by Orson Scott Card
(Excerpted from The Gate Thief)
On a certain day in November, in the early afternoon, if you had just parked your car at
Kenney's burger place in Buena Vista, Virginia, or maybe you were walking into Nick's Italian
Kitchen or Todd's Barbecue, you might have cast your gaze up the hill toward Perry McCluer
High School. It could happen. You have to look somewhere, right?
You might have noticed something shooting straight up out of the school. Something the size
and shape of, say, a high school student. Arms waving, maybe. Legs kicking -- count on that.
Definitely a human being.
Like a rocket, upward until he's a mile above Buena Vista. He hangs in the air for just a
moment. Long enough to see and be seen.
And then down he goes. Straight down, and not falling, no, shooting downward just as fast as he
went up. Bound to kill himself at that speed.
You can't believe you saw it. So you keep watching for a moment longer, a few seconds, and
look! There it is again! Too far away to be sure whether it's the same kid or a different one.
But if you've got someone with you, you grab them, you say, "Look! Is that a person? Is that a
"In the sky! Above the high school, look up, I'm saying straight up, you seeing what I'm
Down comes the kid, plummeting toward the school.
"He's got to be dead," you say. "Nobody could live through that."
And there it is again! Straight up!
"That's one hell of a trampoline," somebody says.
If you noticed it early enough, you'd see it repeated about thirty times. And then it stops.
Do you think they're dead? I don't know, how could anybody live through that? Should we go
up and see? I'm not even sure it was people, it could have been, like, dummies or something.
We'd sound so stupid -- hey, you got a bunch of kids getting catapulted straight up and then
smashing down again? It can't be what it looked like. Maybe we'll see it on the news tonight.