Previously: Chapter 2.2: How Was Your Day
It felt like nothing had happened, even when something had happened.
He would record his memories every morning. He would step into the machine. They had no other name for it, just “the machine.” It was shaped like his body. It was made of glass and metal, the machine, except for the helmet part. The helmet was only made of metal. The helmet smelled of singed hair and sweat. The helmet did the real work. It had cords coming out of it, etc. It had gauges and dials. The rest of the machine was just there to hold him still. Sky Prince would put the helmet on. The world would go empty and itchy — itchy not on the outside of his skin, but on the inside of his brain, the nape of his neck, the tops and backs of his eyeballs. He would jerk spastically. He would think he was going to explode, except that the machine, of course, was there, holding him in, holding him down. Then the itching and the emptiness would stop. He would take the helmet off. Done. Memories saved. If he died now, he could be restored back to this precise moment, just like a videogame character. Easy, peasy. He would step out of the machine. He would go live his day.
Sometimes he woke up and he wasn’t in the machine anymore. That’s the only way he knew that he had died and been restored. Like just a minute ago: he woke up weak on his feet, cold and naked, in front of what appeared to be an elevator door.
He stepped outside, onto a bright snow-covered ledge near the top of the Eyrie. He had been here before, but he couldn’t remember when, or why.
He blinked his eyes.
His dad hovered in the air in front of him, a little past the ledge, in a flying pose, smiling back over his shoulder. He looked like a big, goofy dog, ready to chase a ball. If he had had a tail, it would have been wagging.
“Today, you’re going to learn how to fly!” he shouted. “Come on!”
So Sky Prince ran and he jumped off the edge of the ledge, and he fell, for a heart-stopping second. What else would he have done? Then he flew. Of course he flew. He was the son of Sky Lord. He flew hard and recklessly into the cold air, which scrubbed past him, like two invisible walls, one to his left, one to his right, rough as concrete. He loved it. It hurt and it was fun. He didn’t have to decide when to turn or bank or loop the loop: the air told him. It was like an amusement park ride. He turned. He banked. He looped the loop. His dad chased him around. His dad laughed and shouted, tailing behind. His dad actually — was it possible? — giggled. Sky Prince had never seen his dad so happy.
Then Sky Prince fell out of the sky.
Bam! like that, flying had become impossible. Had become ridiculous. He couldn’t have said what had changed.
Ah well. So much for that.
He let himself relax into the fall. Might as well. Once death became inevitable, it seemed okay, somehow, almost a relief. Besides, the next version of him would never have to live through any of this. It wouldn’t be recorded. It would be forgotten.
It did not occur to him to wonder how many times this had happened before.
The last thing he saw was his dad, chasing after him, straight down, hand outstretched. The look on his dad’s face broke his heart. “Son. Come on. What are you doing. You idiot. Fly!” His dad sounded angry, but Sky Prince knew better. His dad shut his eyes right before he hit the ground. That’s how Sky Prince knew it was coming.
That’s how Sky Prince knew that his dad loved him.