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The Girl on the Other Side of the Clouds

Now, that it was time to leave, a paralyzing homesickness-drenched fear wrapped its tangled thorny arms around Duma. For the longest time, her thoughts had been captivated by the notion of embarking on THE GREAT JOURNEY. She simply couldn’t resist dreaming about the addictive mystery-caped unknown which had been roaming the Earth beyond the confining clouds.

The journey’s one-sidedness, it’s no-returness, it’s inevitable ending, which had been waiting for her patiently like a lonely phantom, had never crossed Duma’s mind. Neither had the thought of that dreaded moment which would introduce her to the ground; the same moment which would bring her very own existence to a sudden stop. Until now…No, there was still plenty of time until the ground-touching moment. Wasn’t there? Ground. Just thinking about this intangible concept—or thing? Was it a thing?—made her translucent stomach cramp in pain. But she was still up in the sky, at home, where it’s safe.

Duma looked at the others as they each took their designated place, forming symmetrical and evenly spaced lines and columns—the formation. Millions of faces looked down excitedly at what was hiding on the other side of the dark dense clouds. No fear reflected in their shining eyes, only anticipation. A sudden wave of guilt washed over her. Why did she love and hate her home at the same time? Why did she want to get away from the suffocating safeness of home, yet so terrified of leaving it?

Mila, Duma’s best friend, sneaked a happy glance in her direction. Like the others, she was wearing the heavy armor which was to protect her throughout the long journey to Earth. She singled Duma to join them and take her designated place in the formation. And she wasn’t the only one. Several other puzzled and anxious eyes glared at her, the only one who was hovering alone in the corner and not in her rightful place in the sky. They couldn’t leave without her and Duma knew it.

Each day, they would practice the formation—the most important aspect of their existence, according to old Emilia, who used her old age to proclaim the title of the knower of things. “The formation isn’t our second nature,” Emilia would always remind them. “It’s our first. Our bodies were made to take their places in it. Alone, we are insignificant, meaningless. But together, we form one of the greatest powers of nature—the rain. Now, Emilia’s words echoed in Duma’s head. She was scared of these words almost as much as she was scared of the ground. She didn’t want to be part of the stupid rain; no one had ever asked her or given her a choice.

Their formation practice was always at the same time—early in the morning, right after the sun had sent its first rays of light. Duma never understood why they needed to practice it on a daily basis—they could all take their position in the formation in their sleep; it had become a reflex, a movement which had been forced upon them and which, in time, had become natural. She had grown to accept it as long as she was free to fly in the sky and explore new layers of it or play with her friends after practice. But now was the real deal; it wasn’t another practice. Now, it was time to leave the sky forever.

“Duma, are you waiting for a special invitation?” old Emilia asked in her hoarse voice. She was the one who had waited the longest time to go down to Earth. She blamed her long waiting time for destroying her youthful voice and depriving her of the ability to sing like the young ones.

Duma shifted her gaze to old Emilia. She looked so funny in her armor, which swallowed her petite body almost entirely. But despite her smallness of figure and crooked back, she stood next to the other raindrops proud and alert, ready to set on their mission. Knowing she couldn’t stall any longer, Duma flew hesitantly in their direction, hovered above their helmet-wearing little heads, and lowered to her place in the formation. Her heavy armor felt very uncomfortable. This time, though, she would not be able to take it off once practice is over.

“Well then, raindrops,” said Luisa, the chosen leader for the mission and a distant relative of old Emilia. “Let’s do it! Let’s go down!”

The raindrops all took a deep breath, folded their hands tightly inside the armor, and jumped off the murky clouds, down, to Earth.


Falling. What a strange sensation. It was nothing like flying. All Duma could see were dark clouds, then some white ones, never ending layers of thick impenetrable clouds. She didn’t dare move her head and look at the other raindrops; skydiving required them to maintain a certain posture and any wrong movement could lead them to crash into each other. These things sometimes happened. In such cases, they would either split into smaller raindrops or even cease to be raindrops altogether and fall onto the Earth as hail or snow.

Gradually, Duma’s little oval body grew accustomed to the gravity-related pull-down sensation, and she stopped feeling nauseous and light headed. She began noticing glimpses of a distant Earth: greens, browns, yellows, whites, and blues. Along with the other raindrops, Duma had learned about trees, flowers, rivers, lakes, mountains, deserts, and grounds. But it was all theory; she had yet to see the real thing—earthly nature, animals, humans. Humans.

The Earth became excitingly closer. In the distance, a flock of migrating birds hovered in what seemed to be a strange symmetrical v formation. They were much bigger than raindrops and looked completely different from them, with their feathery bodies and magnificent wings. Unlike their formation, the birds’ formation wasn’t evenly spaced or square shaped. In the back of the formation were more birds and in the front only one. It looked as if they were pointing at their destination. Duma wondered where they were heading to and if the bird in the front was their leader. She heard the other raindrops squeal with excitement as their eyes followed the distancing birds. The birds, for their part, didn’t seem to take special notice of the little raindrops who had been falling from the sky.

Duma felt silly for being so scared before. It was so much fun getting closer to Earth. Everything felt so different in this region of the sky. It wasn’t as bright as it had been before, though, on the other side of the dark clouds; even the wind blew in an unfamiliar way. The air pressure was reducing quickly; it was all so unusual and new.

Now, the outline of Earth was much clearer: there seemed to be defined borders between nature and cities, land and ocean. She saw long winding roads that looked like sad snakes; she saw tiny houses and tiny cars; she saw life. But they all kept on growing. The closer they got, the bigger everything grew. She even started seeing humans. Humans! They were still small and looked like funny dots, an earthly version of raindrops that wasn’t transparent like them.

The ground-touching moment was now more real than ever. Duma knew that some of her friends would not be as fortunate as to land on the trees, or on a window pane in a warm house, or that of a driving car. She also knew not all of them would decorate the fur of a wandering animal or the weird second skin they had been told humans tend to wear in cold weather and call coats. Some raindrops simply crashed to the ground and ceased to exist. For them, there was no time to get acquainted with Earth.

Soon, it could all be over, Duma realized as she saw the speeding ground below. But she wasn’t scared anymore. Somehow, she knew her time hadn’t come yet. Now, that they were all officially part of Earth, the little dots below turned into flesh and blood and took the shape of real live humans. Some were walking on the ground, two long legs attached to a portable rain protection—Duma would soon learn these were called ‘umbrellas’—others were running, seeming to look for shelter from the rain. Could it be that humans were scared of raindrops as much as they were scared of them? Or were they only scared of the rain? Of that intimidating formation? Everything was spinning around her, a mixture of new colors, sounds, smells. The trees, the houses, the cars, the walking rain protections, the roads, the humans.

“Farewell, raindrops!” Emilia called somewhere below. “See you back up in the sky some other lifetime, I gue-” Emilia’s hoarse voice was cut by the encounter with the ground.

Duma felt herself being pulled away from the formation. All she could see was green, then a loud sound was heard. The ground-touching moment. Many of her friends finished their journey. But not her. She shook her head in confusion, took off her helmet, and looked around her. She was no longer in the air, but she wasn’t on the ground, either. She expected that moment to hurt her; she expected to feel pain, but she didn’t. Her little body rested on a soft green leaf that seemed to be flying on its own. Puzzled, Duma rubbed her eyes and looked around her. Before her, she could see some of her friends hanging down from the trees and waving their hands joyfully at her. They called her, but she couldn’t hear what they were saying. Mila was also there. Duma sighed in relief. Mila was pointing at something with her little watery hand.

“What is it?” Duma called, but Mila didn’t seem to hear it. Duma looked to her sides. On one side, were driving cars; on the other, were houses with red roofs. Mila shook her and looked up at the sky. Duma followed her lead and raised her gaze. But, instead of the gray sky she had expected to see, Duma saw her, the human. Overwhelmed by the proximity to the human, she rolled on the leaf and almost fell down, to the ground. The hovering leaf moved slightly, helping Duma regain her balance and secure her position on it. That’s when Duma realized it wasn’t the leaf who had helped; it was the human. Three pink fingers were hiding under the leaf; no, they weren’t hiding, but rather holding the leaf. Those three pink fingers had just saved her life; the human had saved her life.

The human lowered its face to her. Two brown almond eyes, slightly hidden behind matching brown bangs, observed her curiously from above. The eyes were accompanied by a sweet shy smile which revealed straight white teeth and two deep dimples, right beneath two rosy cheeks. Feeling certain that the little girl won’t let her fall, Duma mustered the courage and crawled closer to the edge, looking down. Below, she saw two walking legs which had been placed inside flowery purple rain boots. Duma glanced at her friends on the trees. She had never seen them look so happy. In the growing distance, Mila waved at her. She waved back and said her goodbyes in her heart. Duma wondered where the human was taking her to; was her real journey only just beginning now? She looked up at the sky. It was still there, waiting for her to come back home, one day.


The little girl stopped in front the house with the sky-blue roof. She opened the squeaking metal gate and walked along a gravel path, pink, white, and red cyclamen plant-filled flowerbeds decorating both of its sides. Duma recognized some of her friends on the delicate petals; faces from home in this foreign world. She gestured with her head, they gestured back. The girl climbed five wide steps, placed the yellow rain protection on the patio, opened the big wooden door, and stepped inside.

“Maddy, sweetie, don’t walk around the house in your dirty boots, alright?” a woman’s voice came from somewhere inside.

“Yeah, Mom, I know. You already told me one million times before, remember?” the girl said as she leaned on a wall on which hung a multitude of keys and took off her boots. She placed them on a small hairy carpet, right beside the entrance door.

Maddy. That was the only part Duma could understand; the rest of what they were saying was as good as gibberish to her. So the girl has a name. Just like raindrops. And she, they—she and that other owner of the voice called Mom—can also converse. Too bad Duma couldn’t understand their language, though.

“Lunch will be ready soon!” the woman called again.

“Okay!” Maddy called back as she climbed up the stairs leading to her room, the leaf firmly in her hand. In her socks, she walked on the wall-to-wall carpet, went through a beaded curtain, and entered her room. Once inside, she gently lay the leaf on a banana-shaped writing desk, got to her knees, and rummaged through several drawers. “Here it is!” Maddy said, then stood up. In one hand, she was holding a blue glass jar and in the other, a pack of raw cotton. She tore a piece of cotton, put it inside the little jar, and leveled it until it formed a nice bed. Then, she reached for Duma’s leaf and lay it carefully on the cotton bed.

“Neat! Now I have my own piece of sky, right here in my room!” Maddy said and danced around. She placed the glass jar on the windowsill, right above her bed, and put on her cat slippers. “Look outside, little raindrop,” she said. “Your friends are there. Isn’t the rain pretty? I will be back soon. Mom is nagging me about lunch.” Maddy walked through her beaded curtain and ran down the stairs.


Every day, when Maddy came back home from school, she would run to her room and visit Duma. She would carefully take Duma’s leaf out of the jar and transfer her to a fresh leaf— leaves had a tendency to dry and crumble rather quickly. Then, Maddy would use the pipette from science class to add little drops of water onto Duma’s leaf. “So you won’t feel lonely,” Maddy would say. In the beginning, in her first days with Maddy, Duma didn’t like these strange drops so much. They talked funny and insisted on their being distant relatives of hers, although, as far as she could tell, raindrops that come from the sky and water drops that come from Earth had no family connections whatsoever. Gradually, though, she began enjoying her conversations with them, especially when they asked her to tell them stories about the life she used to have up in the sky. In exchange, they would tell her about the exciting long journeys they had made from lakes, springs, and wells all the way to the city pipes. Duma couldn’t get enough of these stories. These drops were not so bad, she realized; they were just different. Although the drops on Duma’s leaf would change every day, they were all rather similar in nature; so much that they almost seemed the same to her. Maddy was right: thanks to Duma’s new watery friends, her homesickness wasn’t as bad.

But the best part was Duma’s and Maddy’s daily walks together. Duma had waited for these fun strolls around the little suburban neighborhood all day long. As if reading her mind, Maddy would open the jar’s lid and enable Duma and the other drops to enjoy the fresh breezes of the wind and the sound of the singing birds. Their singing reminded Duma of the raindrops’ melodies up in the sky. Maddy shared everything that had happened to her with Duma. The other drops, who knew they were only there for the day, never really bothered paying attention to what Maddy had to say. But Duma lingered on every single word which came out of Maddy’s childish mouth. After great struggles, she began understanding Maddy’s enigmatic human language. She had no other choice; not understanding Maddy, her Maddy, was not an option. She would listen to Maddy as she told her about the kids that made fun of her at school; as she talked about her father, who, after her parents’ divorce, didn’t seem to love her as much as he used to; as she told her how worried her mother was when she discovered Maddy was going for walks with a glass jar with a leaf inside instead of playing with the other kids; as she told her about the secret crush she had on Andrew, the boy next door and her only friend. The better Duma could understand Maddy, the more she loved her. Maddy was always there for her. Maddy trusted her with her most treasured secrets. Duma was the only one who knew about the many bumps that had accompanied Maddy on her aching path to adulthood.

Time went by and Maddy wasn’t a little girl anymore. But, just like she had promised Duma on the first day they met, she didn’t leave her behind. Even after Maddy left home and went to college. The little raindrop made her feel closer to the sky and the sky closer to her, she hoped as she blew her silent wishes. Maddy knew Duma well, and she didn’t need to speak the language of the rain to know what had meant the most to her little friend. That’s why, whenever it rained, Maddy would grab her portable rain protection and step outside, so Duma could see her friends again. Then, Duma would look up and marvel at her lack of homesickness. The sky wasn’t her home, not anymore. Maddy was her home; the rain was her home, every single time.

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