She walked into the abandoned factory. Her companion, a thirteen year old boy named Eli, grabbed her shoulder gently, his eyes directed towards the middle of the room.
Two swing sets.
“How did you find this?” She asked, then suspicious, continued, “’Why’ did you find this?”
“I have a lot of time on my hands,” he replied easily.
She could only sigh. So, instead of actually doing something important with his time, finding a new job for example, he was off looking inside broken down factories.
“Look, I want to take a break. I found this place and was happy to show you.”
She rolled her eyes and moved closer to the two swings. Immediately she wondered who would set up such a thing. Why would anyone want to make a swing set in a factory? A quick glance at Eli revealed he was just as puzzled by their appearance. Of course, she knew he wouldn’t question why. He’d simply accept it.
They composed of two plastic seats, with two long chains, reaching up towards the metal scaffolding connecting from one end to the other across the room.
“What’s so great about them?” Catherine asked.
“I remember swinging when I was younger,” he explained walking towards the swing. He held on to one of the chains, giving it a sudden sharp pull. He smiled and sat down, lifting his feet from the ground and swung his body in a smooth motion. “It helps you relax, gives you perspective.”
It was ridiculous. Who cared about swinging on a swing set, out in the middle of nowhere, when there were simply more important things to do? Glancing around the factory, she noted the windows aligned across the upper floor. Some only held minor cracks in them. Some were completely shattered. The floors were dusty, both dead and alive bugs littered the floor. She was blessed for wearing shoes as the room was covered in small pieces of glass.
Dirty, gray, run down, abandoned. No smart person could enjoy this place.
But of course Eli, who was having the time of his life swinging, in a nostalgic state. He soared a little higher…
She stuffed her hands into the coat she wore to keep warm. Glancing upward, she caught sight of what was left of the roof, a huge glass plane that had long since collapsed, raining down most of its shards a few yards away from the swing. In that pile only a minor leap away from the suspended seats, were pipes, pieces of glass and steel frames of metal. It was an accident waiting to happen.
“My dad would always take me to this park when I was younger, and there was always a swing. Sometimes, that would be the only thing I would play on all day. I miss swinging.”
She looked away at his comment. His father was one of the soldiers now. He had left only a month before. Eli and his mother weren’t taking it very well.
He would never show it of course, not in front of Catherine. She was annoyed by his barrier and grateful for it. If he didn’t express sorrow over his father, she wouldn’t think about her sister…
And they didn’t have much money. Their bills were higher now, and the cost of even simple medicine…
“Let’s get out of here. I don’t like it,” she exclaimed, letting her thoughts get to her. She wasn’t afraid, but still, it was a dead factory. And she had seen too much death lately. Why think about it?
“Aw lighten up,” he replied. His body began to move faster, and he began to gain more altitude.
“W-wait!” she shouted, exasperated. “Stop it Eli!”
Immediately he grounded to a halt, the propulsion skidding him slightly as the swing moved erratically without its master.
“You’re facing the wrong way. If you fell off, you’d land in that…” Her eyes shifted towards the mountain of trash. The tallest piece of metal jutted out only a foot. If he were to fall on top of that …
She didn’t finish the idea and shook her head.
Walking around, facing the other way, he sat once more and began to swing. After a few moments, he stopped once more.
“Aren’t you coming?”
She hesitated, frowned and shook her head.
“We should be leaving. We’re supposed to see if there is some work for us to do around town.”
“One day won’t matter,” he answered, looking serious. “We’ve been looking for some time now, and there just aren’t many around. We need to relax a little anyway.”
She nodded slowly, but was unsure. His statement was true. Ever since the war had taken place, spreading across the country like wild fire, people’s troubles and worry had increased. Taxes became almost impossible to pay, jobs gave less, food was becoming scarce and everyone constantly lived in fear of being attacked.
Her stomach growled as she thought of the bread and soup her family had feasted on the night before. There seemed to be more and more dinners like that lately.
How could two swings help any of that?
“We’ll play for a little while,” she decided, for Eli’s sake if anything. Speaking slowly, she finished, “But then let’s leave.”
“All right. Good deal.” He waited a few moments, just staring at her.
She became indignant.
“What?” It was a blunt statement.
“You haven’t moved.” He gave her a look that seemed so innocent, yet … suspiciously crafty, “Aren’t you going to soar? You’d be good at it.”
Her mouth twitched for a moment, and almost cracked a smile. She couldn’t be sure if the remark had been a charming or an annoying one.
“I … don’t have a need to.”
The boy continued to study her face.
“Come on. Are you scared?” he teased.
She didn’t reply.
“You are?” he asked, his eyes showing surprise. “Hey, it’s safe. I promise.”
“No, it isn’t that.”
She rolled her eyes once more. It wasn’t … important. And she didn’t feel the need to just explain it.
“I’m afraid of heights,” she replied instead. It was a half truth after all.
He leaped off the swing and walked up to her, his boots crackling as he broke the fragments of glass around him. With a grin, he spoke her secret allowed.
“You’ve never swung on a swing set before have you?”
“Look, I promise, it’ll be easy.”
“I’ve already got you on the swing,” he answered obviously, then shook his head.
“I said I would sit! I didn’t say swing.”
He frowned, “Not swing. Fly.”
The snow poured in from the weather outside. She was wearing a strong winter coat, but still, she shivered as the soft ice found its way through the broken window. Sitting wasn’t the best way to keep warm.
“Look, I’ll take it one step at a time with you.”
Then he began to instruct her on what do, how to move her legs outward when falling forward and pull on the chain in a hard motion.
It was a stupid lesson, since she wasn’t going to swing anyway-
Catherine caught her breath, sharp and cold, as she was pushed forward. At the small peak of her soaring, she felt herself remain in the air for just the simplest of moments, before swinging backward. It was a surprise that shouldn’t have been one.
Eli caught her as she yelped.
She dug her shoes into the ground, determined to never leave it again, and turned at her friend with look of fury.
“Fun huh?” His eyes held the look of a challenge. He dared for her to try it again.
She could have hit him. But it was a little fun, and she couldn’t deny it.
“Sometimes, when I’m on this swing, I feel like …” he paused, thinking. “I don’t know.”
“Hmm?” she mumbled with a mouth full of cheese sandwich.
Catherine and Eli had been neighbors for as long as she could remember. When they were younger their parents would invite each other over for dinner and the two of them would play. Catherine had always been the mature one. And Eli … they were just really different. Why did she spend so much time with him? Well, they had known each other a long time.
Always, whenever she was given a problem there were only two choices. She could solve it, or she couldn’t.
Eli acted like solving it wasn’t the point. He was only half a year younger, but youngish all the same. He made many friends, goofed off, explored outside his neighborhood –finding old factories, and always seemed to drag her along wherever he went. She didn’t mind, but sometimes the places they found, weren’t interesting or safe. Why would he just walk inside these kinds of places so easily? What attracted him to them?
But now, a rare moment for the boy, he was being serious.
“I love the air and I’ve always wanted to fly.” His hands tightened around the swing as he looked upward at the chains. They were both just sitting today. It had been two weeks since they had found this place.
“I think these swings are a good substitute. I like them a lot.”
Catherine raised an eyebrow. She couldn’t help but chuckle.
She didn’t like heights. But she was able to swing a little and it was … fun. Kind of. But it wasn’t that great.
“I’m serious!” he exclaimed. “When I swing, and go really high, there is a moment where you just stay there … and time stops.” He was finding it difficult to explain, she could tell … “You aren’t moving. Nothing is holding you.”
It’s a good feeling to let go sometimes.”
When she glanced at him again, she could see his eyes closed.
Suddenly, he began to swing again, rising higher and higher until without warning, he leaped off in mid swing.
She flinched as he landed near the wall, sticking the landing.
“Why did you do that?” she asked somewhat surprised. Catherine had seen swings before. It’s just her parents never really bothered taking her to parks when she was little. It was naïve to think jumping off wasn’t possible … still she was a little unnerved.
He shrugged, his mouth slightly frowning in disappointment. “I would be able to go further if the wall wasn’t here.” He took a glance in the other direction where that dangerous pile lay. Catherine was right, it was stupid to try and leap that thing.
But that yearning to soar, she secretly knew, hadn’t gone away from the boy.
“Why don’t you ever swing higher?”
“I don’t like heights.”
How many times am I going to respond to that question?
In the factory, she had to sigh. He knew why. They were here yet again.
But things had brightened for her. The war’s impact seemed to lessen over of the course of the year. The town’s people seemed to be healthier as well, even happy. Everyone was in an optimistic mood.
Eli glanced over at her. “Hey, job hunting is over for the both of us. Money is coming back in, that means all delivering errands are done and we can focus on school.”
Eli studied her as they swung. She was fifteen now, her hair rained down her back, sometimes a few bangs covered her eyes. Her posture was as always, almost perfect, like an adult ready to face the world. Her eyes, they still glinted in that same way he knew so … Lush green, like a summer tree.
He shook his head.
It was becoming more difficult lately. They were a little older now and certain aspects of their friendship, he found uncomfortable. She didn’t seem to show any concerns though. Not all the time, but at moments Eli felt that way.
“I do feel like swinging today though,” She pushed herself a little higher than usual.
She moved swiftly, with her head up.
“Hey …” Eli rarely wanted to discuss these things, but since he had heard good news about it.
He felt the air current she created as he swooshed by her, twice before continuing.
“How’s your sister doing?” He paused, continuing only when Eli could see her face brighten, “I hear she’s feeling well.”
Catherine met his eyes as they moved and smiled. They gleamed once more.
“She got out of bed and actually sat down at our table this morning. It’s been weeks since she’s eaten with us like that. Her headache is almost gone too.”
“Meds are kicking in huh?” They would have always worked, had her family had the money to buy them. Now, it was possible.
She nodded, “It’s nice, man I’ll tell you, it is.”
She couldn’t help being in a good mood Eli, noticed. Her sister, her five year old, was feeling well. She looked like a person who wanted to shout it out aloud. Scream the news with joy. Then, swinging in the air discussing her sister with a friend was probably just as good.
Wrapping her fingers around the chains of her swing, she dared to soar a little higher…
Catherine entered the sliding door of the factory. It screeched open as metal scraped against metal. The rust on the door was becoming worse.
How long has it been now? Six months? Why would you think to come here of all places? Eli wouldn’t surely have…
But she somehow, deep in her gut, knew he was here.
When Catherine hadn’t seen Eli at school and later had heard Eli had left his home, having been gone for hours, she had begun to worry about him. Of all places he would go to, this was the only one she could think of.
After all this time, it still amazed her, the conditions of the factory seemed to become worse each passing season, yet it remained uninhabited and untouched by the people of the world. What was this place before they had found it?
Shaking her head to dismiss the thought, Catherine paused in sudden surprise. Eli sat on one of the swings. His head was down. In his right hand, he held the letter.
She closed her eyes for a moment, daring herself to take that first step towards him. He would do it for her, wouldn’t he?
Eli must have heard her as the glass crackled beneath his feet. He didn’t move.
She sat down beside him, comfortable in her own swing.
It had been a long while since the two of them had sat here. Rushing off to who knows where, didn’t settle to well with her parents, especially at their current age. Catherine was almost seventeen now, Eli was sixteen.
When she came home this afternoon, and received word from her father as to what had happened to Eli’s family … It was her duty to follow him. She had to know he would be okay.
Catherine missed their time spent here. She wouldn’t admit to enjoying the swing sets too much, but those few moments where they could talk about the small things and forget the big ones, were precious to her.
She sat in silence. Words couldn’t be enough for this … What could she possibly say?
“He doesn’t talk to me,” Eli whispered.
I know, She mentally replied. The girl couldn’t speak that yet.
“I can’t hear him Catherine.”
She didn’t know what it was like to lose a parent. If she had lost her sister … would the world stop spinning?
Only difference was her sister was fine. She had made it through, when every single person had said she wouldn’t.
Everyone had said Eli’s father would survive the war.
Catherine didn’t want to be here suddenly. She truly had nothing to say, only aid with a listening ear.
“You know, when I was younger, my father had always took me to the swing sets.” He had told her that before, years ago… “I could be free those days. He always had a way of making me look at things differently, appreciate what was around me. And I loved space and the sky.”
He paused, and finally looked up. His eyes were red.
“Maybe, if I swing long enough …” He slowly lifted his feet from the ground, staring at the long end of the factory. It was blocked halfway, by that pile of debris.
What are you thinking ... She frowned in wonder.
“Can I fly if I tried hard enough Catherine?” he turned to stare at her.
She stuttered, and couldn’t come up with a sufficient answer.
“Oh ...” She looked at him, trying to find some sign of the kid she had known for so long. “Eli. You have to stop.”
“Maybe I could. I can make it over that obstacle.”
“No,” she said in a matter of fact voice. “You can’t.”
“I’ll try it.”
Now she was afraid. She immediately stood up, not willing for him to continue. What he was saying … it was, suicidal. And in the deepest part of his mind, she somehow knew that’s what he wanted. She turned towards him, blocking the view he had held. She grasped the chains and met his face.
“Eli. You won’t make it across that. It won’t solve anything.” He wasn’t responding well and even seemed to ignore her. Could he hear her? She spoke a bit louder, her voice echoing throughout the factory. “Eli! Listen to me.”
He finally glanced up.
She sighed and continued. Her voice was slightly shaky, but also firm.
“If you try to jump it, you’ll die. You won’t fly Eli. You won’t soar. It won’t bring anyone back. You’ll be impaled, and your blood will spill across the floor. Your eyes will close, and you’ll never see anything again.”
He stared at her with dead eyes. And he only replied with one question, a question that shakes faith.
“Are you sure?”
She hesitated. How could she be sure? She took a few steps away from him and watched along the walls of this factory. Outside, that was life. That was reality. Somehow these walls had over the years protected them from the outside. But now, it was going to serve another purpose.
If they allowed it.
“Yes,” she replied, the doubt in her voice cleansed. “I’m sure. You don’t want this.”
He nodded. But it wasn’t one full of hope. It wasn’t a nod that showed he had made up his mind. It was a nod to satisfy her. Only for her sake.
Catherine gazed up towards the swings. The chains moved silently, aroused by the weak wind flowing through the factory. It had been one week since she spoke with Eli. He wasn’t any better.
She held on to one of the chains. She could almost feel the imprint he had left behind as a boy. The metal felt almost warm to her.
There was no doubt in her mind. Eli was going to soar. He was going to fly over that construction. If he missed that, it would kill him.
You aren’t the only one living Eli. Have you considered what it would be like for us? For me? If you left us … how could you die with that?
She reminded herself bitterly that if he died, he would no longer care anyway.
Catherine sat down. She began to swing slowly. She gained a little height. Determination was her movement.
There is that one second. I understand what he means when he talks about it. I know that moment when you swing and come to a stop in midair before the earth takes hold of you once more. Weightless. Thoughtless. When time ceases to exist and you have a moment that lasts indefinitely. To dwell on things and ask who you are.
Her movement increased. Her sight was beyond the factory. She wouldn’t look at the fallen metal. It was something she had to conquer.
To soar. It’s something we can’t fully do. And yet we dream about it. Create machines to aid us and give us the effects of it. We hunger to go beyond what we are capable of. And even though we can, we always seem to fall in the end. No matter what we do, it is impossible to fly forever.
With one final push, she leapt off of the swing’s propulsion. Her body flew into the air, soaring higher then she could think was possible. She wanted to make it through this. She had faith in herself and closed her eyes. Her body fell closer to the cold collection of metal and glass…
But, we have to fall. It’s the only way we can truly live. We can’t remain and dream of something that no longer exists or wish for something that won’t be granted to us. If we did, then we’d be lost.
And then how would we find ourselves? How can we return?
For everything that flies must land.
I want to land now.
And the young woman did.
Eli lifted her head gently from the stone floor. Her hair was messy. Her arms were etched with small pieces of glass. But it wasn’t anything serious; just a few bruises and a little blood. She lay only two feet from the fate that would have killed her.
Her eyes opened. She could barely remember what had happened. And once she recognized where she was, life returned to her.
“You …” his anger was apparent, but it wasn’t towards her fully. Half of him just seemed glad that she was alive. “You never do that again. You hear me!” he shouted and his teeth clenched together.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered honestly, regaining her breath. But she produced a grin as she stared back at him. Her face softened so much.
“You are an cool dude! You realize that right? Why … why – Never again ok?” he said, pleadingly and confused, a light glimmer under his eyes. “I … you really scared me. I just found you here and – ”
He shook his head to clear the thought. “Are you alright Catherine?”
“I’ll be fine,” she paused, as she slowly sat up. “Eli. Let’s get out of here. I think we’ve had enough practice in flying...”
He moved back, watching her, sitting up, before turning. He stared at the swings for a long moment. They reminded him of his father. He missed him very much.
And the swings were there. It’s just, his family wasn’t.
He nodded to her, and then nodded again with more reassurance. He understood why she had done what she did. If he had tried to jump alone and if he had failed; he realized now what he would have lost.
Eli wouldn’t want his family to through with that. No amount of flying was worth it.
The two of them stood up, he still held her arm though she didn’t need it. Just in case she fell.
Taking a few steps, feeling better, Catherine joked, “You know, there are other ways to fly Eli that don’t involve swinging.”
“Yeah…” He paused, he produced a smile, “Maybe someday, we’ll fly on an airplane; if you can handle those heights.”
She glanced at, him and could see that young face of his, that thirteen year old face. It was only a second, but still there. It made her want to laugh and smile, warmly. But she didn’t. She just grinned, like how they used to when they were kids.
“I can. I’ll pilot it. Then I’ll teach you how to.”
They opened the factory door and began to return home as the sun’s rays broke through the musty clouds, illuminating the blue, afternoon sky.
I hadn't thought to revive this, but I realized since all my other CoT stories are back on the new forum in some way, might as well. First off, this isn't new, and I wrote this more than a year and half ago (maybe two years ago). I don't consider it my best work, so if some of it came off as a bit cheesy, go easy on me. lol Anyway, hope you were able to get through it all, and enjoy it!
I also had a lot of inspiration for this story, a little from the movie Inception, a little from the horrifying game of Limbo, and then a little from my own love and I mean LOVE of swings. :3
Edited by Grant-Sud Rises, Sep 06 2012 - 10:51 PM.