Charlie’s Room: Upside-Down

“Dad?” Charlie propped himself up on an elbow.

Isaac pulled back his hand that was reaching for the light switch and turned around. “Yes?”

“How do people on the other side of the world walk around upside-down?”

“They don’t.” Isaac smiled. “They walk around right side up, just like us.”

Charlie looked confused. “But they’re on the other side of the earth. They have to be upside-down.” Charlie picked up his pillow and used his fingers to walk across the top of the pillow. “See? We’re right side up like this.” His fingers walked upside-down on the bottom of the pillow. “And the other side is upside-down.”

“The earth is a lot bigger than your pillow.” Isaac crossed the room and held out his hand. Charlie handed over the pillow. Isaac held it up. “Imagine that your pillow is floating in the middle of space. In space, there’s no up or down. For up and down you need context and gravity. If your pillow had gravity, then down would be the pillow and up would be away from the pillow.”

“Huh.” Charlie thought for a moment. “So the ground is always down and the sky is always up?”

“For us. If there are beings that live on the bottoms of the clouds somehow, it’s probably the opposite for them. The ground would be their sky, and rainbows would look like smiles instead of frowns.”

Charlie laughed. “I hadn’t thought about it, but It’s true. Rainbows are frowns, aren’t they?”

“That’s right.” Isaac handed back the pillow. “No wonder so many people are grumpy when it rains.”

Charlie fluffed up his pillow and put it in place. “I like the rain. If there were cloud people, I guess they love it too. For them the rain would rain up, right? And their umbrellas would all catch the rain. I wonder what they’d do with it.” Charlie flopped back on his pillow.

“Maybe they use it to grow lightning. Or flowers that bloom into snowflakes.” Isaac patted Charlie’s arm and crossed the room again.

“It would be interesting to be a cloud person and live upside-down.” Charlie sounded sleepy. “Maybe they exist on another world far, far away.”

“Maybe they do.” Isaac turned off the light. The nightlight blinked back on.

“Goodnight, Charlie. I love you.”

“Goodnight, Dad.”

Isaac closed the door partway and walked down the hallway by the glow of the nightlight. The lights in the living room were on, and Marianne was sitting on the couch working on a sudoku puzzle. The living room window was like a mirror, reflecting the room within.

Isaac turned at the last moment and entered the kitchen. The lights were off, but outside, the streetlights and moonlight left everything well-lit but somehow bleached away all the colors. There were clouds in the sky, and the weather reports predicted it would rain at some point in the night.

Once, Isaac had been on an airplane and had managed to claim a seat by the window. As the airplane had climbed up through the clouds, he’d seen the wisps of white mist swirl around shapes of things that were almost there. Were there really cloud people? Maybe they did exist here instead of just far away.

It would be silly to believe that there weren’t things unknown and undiscovered in the world. Isaac knew better. Cloud people? Isaac thought back to that airplane flight. Yes, it was certainly a possibility.

If there were cloud people, how much control did they have over the weather? Or was it like living on a fault line or near an active volcano, preparing for the inevitable and learning to recognize the signs of impending disaster? Which would be worse, erupting lava or erupting lightning? Could they travel between clouds?

Isaac watched the clouds gather, dimming the moonlight and then hiding it all together. It might be a cloud people gathering. Perhaps the rain and lightning weren’t disasters after all. Maybe they were signs of celebration, mirroring our fireworks and confetti.

“Are you in the kitchen?” Marianne called from the living room.

“Yes. I’ll be right in.” Isaac turned away from the window.

“Could you bring me a glass of water?”

Isaac brought Marianne the glass. Just then, lightning flashed, briefly disrupting the front window’s mirror. The lights flickered as thunder rumbled moments later. “Can we turn out the lights and watch the lightning?” Isaac asked.

Marianne smiled. “That sounds nice. Sure.”

And they sat in the dark and watched the lightning and listened the rain hit the window as they sat inside cozy and warm. It was nice. Isaac hoped that if there really were cloud people, they were happy too.