Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2040136-Light-as-Air
by Shaara
Rated: ASR · Short Story · Sci-fi · #2040136
On an alien world, travel turns you into vapor . . .
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Light as Air

“Light as air, they used to chant,” and the advertisement is certainly true. The InstaPuffer indeed makes you lighter than air. It floats you about like smoke.

The first time I stepped into the InstaPuffer, I remember that my legs shook every bit as hard as they did on the day I went to my dentist appointment. Everyone knows that we’re required to get a shot in the lower jaw when all the adult teeth come in, but it’s a fearful thought that a needle is going to puncture the tender skin of our jaw -- even if, as Dad said, it’s necessary to keep all the cavities away. (And although I believe my father, I really can’t imagine holes inside of teeth. How horrible that must have been before the dental shot was invented!)

But I was telling you about lifting up into the sky when my parents and I traveled through the InstaPuffer, I was nine that day, and, although I was much too old to be gripping my parents’ hands like a baby, I had fastened my fingers so tightly, I might have squeezed their hands into pain if we hadn’t all misted upward at that instant.

A great shakiness flooded my brain as the mist swept over my body, wrapping itself about me like glue on a finger. I felt warmth spread over me, then a heat that was so intense it must have been like trying to sunbathe under dual suns -- which, of course, we’d never do since the radiation would damage not only our outer layers, but our inner parts, too.

At the exact moment that I was heat zapped, I felt suddenly light as one of those flyers in a zero gravity propulsion machine. Maybe the pieces of me were already dissolving into vapor, and I suppose it’s possible my body was already lifting up at that moment, but I vividly recall that feeling, because I was still me, still a frightened little girl clutching at her parents’ hands even if they had no hands or bodies anymore.

“Look, Mom, we’re flying, I wanted to cry out. But of course, I couldn’t. No one can talk when they’ve been changed. All they can do is drift -- in whatever direction the technicians programmed.

We were on our way to my grandparents’ house, clear on the other side of the planet, so the liftoff seemed directly vertical, but I felt the shift of direction as we were turned left, then, my body – or what was left of it -- relaxed even more as I felt the catch of a massive breeze that drove our passage forward. Then, like the shot of an arrow – we sped smoothly and directly on our path through the air. Of course, I know it wasn’t a real breeze, since Planet Lincoln doesn’t have them. It was only the InstaPuffer Circularization, which is what they call the travel currents the machine produces.

Our route took us across the second sun’s plunge into the twilight sector. I thought that was a special bonus so we could get a good look at Lincoln’s closer sun, but Dad later told me the technicians always time it that way so the star’s light doesn’t blind us. (And even though I’ve traveled considerably since that first time, I still don't understand that part. How could a puff of smoke cause blindness?)

But on that day, my first time, I do remember believing I still had eyes, for I could see the ground beneath us, the clouds above – which were probably other travelers going to their various destinations – and I know I was aware of the presence of my parents on each side of me. I think I was even smiling, if that was possible, smiling because, although I’d been told by everyone that the machine didn’t hurt, I’d only half believed it. (And it was absolutely not like the day I went to the dentist’s. A vaccine shot in the jaw does produce a terrible ache.)

Our trip lasted a couple of hours, or so they told us later. I don’t remember any lengthy passage of time. It’s peaceful in the sky. And calm. (Now that I’m older, I increasingly look forward to such travel. Perhaps one day medical scientists will discover that such travel aids meditation and offers health benefits.)

That day, when we arrived at our destination, once more I felt a spasm of fear. (No, I guess it couldn’t have been a spasm, for that requires a body. Yet, I am sure my floating molecules of substance trembled. Probably, the pieces of me wrapped themselves even tighter around what I assumed were the hands of my parents.)

The InstaPuffer, slurped alarmingly, making the most dreadful of sounds — like a growling stomach or someone loudly rudely slurping his soup. And then I felt the vibration of it. It jiggled me up and down,. It scooped me up as if I were a cup of sand or a glass of water. Then gulping, guzzling, glugging with even louder vocalizations, it tilted me in and down the long tunnel of its silver cylinder.

I didn’t feel my parents at my side then -- only shivers of alarm and a glacial coldness, as if the metal of the smoke stack had taken on the climate of the highest mountain peaks of Lincoln. Disoriented, I felt waves of nausea. It was as if I were a rock being whirled around and around on the end of a sling.

But that part only lasted a few seconds. (Although moments of stress are always magnified since panic swells them up, plumply fat, making them seem lengthy.)

But then, as if I were the remaining part of a thousand- piece-puzzle, peace settled over me. I felt my parents’ hands – solid, warm, comforting -- and then my father spoke to me saying, “Well, that was a wild ride, wasn’t it, little Cara?”

And when I looked up, because then I had a neck, a head, and eyes that really could see, Dad was smiling at me. I nodded and giggled. Then standing tall and brave as a heroine from an adventure story, I walked calmly between my mother and father as we descended the machine’s pedestal. Flashing green lights made the delivery room look pretty, but I barely glanced about. As if I’d traveled like smoke every day of my life, I let go of my parents hands, ran down the remaining steps, and threw myself into the arms of my grandparents who’d patiently been waiting for our arrival.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 1123 words ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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