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THE LIGHT IN FLIGHT

A man falls from the sky.

It is morning and the air is clear. The sun’s up, but there’s no heat in it yet, the day’s creation of weather has not yet begun. No convection current or desert wind stirs the stillness. No thermals have started their ascent.

A woman lights a candle. Before she did this, there was only darkness around her. Now, there is light. Now she casts a shadow.

A man falls from the sky.

After fifteen seconds he reaches terminal velocity. He can see the curvature of the earth’s surface, the distant blur of horizon, clouds below him looking thick and solid as ice. The air around him becomes denser as he nears the ground. Gravity remains constant. He turns about his axis so that he is falling face downward. Below him is a map of brown and red and grey and green. He cannot see detail. Tears smear and freeze on his face.

A woman lights a candle. The flame has been transferred from match to wick. Now the match lies dead.

A man falls from the sky.

He feels the thrill of speed: every heart thrust of adrenaline, every cell excited by animal energy, every electron spinning through quantum dimensions. He feels the living being inside himself.

A woman lights a candle. In the process of burning, the wax is melted, consumed, vapourised. Light and heat are produced. She sees the empty place in her bed, the thick eternity of night outside.

A man falls from the sky.

A cat falling from a 32 storey building will almost certainly survive. The man does not have a parachute. The man falls more slowly now than he did a few seconds ago. He feels air and light around him, understands that there is desert and rock and sand and scrub below.

A woman lights a candle and places it in a window where a draught catches the flame and makes it burn crooked. Wax drips down one side, congeals and forms lumps that hang, gathering more and more wax until their own weight drops them with a clatter onto the sill.

A man falls from the sky.

For a few minutes he has experienced flight. He feels only lightness and elation. There is nothing in freefall that causes pain, there is nothing in falling that causes injury. It’s only that sudden stop at the end. He will make his mark on the world. He will leave an impression.

A woman lights a candle and watches it burn awhile. She puts it in a votive holder so that its light will remain steady, burning bright in her window. She watches it until she falls asleep. It burns all the way down. She wakes into darkness and lies there, alone. She wonders about the nature of flame. Where does it go when it’s gone?

A man falls to earth.

THE LIGHT IN FLIGHT

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  • Peter Davidson
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