Zee sat upon The Tip, what he had dubbed a large butte of rock at the very edge of the skyland Bron Nasaal. Beyond The Tip spread the endless azure sky. Viewing the open sky from The Tip was something Zee cherished, and he would often spend afternoons walking along, searching that blue canvas for smudges of white clouds. They would sometimes appear far in the distance, as was the case today, but never up close.

Zee closed his eyes and daydreamed about the clouds and their promise of freedom. Freedom from isolation in the scrubland that was his home. As fascinated with the clouds as Zee was, he was more fascinated with something he had never seen, something the clouds teased and hinted at: the ocean.

Zee opened his eyes and leaned forward, glancing down over The Rim towards the world below. It was flat, brown and devoid of anything resembling life. Ignoring the obvious fact that he would die regardless, he took comfort in knowing that if he did jump he wouldn't land in the ocean. The trouble with living on an island in the sky was that you never learned how to swim.

From an early age, the idea of a sea of water, and not air, had captivated him. How he dreamed of seeing it! That dream was beginning to fade, however. He was growing up, having just turned thirteen earlier this year, and as he learned more about life he was coming to realize the futility of his desire. Water was scarce on Bron Nasaal, and that reality was settling in.

When he wasn't walking The Rim or learning agriculture from his mother, Zee busied himself hunting lizards and thinking about ways of getting off Bron Nasaal. As this point, his best idea was leaping from The Tip, and at some point opening an immense sheet above his head to slow his descent. He had to admit that even if the sheet slowed his descent considerably, it was still very unlikely he would survive the fall. That and, he noted while looking over his tattered and many-patched robes, he had no sheet. Still, it was the best idea he had come up with so far.

Zee stood and reached down to the rope that kept his robes cinched and grabbed a crude, brass telescope he kept tucked there, a gift from his father and quite unique in all of Bron Nasaal. He considered it his greatest treasure. As he had often done before, he used it to gaze down at the world below. Always he hoped to see some sign of life. And always, the only thing he could see was the shifting sands of a desolate landscape. He wasn't sure what he expected. Not people, certainly. Visible ruins of lost civilizations, perhaps, if the sands would yield them. He spent quite some time looking, but once again found nothing. With a sigh he pulled the telescope from his eye and looked out to the distant clouds.

Clouds must mean water, and a new supply of water would change everything about their way of life. As he gazed upon the distant puffs of dreams again, he couldn't help but feel a nagging in the back of his mind. It took him a moment to realize the source, but then saw it clearly: a dark speck against the white fluff. Holding his telescope back up to his eye, he searched until the speck came into view.

Upon seeing it, Zee sucked in his breath, convinced his eyes were playing tricks on him. He leaned forward, as if he could somehow get a better look if he got closer, and in the blink of an eye found himself overbalanced.

With a shriek, Zee pitched forward over the skyland's edge.

For a three second eternity he fell, a terrified wail escaping his mouth until a rocky outcropping intercepted him. The impact stole the breath from his lungs and knocked the brass tube from his hands, which hit the rocky ground with a clang and began to bounce away. Disoriented from the fall, Zee still managed to roll over and reach forward to catch it. Fingertips grazed the brass tube as it bounced once more, and then somersaulted into the open sky to begin its descent towards the World Below. Zee scrambled to the edge and watched it spin away until it was out of sight.

For several moments after the telescope vanished Zee lay there, tears flowing to give chase after his precious treasure, now lost. Dark thoughts filled his mind, and he even considered rolling himself forward off the edge, but he did not. He didn't want to die; he just wanted desperately to go back and redo that moment in time, to escape the loss he felt so painfully in his gut. Then like a sudden slap, he recalled why it happened.

Zee leapt to his feat and rubbed his eyes and cheeks with his sleeves, then fixed his gaze on the speck of black growing larger against the white clouds. Though barely visible, it was still too small to make out with the naked eye, but it would always be the last thing his telescope showed him: a galleon sailing through the sky and heading for Bron Nasaal.


v 2.2 6/10/17 - Some typo corrections and other minor revisions.