Xe woke up and knew immediately that xe had been asleep.
Xe rotated in a slight squirm, pushing xer head against xer neck with itself and wobbling in xer glider. Each visible unifaced cumulus might seize. Xe curled within sewn-in body fabrics bunching wetly and enveloping greasy beads in their folds, and pressing through the shell fibers moisture. Facing dully the cold and blue rushing air, looking past the multiply filtered lenses of xer glasses and letting air flow hotly through the wide nostrils of xer nose, into xer sticking mouth, xe saw lights of pink milk in the limp black sponges behind xer eyelids, wobbled in xer glider, and blinked sleep’s wax. Collapsible within a cheerful soft hood of young textiles, xe used a red lamp as a source of light in the day, a beam opening and fading into slanting cloud bases and registering criteria to the glide. Inside the tubing it vibrates like a familiar pack of little worms, or moths. Xe turned a flurry; she pictured the wooden flames of a set upon hang glider. Woven and loose in dust. Not even three hot air balloons.
Xe glided plain and fine. With harsh intuition xe dipped forward with the full weight of xer torso, pulling the glider frame fluidly towards xer stomach through a short arc and swinging the lower half of xer body in its snug feathery cocoon upward with xer lower back. Xe tightened xer abdomen against the bar and, amidst a dive in which treacles of speed accumulated over #self, listened for the correct pitch of sliced air whistling over the taut corners of glider fabric, the totality of undercarriage—carabiners, flexing plastic, brushed metal tubework, dense foam padding—emitting a sharp groan as air scrolled over and burnt the surface of xer cheeks and earlobes. A satellite flung over the lip of a bank of chemical clouds in the distance and xe shuddered, xer wings an aspic humming; hungry noises withdrew from themselves lengthily in this dip and left the next minute the place in which they had become spooled. Xe saw xer imagined vinyl tool, the inside of a footholder and scraping harness. In the distant microgeese new air packs hung suborbital, smearing glosses of future cloudlife into xer instrumentation.
Xe wears out xer sanding discs quickly into and outside normal activity; it was completing the lower half of the cocoon by threads crossing in all directions under the gathered ruffles attached to those first spun from the rim. Sustaining xer posture, xe angled xer legs towards xer body against the air sliding beneath xer cocoon, and steadied xer torso on the glider frame, neutralising the tension in xer forearms and allowing the angled front tip of the craft to catch itself out violently from a dive. It pitched upwards for a moment then responded to redoubled upward pressure of xer cocooned legs, easing onto a flat plane of temperate air.
Xe relaxed. Xer grip on each guide pole loosened into a soft claw and xe slumped into the glaze of dissolving sleep lying damply in xer musculature, feeling the glider also respond to an ambient still, calmly adrift in the atmospheric pocket. Xe pushed xer flat hands out past the bar and stretched xer arms, interlocking xer fingers against the background of distant braiding strings of clouds and flat blue. Xe tucked xer elbow back onto the bar and let xer forearm hang down into the air, rippling xer long, loose fingers. Xe leaned xer head onto xer shoulder and twisted the inside of xer wrist towards #self, then her face, to check the pale green face of xer watch. It was midday, and xe had not meant to nap. The glider continued to move forward, barely descending in the easy air. Sunsets fell apart. Xe looked at xer infrared: nothing.
Xe caught the vortical edge of a dry thermal and urged forward to catch it—xe began to crest and swoop, gently, tracing parabolic patterns in the finely dusty air. Xe felt properly weightless, as xer body lifted out from the downward bearing ache of the cocoon’s saddle. The sun was high. Clouds were minimal and distant, except for one, which was unusually vertical, and though not at all dense, a very definite white. Its length was impossible to perceive. Xe noticed that the cloud was very faintly disappearing at the bottom. Xe focused on the ghostly tail. Xe was unsettled; xe tried to unfocus xer eyes, slacken xer gaze, and force the cloud into a diffuse mist, the one xe always thought. The effort pulled on xer throat, making it dry, and xe sucked water through the straw of xer sippycup. Xe could sense xer scalp hydrating, the fever across xer chest mottle. Xe tried to imagine that the blood in xer ankles formed a mist, something else.
Xe flew close to a mountain range and skimmed the shale.
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