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Fantasy Fiction Speculative

People were beginning to mistake the sky for the sea; that’s why they started jumping off the ship. The jumpers had grown so weary of the white masts flapping in the wind and the creak of the wooden floorboards beneath their feet. They grew weary of sailing, of traveling amongst the clouds for what seemed to be an eternity, waiting to see where the wind would wisp them off to. When the jumpers began to grow weary, so did their minds. Their brains started to become all slow and sluggish, and their judgment all clouded and dazed. That’s when they would jump off into the blue.

I used to wonder how the jumpers got the blues mixed up. The sea and the sky seemed to be two entirely different shades: the sea being a blue so rich and dark, almost like a physical manifestation of the essence of mystery. The sky was that bipolar shade of blue, sometimes looking like a big swipe of a five-year-old’s brush who doesn’t know anything about shading or tone, and other times looking like a masterpiece-the colors meticulously and specifically chosen from the palette of God’s own personal and professional watercolors.

But I don’t wonder about the differing shades of blue anymore. I get it. When the sun beams down onto the deck and when all the clouds in the sky have vanished, your whole body starts to get real warm and you’ll start thinking about drinking down a cool, icy glass of water. When sweat starts dripping out of your pores like a leaky faucet and your hair starts sticking to your skin, you feel dirty and uncomfortable, and you’ll start wishing that you could rip off your rubbery flesh. You become blind to the beauty around you. The sun becomes so overbearing that you’ll start squinting your eyes and things get all blurry and you’ll forget that you’re on a wooden ship thousands of feet in the air and, oh, the water under you looks so fresh and cool and if only you could jump down and take a plunge and wash the sweat off your skin and so you jump over the rails into the ocean but it’s not the ocean you dumbass it's the sky and you fall through the air and then hit the ground and die. 

Even though I’ve never truly become so disoriented as to jump off the ship in full devotion to the belief that the sky was the sea, there were, however, a few times where I willingly imagined that the sky was the sea. I would imagine that I was sailing in that vast, blue water instead of the vast, blue sky. I would go over to the ledge of the ship, grip the wooden rails, and peek my head out into that massive plain of air. On the days I was feeling brave, I would let my stomach lean against the rail, my head and torso wailing out in the wind. I’d close my eyes and imagine: In this vast and endless sea of blue, I was going somewhere: I had somewhere to go. I could feel it. The wind blowing my hair, biting my face. The spray of the sea kiss gently upon my skin. The angsty, tumultuous waves toiling beneath the ship. The sky not beneath me, but above me. I would take out one of those long, pirate-looking telescopes and scan the clouds. I would see an extraordinarily white and fluffy one, and I would wonder: how many people have seen this cloud, this exact cloud, as it treks through this vast and endless plain? How many people have wished that they could sail along with it, going everywhere and going nowhere? Just going. To go, go, go. No matter where. Just to go. 

Thinking about it, it seemed silly of me to wish that I was on a ship, a lowly human in the midst of an open sea, looking up at the clouds with a telescope, when my reality was already in those very clouds. I didn’t need a telescope to look at them. I need only to look beside me. Why should I wish that I was sailing in the sea with clouds trekking above my head when I was already up there with them, traveling in their midst: the voyager in the sky. Who in the world would want to look up at the clouds when you could look at them: face to face, in all equality, one mate of flesh and one mate of air, in full partnership, journeying along beside each other to wherever they needed to go. The clouds were my partners and my friends. Who the hell would trade a friend for a god?

And yet, despite the recognition of my own privilege of being amongst the clouds, a mortal in the presence of gods, sometimes I still wished that I wasn’t so high above. I never admitted it to anyone, but sometimes I wished that I was on the ground. Like one of those brown, ugly worms wriggling and writhing around in the mud. 

What a perspective that would be. A worm. With one eye to see a bird, humming and twirling in the air, and with the other to see a feathered beast, with that sword-like beak and claws like razors, ready to tear you open and devour your intestines with the same mouth in which they sing songs of nature. To gaze upon a blade of grass with one eye and to see before you a monstrous, green mountain with the other, calling it ‘Leviathan.’ To be small and fearful, gazing up at the sky and finding not yourself, but something greater. 

The worms look up in the morning and see that blue prairie of white cotton, going on forever without end. They know that that cotton gives them the rain they need to soften the dirt so they can dig through it. The worms look up in the evening and see the setting sun, glowing rays flashing their golden light through pastel hazes of every pure color imaginable. They know that with those colors brings safety because when those colors shoot across the sky, the birds retreat to their nests and are nulled to sleep. The worms look up in the night, and see that dark, rolling void, with its shining beams shooting across the black. And they think: there is that which is greater than I.

But when you really get to going up into that all-powerful, mystical blue sky, you’ll see that there’s really nothing great about it. When I look up into the blue, it’s like I’m staring into a lake of water: I see only the reflection of myself. But when I look down, I see everything. I see the mountains rise and fall. I see the forests burn and grow. I see the empires build and collapse. I see the workers toiling in their fields. I see the worms being born, eating, shitting, reproducing, dying, and decomposing in the dust. I have the God-view. I am the omniscient. 

While some of us in the crew find a certain type of sardonic amusement in looking down at all beneath us, the others of the crew simply refuse to look down. They stay away from the edges, treating the rails like some type of disease. They only look up, even though there’s nothing to see. 

Why do you keep looking up, I would ask them. What’s there to see?

I see Him. 

Who?

The Mover.

What Mover? Who’s moving what?

The Mover. The One moving the ship.

But the wind moves the ship. It blows into the sails and the force of it pushes the ship across the sky. Do you mean you see the wind?

I see the One who moves the wind. 

So, you're telling me that there’s a person up there, in a place that’s even higher than we are, and he moves the wind?

His very breath is the wind.

Wherever did you come up with an idea like that?

I didn’t come up with it. It’s true. It’s the Way of Life. It is simply the order of things.

Why does the Mover breathe the wind?

To put it in our sails, of course. He moves it and guides it so that we can make our journey to Him. 

So the Mover makes the wind to serve us?

Yes. 

But if the Mover makes the wind exist to serve us, then that means the Mover creates to serve us. That means the Mover exists to serve us. Doesn’t that make us more powerful than the Mover?

We look up to the Mover. The Mover does not look up to us. He creates us to serve Him.

Then why is He still serving us?

You ask too many questions. 

Okay. I’ll stop asking about the Mover.

Good.

Why do you never look down?

The person jumped off the ship later that night. I guess being out in the open air was too much for them. They became one of the many who got the sky and the ocean confused. This is how I imagine it went down: being a little heated and disoriented from our conversation, they went out to the deck to get some fresh air. Outside was pitch black. The stars shone above, giving off that kind of numb, dull brightness that distorts the air when light reflects off the nighttime fog. Everything around was still and silent. Only the sails could be heard: they whispered to each other in the breeze. The person breathed in the air, letting the cool oxygen seep into their lungs. The crisp wind breathed against them, burrowing beneath their skin, settling into their bones. And they began to think: isn’t the night so tragically beautiful and the day so confusing and oh, it’s nothing that a quick dip and swim under the stars wouldn’t fix, right? They shuffled towards the rail. Just as they were about to look down, they remembered that you were not supposed to look down. You’re only supposed to look up at the Mover. So they look up but the Mover is nowhere to be seen. Maybe He’s sleeping somewhere amongst the stars a few light years away. And they think: If I can’t see Him, then He must not be able to see me. Maybe if I looked down, just a mere glance, then maybe He wouldn’t mind. So they finally look down, but alas! It’s too dark to see anything. There’s nothing there and I guess there wasn’t anything to be afraid of after all. No monsters or kraken or evil lurking in the ocean. So they strip off their clothes and swing their naked body over the rails and dive into the ocean to go swimming but they remember too late they’re not diving into the ocean, they’re diving into the sky and you can’t swim in the sky. You fall.

The next morning when we realized that there was one less person aboard the ship than yesterday, the captain went into a frenzy. He ran from person to person, checking off people’s names in the long, white scroll in his hands. 

The rest of the crew watched as he did this. As the people watched, they began to talk. Word of the jumper got around fast. When the information of who had jumped off the ship reached me, a strange feeling of something washed over me. It weighed me down, like a chain around my ankle, trying to pull me under. As morning passed into noon and the pit in my stomach grew, I could stand it out longer. I sought out the captain.

Captain? He stood at the front of the ship, expertly twisting the wheel left and right. The ship didn’t move. Why did they jump off the ship?

They got the sea and the sky confused. That’s why they jumped.

So, it was an accident?

Of course it was! You think they would have done something like that deliberately?

I don’t know. Maybe. We had a conversation earlier… I think I might have confused them.

Confused them? The only thing they were confused about was the color blue. They jumped and it was an accident. Nothing more, nothing less.

But they were talking about someone called the Mover…They said that He moves the wind.

Ah! The Mover! Indeed, He moves the wind. His very breath is the wind. He puts it in our sails, moving us and guiding us to take us where we need to go. 

Where do we need to go?

To Him, of course. Day and night, rain or shine, we are travelers. We travel to Him.

How long have we been traveling?

The captain removed his hands from the wheel. He stared at me. What?

How long have we been traveling?

He stroked his beard, contemplating for a second. He tried to remember, but nothing came to him. His head was as empty as the sky. Why, I done forgot! But we need not question the wind. With a grunt, he turned, gripping the wheel with his hands, and began turning it again. The ship did not move.

The rest of the day was sticky and hot: all the clouds in the sky had begun their game of hide and seek and we were the seekers. I scanned around me for the big, white puffs, but they were nowhere to be found. There was no wind to bring relief from the heat. Everything was still: the masts dropped down in a lethargic melancholy, as if in a deep slumber. We were stuck-tightly suspended in the air. We were frozen in time with no breath of the Mover to billow in our sails. All that surrounded the ship was that straight, unchanging color of blue lit up by that gleaming ball of orange. The sun bore down on us with its awful, intense stare. If the sun was anything, I thought, it’s the eye of the Mover: watching and judging the damned and the wicked. It started to hurt my eyes. 

I left the deck, descending down into the dark cabin rooms for shade. The feeling that moved me to go talk to the captain still hung over me. It was heavy-heavy like an anchor and too heavy to move. I felt as if that was what rooted the ship in that stationary blue. My head pounded as I closed my eyes. I hoped that sleep would bring some relief.

Evening was upon us when I emerged from the cabin. The ship was moving again and everything was alive once more. The great, white masts billowed in the wind. We soared amongst the clouds. The sky was no longer blue, but pink. Yellow and orange clouds congregated together. A distance behind me, black clouds were rolling in, running to catch up with the ship. Flashes of white lightning lit up those clouds as a low rumble of thunder rolled in a powerful forte across the sky. Shadows of monsters lurked in the darkness. I turned away, looking at the setting sun in front of me. It was golden. The glowing rays of evening beamed through the clouds. It lit up the world in front of me.

And yet, I felt nothing.

I went over to the rails, letting my palm rest upon the wood. I looked up into the color, searching for something that I knew was not there. The sky was beautiful and empty. I looked down. The clouds parted beneath me and in a vast expanse below was the ocean. The waters gently tumbled, like frequencies of sound. The sea glowed in the sunset. Light swam across the water. 

I knew how foolish I had been to ever think that one could mistake the sky for the sea. 

Climbing up onto the rail, I let my body flail out in the wind. I closed my eyes, breathing in that crisp, golden air. No longer did I want to see the sky. For once, I wanted to feel it. I wanted to swim in it.

Hey, Mover. Are you watching? I asked.

I jumped. 

March 08, 2024 02:29

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2 comments

Susan Lamphier
16:52 Mar 15, 2024

I am delighted that he jumped! It was beautiful! Your description of the sailing vessel was spot on! I delighted in your details, your imagination, and the way you built it up to its inevitable conclusion. I could sense some religious undertones. Calling the wind "Mover" brought to mind images of a God. I found myself interpreting the speaker's journey as that of purgatory. He was aware of the nature of the lowest earth-bound life form, yet there he is, sailing upon the winds, and whims, of his world. He needed to meet the "mover," yet the...

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Prissy Sturz
00:19 Mar 19, 2024

Thank you so much! There was definitely religious undertones and existentialist themes. I tried asking questions that I try to grapple with. I appreciate you checking it out!

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