Rachael Jones: The Fall Shall Further the Flight In Me

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Rachael Jones The Fall Shall Further the Flight In Me
  • Название:
    The Fall Shall Further the Flight In Me
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  • Жанр:
    Фэнтези / на английском языке
  • Год:
    2017
  • Язык:
    Английский
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The Fall Shall Further the Flight In Me: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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About “The Fall Shall Further the Flight in Me,” author wrote: “What do you do when your whole worldview comes undone in a moment because you met someone who made you question the path you’d tried so hard to stay on your whole life? We don’t like unexpected detours, but in my experience, the straightest, quickest line to your destination doesn’t always bring happiness. Life’s about the surprises, the adventures, the unexpected friends you make along the way. This story celebrates finding what you really needed instead of what you sought. Because sometimes when faith shatters, it hatches love; and when you search for heaven, you arrive home; and when you fall, you fly.” From Best Short Fiction's short list of 2017 World Fantasy Awards.

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The Fall Shall Further the Flight In Me

By Rachael K. Jones



There are things that fly and things that fall. You must remember this distinction, because they are not the same.

Devils are flying things that learn to fall. Lovers are falling things that learn to fly. Do not confuse them.

* * *

Saints do not fly, precisely, although they may seem to as they bear our prayers up the sky. They merely learn not to fall. It takes long years of repentance to master this art, and even then, some saints fall anyway, like my mother did.


I repented of my first sin at the age of eight. I do not remember the reason, but I recall the lonely, still hours in the garden, kneeling among the wild onions, the sun’s heat my only company, and warm blood beneath the rose stems wound round and round my wrists. High above the willows, my grandmother cut a dark shape from the sky as slowly she raised a naked foot for the next step.

Even then, I dreaded the day I would climb the air to take her place. I feared it more than falling. From the time her feet left the ground, years before my birth, no one had spoken a word to her, lest they cause her to sin and fall. I couldn’t fathom a life spent with only the darting chimney swifts for company, and seeds for food.

I prayed I might be spared, but there was no saint to carry the prayer upwards, save for me, and my time of ascent drew near. If I did not go, who would walk to Heaven to ask for rain?

One evening, as I peeled rose stems from my stinging legs, I looked up at the darkling sky and saw a dazzling thing, neither bird nor saint, plummeting toward my garden.

* * *

Imagine a star falling to Earth.

From a distance, it appears to fly across the dark shell of the atmosphere. If you are too close — if it is falling straight toward you — it seems fixed like a star whose inner fire is growing brighter and brighter until the illusion breaks, and the heat is upon you, and the light, and the sound, and then the collision, flesh on stone, flesh on bone.

Imagine finding it was not a star at all.


Imagine a star falling to Earth.

From a distance, it appears to fly across the dark shell of the atmosphere. If you are too close — if it is falling straight toward you — it seems fixed like a star whose inner fire is growing brighter and brighter until the illusion breaks, and the heat is upon you, and the light, and the sound, and then the collision, flesh on stone, flesh on bone.

Imagine finding it was not a star at all.

* * *

A taxonomy of flight:

Flying things stay aloft in different ways. There are gliders, floaters, and Mab-like things that catch and ride atoms of air. Certain fish glide by leaping with kitelike fins, while spiders make silken parasols and float like balloons. Still others fly on deep, booming music loud enough to stop your heart. These include shooting stars. Some eschew music and ride on light and heat, like the falcons who soar on the ever-changing thermal winds near Heaven.

Some things only appear to fly, like the sun and moon, which are actually falling like arrows away from the universe’s birthplace, toward some unknown thing. In the same way, given enough distance, raindrops would become racing comets with tails of ice.

* * *

Falling is not always failing.

* * *

She was not like any angel I ever imagined, but I knew her nature by her wings. She had six: two on her left ankle, one on her right, one sweeping down from each collarbone, and one sticking straight out from her back like a stabbing knife. Her feathers glistened, dark as the night sky, black to my brown. Blood slicked her limbs, congealing into black scabs. Jagged white bones protruded from the wreck of her skin. She had too many wounds to count, too many sharp bones for one body. They reminded me of prickles on a plucked hen.

When I bent to pick her up, I found her unbearably light. I almost lost her to a snatching breeze. She had all the substance of a dead leaf.

* * *

A taxonomy of falling:

There is only one way to fall: toward something.

A goal. A destination. A stopping point.

* * *

Imagine a place where falling is not the law, a realm cloudy with sky-people as they sail from island to island in the buoyant air. They are wings all over, too many to count. Whichever direction they throw themselves, they soar like dandelion puffs on an eternal wind.

Far below, they see the earth swimming in orange and green and blue. It haunts their legends. They call it Paradise and believe their spirits go there in death (never their bodies, whose skeletons are too light and angled to obey gravity). But no one ever goes there. No one falls to earth, except through a special act, a miracle, and no one ever quite gets there.

Their hatchlings have dreams of plummeting like rockets toward the fast-approaching earth, wings outstretched to embrace it, their fearless faces burning with the anticipation of impact. Other times, they dream of falling in slow motion, oaring toward the ground in desperate strokes, as if all the forces of physics conspired to keep them apart.

Only their saints and heroes fall to Earth. It is the mark of a holy woman to attempt it. Among them there are ascetics, mad devoted ones with their sights set on Paradise who spend their lives studying the art. The best among them, pious Icarus-saints, will bring the Earth so close that its scourging, purifying pressure rakes against their scalps before flight yanks them back to the sky.

* * *

I thought the angel a strange omen in my time of cleansing. I feared someone would discover her, so I locked her in my hut. No one disturbs a holy woman purifying herself for the ascent, but once a week, my mother would bring me seedcakes and roses and a little news from the greater world. I intercepted her when she limped up the path on her crooked cane, and I heard the news she brought. The drought had grown worse, spread to the lake country where the wheat fields wilted from thirst. The clouds roiled and flickered but did not weep.

The people prayed for rain from Heaven. Someone must take those prayers upward. Me.

After my mother left, I salved the angel’s wounds with a paste of crushed rose petals. “What is your message?” I asked, because angels always bring messages. It is what they exist for. Perhaps I needn’t make the ascent, or carry prayers on sinless feet up the darkling sky.

But she did not wake for two days and nights. On the morning of the third day, she opened her eyes. “Ananda,” she said in a voice like birdsong. How did she know my name?

“I am here,” I told her.

She sat up, shedding all the bedclothes except a sheet. She gawked at the laundry line strung between the rafters. She dug her toes into the dirt floor. A large pink snail on the windowsill made her laugh outright, a sound I hadn’t heard since my first repentance. Winged things stirred in my heart and fluttered inside my throat, and I laughed too. Then the angel marveled atme.

She traced the tiny muscles that joined my neck to my collarbone, pausing in the hollow that held my drumming pulse before continuing along my shoulder. But when she reached the thorny stems of my repentance twisted around my arm, the swollen black scabs, her eyebrows knit together. Her fingers gently picked apart the thorns. I struggled not to gasp or flinch. I bit my lip and focused on the angel instead — her trembling black wings, the sheet that draped her body, and beneath that, rose petals stuck to her skin where I had treated her wounds. She gathered some loose petals and pressed them against my bleeding arm. The warmth of her touch spread through my shoulder and down into my belly. My mind tumbled like swifts in a gale. I thought I should pull away, but it was already too late.

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