Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
One day, they had been sitting at the dining table, eating for the fifth meal in a row a thin vegetable soup with some floating cracked bones in it, as the incessant rain pelted against the window.
“Dad?” Kviye asked, and her father seemed startled by the sudden intrusion of sound into their lives.
The question, which she wished had been asked earlier so that the person she most wanted to answer it would have had a chance to do so, hurt her throat with its jagged edges as it came out. “Why did mom love flying?”
Their words lapped at the shores of silence, long pauses between each of them speaking. “It was just her job.”
“I know it wasn’t. Sometimes I could hear her take off in the middle of the night, and then she would come back a couple of hours later. I’d check the log the next morning, and there were no jobs. So what was she doing?”
Her father took a deep breath and closed his eyes, rubbing his temples with his fingers. “It’s the one thing I never understood about your mother, and like you, I waited too long to ask. I think I was mostly scared of the answer, that if she told me how she felt I would never shake this feeling that we were not enough for her. There was something about her and the sky and those stars.” He looked at the window, where the hangar with its cold and quiet skiff stood barely visible through the rain. “I’d guess it’s something you know more about than I do.” He smiled then, the first smile that had entered her world in so long she wasn’t sure she remembered how to do it. But she did remember, and she did smile back, and put her hand over her father’s as it rested on top of the table.
She wanted to say “I do” but the words jammed in her throat, and tears formed in her eyes. Her father’s eyes too, glistened in the dim light as he nodded in the direction of the window and asked her if she wanted to go out.
She wiped her eyes and managed to say “yes” before giving him a hug.
Half an hour later, when she brought the skiff above the clouds and into the warmth of the sun, she made herself a promise that she would find a way to climb higher and higher, to bring herself to someone else’s distant sun, where they would know of a cure to the affliction that took her mother.
Not even Valyen knew that this was one of the biggest reasons Kviye had been chasing the little black spheres all these years. With Adri getting sicker, she didn’t want to give her any hope; hope she knew would more likely than not come crashing out of the sky in a manner of minutes.
The altimeter indicated that she was about five hundred feet below the point where her last experiment nearly ended in complete disaster. She leveled her ascent, and took the skiff away from the city, so she could line up a trajectory that should have had her out of the atmosphere within Valyen’s field of view. As she took the ship around, it began to quiver with the realization that the air would soon be too thin for it to continue, but Kviye patted the controls and in a hushed tone told the skiff that everything was going to be okay.
Even if it was going to all go well, and she would descend triumphantly back to Zhakitrinbur after kissing the underbelly of the great black frontier, and give that “told you so” smile to Valyen who would then take it in stride because all she wanted was for Kviye to return safe, this would only be the first baby step. Valyen was right, the ship didn’t have anything resembling a skimmer, and even if she could put something together from spare parts that came through Valyen’s garage it could take years for something workable to be constructed. And that something had as much odds of blowing her out of the sky as her current experiment did. Was there a point at the end of all this, a reason for her trying that was more than the trying itself?
The voice inside her head, which unsurprisingly sounded much like Valyen’s, asked her one last time if she still thought it was a good idea. By way of answer, Kviye swiftly brought the skiff to maximum velocity, tipped the nose upward, and flipped a switch on the dusty control panel.
The panel blared in either alarm or excitement and a new kind of shiver passed through the ship. Somewhere behind her, the lid of the device blew open with a crash. For a moment, it seemed as though nothing would happen, but then Kviye felt the weight of the whole moon press her into her seat and then incrementally release her as if something within the ship itself helped Kviye in her struggle against this new force. The altimeter blazed past her previous record and kept rising. The ship shook and bucked in protest of this new sensation as Kviye made the necessary adjustments to spare herself from being pulverized against her seat. She took a quick glance at the altimeter, and it was either broken, or she was about to leave the only world she knew behind.
She thought she imagined it at first, or that she was losing consciousness and her vision was blackening around the edges, and then she understood what was happening. The sky that had long hung over her like a protective blanket had parted, and she found that all this time it had been a veil that concealed from her the most beautiful sight.
The black expanse towered over her like an endless possibility, and as her eyes adjusted to the light, the stars, without their familiar twinkle, revealed themselves around her. Below her, the greenish pearl of her moon hung like a tear drop off the solemn grey cheek of the gas giant. Kviye reached out and touched the cold glass of the viewscreen. The stars, just beyond her fingertips, appeared close enough to reach, no longer a dream, but a material thing she could touch, as long as she pointed her ship the right direction and kept going.
Michael is a husband, father of two, lawyer, writer, and is currently working on his first novel, at a snail's pace. A very leisurely snail. All opinions are author's own.