October 21, 2045
In dreams, you soar. In nightmares, you plunge—but not always.
Higher and higher, first above our rooftop, and then beyond the trees, I floated skyward until the sight of our entire development overtook me. Roadside lamps were just stirring to life in the evaporating light, sending faint reflections over the black ribbons of winding pavement, damp from an earlier rain. Death stared me in the face—something I had been wishing for, until that horrible night. A sudden and tenacious will to survive had just annihilated that notion. Heroes don’t end that way.
Had the planet’s gravity at last given out, making me its first victim? Would I be alone, or would I soon see others drifting up to the same height? My neck whipped in every direction at once as I checked for casualties in nearby yards or distant, panicked specks flailing against the dusky clouds. No one. The utter isolation made the terrible feel even worse, and the taste of dirty pennies poured into my mouth. A runaway heartbeat thundered in my bones and ears.
Stepping out onto the deck with my sandwich, I’d felt the sensational rush that signaled a possible gravitational drop. So I did what all kids did: I jumped to see how high I could get, but this time my feet never touched back down. After confirming that nothing had grabbed me physically, my instincts screamed that this impossible happening felt more…well, alien than a result of the gravity crisis, directing my suspicions right to the likely source. Earth was no longer alone in the universe. My father had stood in staunch opposition to the Messengers’ arrival, but he was gone and it looked like I was next.
Not a soul in sight as I strayed higher, paralyzed by fear. I knew she wasn’t home, but I screamed out for my mother anyway, trying not to wonder if she’d ever return. The seven houses within Hemlock Hill Estates remained still. Everything below me lay in eerie quiet, as if the resident families had conspired to stay indoors until I floated out of sight…