My body trembles in fear as I take in my surroundings. This is my worst nightmare. The one thing I’m most afraid of in the world. The ground beneath my feet seems to quake, as if reading my thoughts.
“Gee Kevin, I never knew you were so scared of heights.” My friends chuckle behind me as I shuffle across the blocks of splintering wood beneath me. I will myself not to look down, but my mind betrays me and my gaze moves downwards. The wooden panel I’m standing on is about 300 feet above the ground, and under that, I can hear the crashing of rushing water against the rocks below.
I knew this was a bad idea when one of the guys brought it up in the first place, but what was I going to do? It was our graduation day. Our last day as awkward high schoolers and our first day as free adults. I knew I had to get out and do something crazy before I left this life behind me — I just hoped it wasn’t this.
Last year, I always heard the seniors talking about this place they’d discovered just a few miles away from the old gym that had shut down years ago. They said it’s been tradition for the seniors to go there and cross the bridge on their graduation day. My friends said that all we had to do was make it across the bridge and through the woods to sign our names on a rock behind the trees. What they didn’t tell me was that the bridge was tethered over a sort of canyon with nothing but some old wooden wedges and thick manila rope.
“Come on Kev, my little sister can walk faster than you!” Someone nudges my shoulder, making me a wobble before I can regain my balance.
“Oh shut up you guys,” I try to sound relaxed, but my voice quivers, revealing my true thoughts. Just a few more steps and I’d make it across the top floor of this building. Just a few more steps and we could get out of here.
I don’t even know how it started. I wouldn’t say it’s irrational because having the fear of heights is very logical. People weren’t made to be frolicking that high off the ground. If we were, we’d have wings or tails or suctioned feet. But us humans don’t have any of that, which proves my point. We aren’t made to be this high off the ground.
A fleeting moment passes where I hear my friends whispering behind me, devious grins plastered on their mischievous faces. And in the next second, my thoughts are interrupted as they begin stampeding around me. I inch my feet apart, in desire to stabilize my body weight. The bridge sways back and forth as the old rope creaks and my friends run past me. I squeeze my eyes shut, gripping the sides of the bridge so hard that my knuckles turn white. A moment passes and I muster up the courage to stumble across the rest of the bridge, collapsing on the solid ground and letting out a breath of relief.
As I walk away from the towering rock that now bears 4 more names, I think to myself: I am never doing that again.
. . .
The graduation ceremony is over and now I’m laying on my bed with my cap and gowns hanging off the back of the swivel chair in my room. I’m just about to text my friends to send the pictures we took when a few dried up leaves get blown through my window, cascading right on top of my cap. I’m drained from the trip we took today and grumble, not wanting to get up to close the window. Just as I’m thinking about how worn out I am, the window shakes before it rises, now fully open. That did not just happen. I think about closing the window, willing the glass panel to fall, but in a few moments time, I start feeling like an idiot because the window just sits there in the same position as it started with.
I’m going insane. I think that visit across the bridge was messing with me more than I thought it would. I swing my feet across the bed, and take a few steps over to my cap and gown. My hand almost reaches the fallen leaves when they begin to float inches above the fabric they were just resting on. I gape at the sight before me and shake my head, trying to clear my mind from the unexplainable events that have unraveled within the last few moments.
I remember learning in physics that gravity was explained in the general theory of relativity by none other than Albert Einstein in the 1900’s. I remember learning that gravity was a universal force of attraction. But what I don’t remember is what happens when there is no gravity. Did we even talk about the possibilities of a world without gravity? Honestly, I don’t remember and now I’m starting to wish that I had paid more attention in class.
As I start thinking about the possibilities of anti gravity and levitating, some of my books start hovering above my desk. Their pages crinkle against each other as the books twist and turn in midair. The lamp on my desk strains against the cord that has now been pulled taut, struggling to drift higher above the wood surface. The pile of clothes in the corner of my room pull away from each other, floating separately at varying heights. I look around my room in a bewildered daze before I come to my senses and rush out of the door.
“I’m going out mom!” I yell past my shoulder as I rush down the stairs, through the front door, and head towards the park a few blocks from the house. Adrenaline takes over my body and I make it to the grassy field in record time. The park is empty and I make my way to a towering oak tree behind a few bushes. Resting my hands on my knees, I gasp for breath, not even noticing the fallen leaves hovering above the earth’s floor.
All too soon, I’m snapped back to reality when I feel my feet start to rise on their own accord. First, my heels abandon the ground, leaving me on the balls of my feet. Slowly, my whole body is being suspended by this invisible force, my feet now inches above the ground. I look down and sway, as if I had lost my balance on a tightrope, willing myself to return to the safety of the rubble beneath me. I hadn’t realized that I had closed my eyes until I felt my hair fall onto my eyelids.
When I mustered up the courage to open my eyes, I realized that I had risen at least five more feet on top of the ground, and I was still continuing to ascend higher and higher in the air. The wind pushed my hair across my face as I continued to glide past the array of trees scattered around the park’s edges. I felt the blood drain from my face as I screwed my eyes together and shoved my shaking clenched fists to my side.
A moment passed and I peered through tiny slits of my eyes. An emotion that I’ve never felt before filled me. Dread. Fright ... Wonder? I was high enough in the sky to be able to touch the pillowy white clouds if I reached far enough. My eyes spun in my head as I tried to make sense of my surroundings. It was colder up here and my body shivered. I wasn’t quite sure if it was because of the difference in temperature or because of my fear of heights.
Once I had gotten over my fear of suddenly falling from this substantial height, I started to admire my surroundings. The air was fresh, birds soared through the sky, and the sun blanketed me with its constant warm rays. I never truly appreciated the world for what it was, but strangely enough, I was starting to now. Don’t get me wrong, I was still terrified; my palms stuck to the sides of my shirt as sweat covered my skin and blotted my forehead. But as I gazed at the imitable scenery before me, I thought something that I never would have imagined to have run through my mind. Maybe heights weren’t so bad after all.