Super-Gnats Over Zagwa
Theo had been climbing since dawn; first on the steep roads and paths and sheep tracks behind the city, then across slopes of shifting scree, and up at last onto the bare mountainside, keeping where he could to corries and crevices where the blue shadows pooled. The sun was high overhead by the time he reached the summit. He paused there awhile to drink water and catch his breath. Around him the mountains quivered behind veils of heat haze rising from the warm rocks.
Carefully, carefully, Theo edged his way onto a narrow spur that jutted out from the mountaintop. On either side of him sheer cliffs dropped for thousands of feet to a tumble of spiky rocks, trees, white rivers. A stone, dislodged, fell silently, end over end, forever. Ahead Theo could see nothing but the naked sky. He stood upright, took a deep breath, sprinted the last few yards to the edge of the rock, and jumped.
Over and over he went, down and down, dazed by the flicker of mountain and sky, mountain and sky. The echoes of his first cry bounded away into silence, and he could hear nothing but his quick-beating heart and the rush of the air past his ears. Tumbling on the wind, he emerged from the crag's shadow into sunlight and glimpsed below him --- far below --- his home, the static city of Zagwa. From up here the copper domes and painted houses looked like toys; airships coming and going from the harbor were windblown petals, the river winding through its gorge a silver thread.
Theo watched it all fondly till it was hidden from him by a shoulder of the mountains. There had been a time whe