I lived in a village in the woods where looking up was forbidden. It was forbidden because it was dangerous. If you looked up into the sky you would be sucked away into the air and nobody knew why or how. So we only looked at the ground.
Inside we were safe. We made houses that were large and connected to one another via large corridors, so that we didn’t have to walk outside to visit one another. We rarely went outside, and when we went outside, we did not look up.
The village was slowly growing into one large building that looked like a spider web or a many-spoked wagon wheel. I could visit all of my friends under one roof and my friends could visit me.
Most people didn’t go outside at all; I and only a few others went outside to garden, keeping our faces down the entire time. My mother would not let me be outside long on any given day. She feared I would be sucked into the air, even without looking up. My mother had not been outside in four years, since my father was sucked into the air. Her face was now quite white, her pupils large and wary.
Everyone exercised indoors; we had enormous greenhouses added onto our spider web, several of them. There really wasn’t any need to leave! Indoors, you were not only safe from the mysterious sucking; you were safe from rain, and snow, and cold temperatures, and heat stroke. You were safe from bugs and wolves. There were even talks of making it illegal to travel outside!
But we were pale and listless for lack of sunlight on our faces. Though I could not look at the sky, I needed to feel its heat. I needed to touch the trees growing in a forest and I needed the possibility of wolves.
I began to plot an excursion. I believed that though we couldn’t look at the sky, maybe it was safe to put our faces up with our eyes closed. I told my friend my theory. “I need to put my face up,” I said. “I won’t open my eyes, but I need to feel the sunlight on my face!”
“I think this is a dangerous plan,” my friend said. But she swore not to tell anybody, and she swore not to follow me when I went out to put my face up.
“I will go to the glen, and I’ll put my face up there, in the sunlight.” The glen was a beautiful spot a mile outside the village.
I left at noon. When I got there, it was full of sparkling sunlight. There had been a rain the previous night—we had heard it from inside the village. The glen’s tall grasses were covered in drops. It looked like a fairy garden. I breathed deeply, shut my eyes, and put my face up.
I stayed like this for many minutes and I was not sucked up. I held my face to the sky until a cloud passed over the sun and my face no longer felt warm. As the cloud moved to block the sun, the redness inside my eyelids became less bright.
Elated, I returned to my friend and told her of my success. She came with me the next day to feel the sun on her face, too, and we were again successful.
With each passing day, I brought more and more friends with me. They all felt the warmth of the sun on their blind faces. Finally, my mother was the only villager left who had not put her face up. “Please, Mama,” I said. “Put your face up. You are very pale.”
At last, she joined me, but it was slow going. I held one arm, my friend the other, and Mama leaned alternately against my friend and me as we walked out to the glen, where the best light was. She closed her eyes tightly, and put her face up.
I held my hand over my eyes as a visor, and watched her face. It slowly unwrinkled as she stopped holding her eyes shut so tightly, succumbing to the sun’s warmth.
As I watched this, I felt a new warmth surge through me—a knowledge that I was saving my village, somehow, even in this small way.
For the next year, everyone would gather together on sunny days to put their faces up to the sun. I began to lead a prayer group every morning, when the day was nice. We would stand together and hold hands and hum to God as our faces felt the sunlight. We grew tanner. We grew stronger. We still did not see the sky, or the sun, but we felt its warmth, and we saw the imprints of the light through the thin skin of our eyelids.
One day, a young girl came to me and told me she had found a crystal inside a hollow tree in the glen. She asked me if it was valuable; I told her I did not know. But it was very pretty.
“I would like to put it in the museum if it is valuable,” she told me.
And so I said, “Let’s go to the archaeologist and ask him if it is valuable.”
The archaeologist said that the crystal was beautiful, but he did not think it was valuable beyond that. He said he was sorry. “But now you may keep it yourself.”
The girl was disappointed, but she told me that she wanted to honor the crystal’s beauty by planting it in the community garden we had planted in the glen.
We went to the community garden, and we planted the crystal and thanked it for its beauty. As we walked back to the village together, I tripped over the fresh mound and tumbled to the ground, where I lay flat on my back, with my eyes open and exposed to the sun, and there in the sky above me were enormous floating men with boulderish arms and bodies covered in scales. They could not have been floating more than 20 feet above the ground. I leapt to my feet immediately, but one of them was already making a sucking noise and I felt myself being sucked away.
The girl ran, not looking up, as we were taught as children to do, and the giants did not get her.
Even as I was being sucked, I felt myself grow larger and larger until I was as big as the giants—then bigger. Something glowed on my shoe and I realized that when I had disrupted the crystal’s burial place I had scooped it up with my foot. It was glowing purple! I took the crystal and put it in my pocket.
I was now my own giant. The other giants were startled at my size, and they swam away from me. The giant sucking at me stopped its sucking. I was safe!
When I stopped growing I was so tall that the giants were catfish swimming around my shins and my fellow villagers were small as garlic. I was so high in the atmosphere that I could touch the planets! Planets big enough for my village to live upon and beyond the giants’ reach.
So I bent down carefully over my village, and I told my villagers I could save them from the sky, and that they would be able to look up now without fear. I picked up the villagers and placed them on the small planet. I picked up the spider web that our village had become, and placed it, too, on the planet.
The villagers were now safe. But I did not know how to shrink again. As a giant, I was far too large for my village’s new planet to sustain me.
I bent low to the ground in the community garden and reburied the crystal. Once it was out of my possession, I shrank.
But I was now too small to reach the new planet.
And so I remain, alone in my glen. I keep the crystal with me at all times, in case the giants come for me. My villagers generously invited me to break off an empty house from the spider web and take it back with me to live in. Sometimes I grow large and speak to my villagers, but I am no longer one of them.