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The Kilt

The Student News Site of Hazen High School

The Kilt

The Student News Site of Hazen High School

The Kilt

The Abyss- Short Story

The+Abyss-+Short+Story

Roxy looked at the cliff’s edge a solid thirty feet away. It was a little jagged, like in the movies. However, unlike the movies, this was not a stupid idea. Grass and evergreen trees and all the forest-y beauty of Hillsbreak Point hummed with the summer breeze. The space beyond, however, which Hillsboroughians referred to only as The Abyss, was a land yet for her to discover. It was unknown and wide and waiting. Her body buzzed with anticipation. Then, before she could take a deep, reflective breath, her subconscious propelled her feet forward. She registered the muddy grass moving beneath her converse just in time to then register a sudden lack of it: there was nothing beneath her converse. 

Her legs continued running on the phantom ground, wheeling like a cartoon character, and for a split second, her hours of mental preparation went defenseless and a horrific fear consumed her. She controlled her breath, like famous rock climbers said to. She focused on her plan, the math and the physics that would not fail her. The feeling left as quickly as it came.

Roxy’s hands, knuckles paling from their clutched position, pushed out with all her strength. The rushing wind worked to her advantage, catching the tips of her homemade wings just before her stomach could fully leave her falling body.

With a ringing “Yip!” Roxy swooped upwards, away from the cliff and the scenery below, which she now let herself take in.

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Forests stretched for miles below her, spotted with lakes. It looked just like the photos in textbooks at school, except this view had texture, and perspective, and most importantly, it was all hers. 

A sigh ran up her body and out her lips, but she thought it must be from the pure ecstasy and, she’d admit, insanity of the moment. She tilted, turning slightly in the sky. Her wings followed her movement, and her periphery caught the small town of Hillsborough thousands of feet below.

With a huff of disgust and a teen-approved eye roll, she leaned further into the turn so as to slide the town out of sight. It left her mind as well, when she realized all over again she was flying—flying, she repeated to herself, as if it was a delicately bold dream she could be woken up from at any moment. She believed in it, fully. She believed in herself. But this reality still baffled her. For so long it had been the hopeful oasis she escaped to in her mind, whenever life in that godforsaken town was twisting her arm more than usual. Now, the reason this wasn’t a stupid idea: She knew how to land, and even had a pre-planned spot to do so in an unused field of her Uncle Unchi’s farm.

“Roxanne!” Her mother hollered from the dining room. “Set the table for the Harvey’s, will you? They’ll be here soon!”

“Coming!” Roxy replied in her cheeriest voice.

She left the living room where she’d been happily invested in the eighteenth chapter of Dune, groaning slightly. In the dining room, her mother handed her a quivering stack of plates. 

“Put you and that girl of theirs who’s your age next to each other. I bet y’all would make great friends!” Her mother smiled, an expression mixed with pity, disappointment, and estranged hope. Roxy turned away without responding and began putting plates down.

She moved robotically around the table, and then, at the last spot, the plate slipped from her grasp and crashed to the floor with a shattering pshhhh! Bits of porcelain scattered across the tile right as the door swung open, letting in her least favorite neighbors to see the wreckage.

“Goodness, Roxanne!” Mr. Greg Harvey jumped back dramatically, despite not seeming surprised at her clumsy accident at all. 

“It’s Roxy,” Roxy muttered. 

Then she flipped her mood switch to be cheery—“Sorry everyone! I’ll go fetch the broom.”

While wiping bits of china from the floor, Roxy eavesdropped on her dad and Mr. Harvey’s conversation about golf. 

“Yeah, I really nailed my drivers last night, felt great.” Her dad said.

“That’s awesome, David, so you’re not regretting the switch to Puttz Putterz? I sure am sick of the Rounded Edge’s expensive rates for crap quality.”

“Yeah, it was really worth replacing my entire set of clubs for.”  

Their conversation droned on. Roxy tuned them out. She finished cleaning her mess, dished up her food, and slid into her seat at the table, ignoring the line of vision the Harveys’ daughter was drilling into her. Needing something else to look at, she scooched her chair and found a corner of their front window to watch, through which the sky outside was slowly darkening. 

Her little brother James had just started in on his mashed potatoes. She gave herself until he was done to complain in her head.

This town is a mirror chamber. Everyone is the same, even my own parents. They all play golf and have boring jobs and raise their kids to be just like them, and they’re all so okay with life as it is. Don’t any of them want to break free? Don’t any of them want more than this? To explore and wander? Are they all really this satisfied with what we have here? Shouldn’t we all just—

With a clank, her brother’s fork clattered to his plate. A quiet burp escaped his lips and their mom gave him a scowl from across the table. Roxy, despite her brain panting with distaste for her town, giggled to herself.

Hours later, the two families moved to the living room to continue what Roxy felt were the same conversations they’d been having the entire time. To her long-awaited relief, her mother excused her with a nod.

She had seen the stars come out slowly through that corner of the front window, brighter than they’d been all summer. That’s what had gotten her through dinner. Dreams of running out into the breeze and climbing to her cliff, interrupted every so often by James’ spurts of untamed dining room boredom. Now she was making the dream come true, snatching her wings from under her bed and leaving out the back door.

At her cliff’s edge once again, she looked out at The Abyss, a sheet of matt black save the dim town and the shining stars. She grinned. Then she snapped on the night-vision goggles she’d fashioned a few weeks ago. The world turned green and purple, and without a moment’s notice, she sprinted off the cliff once again.

She caught air upwards, flying higher and higher until the goggles had nothing to make green. Free of skybstcles (sky obstacles, the name she’d coined the cliffs, hills, and birds sometimes blocking her airway), she nudged the goggles up to her forehead with her shoulder, arms still extended steadfast in the wings, so she could see the sky with her naked eyeballs. Then she tried something she’d put a lot of thought into and decided was safe.

She snapped her arms down, burrito-rolled with all her might, tugged a few triggers into place, and brought her arms out again. The wings had not turned over—but she had. She was flying like a backstroke swimmer, lying on the wings like a picnic blanket, the stars above her a bluebird sky. But they weren’t, and she was anything but on the ground. Her entire gaze was engulfed. It was like the view she read about from a library book at school, that you get on top of a Hawaiian volcano called Mauna Kea. But she didn’t need to go to Hawaii. This beauty had been just a few (thousand) feet above her her entire life. She could see nothing but pinpricks of gasballs, so impossibly bright for such small things, splattered on the sky’s black canvas like the leftover paint on a wet brush. It was simply stunning. And—it was hers. She wanted to scream to the winds, so she did. “BrrrriyeeeeeeYAH!!”

“Whatcha doin’?” Roxy asked her little brother, staring curiously as he crouched on the muddy edge of a creek near their house.

“Catching frogs!!” James yelled in excitement.

Roxy squatted next to her brother in the mud, watching his intense stare as he focused on an overturned rock in the riverbank. He reached his hand slowly downwards until it slid into the creek. A Tupperware sat by his knee, ready. In a flash of movement and a splash of water, his hand grabbed the frog.

“You got it, you got it!” Roxy exclaimed with glee, both impressed and honestly surprised at her brother’s technique.

He looked up and gave her a beaming, goofy grin.

“James!” Their mother yelped from the house.

“Get inside right now, you know I’ve told you the creek’s full of vermin and nasty things!”

James rolled his eyes, gave a reluctant “Okay Mom,” and let the frog hop out of his hands and into the water. He begrudgingly got up and wiped his wet, muddy hands on his grass-stained pants.

Their mother disappeared back into the house, satisfied, and Roxy threw an arm around her brother’s shoulder.

Walking across the yard, Roxy tried to console James.

“I think it’s really awesome you caught a frog, Lil J.” She used the nickname for him she’d coined when they were young. He perked up at it.

“That took some guts, and intense patience…quite impressive.”

James’ face nearly fell off, he smiled so hard up at his sister. 

By the end of the summer, Roxy was climbing up to Hillsbreak Point every day. She’d been able to explore a lot of new things, like the time she flew so far away she saw the lights of another town. She would have flown closer, but her stomach had growled and she remembered her dad was cooking beyond meat sausages that night.

One time, she woke up at 2am—her parents had looked at her curiously for going to bed so early the night before—to see the sunrise. She hadn’t been up in the early morning, yet, and she figured with school starting soon it was her best chance. She was all set in her position thirty feet from the edge when something strange happened. Usually by this point, her feet began running on their own accord, and her body followed. But no subconscious force was pushing her to the edge, this time. So she paused. She did not run through or away from it. She let the moment happen. Nothing remarkable went through her mind, necessarily. Except the thought that perhaps it was doubt she feared–she knew deep down she feared something. That taking a deep breath would open the floodgates for it to grab hold of her, just like the town grabbed and never let go of its inhabitants. She shook the thought away quickly. 

But she had paused, and she admitted to herself that that was odd—even for the Hillsborough Queen of Abnormalcy. Whatever. She ran, leaped, and all those unnecessary thoughts were gone. Mostly. But despite whatever had entered her brain in her first ever deep-breath-before-the-jump moment, she flew.

This time, Roxy did not stay in the sky until landing in her Uncle Unchi’s farm. Instead, she flew to another hillside, unreachable by humans until her because of the terrain a hiker would have to climb through to get there. There she touched down, sat, and watched the sun push its mound of light into the sky. She contemplated her summer, how it was absolutely the best of all time, probably the best summer anyone in this town had ever had. That made her smile, because she was doing something right, if she was doing firsts. But it also made her kind of sad. She believed it was the townspeople’s cowardice that made it the sinkhole of dreams it was, but perhaps it was also the place itself. No one ever really left. Was it their fault they didn’t want more if they didn’t know there was more to want? Roxy pinched her mouth to the side, furrowed her eyebrows. Whatever. They can save themselves. I did. Then she heard a croak. She looked towards the sound, and her gaze fell upon a little green toad. 

“What!?” Roxy shook her head in shock. “How in heck did you get up here, little guy?”

The toad hopped towards her. It had probably never met a human in its life. Lucky

The frog reminded her of James, and calling him Lil J. He seemed to feel cool when she used it. Roxy laughed to herself. With a soft smile, she looked back up at the horizon. The sun was almost out of it, just a few more seconds and it would be round again. 

“You know,” she told the winds, “I bet James would really love it up here. And doesn’t he like frogs? Especially one that can possibly climb mountains. He’s got to know.” She smirked as an idea gained momentum in her mind.

“Okay. Yeah. I’ll bring him up here. If I can lengthen the wings, I could double the weight…maybe eventually I’ll even fashion a pair just for him. That would be kinda cute.”

“Ready, James?”

Roxy looks over at her brother, standing beside her. He has an impressively intent look on his face. But there is also hint of absolute terror: His eyes are locked on the cliff’s edge ahead of them. 

“James.” He doesn’t move. She speaks in a softer tone. “James, look at me.”

The boy turns his head towards her, but his eyes do not move, sliding to the corners of his sockets. She waits. And then he pulls his eyes away and looks up at her, big round brown things she realizes have a whole lot more behind them than she ever gave him credit for.

“Don’t think about the edge, James. Think about what’s beyond. Look towards that. The Abyss.” His head cocks, as if he is considering an offer. He takes it. “Also, James?” Roxy smiles, proud to pass this on to him. “We always take a deep breath.” 

“Why?” 

“Just because. You can think about anything you like. Just make sure to always let yourself do that. Let yourself think. Let yourself wander.” 

The two breathe in together, close their eyes, let the autumn air sting their nostrils. Then they sigh it out.  

Roxy grins even bigger, elated. James whips his head forward, a playful, determined expression on his face.

“I’m ready.”

The End.

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About the Contributor
Annika Hauer, Managing Editor
Hi! I'm Annika, wonderful to see you here on The Kilt's website! I am a managing editor, and I've loved to lead and work with the curious individuals of our paper. I also love journalism, believe it or notone of my proudest pieces is The System Behind the System, which I wrote in 2022. I'm honored to work with all the other names you see here, we couldn't do what we do without everyone's passion!
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