Author : Sierra Corsetti
The visor of my pressure suit starts to fog up at 11,243 feet. My pilot notices as he tweaks the gas valves that propel the balloon ever higher into the winter night, and grins knowingly.
I adjust a knob on the control panel that’s inset to my right sleeve, and return his smile, feeling the butterflies dance in my stomach as my visor clears.
Thirteen-hundred feet now.
“This your first time?”
I shake my head. “It’s just been a while.”
Nobody ever admits to being a newbie. You never realize how easy it is to lie about it until you’re in the basket of a hot air balloon, headed to heights that even airplanes don’t fly at.
We reach 23,601, and I look down over the side of the basket. If I fell from here, I’d end up as a red smear on the sidewalk of some poor kid’s neighborhood. There’s no turning back now. I have to get high enough to surf away and get far enough out of town before I open my parachute.
“Having second thoughts?” The pilot seems to be reading my mind. Of course, he’s been in the business for probably longer than I’ve been alive. Nothing will surprise him.
Instead of looking at him, I look up. My breath catches in my throat when I see the ribbons of green light, snaking across the black night, reaching their long tendrils out to me. Beckoning me to come to them and learn their ways.
“Never,” I tell the pilot.
My pressure suit hisses as it compensates for the thin air and my ears pop. I check the gauge on my oxygen tank. I’ll be fine for a few hours.
“Ten thousand feet to go,” the pilot says. I nod in acknowledgement, because what do you say to that? Wow, we’re so high. Well, no kidding. You can’t surf waves of light at ground level.
And then we stop climbing.
It takes me a moment to process the question, before it sinks in that I’m here, I’m really going to do this. Then I hear myself say “Yeah, of course,” and the pilot is checking my parachute and oxygen tank and board, and helps me get my feet strapped in.
He helps me balance on the edge of the balloon, 50,000 feet above the earth, and gives me a final thumbs-up. I return it, and jump.
I’m in free-fall for about a minute. It gives me just enough time to panic and wonder if I’m going to end up as a red smear after all. I look down and see the streams of brilliant green light rushing up towards me and then my board catches and I’m flying, I’m doing it, oh heaven help me, I’m doing it.
My muscle memory from the hours I spent on the simulator kick in and I glide effortlessly across the bands of energy. But no simulator could ever replicate the sound.
There are legends of how ancestral spirits live in the lights. There are more legends of how the lights are divine beings dancing over us.
They are the past. They are the future. They speak to me and sing their songs, songs I’ll never remember and never forget.
And as suddenly as it began, it’s gone and I’m falling again, down through the black night.
Come back, I hear them call. But I cannot fall up.
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
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