by Kevin M. Kelly

   The voice buzzed over the cellphone annoyingly. "You really should consider losing some weight, you know."
  "Figures," I mumbled to myself. I always get the guy who won't shut up for a minute. Just because I'm not talking doesn't mean we've been disconnected.
  "Huh?" came his confused reply. I hadn't intended him to hear that.
  "Oh, nothing. I realize I'm not exactly in top physical condition, but could we keep it business?" I asked.
  "Sure, fine."
  And the phone went silent. Thankfully silent. I was surrounded by the quiet and steady humming of fans of air conditioners, all designed with the purpose of keeping a few little boxes in a room with no windows cool and clean.
  I am Kevin M. Kelly, an equipment maintenance technician for one of the larger ISPs in the country. I'm 20 years old, have red hair, and I'm about 50 pounds overweight, which is something I struggle with on an almost daily basis. I'm just a little bit tired of people talking to me about it, and...
  I just bumped into a dialup router's power switch, dumping some fifty people from the internet.
  "Whoops," I chuckled nervously. Don't say it, don't say it, I thought to myself.
  "See, I told you so," the other technician snickered over the phone.
  I sighed, flipped the switch back up, and turned back to what I was doing. I fiddled with my laptop a bit, connected a few cables, and surveyed the work I'd done so far. "OK, I set up the other router in parallel. Have you reconfigured the upstream systems?"
  "Yeah," he mumbled.
  "OK, are you all ready for me to remove the other box?" I double checked.
  "Yes," he sighed.
  I grinned, "OK, write this down! As of 11:00AM PST, legacy router CGW02-401 is offline!" I flipped the switch on the old box, and some of the fans sputtered and whirred down. "Crap!" I cursed, then shivered.
  "What is it? What? Everything looks fine!" came the panicked voice over the phone.
  "Oh, this piece of junk router shocked the hell out of me." I felt hot, and dizzy. I shook my head, once, twice, but my vision was spotty. "I don't think that was a small shock," I said quietly into the cellphone.
  Before I could hear my friend's reply, my hand froze in pain and I dropped the stupid thing. Another wave of dizziness. I stumbled back into a server rack, pushing it back with my... something on my back. With a small groan I collapsed forward into the new router, pulling out cables as I fell to the ground.
  I guess we're in for some extended downtime... was the last thing I thought before I was taken by unconciousness.

/\_/\ /\_/\

  I opened my eyes.. I was falling, but I couldn't see anything but myself, and I couldn't find any source of light. I could not see where I was falling to, I could not see where I was falling from. So I closed my eyes, and once again I slipped into the darkness...
  I awoke abruptly as I belly-flopped into the water.
  It hurt, a lot.
  Who knew how long I had been falling? I tried to swim up but I was unable to do anything but slowly sink, despite my best efforts. Darkness above, darkness below. So I swam down, down into the darkness, thinking I might be able to escape whatever current I was trapped in.
  Suddenly there was light, and I was falling out of the water. I landed with a thud in a grassy field. There was nobody around.
  No trace of the water... and I wasn't wet.
  I stood up, dusted myself off, and surveyed my surroundings. The field I stood in was in fact a valley, the sun was sinking behind mountains to the west, painting the sky in brilliant rainbow hues. To the east was the tallest hill I'd ever seen, and to the north and the south raged violent thunderstorms. Figuring my best bet for finding a way back to civilization was with the hill, I started walking eastwards. I must have traveled miles, but time seemed to pass by quickly. I was at the base of the hill in the blink of an eye, and the sky was covered with a blanket of stars.
  Upon reaching the peak of the hill I stumbled upon something quite interesting. To the north and south I could still flashes of lightning, and the mountains to the west were cast in pale moonlight. However, further to the east was nothing more than a dense fog that my gaze seemed to slide right off of... I always ended up looking to the north or the south. Although I tried to move further east I always ended up back on top of the hill. With me on top of the hill was an apple tree, it's leaves rustling in what seemed like an ever-present breeze. It looked like a good place to rest.
  I gave up on moving eastwards and turned to face the west, and suddenly it hit me... this was my dream. The dream where I always imagined flying through clear and untroubled skies over unknown lands. Laughing, I ran towards the valley and leapt from the hill, arms outstretched. Suddenly I felt my wings push through my imaginary shirt, and I yelled with triumph! I felt the air lifting me up and I started to cry, filled with bliss. Never before had the dream felt so real. I swooped downwards over the valley, quickly gaining speed as I dropped in altitude.
  I truly loved to fly this way. I felt more alive than I ever had before, and I never wanted to lose it. I thought about it every day. I imagined it, I daydreamed it, and I wanted it with all my soul. This place, this dream, was my secret wish. The one that I could never share with anyone. The dream that they all would laugh at, and that I felt nobody would understand.
  It was heaven.
  I flew in the valley of my dream for what seemed like years, content with what seemed like reality. I never explored the mountains, and I never strayed far from the hill. I took naps under the shade of the tree in the summer, the cool breeze ruffling my hair.
  One day in early autumn after some years had past I simply decided it was time to move on. The hill was nice, and flying was literally my dream come true, but I am inquisitive by nature and rarely satisfied with any one place for long. I had what I figured must be the best method of travel for exploring that there was. After saying goodbye to the tree that had been my only company for so long, I took off from the hill and headed north, into the ever-present storms.