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The Way We Fall

Michelle Muenzler, also known at local conventions as "The Cookie Lady," writes fiction both dark and strange to counterbalance the sweetness of her baking. Her fiction and poetry have been published in magazines such as Daily Science Fiction, Crossed Genres, and Apex Magazine, and she takes immense joy in crinkling words like little foil puppets. Find more of her work at michellemuenzler.com.
I'm falling, I'm falling.
Again?
Or is it the first--
A window flashes past. 48th floor. Teenage girl, hair hiding her expression. She drops the ring in her left hand, and--
Another window, 35th floor. The building super, sweaty and florid and bent over a sink. He turns his head, reaches back toward his empty belt loop and--
Last window, 18th floor. Unoccupied. Empty. But there, reflected in the window, a glimpse of light. Of lightning. Of an origami scream unfolding, stretching upward toward--
The bottom. Gray concrete. Slick, unyielding. A spot of blue. Bright umbrella falling, falling, falling from her fingers. Eyes meeting, shock, despair, her mouth opens--
No.
I can't do this to her, I won't--
"I'm done," she says. "I can't do this anymore. I won't."
She already has her coat on, the gray wool I bought for her birthday. It's sleeting outside. Cold. Winter storm advisory is in effect. Stay off the roads, avoid bridges, stock up on water and essentials.
The same, the same. So familiar. Too familiar? We've said this already, haven't we? How many--
"What about Isa," I say. Not a question. Questions allow for answers. Choice is the enemy. "Think about what this will do to her."
Her hand falters. "Using your daughter as a weapon...."
"Our daughter."
The tiny muscles of her face clench and unclench in rapid succession. "No," she whispers, "your daughter." She takes her umbrella, opens the door.
She means it this time. She's leaving.
Again.
Again? Something's not--
"I'll jump," I say. I'll do it. I'll jump. Anything to keep her here. With us. With me.
Her chin dips. My chest tightens.
She removes her engagement band. Sets it by the door.
"Goodbye," she says.
Behind her, the door shuts, and I--
Sleet slaps the roof. The concrete is slick, wet. Unyielding? Yes, unyielding.
I'm not supposed to be here. The building super's keys rattle on my belt. I'm not sure how they got there. How I got here. I shouldn't be here, I should be somewhere else. I should be--
My fingers shake. It's the cold.
I force myself to look down. To wait. Elevator's still broken. She'll have stopped somewhere on the stair, to take her breath. To reconsider?
No, she will not reconsider. She means her words this time. She'll always mean them.
There.
Sixty stories down, a bright flower, vivid blue, unfurls. A speck of sky in the gray.
I urge my foot forward. One simple step. Show her that I mean my words as well. That words have consequences.
But my foot doesn't move.
Something's not--
Images staccato past, stop-motion stills. Isa, crying. Her hand clutching... a ring? The building super, reaching for his pocket. Grasping emptily for--
My head pounds. Sleet stings my face, coats the ledge. Coats my boots.
Below, the sidewalk blurs. Folds, unfolds. Relentless, the images snap faster. Cold concrete rejects my offering. Cracks me open, unforgiving. Spills me through. I cling to her face. Her cheeks. Her mouth. Her--
No.
I can't do this to her. I won't--
My foot slips.
I'm falling, I'm falling.
Again?
Or is it the first--
A window passes. Another. The sidewalk rises.
So gray. So unyielding.
So wet.
My stomach stretches inward. Outward. Upward, backward. The world cracks through with light, tesseracts in brilliant hues. Someone, somewhere, screams.
I can't do this to her, I can't do this to her.
I won't--
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, January 26th, 2017


This story was born of a pair of quotes: "Time is my greatest enemy" (Eva Peron) and "You can't blame gravity for falling in love" (Albert Einstein). It grew past those origins, of course, becoming its own tragic creature detailing a man so desperate for a second chance that he fractures time itself. But the patterns that define one's life choices are not always so easily broken, no matter how many second chances one might be gifted with...

- Michelle Muenzler

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