Paul W. Rankin

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There Were No Clouds Above Them

Oliver had not seen Kaitlyn terrified in weeks.

“How are we gonna get down?” she repeated. She hopped from one foot to the other. Each time she sank up to her ankle into the cloud.

“You won’t sink. Just stand still. Here, look at me.” Oliver jumped on the spot. His feet sank to the ankles but no further.

Kaitlyn stopped shifting about. She stood still. She looked around. The cloud was white, like white cotton candy. Neither of them had tasted it. Above them was very blue. Below them the cloud got darker grey.

“But how are we gonna get down?”

“You worry too much.”

“I do not.”

“You’re just like Dad.”

“Where are we?”

Oliver wandered towards the edge of the cloud. It was like walking in a jumping castle. He got on his hands and knees and looked over the side. The shadow was moving over the streets and the rooftops and backyards and swimming pools.

“I think we’re almost home.”

“You’re a liar, you don’t know where we are.”

Oliver picked himself up. He made a snarl. He bounded past her. Doing a somersault. Landing on his back. Looking up at the blue. There were no clouds above them.

“You’re a liar,” she said.

He was back on his feet. Working up inertia.

“You should try this.”

She didn’t move.

“Come on!” He leapt high into the air to complete another somersault.

Kaitlyn tested her footing. She hopped. She skipped. She bounded to her brother. Then over him. She tumbled into a soft heap. She giggled.

“See? It’s fun,” he said.

She kept giggling. She gave him a wide grin.

“What?”

Kaitlyn smooshed her brother’s face into the cloud. Oliver gave chase.

Like child astronauts on the surface of the moon. Kaitlyn rounded the cloud. Reversed direction. Evading, giggling. Oliver was two years older and gained with ease. She saw her escape—she leapt across to the next cloud. Her lungs filled with laughter. Oliver hadn’t caught her. He was still on the other cloud.

“Haha chicken!” she shouted.

“You just jumped across a thousand foot drop,” he said. He wasn’t smiling. “Probably ten thousand.” He was looking down at the suburbs.

“It’s not that far.” She crawled to the edge and looked down.

“You could have died.”

“Now who worries too much?”

He gave her a look. She folded her arms.

“Are you coming or not?” She trotted away from him. He didn’t answer. She looked back to see him leap over the streets and the rooftops and backyards and swimming pools below.

Now on her cloud, he grinned at her. The chase was on again.

Crack!

They covered their ears.

“What was that?” Kaitlyn shouted.

Thunder. Deafening.

Then again. A dull flash, like a match struck but failing to light, in the cloud beneath them. The sound shook their small bodies like some tiny birdcages. Enough that they held on to each other.

“This is bad isn’t it?” Kaitlyn said.

“I don’t know,” Oliver replied.

“Are we on a storm cloud?”

“Maybe.”

Oliver knelt down. He scooped his hands into the cloud.

“What are you doing?” She stepped closer. She knelt. Oliver dug up handfuls of cloud. The hole grew deeper.

“Oli, don’t do that. What if you dig through to the bottom?”

“I won’t. Just wait.” And he lifted his hands up to her, cradling the cloud from deep in the hole in the cloud. Between his fingers, water dripped. Kaitlyn’s mouth hung open.

“Is that rain?”

“I think so.”

Kaitlyn touched it. She drew her finger back.

“I think we’re on a storm cloud,” Oliver said. He dropped the handful of cloud back in the hole with the rest of the rain where it would eventually fall from the underside of the cloud and wiped his hands on his shorts.

Kaitlyn nodded. “But what happens when the storm cloud runs out of rain?”

Oliver didn’t look at her. He was quiet.