Henry had told me a bit about what was to come. Of course, I did not pay much attention to his ravings at the time. Henry Williams was a brilliant scientist. And, of course, he was quirky. As in strange. So strange. His intelligence was way off and beyond the charts. Henry is my neighbor. He is lovable and so sweet. He is also a bit vague at times. And quite odd. He might appear outside of his house, dancing across his well manicured lawn, at any time, holding a hammer in one hand and an antenna in another. Usually barefooted and in his usual chocolate brown jogging suit. That was Henry. The neighborhood’s mad scientist. I did not share many of my close neighbor’s views about Henry, though. Many thought he was crazy. I knew better. He had even babysat for me on occasion. A really nice guy who loved science and experiments. His daily life was figuring out new and exciting things. Things way beyond my imagination and schooling. That did not bother me. Henry was a rare gem of a guy. Fifty and widowed, he had lived beside me for over ten years. My almost grown in his mind teenaged son adored Henry. Max had an interest in science, also. Inspired by Henry, I am sure, but in my view, that was not a bad thing. I am Elsa Banks. A forty-five old widow myself. I felt that I understood Henry. We both were satisfied in having the loves of our lives once. The losing them both to cancer bonded Henry and I. Max regarded Henry as a second dad and a better one I could not imagine. Henry got preoccupied with his experiments and since his early retirement, I had noticed that he appeared on his front lawn more and more often. He always had unusual objects in his hands. It could be a coat hanger, a music cd, a plastic spoon, but whatever he held, he was always doing a sort of manic dance with it. Holding one object up and lowering the other one and vice versa. Well, who was I to question science? We all need science. Just look at our dependency on cell phones, video games, medicines, radio, television, cable, wii and such. Technology and science are partners and always will be. So says Henry and I believe.
On this particular fine sunny April morning, my son Max was headed off to school. At seventeen, he had his own car, and was very proud of it. He had paid for it with a part time job and he was a senior in high school, almost graduated. Certainly a man, in his opinion and in Henry’s, by the way. I was on the fence about that. We had been battling over college and Max wanted none of it. He wanted to work full time and forget any further education. Surprisingly, Henry agreed with my son’s choice. I did not and Max and I had been in battle over this subject for a year now. I was losing. Still, the boy, or man, rather, I keep forgetting, had a full time job lined up and was thumbing his nose at all my speeches of the virtues of a higher education. He gets his hard head and stubbornness from his father. Tim Banks was a self made man, with no college and had owned a landscaping business. He was very successful and left me and Max in good shape before he died. The cancer took him slowly and we had time to say good bye, terrible as it was. Max was very much like Tim. More and more everyday. I sighed and waved Max off to school. I turned and spotted Henry, dressed in his usual brown jogging suit, barefooted, doing a peculiar dance on his front lawn. I had some spare time and decided to go over and say hello. Henry’s salt and pepper hair was plastered to his head. He huffed a bit and stopped. I noticed that he had a stick of wood in one hand and a short thin metal pipe in the other. He grinned at me and I started laughing. “Henry, I would ask you what you are doing, but I am sure that I would not understand.” He laughed. “Elsa, I already told you what this is about. Remember?” “I really tried to forget it, quite honestly.” I muttered. “Elsa, if it had happened to you, you would be trying to figure it all out, too.” Henry said quietly. “Well, I am heading to the store, I need to go get some milk and then I am going to cook up a feast. You are invited to dinner tonight, if you are interested.” I stated. “Always!” Henry exclaimed. I turned to leave. “Six is when we eat.” I said. Henry waved me off and I went inside to get my car keys. I only needed some milk and drove to a nearby corner market. I entered the store, proceeded to the milk section, grabbed a half gallon and made my way to the checkout counter. There was a line. Four folks were in front of me and I unhappily sighed. I hate waiting in lines. I think most of us do. Then, I began to feel funny. I mean really funny. Strange. Lightheaded. As if all of my weight had vanished from my body. I felt like the air standing there. Like I weighed nothing. I started blinking furiously and trying to breathe deeply. My common sense told me that I was having an anxiety attack. I had never had one before and why I would suddenly have one over a simple thing as buying milk was beyond me. Still, something was really wrong. The line moved forward and I moved up. Only one more person was in front of me. I thought that was good, because, I feel really strange and I do not want to pass out here. As that person left, I stepped up to the counter and put my milk down. I reached into my purse and grabbed a few bucks and looked up at the store clerk. She was busy adjusting cigarettes in a case above the register. I waited. She then turned and started talking to another clerk. I stood and waited. She walked back towards the counter and seemed to look through me. Like I was not there. A terrible chill struck me. I shivered. I cleared my throat. No response came from either clerk. A cold hand of fear gripped my heart and squeezed hard. I am here and they can’t see me. How can that be?
I stood there and for about two heart stopping eternal minutes, I was not there. Well, I knew that I was there, but no one else did. At all. I was invisible. Totally. A person walked into the store and I shouted “Hey!” like he was my long last friend. Nothing. No response. He walked on into the store and kept on going. I seriously freaked at this moment. What in the world was going on. I drove here, therefore, I existed. My mind was fighting for sanity. My body was screaming for gravity. Somehow, I was nothing. I started jumping up and down. As the man came to the counter, I stepped aside. I was still unseen. I almost started crying at that very moment. I felt so damn helpless. I had not cried since my husband had died and that was a long time ago. Then, I got mad. I screamed. Nothing. Oh, I heard myself just fine, but no one else did.
The clerk checked the man out and he left. I was still standing there. My mind finally unfroze from the initial terror. My half gallon of milk sat there forlornly on the counter untouched and quite unnoticed. Some primal instinct spoke to me and I started rummaging through my purse. My fingers grabbed my car keys. I pulled these out and reached back in my bag and got out a pen. I held one in each hand. Suddenly, I started feeling a bit more like myself. Like I had weight again. I felt gravity embrace my body, a thing that I had never even thought twice about before. I kept blinking and swallowing. I closed my eyes, praying that this was just a bad dream and I would surely wake up in my own bed. I opened my eyes and the clerk asked “Will that be all?” I said a very humble “Yes.” She rang up my milk and I paid. As I was leaving the store I heard the clerk say to other one “I didn’t even see her there.” I did not wait around to hear anymore. I had lived it. I knew that they did not see or hear me.
I drove slowly home and went in. I immediately went to the bathroom mirror and checked myself. Just to be certain that I could actually see myself. I felt really weird and tired. I had a message on my answering machine and I pressed play. “Elsa, I will not be able to make dinner after all tonight. Sorry.” Henry calmly stated. Then, I remembered. Henry had told me about his latest project a few months ago. Well, sort of. I had tried to follow his conversation and he ended up giving me a few pages. “Read this when you have the time. It is very interesting. And you never know. It just may happen to you, one day.” I had put the pages away and totally forgot about them. I ran to the dresser and pulled the notes out. They were titled “Ungrounded.” There were a lot scientific terms and I could see now why I had not read these notes. I forced myself to read and about the second page a chill went through me. The subject cannot be seen. It occurs at all times of day and night and without any reasonable logical sequence. Seemingly at random. Subjects become invisible. To all other people. Yet, they can still hear and see themselves. No one else can, however. It seems to disintegrate human existence, but the human is still there. Or, are they? The subject feels light and to be made of air. All brain activity still exists, as do senses. A primal urge to return to gravity or a solid body being is instinctive and most subjects choose to grab metal objects followed by a plastic type of object. This combination seems to bring their solidity and image back to the world. A seen state is returned. Many subjects never experience this phenomenon again. They state that it is the most frightening experience of their entire lives. Most subjects describe this feeling as being ungrounded. That is a common term and I am trying to relate the ungrounding or loss of gravity with sight. While these subjects never leave the ground, they all state that a feeling of lightness of being proceeds this happening. Unfortunately, most subjects that this has happened to are very reluctant to admit this occurrence. Maybe in fear of it happening to them again. Or the fear of being called crazy. As far as I can tell, being ungrounded has been happening for almost ten years now. I can’t find a scientific cause for it, yet.
I dropped the pages of notes to the floor. I picked up the phone and called Henry. His machine picked up. “It’s Elsa. It happened to me. I want to help. Call me back.” I hung up the phone. I sat there in silence for about an hour. I refuse to be scared anymore. This has to stop. What if I were never seen again? I shivered. And, I thought, maybe there are many more who never were seen again, but are still here? I picked up Henry’s notes off the floor and began rereading them.