It happened the night the sky split.
It was all over the news. The Milky Way would be extra-visible due to atmospheric somethingorother. The scientist were explaining it left and right. The pictures, they said, would be breathtaking. And they were.
But no one saw what I saw.
I was out at the lake with my family that weekend. We were all staying out to watch the sky darken, to watch the stream of light that seemed to tear the sky in two. I’d seen the Milky Way before, but only as a dim trail across the sky. Not this vibrant, violent thing.
I stayed outside longer than anyone else that night. I had to share a room with my brother, Gabe, and he’d apparently just decided he was emo, so he’d been playing gloomy music and scribbling in a notebook all the time. As his sister I felt like it was my duty to take the initiative and tell him that being all sad for no reason didn’t make him seem deep like he appeared to think; it just made him obnoxious. Maybe that wasn’t the best choice of words.
Anyhow, we weren’t on each other’s Favorites List lately.
The crack in the sky seemed to get bigger and bigger as the night deepened, and there were a trillion stars in the sky—ten times the number I could see at home, even away from the streetlights.
I sat staring at those stars, wondering what was out there in all that… nothing.
And then, from the middle of that great big rip in the sky, I saw something fall. Fall and fall and fall, like it had been falling forever.
As it dropped, I could see what looked like arms and legs flailing, and suddenly it felt like I was falling.
Because it was a body.
And then I heard the scream. It was almost like a roar, really, definitely from a man, and it came in on a wave of sound, making my mind jump back to taking notes on the Doppler Effect for my Physics class two weeks ago.
Then came the splash, catastrophic, then relatively silent.
Before I knew what I was doing, I’d vaulted off ground, throwing back the blanket that had been wrapped around me, and I was running to the lake.
I don’t know what I was thinking. I should have called for my dad. At the least. He didn’t look like he’d fallen in very far from shore, though, and I was a good swimmer—we’d been coming here my whole life.
The water was icy when I drove in. It’s always icy at night. I don’t know how I didn’t think he’d be dead when I got there, because anybody falling from that height would be dead. Another physics lesson—falling from that kind of height, hitting water would be like hitting cement.
But I just knew that I had to look for him. I had to try and help. The splat didn’t so much as enter my mind as a possibility.
I swam in the direction that I thought I’d seen him fall in, then halted myself, treading water and trying to keep quiet. It took a moment, but some six feet to my right, the surface of the water broke with a thrashing, and again came the roar of a yell, much louder now that I was closer.
“Are you okay?” I yelled, over all his noise. I had projected well, too. Came with the swimming thing. Lung capacity.
I swam towards him, and when I got to him, I slowed to a tread again. “Okay, look, do what I’m doing, okay? Just move your arms back and forth, and your legs, too.”
I don’t really know if he understood me, but the thrashing and splashing subsided as he copied my movements. “Follow me,” I said, turning to swim back towards the house.
“Do you live here?” he asked, his voice sounding raw somehow—like it was a new sound, even for him.
I turned back and stared at him as I treaded the water again. “What, here? In the water?”
His expression was blank, on what I realized suddenly was an almost too-perfect face. Square chin, dark features, light skin.
It took me a moment to remember that the water was cold, and we really should be getting out. “No, no, up in the cabin.” I pointed, and swam towards the square, lighted windows, little spots of yellow on a blackening backdrop.
He swam beside me, seemingly capable once he saw what I was doing.
I dragged him inside the house, and I think mom would’ve panicked more if he hadn’t been dripping wet and looking so pathetic. I got quite the earload about it later, though.
Mom and Dad didn’t believe the story about him falling from the sky—were sure he was a runaway—but they let him sleep on the couch anyhow.
I knew he’d fallen a long way, though. When I asked him about it later, quietly, he wouldn’t say a word, but his eyes looked sadder than anything I’d ever seen.
And that’s how I met Luke.
And that’s the night my life changed forever.