Chapter 11: Sky Fall
Previously: Madnes and his friends, Alice and Harrey, went to the Drop (the world’s largest waterfall, with steep cliffs and an insanely deep chasm) to go hang gliding. Madnes, though terrified out of his pants, gave in to peer pressure and found himself on one of the V-shape gliders (connected to a safety zip-line going out across the steep drop) crossing the waterfall and chasm with its spectacular view. But then something went wrong. Strange projectiles came at him, and began ripping the glider’s wings apart! And now…
The fabric ripped and popped as a volley of black things like arrows pelted the glider Madnes rode. It felt like a surreal dream. The glider was losing air fast through the tears, causing it to lose altitude and descend. He tried not to panic, looking right and left at the rips above his head. Surely the safety zip-line would stop him from plummeting? Then he felt a jarring tremor, followed by a loud Snapkk!
The strain had been too much, or perhaps another black arrow had taken it, and he heard and felt both the clamp and line, that connected his glider to the safety zip-line, snap. There was a momentary pause, and he hovered serenely in the air…before the glider stalled and he descended to the chasm below. His frantic heart rate leaped up his throat, smothering the scream his soul begged to shout.
He could vaguely hear something. Alice or Harrey, was it? But both far ahead and with no way to turn around and help. What help could they offer, anyway? Funny, he’d come to make sure they didn’t get hurt, but now he was the one going to fall to his death. It wasn’t the power that would kill him, after all; no, just a gliding accident. Heh, it was almost humorous.
Black arrows…when one zipped by, it reminded him of a feather. A black feather from a very large crow. Interesting the things you notice when you’re about to die.
He looked ahead for where his friends should be flying. There was Harrey at the front; he couldn’t see his face though. And behind him was…another glider was falling? He couldn’t tell at first because it fell as he did. There were rips and holes in the other glider’s fabric, and it was lilting crazily. ‘Alice!’
Whatever had damaged his glider had done the same to hers. He couldn’t accept Alice dying with him. She had a long life ahead of her; and he wanted to keep his own life, too—however much of it left he could get! The power, he had to use it.
He let the blocking wall inside his mind slowly come down, and a strange surge of power and knowledge came flooding through. “You let me through, now that you need me, hm?” An airy voice spoke inside his head, the translucent image of a young female with fairy wings glowed behind his eyelids. “I suppose I don’t have many options, though. If you die, I’ll have to hop over to someone new—and I’d really rather not, just yet.”
There was a flash of light inside his eyes, and then his mind and his body began working without him, as he watched. He tried to ignore the rushing world around him and the chasm growing below, while his hands began taking off clothes. Moving on their own, hands placed his jacket up against the glider’s thin framework, covering up many of the rips and holes. The air rushing up from beneath kept it held in place as he fished out safety pins from a pocket his mother had stuffed full with them—who knew why. Fingers worked quickly, securing the jacket to the intact portions of fabric. The jacket acted as a temporary patch, and he repeated the procedure with his socks and torn-off sleeves. But it wouldn’t last long if he couldn’t level out the glider soon; the wind flapped and pushed against the patch work, threatening to undo it all. But there was something he had to do first.
“No. It’s too risky to save her. I refuse.”
“What?” Madnes shouted at the strange fairy-person inside his head. Somehow she must be linked to the power—or was she the power itself? “I’m saving her—with or without you. You may as well help me so we can all live!”
“Tch. Stubborn humans. But…it’s one of the things that fascinate me, hee.”
Madnes gripped the steering bar before him and veered towards Alice’s glider. The wind roared past his ears, and he did his best to stop himself from looking directly down or noticing how more clearly defined the river and foliage below was becoming.
His mind raced for ideas until he caught up with her. Coming up from behind and above, he undid the straps holding his legs up and let them dangle down. He then reached both his feet through two of the holes in the glider’s fabric wings; and, once through, he bent his knees and locked his feet together—basically turning himself into a makeshift clamp. Her glider was now attached to his.
The strain burned his muscles, but he refused to listen and instead drew more power. His legs steadied, and her glider stopped lilting beneath him. He used his own glider to steer them both and try and level out.
His eyes caught sight of a big hawk soaring the air not far to the right, and he shifted the gliders, steering them over toward the bird. There he found what he needed: an updraft the hawk was using, and it filled out the gliders’ wings—what fabric was left, and his crude patchwork, anyway. The sudden fill of air slowed their descent. At last, they were gliding—or “falling with style,” you could say. And to anyone watching from the cliffs and ledges, either side, it must look like a comedy or some bold circus performance playing out.
Alice couldn’t see him. The only thing she could see, and knew, was that she’d been falling uncontrollably until a pair of legs came through the glider wings above her head. She recognized the feet and painted toes, and wondered if this was a dream’s terrible hallucination.
It was a long ride descending, and he had to keep clear of cliffs, pinnacles, reaching trees and whatnot. Thankfully patches of clear land approached, where the cliffs and chasm ended to become flat landscape and stretch out toward the sea, the river below racing to kiss its salty counterpart.
He pushed the bar, and the gliders arched down before making a rough landing; he released his clamp-leg hold on her glider so it could land first before flying ahead and crashing his to the ground.
Bruised and battered was an understatement. Every inch of him screamed. And seeing Alice hop out and limp, he knew she wasn’t much better. He hobbled over to her. “Are you okay? No—clearly you’re not, but—” She buried her head in his chest and hugged him tight, cutting off his sentence. Not knowing what to do, and suddenly feeling awkward and a rising blush coming on, he turned his head up to the skies for what could have caused this in the first place.
Something flew and circled in the distance, a black winged figure. He couldn’t make it out well, but he could feel eyes on him before it veered and soared away. ‘No, it couldn’t be…was that Oz?’ He wanted to kill him—that he expected—but Alice, too…? He couldn’t forgive that—he wouldn’t forgive that! This had nothing to do with Alice, or anybody else. This was between him and Oz, and he would make him answer for it if indeed this was his doing.
His hand subconsciously moved to touch the fading scars on the side of his face, reminders of his fight with Oz.
“You paint your toenails?” Alice suddenly asked and looked up.
“…Uh…does that really matter right now?”
Harrey patted their backs, asking over and over if they were both sure they were okay. “I’m fine. Really. Nothing a few days can’t heal up, anyway.”
“Good. Because I gotta ask you something.”
He turned to his friend, who gave him a serious and squinty-eye look.
“You paint your toenails?”
“Not you too, Harrey! Look, it’s a bad habit, okay? My mom never had a daughter, so she made me paint nails with her as a kid. Now I feel naked if they aren’t painted. Don’t judge.”
“Wow, you have issues.”
“Are we done here? Because we should head back,” he growled, and tried to gather up his torn jacket and socks.
“Yeahhh, just one more thing.”
“How did you do it?”
“Um…what?” he blinked, wrapping the jacket up nervously into a ball.
“You held up another glider by your crossed legs—are you kidding me? Anybody else and they’d have lost their legs trying to do that! You gotta be super strong! And you managed such a neat landing.”
“Erm, well, I wouldn’t say it was neat…”
“But still! That isn’t normal. That’s a miracle! And your eyes,” Harrey leaned close, “they were glowing for a while…”
He stuttered and stumbled for words. And then it hit him: he fell to his knees and grasped at his wrist. It was like a part of him was being sucked out, his body’s energy leaving him and going into the wrist—no, into the clock inked into his skin.
He raised the wrist up to see: the long hand had moved four ticks, and the black ink filling the used-up time grew bigger. He swallowed, and shut his eyes.
“What is that?” He could hear Harrey’s voice beside him. “Hey, what’s going on?”
‘You can’t tell anybody that you’re dying from the power—that’s one of the rules,’ he recalled. But could he tell them about the power in general? Should he? Of course, that would mean explaining Wonderland and the strange situation he’d found himself in. Would it put them in danger to know, or would his friends be better off knowing?
‘Alice almost died, even though she knows nothing of Wonderland—it didn’t matter to him.’ His friends were in danger now, whether they knew about his secrets or not. So…he may as well spill the beans….
“Hmph!” Oz almost chuckled, watching from afar. “I’d hoped he wouldn’t survive. Hm, that power truly is amazing…” Blue eyes narrowed. “I’ve rattled his world a little, though, and that was certainly worth it.” He wouldn’t rest easy, knowing Oz was out there and waiting for him.
Yes. Caring for others. That was Madnes’ weakness. And he knew just how to manipulate it. “Ah, Madnes… You will soon be broken, and beg me to take your life and cruel power away. That will be your punishment: I will watch you unravel and beg for your existence to be no more than a bad dream…and then,” a hand clenched, “with the Madness Solver power inside me, I will find her…” He looked up to the azure sky. “I will find what happened and rescue you, Mother. It won’t be long, now.”
Will he do it? Will Madnes finally let his two closest friends know about Wonderland and the Madness Solver power?
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© copyright 2015 E. Rawls via Rawls E. Fantasy, All Rights Reserved
This is my entry for this week’s #BlogBattle challenge by the wonderful author Rachael Ritchey, where the challenge is to write a short story based on that week’s chosen word. This week’s word was: “Dream.” Check out the link, read other great stories there, and VOTE for your favorite to win!
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