By Ronnie Rabbit

I can't stand to fly.

But everyone needs me. The Rangers need me, the people in trouble need me. Everyone needs me to be able to fly -

So I do.

I climb back into the cockpit, again, and try to distract myself going over controls I know better than I know myself. Check. Check. Check. My left hand grips on the wheel, tight, white-knuckled. Check.

I pull down my goggles that everyone on board thinks are to protect my eyes. They are, but not the way they think. I don't want them to see when I start crying.

Seat belt. Throttle.

We climb.

The tree begins falling away fast. The others make a vague background buzz, discussing the case, acorns, cheese, me. I cling to the rope of noise desperately for support. It's not quite so bad, here, just starting, but even now I can't distract enough of my mind just working the controls, it's too easy, it was always too easy and I think *so much*.

Up. Up. Up.

The tree is the size of a stick and the whole park seems like it's becoming no more than the size of the tree beneath us. Falling away. Falling...

The world is further from me all the time. My eyes start watering. I hold on tighter and work triple integrals in my head.

Up. Up.

Oh, golly- it's starting- I can feel it- my whole body shakes, I desperately try to control it, to hide it from the others as much as I can, but they can't see it anyway, in their own small worlds so far below me-


We reach the peak of our flight.
I lift a hand from the wheel, reach out, and touch my father's face.
We begin our return.


I start to be able to feel my body again. I start to be able to control the shaking. I'm not alone anymore- the others are starting to come back, the vague noise of their words.

Down. Down.

I remind myself to start breathing. Okay. The city is coming back, climbing in a visual illusion I can't fully appreciate because my eyes are full of tears.

Rising. Rising towards me. The city is big enough to swallow me again, to make me just another tiny mouse among millions.

Down. Down. Down.

I can almost think again, and immediately I avoid doing so as much as posible. Pre-landing routines. Excited chattering. One of them knows something is wrong- he always does- but he knows not to ask. He stopped asking years ago. He joins me in listening to the other two argue instead, and we share our silence together. The city begins rising very fast now.

We descend.

Throttle down. The cups catch sharply on the rooftop, and everyone jerks forward - gosh, I'm glad I remembered the seat belts...

While everyone jumps out energetically I carefully lift my goggles and wipe the tears from my eyes. Can't let anyone see, can't let them worry. They need me.

Shutting down is less complicated, but that's okay. The sky is behind me, not ahead. It doesn't hurt as much from this direction, I don't need to stop thinking quite so much. I wince a bit as I pry my hand back off the wheel.

They need me to fly, so I do- but-

They're rushing towards our goal. I push it all aside again, clambering out of the plane. People here need me, there's no time for myself. Everyone needs me.

It's coming soon, I know. The day I go up, by myself, and- it's too beautiful, I-

I won't be able to come back down.

Just me... the sky... and Daddy... forever.
I can't stand to fly...

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