Her name was Emma, and she wasn't afraid of falling. For as long as she could remember she had been jumping - always plummeting. She understood the laws of nature: no matter how high she climbed, gravity would always carry her back to the ground; gravity would always grant her momentum to fall and wind-resistance to float. She understood why birds had wings and humans didn't; it was because humans would just as soon leave, and they belonged on the ground.
They always called her a little sparrow, always trying to fly, but they never understood that she didn't want updrafts or wings, she only wanted to scale walls and scurry up trees, to test the limits.
She wanted to throw herself from rooftops and swan dive from balancing bars, challenging inertia and gravity and the laws of motion. She wanted to cannonball into puddles and see if the ocean caught her, or if she merely fell through the earth to the steaming, bubbling core. She wanted to lift up her arms in triumph, her hair whipping around her face, and fall through the clouds so that she knew what it felt like to be a tiny raindrop: descending - proving that everything, even her, returned to the ground. She wanted to test mass times acceleration and belly-flop into two inches of snow, leaving little pieces of Emma everywhere: slivers of bone, strands of hair, and tiny indentations in the ice that looked like fallen angels.
She wanted to climb to the top of the tallest tree and look down; to gaze with eagle eyes at the miniscule world beneath her, and feel larger than life. She simply wanted to fall, because she was afraid of flying.
She was always breaking something. If you looked at an x-ray, you would see splinters and slivers and severed muscles sewn back together; silver bolts through her joints and abrasions on her skin. You would wonder how someone so hastily put together could continue on, but she didn't need elbows and knees in order to fall.
They said she was a little accident-prone sparrow, but they didn't understand that she liked accidents and crutches and bruises - it proved she was doing something right; that Newton was correct, and little girls would always fall, like apples from trees.
They wrapped her in bubble wrap and plaster, but still, she leapt from trees, not even looking back at the birds who watched her in wonder. They locked her inside, where she wouldn't break, but she pushed back against the walls and windows with splinted-fingers and brittle bird-bones. She somersaulted off of desks and threw herself from bookshelves, cracking her head against hard wood floors and bruising her tailbone on slick linoleum. She ricocheted through the house, bouncing out of furniture and slamming into picture frames, never looking up, never looking back, simply wanting to be free. Eventually they gave up trying to contain her; she was like a bird rattling its cage, they said, she wanted to fly so badly.
She tested the laws and found them to be true. She was 13 years old and had broken 67 of her 206 bones. She was 10% metal, 47% bone, and 90% water. She was 147% Emma - flightless, limitless, bursting at the seams. 147% inertia and gravity and potential energy thrown from a tree like a baby bird learning to fly. They figured she'd grow out of it.
She was 13 years old when she fell too far, and broke her spine in 3 places. She was a broken-winged bird; a little sparrow that tried too many times and finally reached its limit. They picked her up and set her wings, but nothing could mend those brittle bird-bones, broken one too many times. They tied her to a wheelchair and she became 14% spinal-plates and rotating wheels. She was 161% Emma - flightless, limitless, bursting with wasted potential.
They counted the bones left unbroken and set her loose to live a life full of unclimbable trees and towering bookshelves just out of reach. She sat and watched and waited, but she never stopped trying to be free. The birds gazed down at her with pity, but she never looked up.
She was 24% metal, 47% broken bones, and 7% paralysis. She was 168% determination and never-forgotten dreams. She didn't want to run or stand or fly - she had never wanted that. In truth, she was scared to death of flying. All that open sky, and nothing to tether her to earth. She was afraid that, if she lifted up into the air, she would never be able to come back down. Humans weren't meant to fly, after all, and she wasn't born with wings. She was born to fall, to challenge the laws that governed her world, to prove that everything, even her, always returned to the ground.
She was 13 years old when she climbed to the top of the tallest building. There were one thousand, eight hundred and sixty steps from the street level to the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building, and she dragged herself to the rooftop just to look down at the miniscule world beneath her. They said she would never run, never stand, never fly again. But she didn't need to. It took only one step to get back to street level.
Her name was Emma, and she was 64% bone and 72% invincibility. She fell, she broke, but she always got back up again, ready to spread her arms and try once more. She was 13 years worth of fractures and ambulance drives; skimmed knees and tree-sap fingers. For 13 years she had been falling and jumping and springing back from the brink of death, but in one moment, she was a mere indentation in the ice.
She looked like a fallen angel.