The possibility of assumption ended when the sky fell and broke his back. Even after the fact, they felt there ought to have been a crash, a sound, something more than quiet dream distortion to designate the change, but there was nothing. There was only the sky, who had fallen, and in total silence his spine had cracked.
There is so little ground on the earth. Whatever ground there is, they fill with their toys and bellies and ideas, a maze of tripping hazards and military traps. But the balance between up, where the expanse of the sky stretches full of possibilities, replete with drops and streams, and below, where things pretend to have a certain density, where they accumulate and squirm, that balance is just about steady.
In falling, the sky dragged down with him the moon and clouds and stars embedded in his fabric. Even the sun came down in shreds. The fall left flying birds dumbfounded, suspended at first, then dropping as if cut loose from their strings. The stars hidden in the violent blue rolled onto the ground like small, sharp gears, and lay there dumb as birds, cumbersome and worthless in a world of reduced floorspace.
For a while, no-one knew how to react, so they continued their upward staring, as they were used to doing, but upwards had now vanished. Their eyes quickly hurt from staring into nothing.
They felt there had to have been a warning. Until the instant of the fall, the sky had seemed to exist up there firmly, with so much self-evidence. His formidable expanse was the backdrop to a dance of clouds, to the trajectories of birds and flying machinery. He was the backlit tarp on which the changes of the day appeared, and his position up there was beyond question, synonymous with the very concept of upwardness.
They never assumed that the sky might merely have been hanging there, in precarious suspension, himself devoid of the sovereignty he projected. It didn’t occur to them that the sky was perhaps holding on just barely. They could not have conceived such a reality, because what they assumed in their daily lives was that the sky was up there in a fundamental way, that the sky’s very location defined what it meant to be ‘up’, and made ‘looking up’ possible in the first place.
When the sky fell, there was nothing left up there but sudden empty space, and looking up felt like going blind. Below, there was too much. Not only had the clouds and sun and moon all fallen, but below was the only thing in existence; there was no more up as an alternative to below. Below was everything, up had vanished, leaving below crammed full of being. The ground was littered with objects and notions that hadn’t been there before. The weight of things was out of kilter, and there were all these questions all of a sudden, questions they couldn’t answer and needed to ignore.
The state of things was this:
The sky had broken his back, and they had to figure out what to do.
The sky was in pain.
They knew this, but they weren’t sure how, because the sky never said a thing.
They weren’t old enough to drive, so they called an ambulance. Within fifteen minutes, its blue lights were licking through the cold windows of the second floor and covering the walls of the world with a fake, insufficient blue that wouldn’t fix a thing. A blue that seemed an imposter sky, impossible now that up had vanished. With a howl, the ambulance took the sky to the hospital.
The hospital is a Catholic hospital with white insides; it is a place that takes care of your body because bodies are gifts, vessels bestowed by God who creates them from clay, or maybe only the prototype was clay, they’re not sure. All of this is confusing to them because they weren’t raised religious, the sky never mentions God at all, God who some say made bodies so that more bodies could grow from them. The sky barely ever talks about bodies, the sky is all mind, so their understanding of the body’s abilities is a puzzling dearth of detail, a flat mass.
And now the sky lies in a hospital that believes in God, a kind of church with needles and respirators, and constant binging sounds, a place named after some saint, dark wooden crosses nailed above every door.
The sky was always so quiet about God that those living under his expansive tarp began to develop a fascination with what was kept from them, pieced together a vague idea based on snippets of stories, and tried folding their hands and asking for ponies, for rainy days, for specific kinds of desserts. They once entered a church out of curiosity and saw nails driven through skin, they wanted to scream but the echo licking the painted blood stains scared them into silence, and around them all this metal and stone cradling a disappointed parental spirit. They fled back to the world of home, with its clean lines and absence of divinity.
The sky is wheeled into one of many rooms with a dark cross above the door. In hospitals, the body is an innocent machine; in church it is the gift given through sacrifice.
They visit the sky in his white room. From a nurse, they learn later that the sky has left his bed twice since he arrived, in spite of specific orders not to move. The sky drags himself to the door, takes the man on the cross off the wall and put them both in a drawer. Each time, a nurse returns the object to its place.
The sky sits up sulking in his bed in the terrible way only something eternal can.
They wonder why the sky, with all his power, never just takes the man off the cross, separating flesh from wood, and puts him, only human, unadorned, into a hospital bed by his side to allow his wounds to heal. If his wounds could heal, they think, maybe the man could love again; he could go out bowling, enjoy the company of others, and he could give more of himself to the world than by hanging on a cross. They wish the sky could heal the man of his isolation up there on the mountain of his cross, make him into a person again, but something tells them nobody in the world is capable of such a feat.