Maybe I'd had too much to drink or smoked too much weed. I had definitely had enough to make the room spin for a few hours after I stumbled out of my jeans and collapsed into bed. I had confided to my girlfriend, Olivia, that I was feeling 'floaty'. She told me that I just needed sleep and brought me back to my building before going home to sleep herself. I still felt like if I wasn't holding onto to someone or something, I would float up into the air. I had no idea how far up I would fly until I ended up doing it.
I couldn't sleep that night and still felt light in the early hours of the morning. I was so tired of holding the mattress in hopes of keeping myself on the ground that my hands were sore. My half-aware brain was worried that I would float off if I didn’t hold on, but exhaustion was starting to weaken my resolve. Eventually, I decided to let go. I told myself the ceiling would stop me and as long as I stayed over my bed, I'd be fine.
The first sensation I remember was weightlessness and a tingling feeling that pulsed through my body. My headache was gone and the world was clear again. It felt like I had taken a cold shower and the shock to my system woke up completely. I looked down, but rather than seeing an empty bed, I saw my motionless body. Panicked, I lunged down to my former self.
My headache returned instantly and I rolled onto my stomach, gripping the bed again. I closed my eyes and relaxed as my heart slowed it's beating. I could have sworn that I died, but my heartbeat was reassuring and regular. I tried to lift my arm, but it felt heavy and unwieldy. I tried to recall the sensation and let go again.
Again, the weightlessness and sudden shift from my physical form woke me up abruptly. I looked around, raised my weightless limbs to my face, and flexed my fingers. I dropped back down to my body, comforted by the mass of my body. I let go again and floated above myself. Rather than jumping back to my body, I dropped down to the edge of the bed. My chest still rose and fell in a slow, steady rhythm. I leaned closer to my mouth and heard myself snore. If that wasn't a sign I was still alive, I wasn't sure what was. I wondered what Olivia would think and felt a pull deep in my stomach as something pulled me away from my bedside.
It felt like a hook was in my stomach, ripping me across town in a blur. I flailed a little as I tried to grab onto something, but my hands passed through anything I reached out to grab. The world stopped again. I wasn't sure if I had whiplash, but there was a dull tingle as the world came back into focus around me. I was in Olivia's apartment.
I saw her jacket slung over her desk chair and the skirt she'd been wearing earlier was in a pile on her floor by her bed. Olivia was asleep in the bed, her makeup a little smudged over her eyes and already rubbing on her pillow. I moved to the side of her bed. She was dead asleep, breathing quietly. I'd fallen asleep in her apartment a few times, but I'd never seen her asleep like this. I closed my eyes and wished I was back in my body. When I felt the tug in my stomach, I regretted my choice of words.
Coming back to my physical body, I was nearly knocked out of my bed. I scrambled to hold the side of my bed and waited for the world to stop spinning. I was having weird dreams already and hated my brain for keeping me awake when all I wanted was to rest. Annoyed, I wrapped myself up in my blankets and finally felt that I could sleep.
Waking up the next morning, I couldn't decide between going to the bathroom to grab some painkillers for my headache or never leaving my bed again. Olivia texted me and my phone vibrated as I reached for it.
"How'd you sleep?"
"Not sure. I'll let you know when the world stops spinning. Did you have any weird dreams last night?"
"I had a dream that I was like…floating."
"You were talking about how you felt 'floaty' all night. Sometime around ten when you were spinning through the house."
"I've made mistakes, I won't deny that."
"I fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow. Want to meet for breakfast? Or lunch, at this rate, I guess?"
"Let me shower and figure out how I feel."
I set my phone down and struggled with the ache in my body. I tried to stand up, but everything started to tingle again.
My headache was gone and I felt that weightless feeling again. I was floating over my body again. I had tried to convince myself that it was a bad dream, a weird trick of the mind, or just an overactive imagination, but the night before had been real. I willed myself back into my body and took a shocked breath. I grabbed my phone instantly.
"Olivia, I'm freaking out!"
"I just jumped out of my body."
"Like…my non-body jumped out of my real body."
"What are you talking about? Like an out of body experience?"
"Too far out of body…"
"What do you mean?"
I set my phone down and jumped out of my body again, making sure I was breathing, I jumped across town to Olivia's apartment again. She was sitting at her desk in one of my old t-shirts, cleaning off her face from last night. She set down the piece of toast she was eating and picked up her phone, checking the messages from me. I jumped back to my body and grabbed my phone, barely noticing the jarring shift. I called Olivia before she sent the next message.
"Hello?" Olivia asked.
"You're sitting at your desk, wiping your makeup from last night off. You have a piece of toast, dry…you're wearing my Dungeons and Dragons shirt that you took from my closet when we first started dating."
"How…are you outside?"
"No! That's what I'm trying to tell you! Something weird is going on."
"OK, I'm gonna write a number on a page in this notebook. What is it?"
"Hold on," I said, setting the phone next to my pillow and jumping out, floating over my body before leaping to Olivia's bedroom. She was still on the phone.
"Hello?" Olivia called. "Ash? Are you there?"
I waved my hand in front of her face, but she didn't notice I was there. I looked at the notebook and saw she'd written down a number. I jumped back to my body and picked up my phone.
"—some kind of stupid prank, I swear to God—"
"That's the number you wrote down."
"How…how did you do that?"
"I have no idea. I jump out of my body and can move to your apartment."
"So…you have a weirdly specific and invasive superpower?"
"I didn't know I was going to pop up in your bedroom! I just thought about you and I was there!"
"I'm on my way over now. Don't…just stay where you are. All of you!"
I spent the time waiting for Olivia to come over showering and getting as much as I could remember down on paper. The feelings, where I went, what I was thinking when I moved…writing things down helped keep me focused and I managed to keep in one place without disappearing at the whims of my wandering thoughts. Olivia came, still wearing my t-shirt and a pair of jean shorts. We sat on my couch while she held my hand and kept me grounded while I told her everything that I had written down.
"Can you…go anywhere else?"
"I don't know, I haven't tried."
"You should try something else!"
"What? No way! I don't know what this is doing to me!"
"Ash, you know you can get back to your body, right?"
"I mean, yeah, but—"
"Then what are you worried about? If you do it enough, maybe I can learn to do it, too."
"I'll keep you safe. I promise."
I couldn't say no to Olivia's eyes when she pouted like that. I nodded and she pulled up a chair for herself to sit in while I stretched out on my couch. After a brief minute, I felt settled despite my heart pounding in my chest. Olivia put a hand on my shoulder and I touched her long fingers with my own. I was glad she was there before I tried going anywhere else.
"Where should I go?" I asked.
"How about…India? You keep saying you always wanted to see it in person."
That was true. I closed my eyes and waited as the now familiar tingling sensation passed over my body. I opened my eyes again and looked down at Olivia sitting by my body.
"Ash?" She shook me and put a hand on my forehead. "Ash?"
I jumped back into my body and she squealed when my eyes snapped open. "It's OK," I smiled. "I just…don't worry until my body starts acting weird, OK?"
"OK," Olivia said, holding my hand. I jumped out again and floated over my body for a minute. Olivia looked concerned, but she wasn't panicking yet. I closed my eyes and thought of India. The strongest image I had in my mind was of the Taj Mahal, white marble glowing in the sunlight that beat down on the domed rooftops of the building. With the familiar sensation in my stomach, I braced as I was pulled.
Opening my eyes again, I was struck by how dark it was. I did some quick math and guessed that it was well after midnight here. The mausoleum glowed from the exterior lights and stars sparkled overhead. I could hear the sounds of traffic in the distance and there was music playing somewhere. I floated up over the Taj Mahal and flew over the cityscape, dropping down into the bustling city that surrounded the great wonder. No one paid any attention to me, but a cat did hiss at me violently as I glided by. I floated away, exploring the city a little as I moved over the few people still out in the wee hours of the morning.
I wondered where else I could go. As soon as the thought occurred to me, I was in England, smack dab in the center of Stonehenge. I'd been there once before on a vacation, but I was restricted to behind the rope barrier that kept me from getting this close to the monolith.
Another stray thought took me to Easter Island. I couldn't help but notice the similarities and my mind instantly jumped away. My mind strayed again and I was pulled away another time, somewhere cold and frozen. I wished I was somewhere warmer and I was quickly pulled away and dropped onto the sandy shores of Hawaii as waves crashed around me, nearly smothering me. I wanted to get away from the water and wound up in the desert, floating over the endless dunes. Each time I was pulled away it hurt my stomach and I scrambled to think of somewhere I'd be safe and could get away from everything. I felt a pull in my stomach again and watched the ground rush away from me like I was being ripped from the face of the earth until everything stopped.
I was in space, surrounded by billions of stars. I was glad I didn't need to breathe, but couldn't help but wish I found out another way. I looked down at the globe below me. Everything was so small. The great continents all blended into one this far up and I strained my eyes to figure out where each country began and ended. I was floating up above Europe, their last hours of sunlight bleaching the clouds that spiraled overhead. I could see the curve of the atmosphere that glowed. From my perspective, I could see so much and I couldn't help by feel like everything was so insignificant. Including myself.
Who was I in this infinity? I had traveled all over the world and felt overwhelmed. Yet, I'd barely scratched the surface. I thought I was important or that I mattered, but compared to all of this?
I started to panic, unsure if I couldn't breathe because of fear or the fact that I couldn't breathe without the precious atmosphere underneath me. I squeezed my eyes shut and willed myself back to my own small, meaningless spot in the world.
I took a long, deep breath, desperate to get the feeling of breathing back as I coughed. Olivia clutched at my face and my panic settled. I could breathe again and Olivia held me.
"What happened?" She asked, holding my face in her hands. "God, I shouldn't have pushed you. That was so stupid. What did you see?"
"Everything…" I sniffled. "I saw everything."
I did my best to explain what I'd seen and everything I'd experienced in the span of what had been mere minutes. It felt like a lifetime as if my time out of my body helped me reach some sense of enlightenment. I wish I could forget it all. The insignificance of my existence weighed heavily on me.
"What can I do?" Olivia asked. "You don't have to do it again, but what can I do?"
I shook my head and pulled her closer to me until she was nearly in my lap. Olivia pulled me close and held me. I didn't care about the universe. All the endless landmasses, the eternal oceans, and the paper-thin atmosphere separating humankind from annihilation didn't matter anymore. All I cared about was being in her arms, smelling her perfume, feeling the warmth of her body against mine. After everywhere I had been, the only place I ever wanted to be was in Olivia's arms. I was small in the grand scheme of the universe, but this was important. Being in the universe didn't matter, not compared to being in Olivia's arms.
I spent the rest of the day in the apartment with Olivia, so desperate to stay in my physical body that I didn't want to leave the house. I would have rare out of body episodes afterward, but they were rare. They only happened when I got too drunk and wondered at the room spinning before I would exit my body. Sometimes, I would go to India again or find somewhere new. It was fun, but always—always—I would go back to Olivia's arms.