a short story by Jacob Landau, ’22
They were just children, not entirely sure who they would be yet or where they would find themselves next year, but they kept propelling themselves through the air with their short, insignificant legs nonetheless.
Neither of them really knew anything at this point in their lives, however they were both especially perplexed by the endless depths of space. Somehow, they hoped they could be thrusted up to discover its hidden and untampered beauty. Chain links kept them attached to the earth, even though their minds were far beyond anything that could be found on the earth’s surface. They wanted so badly to let go of everything that kept them stuck where they were—the handles, the chains—and find themselves where they thought they belonged. Knowing it would probably lead to an urgent care center, they never did. Their repeated efforts remained unfruitful, but nevertheless they continued, eventually gaining fatigue until the burn in their calves became insurmountable. The swings were obviously the most practical way to get there that they could think of. The strength to keep trudging on came from the encouraging squeaks originating in the archaic swing’s rusted hinges.
Both of them had always wanted to take a never ending voyage to space together. The silent, boundless beauty of the light beyond was supplemented by glistening darkness. Saros was always in love with the stars, while Ophelia tended to find her home in the mysterious parts in between. Being the good friends they were, they tried their best to drive each other crazy.
“Have you ever wondered how we’re going to get there?” Ophelia asked.
“Oh, never.” Saros replied.
“How will we do it, then? I think we’re both smart enough to realize this will never work.”
“Oh of course it will! Our dreams built this swing, and our dreams will push us as we ascend to space, as eventually they will give up tugging us back to Earth.”
“But Saros, you don’t get it! You will never see your parents again. Do you understand?”
“No! It isn’t true! They are up there, and soon I will be too with or without you. Do you understand that?”
There was a pained stubborness in his voice, as though he too knew the reality of his fate but continued trying anyway.
Ophelia grew frustrated with his inability to answer her questions.
Darkness’s brooding arms couldn’t reach through the forcefield casted around the steel pipes. A place of Euphoria, the swingset in their backyard was a sight to be seen. Together they let hours wash away while they rocked back and forth, eventually causing the seats to droop to the ground and the base to be swallowed whole by the Earth. The swings were never fully abandoned, but as time progressed both Ophelia and Saros grew lonely. At certain points, all they had was each other and the memories shared between them.
Each time a cardboard box was used and recycled, he retrieved it and began cutting the sides and using his magic markers until he had the spaceship of his dreams; Ophelia. As Saros got sick of his efforts to make rocket ships out of cardboard, he tried to think of a better way to reach his parents in the heavens. Together, they would tackle every problem they confronted. His mind would rush to her beauty when he needed it, and in exchange he would continue to improve his design until he had perfected each aspect; he hoped together they could go to space. He eventually would not recognize what he knew before as he continued to build and build until his hands were raw and eyes asleep. He had built himself an arsenal of vessels to get to space, but like a car without a navigation system, he could spin in circles over and over again without recognizing his surroundings. Saros had truly reached the point at which he did not listen to all of the signs that told him to stop. He was committed and refused to give up his dream of seeing his family once again.
A symbiotic relationship of sorts. An optimistic one, at that.
Somehow, they were both still certain that somehow his dreams would come true.
Eventually, Saros’s designs became fancier and more creative, growing both in practicality and use. Eventually, he devoted his life to the craft of devices that would take him to space. He grew more and more entranced with his work, laboring especially hard when he needed his parents, for that is what made him feel closest to the skies after all. Every day he would return to his project, until he constructed the final rocket he would need to build to reach his parents. A torn tire, long braided rope, and the two trees in a secluded expanse behind the woods near his house. He knew once he completed his project that this would catapult him to space. Ophelia—his help, Hamlet’s lover, was finally ready to meet Saros’s insane demands. He always asked much of her, and she always fulfilled her tasks. He climbed on the tire and pushed off of the ground with his legs. The swing was barely short enough for his insignificant frame. He leaned back, preparing to be sent to space. A shooting pain from the threadbare of the string burned into his delicate hands.
He tried to emulate his parents’ work as scientists—their success was always in his mind. He wanted to prove himself after his father’s death through his own building. His parents were both always working, sometimes not even coming home until a few days after they left. When they were home, they were tired, but they gave Saros his best life, and for that he was grateful. On weekends, they would take Saros to museums showing off the American space program’s fine work. He was always bored and tired by the end, but loved his parents so much that he would conceal it. After all, his parents taught him to never give up and not to stop working until Saros was satisfied with the work he had done that day, which he never was. So he kept working, until he had eventually found what he needed.
He climbed onto his catapult, preparing to leave for space. Saros expected his ascension to the stars to be glorious and beautiful. The tire gave his legs a tight hug as he finally gained momentum and pushed forward. However, everytime he pushed forward Ophelia dragged him back to earth. He had found himself rising to the stars only to be pulled back down to Earth, and was sick of her efforts to keep him grounded. His assumption that the Ophelia, who was resting in the topsoil, would understand his need to go to space was based on his own selfishness. She was aware that he could not leave, even if he wanted to. Nevertheless, she let him keep trying after all of his failures. Growing in frustration, Saros did something neither of them expected prior to the moment he did it.
Saros let go.