The moment you turn your back on your sobbing mother, you know there’s no looking back again. That’s it. Forward. Forward. Keep moving. As you round the corners of the world’s easiest maze, the reality begins to set in. Not just yet, but you feel that tingle on the back of your neck for the first time as you approach the gauntlet. Hurriedly you strip your body until nothing remains but the clothes that hang from it. Somehow you still feel naked. You heave your bags onto the conveyor and wait your turn, now looking somewhat disheveled having ripped off your belt and fished the last of your possessions from your pockets. That sickly scatterbrained feeling pervades, like you’re forgetting something important but your brain won’t cooperate. The twitch of a finger tells you it’s your turn. You step forward. Yes. A clean pass. You breathe a slight sigh of relief, but it’s quickly interrupted as you see your bags and the gray plastic tray holding your most crucial possessions come barreling out the other side of the x-ray machine, an avalanche of heavy suitcases following dangerously close behind. You ain’t through this yet. Move.
You made it. International waters. Your bag in tow, you swim against the current in search of your gate. Upon arrival you look up at the screen. Still an hour and a half to kill till departure. Better safe than sorry. Nothing to do now but tread water until your vessel arrives.
You can breathe. Your heart begins to settle. You check-in on Facebook, write an intrepid post about starting your adventure. A little social media interaction calms your nerves. You even start to feel a little excited. But before you know it everyone around you rises to their feet. Boarding time. As you pass through the hull, a smiling face looks at your ticket and tells you your seat assignment. But you already knew. You’ve looked at your ticket about 100 times by now. So you wade your way back until you see your number. The seat awaits you expectantly, the seat-belt laying there like limp arms waiting to receive you. At last you can relax. Take-off is uneventful. For a short while you stare from your porthole at the planet below you. It’s a surreal, langolierish feeling, that disconnect from Earth. Like nothing really exists down there anymore. No matter. You float up above the white breakers. You put your music over your ears and close your eyes. It’s all smooth sailing from here.
After a few hours of drifting in and out of consciousness, you’re roused by a sudden jolt. Rubbing your eyes, you lift the shade and peer out the window. Concrete, grass, blinking lights, and great airships race past. The crossing is complete. You gradually get your wits about you as you await your turn to disembark. Walking down the gangway and entering the port, you start to notice. You’ve been in a place like this before. Familiar sights and smells. But smatterings of foreign tongue drift by and slip into your ears, reminding you where you are, what you’ve done. Collecting the rest of your luggage, you make your way for the door.
The comfort of the familiar leaves you. Staring out at this world, you’re reminded of staring down at the planet from your porthole. So surreal. You approach the edge. Your eyes search frantically for something to show you the way. Your breath quickens. You feel naked again. Naked and alone. That sickly scatterbrained feeling from before comes rushing back, welling up until it begins to overflow. Why doesn’t this feel right? What could you have forgotten?
Then it hits you. A parachute.
Too late. Over the edge you go. The surreal comes speeding toward you and suddenly it’s all frighteningly real. There’s only way this can end. Take control of the free fall. Survive or die.