Vertical Axis

By an inexplicable twist of fate, he had been born into a different dimension, one slightly askew to that of our own: he was forced to exist at ten feet or more above ground level. Midtown Manhattan was his perfect terrain. The skyscrapers allowed him an opportunity to explore an extended vertical axis. Sipping daiquiris in the Sky Bar, he appeared not unlike any other urbanite. His world only began to alter when he chose to descend. At ten feet, an upward force would meet him, preventing him from travelling further. His exit from buildings was made always via first floor windows or balconies, by stepping out onto an invisible expanse of energy which spread out before him.

Long ago, the angry and fearful crowd beneath him had jeered and attempted to hook his feet with their hands. Yet, as time passed he became somewhat overlooked by the locals. As far as they were concerned, he was just another outsider in a city of outsiders. Tourists continued to gawp and take snapshots. At nightfall, his hovering silhouette was often photographed against the brick and granite of the Judge Building, his fingers tracing the form of its many gargoyles or suspended high above the altar of St. Patrick’s Cathedral admiring the brass baldacchino.

He only began to question his solitude when he learned of her existence. From that point onwards his casual urban drifting developed into something of a search. She was his mirror image. She moved in underground spaces: subway tunnels, vaults and basements. The same force which held him ten feet above the ground, held her ten feet below. She had an intimate knowledge of the subterranean world cut into Manhattan’s granite bedrock; had played pirates in the merchant ship buried beneath Front Street and explored the petrified forest below the Upper West Side.

He became obsessed with blueprints of various subterranean networks. Any architectural feature that provided a window into the underworld was circled furiously in a flourish of green ink. He then spent hours at these locations, simply watching. He swore that he would recognise her immediately, and she him. He envisioned himself standing exactly twenty feet above her. From his pocket he would take a reel of organdy silk ribbon. Holding onto one end, he would let it unfurl. As the ribbon fell, she would take it between her thumb and forefinger. Here they would remain in silent understanding.

Darren Richard Carlaw

This story was first published in print in Fractured West, Issue #1