridge. After the car crash three years ago, I had been sent back home from college to take care of Frankie. When Mémé left my brother in my care, she gave me three warnings.
“Take care of him and don’t let him get hurt. Make sure he is well fed, healthy, and goes to school. And, don’t you dare let him touch my furniture.”
So, I air swam my way to Frankie until my body was right next to his, but about twice as long. Then, I grabbed the fridge and put myself right in front of the lamp, blocking him from it. My parents always used to say that I was cool and collected, and they were right on the surface, but inside I was screaming. My baby brother was all I had left, and I didn’t know what was happening. For all I knew, this strange floating could be some sort of dark magic, like the kind that Mémé used to tell me stories about when I was no older than Frankie. Or it could be some kind of chemical reaction that made this happen. I was never a good science student in school, so I wouldn’t be the one to figure this mystery out. I lunged toward Frankie, and he grabbed onto my arm. We swam our way through the thick, buttery smelling air, and made it to the space between our counter and cabinets. A safe shelter. Frankie pulled me close, and I sang him an old French lullaby like my mom used to sing to us when we were little.
Une chanson douce, que me chantait ma maman, en suçant mon pouce, j’écoutais en m’endormant, cette chanson douce, je veux la chanter pour toi, car ta peau est douce…
I looked down at Frankie to ask if he wanted me to keep singing, but he was already fast asleep.
Late afternoon is my favorite time of the day. Business in the restaurant is slowing down after the lunch time rush, and I can take a break from rolling dough and cooking rice to sit by the front window and watch people walk by. People watching is all the more entertaining in such a beautiful city. The telephone wires line the sidewalks, a rustic frame for each street, and a safe place to rest for tired birds. People stroll by the restaurant, taking pictures and pointing. This restaurant has been in my family for over 150 years. The food is well known for being the best in Kyoto. Tourists from all over the world eat here everyday. People come to Japan to sit in these seats and stare out the windows, and yet, I do not want to be here. I want to be studying medicine in America, but I don’t want to leave my father again. He has put his faith and trust in me, and what kind of daughter would I be if I abandoned my family? My thoughts were interrupted from a clash on plates in the kitchen. I walked over to the kitchen, my steps strangely light. I looked down to see that my feet were suspended in the air, bringing me nowhere. My first thought was Jikai. Where could he be? Was he in danger? I grabbed onto chairs and tables, pushing against them to propel myself forward, but accidentally bringing them in the air with me.
“Where is my husband?!” I screamed. “Someone help me! I need to find him!”
Panic pulsed through my blood. I couldn’t lose him. He was the one thing in Kyoto that made me even remotely happy. What was happening? Why was my body suspended over the ground? I had always wanted to fly, and it had been a recurring dream of mine since I was a child. This didn’t feel like a dream though, I was too scared. This didn’t feel good either. It felt like some kind of involuntary punishment. I cried up at the ceiling.
“What did I do? What did I do to deserve this…” I trailed off, as my voice faded into the echoey walls.
I curled my body into a ball and let the edges of my skirt dry my eyes. If the world is going to punish me, maybe I should just stop punishing myself.
Prague, Czech Republic
This vacation was supposed to be fun. My parents hauled me and my sister to the airport, and told us that we would be surprised by the “enchanting beauty of this culture-filled city.” Her words, not mine. The flight was a whopping 7 hours, and we arrived at our quaint, smokey smelling hotel, jetlagged and exhausted. In the morning, or what my body thought was the morning, I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, and wandered to the little balcony to see if the sun was up. Surprisingly, it was, and I grabbed a book from my suitcase and sat outside. The air was warm, with a chilly breeze that felt almost… ominous. I flipped aimlessly through my book, not fully comprehending the words on the page. I’m used to going on big trips to faraway places, but that doesn’t mean I like it. My dad works for the government, which seems to require uprooting our lives every few years. Prague seems nice, but I don’t want to live here. I closed my book on my lap, and let my eyelids rest over my eyes. My book started to feel lighter and lighter on my lap, and I put my hand over it to make sure it was still there. The book kept rising, and brought my arm with it. My eyes fluttered open, and I jumped off of my chair. I opened the balcony door to yell for my parents, but remembered that I had argued for my own hotel room and my guilty parents had reluctantly given in. My book was still hovering in the air, rising slowly. I hopped up and down to catch it, but after one of two jumps, my feet no longer touched the ground. I grabbed onto the windows and bars of other people’s balconies, screaming for help, and possibly waking up the entirety of Prague. I screamed louder every time my fingers scraped painfully against the bricks of a building. I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a window. My hair was unkempt and messy, and my eyes looked bloodshot and crazed. This isn’t the way a wealthy aristocrat’s daughter should look, bullied a voice in the back of my head. I frantically combed my sweaty, knotted hair with my filthy hands, leaving traces of dirt and blood into my golden blonde locks. I made it worse. My body kept floating higher and higher until there were no buildings to hold onto, no windows to look into. As I got closer and closer to the clouds, the air became thinner, and I couldn’t breathe without coughing and hyperventilating. I saw a bird, and a rush of hope went through my body, but it faded just as quickly when I realized that the bird could do nothing for me. I followed the bird with my wet, irritated eyes when I saw them. A group of people, floating just like me, less than a hundred feet away. I made my way through the air towards them, noting that it was a group of teens around my age, I called to them, and a girl with tears in her eyes turned towards me, and smiled, her eyes desperate. She was saying words in Czech that I didn’t understand.
“What? I only speak English. I’m sorry.”
Her face contorted into disappointment, but a boy next to her spoke to me in fluent English.
“She wants to know if you understand what is happening here. We are all so scared.”
His accent was thick, but easily understandable for someone who had lived just about everywhere.
“I don’t know either. I’m so scared. I can’t find my family.”
The boy translated my words to his group, and the girl who had spoken first reached her hand out to me. I hesitated, but grabbed it. They pulled me into their huddle, and we all floated to our deaths together.
For hours, there was a quilt of people floating in the air all around the world, blocking the sun. Policemen in cement shoes set up nets for when everyone eventually, hopefully, came back down to Earth. People were commanded to stay in the enclosed safety of their homes, and turn on the news for updates. After 3 hours of hovering, everyone suddenly came falling back to the ground, the pull of gravity restored. Scientists researched and researched, and came to the unlikely but possible conclusion that it was some kind of chemical fluke that wouldn’t happen again. Religious leaders disagreed with the scientific conclusion, as they sometimes do, and hypothesized that it was some kind of message or sign, reminding people that life is fragile and finite, and even huge problems in someone’s life can seem small in a life or death situation. It is true, that when everyone came back to the Earth, that they had never been happier and more thankful for their family and even their problems, because as hard as being alive is, it is more rewarding than being nothing at all.