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High Enough

Amanda C. Davis has an engineering degree and a fondness for baking, gardening, and low-budget horror films. Her work has appeared in Crossed Genres, InterGalactic Medicine Show, Goblin Fruit, and others. She tweets enthusiastically as @davisac1. You can find out more about her and read more of her work at amandacdavis.com.

One floor below the penthouse, the elevator slid open. Ben, pressed against the mirrored wall like he wanted to climb it, mashed the button marked "P" before my husband got his shaking hands and drew him away.
"Come on, buddy. Time to get out."
"The penthouse is higher," said Ben. His skin was gray under the patches of his beard. "Aren't we--aren't we--"
"All the way up," I told him. I thought I'd lost that soothing tone when he reached adulthood, but it came right back. "All the way up."
Gerald supported him under one arm as they staggered down the maroon-carpeted hall. "Keep going," said Gerald. He had a bracing edge to his own parental soothe: something he'd mimicked from his own father, he told me. "One foot in front of the other. Just like Rickman's."
I'd never heard what went on at Ben's bachelor party, only that he had to be supported out of it. His father had straightened him and all six groomsmen into presentable young men in time for the wedding. That was my Gerald.
There was a window at the end of the hall. Ben lunged for it. Gerald caught him in time, and I added my weight against Ben's other shoulder. If my heart were not already broken, Ben's frothing curses at being stopped would have finished me.
Angie's mother told me how she'd cursed at the end. So much filth gushing from her little girl. But they'd managed to release her from a skyscraper in the city where she was born, taller than anything we have here, and Angie's mother promised me it was all worth it. It killed Ben to send his wife away, but her parents insisted, and he knew they were right. For some things, you have to go home.
At a door near the ice machine, I used the key we had bribed from a janitor to get us into a storage room with a service elevator. Ben lit up at the sight of it. There wasn't space to go three side-by-side, so I caught Ben from the front, helped him in. His eyes turned irresistibly to the fluorescent panels of the elevator-car ceiling. Gerald squeezed in behind us.
"Roof," groaned Ben. Then, unexpectedly: "Angie."
Gerald nodded at me. I hit the top button, illuminated around a chipped embossed "R". The service elevator lurched and rose.
"Remember high school graduation?" I said. Maybe not to Ben, or even Gerald, but I said it. "How you didn't want to leave? We told you there was something better coming next. Some things have their season."
Gerald looked at the ceiling. Not awed like Ben, anguished. I wished I hadn't said it.
The doors opened to gray concrete, gray sky. Ben shuddered. We caught him before he could bolt onto the roof. He snapped at Gerald's face, with a painful click of his jaw.
"Almost, buddy," said Gerald. We had scouted this place days before, ever the good parents, smoothing the future for our boy as far ahead as we could reach. We heaved him to a ladder bolted to the concrete. Eased his fingers around a rung.
Beside and below us, there was a cry so desperate my shoulders tensed, though I'd heard so many of them lately; panicked shouts, too late, and a terrible crunch. I knew what followed that. Someone else gray-skinned and desperate, crushed onto a sidewalk or car or dumpster. Someone who hadn't been high enough before he tried to fly. I closed my eyes and prayed he'd been high enough to make it a quick end.
"Climb, baby," I said. "All the way up."
We nudged him up the first rung. He seemed to recover his limbs, at that: pointing his face to the sky, longing for the clouds. I promised myself this was what I'd remember, not whatever came after. I groped for Gerald's hand. He hugged himself tightly, eyes on our boy. I made myself into a second coat around him.
We watched him climb, then crawl, then pull himself up to the very tallest point of the very tallest building we could give him, in a city full of buildings too short and people too eager.
And he flew.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, November 12th, 2015

Author Comments

The theme of family responsibility is one I return to over and over in my writing. I'll figure it out some day, I swear. (Many thanks to my lovely local writers' group for pushing me to write to the prompt, and for the harsh and loving critiques that followed.)

- Amanda C. Davis
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