Cloud jumping is particularly easy when one is made up of a loose magnetic field of particles. It’s well known that cumulus are the best cushions because of their general lack of icy shards, but some develop a particular taste for the nimbus variety since the water droplets massage as they infiltrate the body. I myself have even tried stratus clouds on a dare once but the ice made me itchy. No one hazards a leap through a cirrus cloud, so wispy and tender-looking but filled with menacing crystals if the rumors are true. The altitude would prove to support the stereotypes, but one never knows. We all seem to be perfectly happy diving one thousand to fifteen thousand feet above the ground; there’s no purpose to even attempt higher elevations. At least that’s my opinion, which isn’t very important to the group since I haven’t been named yet, but that will all change today.
The ceremony is a secret process – most surface walkers aren’t aware we even exist – but I’ll divulge the basics. My celestial body has finally finished maturing as I have reached one hundred years, meaning I can finally pull my particles together to form a solid mass. Now, this must be done very carefully, so one sinks slowly to the ground without calling attention but also without plummeting towards possible death. Very few have actually died because we can release the hold and spring back to our vaporous state, but for a newbie like myself there is the added danger.
The sun seems about to set and under the cover of a moonless night, I feel ready to finally walk upon the land I have glided above for so long. I feel the attraction of other fields around me and know everyone is waiting. I tug on my magnetic field and feel the familiar descent as though I am only aiming to sink through a cloud. I shiver as water oozes through my atoms and I pass through a layer of nimbus clouds. I jerk the magnetic pull tighter than I ever have and free fall before puffing myself out a little more. When my descent slows again I patiently ease my particles closer together and finally feel as though I have gained some control. The ground approaches and I see lights flickering in houses and cars winding through empty streets. The nearer I plunge, the larger this world becomes, until finally my particles brush against soft grass and I yank them together in one final tug to take the shape of a tiny animal I’ve only heard of in stories, a chipmunk.
It's laborious to have feet and peculiar to feel something solid beneath them. My life has been an eternity of floating and falling and floating again, but now I feel the tug of gravity and it crushes my tiny body. My legs bend with the pressure until I collapse onto my stomach, which alleviates some pain but presents the puzzling challenge of how to stand back up. I decide to explore with my eyes before facing that obstacle.
I’ve landed by a home, and it is the first thing I’ve ever looked up at besides the stars. It glows just like one but it blinds instead of twinkles. After a few moments the pain subsides and I strain my neck to get an extra millimeter closer to the silhouetted dancing humans. They hold hands, spin into a single shadow and pause for a moment before sliding apart again. The woman’s arm unfurls the way I always imagined a flower would bloom, lifting up over her head and drawing a crescent in the light. The man catches her lonely hand and beckons her to him again. I am reminded of a playful breeze. One that brushes against my particles as a tease, then whirls me round and round in a gentle cyclone and jovially waits before bursting through my magnetic field providing the exhilaration I’d been searching for.
A scuffle catches my attention, and I twist my head to see an animal ripping at the grass. Its ears are pointed and it looks fluffy, almost like the tendrils of a cirrus cloud cover its body. Wide eyes turn to me like it knows I watch, and it hisses while baring its teeth. A cat, I realize as it begins to approach. I’d been warned about these dangerous creatures humans fancied to tame. The other ones, the slobbery and jubilant one’s, were easy to fool but these cats were more cunning. Its eyes are incandescent and watch me. I doubt it knows that I am unable to flee because it moves each foot cautiously forward rather than pouncing. My panic begins to set in. I cannot return to my misty state until I have found a name but this animal means death. It stops inches in front of me, leans back on its hind legs and crunches its forearms underneath its chest. Time is gone and I know I must act. For the first time, my body reacts with flight and my legs jerk forward pulling my body behind. The chase is on.
I spring off my legs and land on my arms, continuing the pattern until I realize I am gaining speed. The cat pursues, silently copying every move I make. I hide under a bush and piercing claws rip at the dirt giving me a chance to escape under the cover of the grassy storm. I slip through shadows, below a picket fence and into a new yard where the house blends into sky and the only light comes from the rays of distant stars.
Bored by the inactivity, I run across the open field and enjoy the stretch of muscles I unintentionally learned to use. I crawl beneath a wire screen to a new home that projects an eerie sapphire glow. White flowers seem pearlescent and indigo petals appear to emit ultraviolet beams. I run to the house, climb up a pipe and leap onto a window ledge. A human lay still before the big blue screen that flickers. The pulses call out to me and I am entranced. The wind pushes on my back just as drawn as I am and I follow its path to an open window. A wave of heat engulfs me as I pass the barrier and I almost retreat, but instead I jump from the ledge onto a plush cushion that I believe is called a sofa. It’s too solid to be truly soft but the human girl seems peaceful with closed eyes and a small smile playing on her lips. I crawl closer and nuzzle my head into the hand lying limp by her side. It curves around my head, pleasantly flattening my ears and placing pressure along my spine.
I look up at the cobalt light. It reminds me of the sky just before dawn, the moment when I look to the horizon and finally see the black beginning to recede. When the stars still glimmer but the dense ebony has been replaced with the soft cerulean hues of a blueberry gradually transforming into a robin’s egg.
The image makes me miss home and I know I need to discover what this permeating light is called. I spring from the couch, closer to the object and use my claws to climb the wooden frame it stands on. Once I reach the top, I can’t resist pressing my nose to the screen and filling my vision with endless blue.
A cough distracts me, and I turn to see the human pulling at her blanket and beginning to open her eyes. Quickly, I search for any identifying image I can find. In the center of the object, below the beautiful screen, I see five letters, V-I-Z-I-O. My name. I am sure of it. I repeat the sounds, gleefully forming a full word. Vizio. Vizio. I jump on my little legs, full of excitement but the girl behind me yells. I look towards her and we lock eyes. I see fear in hers despite her great size advantage and I fall from my perch slamming into the ground. Done with my solidity, I run under the nearest chair and let my particles expand to a nebulous. Invisible and free from gravity’s grip, I float out the window and up into my atmospheric home. I let the wind scatter me and feel my magnetic field loosen its elasticity until what was once a small animal could cover the expanse of a football field.
In the air, where even a ferocious airplane would do me no harm, I feel peaceful once more. If I still had a tongue, I would consider sticking it out at that cat in a human manner considered derogatory. Instead, I swoop down to that home as my new mature self, Vizio, and swirl around the animal, letting its harmless claws swipe through me.
Keeping my particles tight, I float just above the surface of the land. I drift along for hours, liberated from the task of finding my name, fully enjoying the freedom I’ve now been granted. I slip through open windows, exploring human homes. They have so many things: tables, chairs, pillows, stoves, beds and toys. Smaller items like keys or photos or dice. It’s dizzying. Every second I am spinning to observe a new item in this world so different from own that consists of only clouds, stars and sky. I explore a shop where an aisle has fifty different bicycles lined up and I can’t help but wonder why one is not enough. Even something as simple as water must be bottled up and split into categories: Poland Spring, Aquafina, Dannon or Fiji. I am grateful for finding my name; all of these words would have been overwhelming to sort through.
I leave the bewildering human store only to find a place where animals are kept divided and caged. I take interest in the stripes of the zebra and the patchwork fur of the giraffe. I get sucked into an elephant’s nose while it breathes deeply and barely escape a week of waiting for my particles to be excreted.
I fly further still to the ocean shore, down the coast and follow the metal tracks of a roller-coaster on a pier. I rest just above the crashing waves and let the surf splash through me. I see humans walk out covered in tight cloth and carrying oval boards, and I acknowledge that the day is beginning. I look to the sky where puffy cumulus clouds call out to me, and I know everyone will be waiting. So, I let myself stretch and rise like a balloon disappearing into the gleam of the sun.