It always comes in the form of a question. What if? Two words that open up the very realm of possibilities. What if people could fly?
It is a question that turns the darkness before me into a fuzzy world. I look around. A plain… a rolling plain with grass knee-high, and in the distance, towers. Little specks, small as gnats, swoop and fall above it like the vultures from those books. And then they begin to fall, one by one, from the sky.
I take a step forward, and the castle looms before me. It is all crooked, misshapen, unformed. I haven’t thought it through yet, the architecture. And something else has caught my attention anyway. There are men and women littering the ground nearby. Their vacant eyes are sunk into their heads, bodies wraith-thin from hunger.
Somehow, I often forget about the food. What poor fools would be stuck on the ground, farming, rather than in the sky?
What kind of people were they?
I imagine wings on my back, and pounce into the air. My wings pound against gravity, straining to stay above the ground. It’s exhilarating. Slowly, the earthy floor grows distant, and the stakes for falling grow higher with the altitude. Everything looks so small from the sky. I imagine their society is like a singular person, one man or woman who gets to decide what’s right and wrong. One person who holds all the power. And that power intensifies in the sky.
I land gracefully in the grass as if the wings had always been a part of me, and understand immediately that those who are denied flight are denied power. Suddenly, the castle bounces back into the distance, and I’m standing in the middle of a field. There are people around me, pointedly keeping their eyes down. The fear is like lightning ready to strike.
Heroes are an odd thing. From what I’ve read, they really only exist in books, not in real life. But people do heroic things in real life all the time, as the need arises. Change happens because things have gone terribly wrong. The books in the library say that heroes come from special circumstances, and nothing begs for a heroic figure than those in desperate need of aid.
I do not want my winged people to be toppled by the farmers. I want them to be just, to be good. But perhaps that is not possible. Those words, I am beginning to figure out, are slippery. And I can see the crooked backs of the people in the fields… how strange they look to those who claim the skies. I see the determined glares that the people give to the dirt beneath them because they can’t direct it to those who have so far earned them. I do not want this to be a time of revolution. Sometimes, those adventures are good. But sometimes, the smaller stories are the ones that are needed.
And I want a smaller one.
What if everyone had wings to fly?
The people standing in the dirt stand up straight, strong bird-like wings attached to their backs. Almost as one, they look up longingly at the sky. And it strikes me that perhaps this is even worse, because someone still has to make the food, but those who make the food will not have time to fly.
What if they had fields in the sky? What if, somehow, the clouds could be their fields? And the beasts of the sky, their game? Then no one would be land-bound unless they wished it.
The newly-winged people leap into the air, and I follow after them to survey my work. The bodies littering the castle are once again alive, vibrantly so, and they join us in the sky. My farmers tend to their crops on the clouds, never once caring about how impossible it is. I feel the need to find some sort of explanation, but my brain is beginning to hurt. Not from the exertion of using this magic, but simply because it is an endless sea of questions that I must find an answer for. Even that very strange book on the top shelf at the center of the library — the one with an all-powerful character — had to take seven days to create a world.
So I freeze this flying world of mine and draw a large, blue circle around the questions I know still need answering. The clouds get the biggest circle, the brightest blue. Then I let the questions die, the magic cease, and the blackness of the room to envelope me again.
When I open the door of the Blank Room, I crack a grin and sprint up the great, winding staircase, singing at the top of my lungs as I do.