Andy Naramore fell, screaming, from the cliff.
Not the best way to start a story. A fine way to end one. But not the best way to start it. Especially when, although not the main character, Andy is necessary to the rest of the story.
But that’s precisely what happened. Andy, who never had the best judgment, wanted to look down. The cliff was exceptionally impressive. It was a sheer rock face plunging down to a cold mountain lake. At the lake’s surface, you could be in a boat a mere arm’s length away from the cliff, and the bottom of the lake would still be several hundred feet down.
Utterly spectacular, and, to Andy, utterly tempting.
So he got too close, and a few rocks gave way, and, after a sickening moment of sliding and tottering, he fell.
Instantly, wind tore at his hair and face, and he found himself closing his eyes and wishing, with all his might, that he might slow that deadly fall.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Andy opened his eyes. He had stopped some three meters or so above the water. He was hovering like a Macy’s Day balloon. The water’s surface was bowed by whatever invisible force was keeping him aloft.
Andy Naramore was The First.
He didn’t call himself that. He was not that narcissistic. That nickname was later given to him by the media.
“The First” was an utterly inaccurate nickname. Andy wasn’t the first in history, or the first on the North American continent, or the first even in the twenty-first century. He was just the first one to go public. In other words, he was the first one the media had heard about. But that’s all the media cared about. So, as far as the media, and by extension most of the public, were concerned, Andy was and always would be The First.
Andy considered his predicament. True, he was only about twice his height above the water, but the water was very cold, and the lake was nothing but cliffs for a long ways. It would probably be a kilometer’s swim from here.
He realized he could feel the force pushing back up on him. Very gently, he reached out with his mind and tried to control it, to move him away from the cliff.
Instantly, the force vanished. Andy plunged into the water.
He stripped off his day pack and most of his clothes away, letting them sink to the bottom of the lake.
All the way back to the beach, he thought about what had happened, and determined to do it again.
He didn’t do it from the top of a cliff. Andy was too nervous to try that again. Instead, he rented a boat and, wearing a life vest, found a rock overlooking a deep spot in the lake.
Many, many stinging drops later, he got it to happen again.
Once again, he couldn’t control it, and it simply vanished beneath him to painful effect. But that gave him the confidence that it wasn’t just a fluke. Soon he could gently control his height above the water. And soon after that, he figured out a way of pushing the force one way or the other to propel him forwards and backwards. Another milestone was passed when he was able to lift himself from the water without jumping off the rock.
By then several days had passed, and he had called in sick to his job as much as he could before needing a doctor’s note or a death certificate. He decided to start practicing over land, so he could go back home.
The first time, he did a painful grinding belly-flop onto a gravel beach. The force pushed down much more firmly over land than over water, and he didn’t know that he would have to adjust. But soon he could control his flight over land as well as water, and he knew it was time to drive back home—dreaming of flying the whole way.
Andy eventually learned that his power of flight obeyed many more of the laws of physics than, say, the superhero powers in his childhood comics did. Though he could control the height, if he flew too high, the force became so narrow in its focus that it began to jab into him painfully. If he flew over someone, even from quite a height, they fell to the ground as surely as if he had jumped on their back. And at high speeds, he couldn’t see or breathe. Though he developed a helmet to help with that, high speeds also meant getting extremely cold. Between the cold and one time nearly decapitating himself on a power line, he had learned to fly slowly.
Though he tried to keep it all secret, he began to notice some men taking an interest in him: strange men with nothing to do but sit in a van and follow him around. Men with radios and odd bulges in their jackets. Men who looked like they meant business.
That was when he decided to go public.
It turned out to be the best decision he had ever made. Naturally, some people were skeptical—after all, he was the first to demonstrate any sort of genuinely supernatural power—but soon many people understood that he really, truly could do it.
He could fly.
He became famous, and fabulously wealthy, performing exhibitions of his power and giving speeches and interviews. His personality blossomed by having to interact with so many people, and he found a woman, Lily, with whom he fell in love. “Finally!” cried his mother when she heard.
You might say he lived happily ever after.
You’d be wrong.
But that part of the story comes later.