From Cloud to Cloud
Written by EvanC
This work was last updated October 3, 2019
The sky was perfectly clear. Above was a deep blue transitioning into pale yellow as it descended toward the horizon, hinting at the sunset hidden behind the foreground of tall buildings. If this were a painting, people would marvel at its colourful depiction of a sky. Nat took in this view, leaning out her 6th floor window of a building that rose so much higher.
The sky was perfectly clear with the exception of three passenger planes flying in scrambled directions, giving the sky some character with their vapor trails. It reminded Nat of the painter Micheal Dubose, who was famous for painting long landscapes that would often feature a single line of lightning shooting through the otherwise empty scene.
A bird flew in the sky, its species hidden by distance, showing up only as a black spec in the open sky. Nat guessed it was a crow on the basis that the crow was one of the few birds she could name.
Eventually Nat noticed a flaw in the clear sky. A very thin black line no longer than half her thumb if she measured the length from her perspective. It was so thin that it could have been her imagination or a trick of the light, like the little floaters that Nat always sees in her eyes. Nat took off her glasses and wiped them with her shirt but the thin black line remained. It looked like a pencil sketch line left behind in a painted sky.
Elsewhere, where the sun was also setting, a person dialed their phone. Nat answered.
Nat had first met Alice at an event but it wasn’t until two months later in the middle of nowhere that they actually got to know each other. It was the hottest day of the summer and the bus Nat was riding on came to a sudden halt. Something about an overheated engine the driver said as the passengers descended onto the grassy ditch beside the road. Alice recognized Nat first. Alice wore an attractive outfit with a practical baseball cap. Nat couldn’t remember what she herself had worn that day.
“Hey I recognize you,” greeted Alice. “One of those wine and cheese tasters a while ago?”
“Oh yeah, The Rossdale Wine & Cheese Night,” Nat confirmed. “That was a hell of a night eh?”
“Yeah I haven’t drunken wine since.”
The five other passengers stayed with the broken bus while Nat and Alice walked through the low corn fields towards downtown.
“What do you study?” asked Alice.
“Ouf how’s that going?”
“Terrible it sucks.”
“What do you want to do then?”
Nat paused to think about the answer that was already there in her mind. “The arts. I want to paint.”
Alice let out a quick laugh, “Those seem pretty opposite.”
“They’re surprisingly similar sometimes. They complement each other.”
“So why don’t you switch?”
“I don’t know.” Nat paused to find the correct words but found the typical meaningless answer, “I can’t just switch. I’m too far into my program to give it up.”
“Fine then finish your maths first then go to the arts.” Alice stopped walking and turned to face Nat. Nat stopped walking too and met her gaze.
Alice spoke as if reading a fortune cookie, “I believe you should strive for what you want and don’t let anything stop you. Figure out what you want and get it. No matter what.”
For the next year and a half Alice would often give good advice to Nat. Advice that Nat knew was good and wanted to follow but never really did. Nat continued to dream of painting but remained trapped studying mathematics.
“So what do you like to paint?” questioned Alice.
Nat looked up towards the hot sunny sky, “I love to paint skylines.”
“Oh yeah? I love looking up at the sky too. It’s my dream actually to become a nephrologist.”
“Studying clouds.” Alice answered looking up from the cornfields toward the bright sky splattered with puffy white clouds. “I guess we complement each other well.”
A year later, Alice found a research job right after graduating, in a city not too far away from Nat, but not close enough to relay important news in person.
Alice spoke into the phone, “Due to a series of random and unrelated events, they want me to go to Australia.”
“What’s in Australia?” questioned Nat as she continued to lean out her window.
“We have clouds here too,” Nat said as she watched the thin black line in the clear, cloudless sky.
“No, there’s special conditions in Australia. And it would be under Dr. Fujita. She’s famous among the nephrologists.” Again there was that optimistic cheer in her dreamy voice.
Nat thought about the different clouds in Australia with their unique cloud accents and cloud culture.
“When would you go?”
Four days from now. It made Nat’s stomach turn.
“That’s pretty short notice. Why you?”
“Like I said, due to a series of random and unrelated events that is too long to explain and is pretty irrelevant when you think about it.
Nat repeated the line in her head again, Due to a series of random and unrelated events.
Nat finally asked the real question, “For how long?”
“It’s a two year contract but it can become a permanent placement.”
What a scary word, Nat thought. Permanent.
There was a long pause from either side.
The sirens of an ambulance rang out below Nat’s window as it drove by. Nat waited until the screeching passed before asking what Alice was going to do but she interrupted:
“I don’t know what I’m going to do. It’s all so much to drop everything. I’m supposed to go to Sally’s birthday party this weekend but now I would be on the other side of the world. And then the following week I’m supposed to see you.” Her voice trailed to a silence.
Nat knew it was Alice’s dream career. It sounded great. Under Dr. Fujita: famous among the cloud community, and a chance for a permanent research position. But two years is a long time, it had only taken half of that to fall in love after all.
“When do you have to decide?”
“They want an answer tomorrow. It’s time sensitive.”
Nat returned her attention to the sky. The pure blue colour had become a twilight purple, and the orange horizon was dying away. The imperfection line was still there, though harder to detect. In a few minutes the colours would vanish into no shades but black. The pencil trace line would disappear into darkness.
Figure out what you want and get it. No matter what.
Alice had finally gotten the opportunity of her dreams, but it wasn’t what Nat wanted.
“You should stay, Alice.”
There was silence between the two of them.
The sky darkened into night as the sun settled behind the tall buildings, all distinctions disappearing. Even the thin pencil line faded away until only the white contrails remained in the black scene.