The Eye in the Sky
It was the hottest day of midsummer when his neighbors had invited him to climb the trees at the edge of the forest.
The sun scorched the earth, lazy waves of heat rising from the roads that piped hotter than a stove. A half-hearted breeze swept across half-hearted hills and narrow roads—meant for bicycles, not for cars. It failed to cool the merciless heat that the sun raged, boring into the land below.
This was the day—the day where we would feel slightly bothered, fairly hot, and completely useless.
Iolani Tori felt the same.
But it wasn't entirely due to this reason that he decided to decline the offer put up by his friendly neighbors. In fact, it wasn't due to this at all.
Not the heat; not the stuffy air; and certainly not the thought that he was a useless being rotting away in the middle of a heated summer.
"Why not, Io?"
"We'll let you go first! Don't worry, we'll catch you if you fall," They nodded, egging him on with blinding smiles brighter than piercing sunshine.
Io laughed awkwardly. He shook his head, a white lie slipping past his lips in effort to decline politely.
Like he had done so the many times before.
"Mom wants me to pluck the weeds today."
His neighbors smiled in understanding-the innocence of eight-year-olds shining through.
"Next time then!" One of them waved in an unsuspecting manner, dashing off to catch up with the rest who had begun to head to the edge of the forest.
But no one was there to see.
He thought about this familiar scene, just how many times he had played it over and over in his mind and in reality itself. He saw this—even—in his dreams; be it climbing trees or simply glancing over a bridge, Io would refuse. Politely.
Now, this was particularly strange for the curious boy.
Like any other child in his quaint little village, Io had an imagination so vast it filled the spaces of every little corner in the invisible sky scattered with stars and—oh, and the moon. The moon had a quiet, special place in his heart; almost as though it smiled for him and him only, but of course Io wasn't all too sure about that.
It might have been his imagination.
It had been a week after his fourth birthday when Io decided to pose such a question.
Mom, what is a sky?
The sky, dear. There is only one sky in the world.
Io narrowed his eyes at the sheet of blue that stretched out above. He was a little upset that his mother hadn't answered his question.
Where does it start? There's no line in the sky.
The sky has no start and no end, Iolani. Now be quiet and drink your oats, will you? Then go to the fields to help your Uncle.
The woman tousled her son's hair, planting an affectionate kiss on his forehead.
But Mom, there is an end to the sky. See—if you look this way, it ends here. And if you look this way, it ends there-
His mother hushed him.
At four, Iolani Tori had come to a conclusion that the sky ended where one's field of vision did.
He called this—his sky.
This was where his sky began; and that was where it ended.
There was something about heights that made the heart in his cage beat excruciatingly loud and thunderous. Perhaps it was the shrinking of life that came with elevated vision—things reduced to a minute size that he was so unused to even in his dreams; and perhaps it was the unsettling sensation of having his feet off the firm ground—there was nothing firm under it.
Or perhaps he was simply afraid of many things.
An unexplained fear seemed like a sad yet tempting excuse for the village boy, since he was, actually, afraid of sudden loud sounds. They startled him very much, and he would find himself scrambling away under the covers during thunderstorms—almost like a small animal running away from its predator.
But what exactly was so strange about his fear of heights?
From his mother's understanding, there were many people out there-not just him-who feared the formidable concept of an elevated viewpoint as well.
That didn't explain anything for little Io. Just because there were others who feared heights as well had nothing to do as to why he was afraid of them.
The question of reason that found no answer found, instead, a place in the cage that Io had the rest of them kept. The rest of the questions that he had yet to find an answer to—the little monsters that gnawed at the bars, chewing, rattling every now and then to remind the curious boy of their presence and how they would delight to have his attention.
There lay a quiet one in the wake of the others, slightly neglected and brushed aside—
And that was a particular sight that he had seen on a slow, sweltering summer day; just like today.
For quite some time now, Io had been wondering why the sun wasn't beating harshly down his back that had been bent for the past two hours in the cornfields.
He was helping his Uncle as usual—at the man's beck and call—when he noticed to his delight that the sky had lost its usual blinding brightness.
Thinking that it was merely one of those short-lived moments of happiness (where he got to enjoy the shade that a passing cloud provided), the boy continued planting the seeds of sweet corn an inch into the soil.
The short-lived moment turned out to be longer than he had expected it to be.
And then it stretched for a good ten minutes—stirring a different sort of hope from within the boy.
Of all the days that he had wished for rain; a thunderstorm that would bar him from the fields and grant him the joy of cooling shade at home, it was going to be today.
Today was special.
He wanted so much to look up, to welcome the dark clouds that had formed in his imagination, manifesting, already, in his spirit
But Io did not want to be let down.
What if it was just a big cloud? He thought.
In the end, it was curiosity that turned his head.
A rattling curiosity that stroked the bars of his cage and coaxed the heart that was in it too.
Io turned away from the ground underneath his feet. Away from the earthy smell of soil and fertilizer, hands going slightly limp as he dropped the last seed into a small hole that he made. One inch deep.
And there, he saw it.
In the middle of a sky, it hung—almost like something out of a diorama-above the land; between the clouds; under invisible stars
It blocked out the persistence of sunshine, providing a dark shade just like any other cloud would provide but this—
This was special.
This was an island—
An island in the sky.
The Floating Island.
His floating island.
Io watched; mesmerized, hypnotized, any word he could possibly think of that meant dropping the little spade of his, taking his hat off his head, sitting on the dirt with his legs crossed-staring at the thing in the sky.
Was it there?
Was it really there?
If so, how could he know? He couldn't touch it. Neither could he feel its presence with the rest of his senses but he sure as well could see it.
But was seeing enough?
What was sufficient to make him believe that it was there?
Io turned all of a sudden, calling for his Uncle while he did so.
But no one was there.
Ah, yes-he had went to get more seeds.
He would return soon, and then...and then Io would ask him. He would confirm the presence of such an amazing sight. He could already see it-the discovery of something new. The unveiling of undiscovered lands; the thrill of mystery; the questions, the answers—
"What're you looking at, Io?"
The boy's gaze snapped urgently away from the island in the sky; almost like a child caught red-handed peeking at the swing in his neighbor's lawn.
He turned to the source of the questioning voice.
It was one of the kids from his elementary school. He remembered her-after all, there weren't many names to remember—it was the girl that liked to braid her hair. She hadn't braid it today.
The girl smiled curiously, approaching him after having skirted the fields carefully. A tilt of her head suggested confusion when she followed his previous gaze.
"Did you see a bird?"
She couldn't see it.
"O-Oh no. Not really."
Io laughed softly. He knew where this was going. "Nope!"
"I know, it's—"
The answer was so close.
"Superman!" They broke out in laughter, she-sincere and unrestrained. He—false.
The girl crouched beside Io, taking up the abandoned spade as she gazed at it with a careless giggle. "Aren't you going to tell me?"
Io glanced up at the invisible sky, and the island that hung; lost, between that and his land. It was still there.
That was how similar they were, and her answer had been close;
Io lied to himself.
She had been so close.
"It looks like an island."
He had blurted it out—a slip of the tongue, he so wanted himself to believe.
But it was not.
"That cloud?" She pointed—right at Io's floating island. The girl was pointing right at it, and she had called it a cloud.
So...it was a cloud.
A mere-figment of his imagination, then?
Io was seeing things.
Things that he did not know-
Whether he wanted to see.
Or believe, for the matter.
It was nighttime; and Io was having that dream again.
The one where he flew.
In a night so dark he thought himself blind, there was something in the sky. He would forget what it was called. He could feel, however, the wind underneath his wings; hear its loud strong beat as they carried him; towards the thing in the sky—it looked so much
Like an eye
Watching; looking; seeing; hunting-he was fast. There was height, and things were small and reduced to an unusual size-was this how it felt to fly?
Yes, perhaps. Beyond what he thought was the sky, limit or not, he would try. In the dream, the sky had no start, and it had no end.
It had an eye, and it had a strange smile.
There were things on the smile. They looked like buildings-ah. It must be that island that he saw. What was it doing here?
What was he doing here?
Why was he looking down?
And where were his wings?
He looks out of the window, where his neighbors had left once again after asking the same question. It was the age of exploring, or so the teens of the village had begun to think. But Io looks out of the window that they had called him from, the window that saw the distance between him and the rest of the fourteen year-olds.
He looks up.
There is an island in the sky—
But I think my eyes lie.
A bird lands on his windowsill. It chirps; as if to catch his attention.
The boy turns his head, his gaze landing on a tiny sparrow on the edge of his window.
He stared at it in envy, and in disappointment-realizing that unlike him; the bird could fly.
It was a simple revelation, really. One that required no intelligence or wisdom-it was common sense that a sparrow could fly.
But what Io really meant was that the bird had a chance of answering his question. He wondered if it could answer it for him; satisfy the rattling curiosity in his cage that was kept locked for years, and years and years—
Did it exist?
As if sensing his thoughts, the sparrow cocked its head to the side.