Who am I???
The question echoed in the vacant cavern of Will’s consciousness, leaving panic in its wake. He’d have screamed, if only he’d had the lips and the lungs to do so. Inwardly, he grasped for purchase, and found none; the infinite void which surrounded him was far less terrifying than the void at the center of himself.
And yet…there was something there that he could cling to. One single anchoring fact, lodged within his reeling brain. My name is Will. I am sixteen years old.
Rotating slowly in space, the Earth far below him, Will focused on that one single shred of information. Get a grip, Will. Panic won’t help. Slow down your breathing and your heart ra…okay, that’s not really possible. That’s two less things to worry about, I guess.
Anyway, calm down. Get a grip.
You have a name. And you may not have a body, or memories, but you have a thinking mind. Cogito, ergo sum―I think, therefore, I am. You still exist. You have perception of your surroundings.
And you’re not alone…
At every moment, new glowing specks were emerging from the fog below. New souls discovered The Light, then turned outwards towards it. The specks became streaks, fleeing down a newly discovered axis towards glory, unanimous in their purpose.
The sole exceptions appeared to be Will and the figure he’d seen rising alongside him. His neighbor’s form was still hovering in place―perceiving the light, basking in its glow, but not yet moving towards it.
Okay. I don’t know what’s going on…but others might. So…how do I ask them? How do I communicate? He sensed that he had no voice, and he knew that even if he’d had one, the vacuum of space would not have carried sound. This is all going to take some getting used to.
What can I do? If nothing else, I can move. Whatever stuff I’m made of now, it weighs less than a thought. I can use my mind to move…
Will drifted left, then concentrated, pushing himself in the direction he’d only just discovered, turning outwards, interposing himself between his neighbor and The Light. Will saw the ghostly head turn in his direction, and he eased back inwards, moving right…and accelerating.
That’s better. And it’s getting easier. I’m getting the hang of this… Will turned a pirouette, then drifted back past the still-inert form of his neighbor. The figure was flailing its limbs in an echo of Will’s earlier attempt at “swimming”. How to explain? Will floated outwards again, into his neighbor’s field of vision. Hoping that he was visible, at least in silhouette, he pointed with his index finger directly at his own temple. It’s not out there, buddy, it’s in here. Mind over matter. The figure paused. Will swooped to the left, to the right, pointed at his head again. Very slowly, he saw his neighbor began to drift―right, then left, mirroring his own movements. Ha!
Focusing his thoughts, Will exploded upwards, flying away from the planet below him―and then, outwards, away from Earth and towards The Light. Faster, ever faster, his neighbor shadowing him now, Will extended his arms ahead of him―and then outwards from his sides, like wings. Flying.
Flight was a dream made real, swooping and soaring, free from constraint. And as Will experienced it for the first time, he knew that every child’s fancy―that every toddler who ever looked at a bird in flight and knew, just knew, that what was natural for them was natural for her as well―had been correct. He knew that flight wasn’t just possible for, but fundamental to human beings. Not possible for an incarnate human, no, but there was more to a human being than his or her body, and nothing was more natural to an unencumbered soul than flight. And there, beyond the bonds of Earth, Will and his companion awoke for the first time to a new part of themselves, and to how much more there might be to humanity than their flesh had permitted them to know.
Upwards away from Earth, then back down as low as they dared, until the crawling horror of the lightning haze shooed them away. Across the edge of the sky, cometlike; then outwards towards The Light, Earth not shrinking but somehow fading behind them, like a mirage; then back inwards, Earth swelling back into tangibility; then outwards further still. Will found himself to be the more agile of the two―Wow! I’m GOOD at this!—but his companion was gaining strength, first trailing in his wake, nipping at his heels; then, at the first opportunity, taking off in new directions, daring him to follow.
He was without memory, without prospects or a plan. But Will was no longer a perfect enigma to himself; he didn’t, after all, need to have a body to be somebody.
I am Will. I am sixteen years old. And even without a voice, even without a physical form, I’m not without resources. I have a mind, and I think it’s a good one. I have a friend, and I’m able to help him. I have a million questions, and I intend to see them answered.
And I can fly. My God, how I can fly!
Will pursued his new friend upwards and outwards and across the stars. If this is death, he thought, I can live with it.