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by Elizabeth Stott

He told me about the moment before falling. In that moment, he said, everything stopped. Even the heartbeat, the pulse of blood, the feverish processes of mind. Everything. Stopped.

This was not long after the accident. We were on the hillside, overlooking the road where it happened. We could see the tyre marks, the groove in the tarmac where he had pitched up from his bike, flown into the air.

“I’m thinking of a moment so perfect, so close to stillness, a fragment of conscious experience that does not depend on breathing, or blood pumping, cells oxygenating.”

He held out his arms to catch the wind. The wind rippled his leather jacket, torn from waist to arm pit, forming black leather wings.

“Didn’t you ever imagine that you could fly?” he asked.

“Yes, of course I did. Like all kids.”

He mimed jumping, lifting his arms above his head.

“When you jumped up, feet tucked as high as you could, do you remember folding yourself into the moment that your jump balanced out gravity, and you were suspended for the tiniest instant, weightless, and believed you could stay there forever?”

“I suppose. I wasn’t good at jumping.”

“As a kid, I always wanted to be an astronaut. Orbiting the Earth, you’re in free fall. Eternally falling. You look down and know all that you love and care about is down there.”

He looked at me, a melancholy look. He used to smile like the sun.

“In that moment of stillness as I stopped going up, and before I started to come down, I made my peace. I said goodbye. It was a perfect moment. My body did not matter. I experienced the peace of true consciousness.”

I felt him stroke my cheek with his gloved hand. The wind rattled the loose leather of his torn jacket.

“But it wasn’t the end. You weren’t meant to die.”

“I don’t believe in fate. I know that I fell.”

The spring afternoon grew chill. It was time to let go. We both knew it.

Elizabeth Stott writes short stories and poetry and has published a collection of short fiction. Her work has appeared in various magazines and anthologies. She has a novel or two in preparation. She is interested in all kinds of stuff from cosmology to cuisine. In another life she worked in industry as a scientist. Visit her at elizabethstott.wordpress.com or via the Cut a Long Story fiction platform at http://www.cutalongstory.com/