I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, feeling the cold wind on my face. It exacerbated my sense of vertigo and I sank to a crouch, holding tight to the railing standing between me and the sky. I heard Mary giggle. I bet I looked so funny like that. I grunted at her, trying to tell her laughter wouldn't help the situation.
"Oh, come on Benji. It's not like it's that high or anything!" she said, her voice light and upbeat. I turned to glare at her. Her face glowed pink with cold and excitement. Her bright green eyes glittered in the sunlight right above our heads. Her long red hair looked almost alive with happiness as it swung behind her head in a thick ponytail. She stood leaned over the railing, without a care in the world.
Glaring was a bad idea. It meant I opened my eyes. I got a headache. I groaned and sank a little further. This was not my idea of fun. How had she convinced me to go up here in the first place? Best friends shouldn't do things like this to each other. She laughed again and I made some sort of noise not unlike the hissing of a cat. She laughed even harder at that. Boy, was I entertaining. I felt like melting into the stairs behind me.
Not that I'd manage to haul myself down them without puking when the time came to leave this awful place. We'd hiked for two hours to get to this abandoned fire lookout and if the fact that it was rickety and old wasn't enough, it would probably be dark by the time Mary wanted to go. This meant she would probably start in with the ghost stories that managed to scare me every time no matter how often or recently I'd heard them.
I sighed. This wasn't my idea of fun. I would probably jump at something in one of the stories and fall off the lookout! I felt an arm on mine and stiffened in an attempt to stay put. Mary was trying to lift me to my feet. I grunted at her, trying to say that I couldn't do it. This was not fun and it never would be.
My legs were straightened. I was standing. Just perfect. I tried to crouch again, but Mary held me. Man, that girl was strong! She supported me and said, "Now... all you have to do is open your eyes. Just one little peek. You haven't seen a thing since you glared at me. Now, open." I didn't want to do it. I really didn't.
Whether I wanted to or not, though, I did. I haven't regretted it since. The trees of the forest below us whistled with the wind rushing through their branches. Small ones swayed this way and that. An ocean of multicolored flowers spread out below me, waving in the wind and reaching up towards us. A deer seemed no bigger than a cat, walking along and grazing. Oblivious to me and Mary.
I looked up then, and have regretted that even less. The clouds seemed close enough to touch. Soft as cotton and fragile as glass. I felt like I could have reached out and put my finger on one, but it only would have broken into several fragments. The wind was doing just that to so many of them. It looked like the birds flying overhead and singing their soulful melodies should have been doing it too, but they simply passed below the cotton balls, each individual feather haloed by the sun.
I stood all the way up and leaned on the rail like Mary was, vertigo forgotten. Replaced with a joy like I'd never known. This was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. It was the reason humans want to fly so badly. I almost felt like I was flying; like I could just take off and soar the skies at any second. It was the reason artists got inspired. I felt like drawing everything I saw. It was the reason I would never fear heights again. They were too gorgeous to miss out on. Too wonderful.
The stars sparkled in my mind for weeks afterward. The moon had actually looked like it had three dimensions. It had taken all my attention and I would never forget it. I took it as a good omen, a symbol of peace. Since I wasn't afraid of heights anymore, that didn't seem too far off the mark.
"We should come here again sometime," I said in what was almost a whisper to Mary as we started the hike back to the car. She laughed and ruffled my hair in that weird way she does.
"Sure, Benji. We'll come back sometime." She shook her head and smiled up at the moon. It seemed a bit smaller now. I smiled too. We didn't say a word on the way back. After that, we didn't have to.