Determining the Gull Bone Index
by James R. Gapinski Read author interview February 15, 2016
We’ve been freefalling for months according to Becky’s day planner. An expanse of mountainous crags stretches beneath us, endless and unmoving. Perspective lines do not shift. Daniel insists we move closer to the ground each day—he has developed a method of squinting and measuring distances with his fingers.
The rush of constant velocity had been nauseating at first, but Becky and Daniel adapted within days. I still vomit some mornings. I dream about falling, and I wake just before I hit the ground, but then I’m still falling in real life, and it’s a giant mindfuck of contradictory sensations. I’m weightless and seemingly motionless, but I know there’s violent gravity at work. The laws of attraction—that’s what Becky’s textbook calls it. We take turns reading to pass the time; her backpack contents are the only sources of amusement we have.
We spend the morning riding jet streams away from our waste and my occasional vomit, which falls next to us at a constant speed. Becky’s textbook talks about a hammer and feather and how they’d each fall at the same rate in a vacuum.
We spend the afternoon trapping birds. A flock approaches and we ready our small net, stitched together from socks, shoelaces, and whatever clothing could be spared. We catch a gull. Becky plucks the feathers and stuffs them in her purse; she has trouble sleeping without a pillow and almost has enough feathers for a facsimile. I worry that the purse-pillow will drift away in the middle of the night.
Daniel cleans a bone and says that he’s fine-tuning a new method for measuring our descent. He holds the bone in front of his eye and does that same tired squint. He maps approaching cloud formations. I’ve never seen him interested in the clouds before—maybe the unchanging ground has gotten boring. “Eight-hundred-nineteen-point-two gull bone indexed latitude,” he says as if that means anything.
Becky spies a shattered piece of airplane fuselage falling in the distance. She tells me how her niece builds model planes. She says it’s her niece’s birthday tomorrow, double-checking her day planner to be certain. I say we should celebrate. She agrees. We rummage through Becky’s backpack of goodies and find some old receipts. We tear off little nubs of paper and toss them like confetti. The papery snow hovers all around us. We approach Daniel’s eight-hundred-nineteen-point-two cloud. It rises like a fluffy continent beneath us.
We enter the cloud, and in the zero-visibility haze, we frantically shout “Marco” and “Polo” to each other, desperate and hopeful and terrified between each call-and-response.
About the Author:
James R. Gapinski is managing editor of The Conium Review. His fiction has appeared Juked, Word Riot, NANO Fiction, Cheap Pop, Lunch Ticket, and elsewhere. James lives with his partner in Portland, Oregon.
About the Artist:
Paul Bilger's photography has appeared at Qarrtsiluni, Brevity, and Kompresja. His work has also been featured on music releases by Dead Voices on Air and Autistici. When not taking pictures, he is a lecturer in philosophy and film theory at Chatham University. He is the art director at SmokeLong Quarterly.