The Falling Man

by David Farmer

I climbed up from our spaces under the ground, through the gaps in the world that only we can see, and made my way up inside the walls of the house to the space under the roof. I crouched down, and with my fingers I unwove the plaster in the ceiling until Iíd made a big enough hole, and then I looked down into the room below. A man stared up at me, his eyes wide with fear.

But he didnít move. He had slipped off a ladder as he was changing a light bulb in his kitchen, and now he was falling at a velocity that increased by 9.8 metres per second every second. But that meant that to me he was frozen in the air, and I could look him in the eye as long as I liked, until I got bored and went away, and I would never be there long enough for him to see me.

I jumped through the hole and fell past the man and landed with a thump of my boots on the counter, and still the falling man hung in the air. There is some dust on the counter, always in the same pattern, and I picked up some of it and threw it in the air and it just hung there, like a small cloud. I took a deep breath, and blew out the air again, but I couldnít get that cloud of dust to move.

I sat on the counter and looked down, my legs dangling off the edge, and just below my feet there was a net, stretched out and bolted into the walls. We put it there ourselves, to catch the falling man. We wove it from the fibres of the plants in our own garden, on our side of the gaps in the world, and when we brought it into the kitchen and set it up, it became as slow and as rigid as everything else in that place. It was my job to check it, so I dropped off the counter and landed in the net, and it was as hard and unyielding as the kitchen floor underneath. I checked all the bolts, and everything was secure, and I climbed up onto the counter top again, and walked over to the sink.

In the air just above the sink was a book. It was full of information on mass and velocity and force and acceleration. And because we love that sort of thing we used to read that book so fast that the pages started to catch fire at the edges, so we placed the book over the sink and turned the tap on, so that one day it would fall into the sink and the water would cover it and put out the fire.

I carefully turned the pages, which were black around the edges and just starting to smoke, until I found the chapter on forces and vectors. Then, in my head, I imagined the net and what would happen when the man fell into it, and at what angle the net would launch him into the air again and how high he would go. Then I went to the fridge, and took out the chocolate cake and climbed back up the wall to the ceiling with it. And then I very carefully placed it in the air where my calculations said I should.

I climbed across the ceiling and up into the hole I had made, and before I rewove the hole I looked back down. The falling man looked so frightened that I felt very sorry for him, but he will be happier one day. When he lands in the net he will bounce back up into the air, and his face will collide with the cake as it comes down, and then he will fall back into the net again. That will happen long after I am gone, but I laughed very much at a joke I would never see, and I even thought I saw a change in the expression of the falling man, as if he were a little happier, though I donít really think he could hear me.

Copyright © 2013 David Farmer.
First published in our Infinitas Newsletter, September 2013.

This page last updated 14th Feb 2014.