On High

The clouds felt rough under his feet and itchy, almost like Mags was walking on fiberglass insulation. He’d had a nosebleed since the day he came up here. People gathered on nearby clouds but he couldn’t hear what they were saying. He still had a ringing in his ears as though he’d just left a loud rock concert. So far he’d kept to himself, occasionally sitting on a cloud and looking through an opening to the Earth below. Now and then the clouds would float low enough and he’d see a girl run from a school bus to her front door, or a barking dog straining at its chain. Other times it would be workers leaving a building site carrying lunch boxes.

You’re not supposed to sit down. Mags looked up to see an older man in a robe. You stand up on your cloud. You spent enough time sitting down on Earth. Now is a time to stand. Mags started to get up then stopped himself. He readjusted his reclined position. I didn’t come up here to be told what to do, he said quietly.

The old man shook his white head and floated away. Mags rolled over onto his stomach and propped his head on his elbows. He stared down at Earth. Moments later he was lifted to his feet by two identical young women in white gowns. You mustn’t lie on the clouds, they said in unison. You are allowed to stand.

Mags shook himself loose from their grasp. The twins stared at him. He went to lie down again but felt a terrific shock. YYYIIIEEEOOOOWW!! One of the women held a kind of ornate cattle prod device. Please take heed, she said. The women floated away. Mags stood on his cloud and glared after them.

He stood there for a long time, still hearing the faint murmur of distant conversations. He imagined everyone to be talking about him. Eventually he moved one foot. Then the other. He frowned. He moved his foot back and then forward again and spun around. He’d been a dance instructor at a middle school down on Earth and this kind of thing came naturally to him. But gravity was different up here and all his moves and jumps were enhanced. He felt like he’d never danced this well before. As he danced he could sense others floating toward him.

No dancing! the twins shouted to him from some distance away. But he couldn’t stop. People in white robes floated toward him from every direction now. He was dancing better than ever- doing splits, popping back up and flying around like a figure skater. The crowd made a wide circle around him. Meanwhile, the twins were on their way back over.


Then out of the corner of his eye he noticed motion in the crowd. He noticed a rhythm to their movements that matched his rhythm. Like a Hollywood musical the crowd fell into a trance, mirroring his every move and twirl.

Stop! Stop at once! The twins screeched in unison. There is no dancing! No dancing! You may stand!

Nobody listened. The twins now had their ornate prods out and the prods glowed crimson. They zapped the group, one by one, and each person they zapped fell straight down through the clouds, disappearing below. The crowd thinned but those that remained did not stop dancing. The moves become more and more amazing- acrobatic displays that would have caused a sensation on Earth.

Finally there were four people left, then three, then two, then Mags alone was dancing. When the twins moved in Mags kicked their prods out of their hands with a spectacular acrobatic twirl. They gasped, staring after their lost weapons. Then Mags took the hand of each girl and led them into his dance, pulling them this way and that until they couldn’t help but be overcome by the rhythm. The three danced together until one by one the others rose from the Earth, emerging up through the clouds to join back into the synchronized performance.

The dance continued and didn’t stop, ever.




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