Festival of the Lift
by Mike Robertson
None of us knew why they called it the Festival of the Lift. Word went out, be ready on this date. Settle whatever you need to settle because we’re lifting off. We didn’t really care what it meant, Jackie and me. It was a party, no question. We were ready for that.
Of course, things had been getting strange for some time, what with the sounds coming from everywhere, deep whines and sighs and hums, indistinct at first, then louder and clearer, a buzz in our ears that everyone got used to because we had to. No one knew what it was, and truth is, no one cared that much, because what came with it was a rising sense of … what? Peacefulness, a kind of relaxed cheer that held a sense of optimism.
We talked less as the Day approached. Some of us, Jackie included, stopped speaking completely. She didn’t need to, at least not to me. I knew what she meant by every gesture, every expression. As she grew silent, her eyes seemed to grow larger and to shine. It seemed to me she was seeing something, maybe many things, that the rest of us could not see.
On the final day the bells began, chiming away the hours, then the minutes. The colors of things, which had been growing brighter and sharper daily since the announcement, began to mix with each other, to shimmer and glow. Night had been gone for some time now — the light and colors had been different, but always present, always visible.
Our imaginations were in high gear for this event. It felt like every thought we had, every memory, every fantasy, could become real at any moment.
The morning of the Lift, the sky changed from flaming yellows and oranges of the night to morning’s magenta and pink. It was like the changing hues of the wings of a monarch butterfly caught in the morning sun.
Vague motions near the horizon. My body felt ever larger and lighter. My mind too. Conversation was getting a little hard to imagine under the circumstances. “How you feeling?”
Jackie grinned at me, her face like a piano wire being drawn tighter. “Ha,” she said finally. “Ha!”
Things began lifting around us, rising gently into the air. An old hotel model armchair, overstuffed and dusty, rose without rocking from the front yard of a house. In it sat a tiny woman, hands clasped, body relaxed, a comforting aura about her, wearing a beatific smile. She looked down on us as she rose. The chair turned like a leaf in an eddy until she had beamed her smile down on all below. We smiled back at her, sensing that our turn would come. Then a bench rose, and stones and a tree, and then … everyone.
I felt colors playing over my skin, under and through me, like music. I realized I wore no clothes and couldn’t decide if I had actually been wearing any before, maybe not for a long time. All around me people arched their backs, facing the eastern sky and then I realized there was no direction; there was only up. The earth had dropped away, or gone transparent, and in that boundless sky, I saw there were planets, it seemed you could touch them, all lined up in an arc, Jupiter leading Saturn and Venus and the rest, moving closer in perfect time to the music we sensed but could no longer hear. I realized that was it, it was the music from the planets, we heard it all the time without knowing we heard it and it made all other music comically weak by comparison, making us yearn to hear more and join in that song, hearts ringing like bells and and yes! we were bells ringing joyously to this music … and I was happy yes! except there was no longer a me, we were a union just perfectly happy to be moving toward those spheres, toward a body I could find no words to describe, could not even imagine, but I could see Jackie’s face, a cloud of joy before me, and she knew … she knew … she knew.