In a faraway land, where the wind swelled softly and a golden sun shone in a clear blue sky, a young boy dreamt of flight.
He watched the soaring of birds with a tortuous twist of his heart, his soul yearning to ride the wind’s currents, to skim, wheel and glide.
The intricacies of flight and the delicate construction of feather and wing captivated his waking hours. Lying beneath the bushes in the garden, he watched the vivid-blue blurs of the tiny wrens as they flittered amid the lush and tangled green.
He admired the busy flight of bees and marvelled over the diaphanous wings of dragonflies, as they skimmed over the wide, lazy river that flowed at the bottom of the hill. He gathered feathers from the fields and woods, filling his room with his finds, and longing for the day that he might feel the wind under his wings. The day that he would leave the earth far behind.
Sunny days flowed into moon-lit nights. Weeks morphed into months, months into a year and a day, his chamber overflowing with fluffy-white down, and long, sleek feathers of flight. The boy determined to begin his life’s great quest.
With feathers and dreams, wax and string, he fashioned his wondrous wings. Each feather placed with love. Each drop of wax with hope. Each careful ministration drawing him closer to his soul’s flight.
By dawn’s first light he fitted the final feather, the beauty of his wings dazzling his senses and spurring his fever for flight. The boy set out with eager step. Heeding no doubt in his heart or his mind, he climbed to the top of a high, craggy hill. Strapping the wings to his shoulders, he bound the ties tightly, picturing his ascent in his mind’s-eye. He leapt from the stony crest with the sweet anticipation of his dreams fulfilled, his pulse soaring and his eyes upon the wide, blue horizon.
He fell with a cry of surprise. The force of his graceless thrusts snapped the wings’ fragile frames. Feathers swept away on the wind.
As he lay upon the unforgiving ground, his mind as shocked by the fall as his earthbound body, the boy made no sound. He did not curse. He did not weep. Climbing slowly to his feet, he tore the wreckage from his back and cast aside his broken dreams.
Bowed down by disappointment the boy returned to his chamber. Threescore days he remained still and silent, refusing sustenance and resisting all attempts to lighten his darkness of mind. Yet as he lay despondent, the vine that twisted and twined outside his open window swelled into abundant blossom. The pollen-laden flowers beckoned bees and butterflies alike. The air filled with the hum of flight.
The sound pervaded the boy’s gloom. His gaze passed to the window. As he watched the industrious whirl of wings, animation returned to his face and form. Hope, tentative and fragile, dared stir within him. As the boy left his chamber and walked from the house, an inner voice whispered to him of the promise of the new day.
Standing upon the doorstep, the brightness of the morning sun drew tears from his eyes. Momentarily blinded, his returning sight revealed an astounding vision: immense wings—sublimely graceful, the plumage of a magnificent, multicoloured-hue—awaited his arrival.
No hesitancy stayed his step. No uncertainty clouded his mind. He did not question their mysterious arrival, knowing with an unwavering conviction that the treasure had been intended for him and him alone.
Exhilaration coursed through him as he approached the marvellous wings. Devoid of ties or straps, there seemed to be no manner in which to fasten them. Yet as the boy climbed beneath the spreading wings, his arms outstretched, a further miracle manifested, as bone, feather and flesh, magically melded.
With three thrusts of his glorious wings, the boy gained flight.
As he soared up over the garden, sensation overrode thought. Captured by the element in which he travelled, ensnared by the feeling of the warm, wind ruffling his wings, the boy ascended into the clear, blue sky. He flew in joyous state, his wings cleaving the air as he rose above the earth.
A careless glance at the world below produced a moment’s fear. How quickly had he left the earth behind? How rapidly had his destiny unfolded? How swiftly had he turned his back on all that he had known? Yet as a warm updraft caressed his body, the boy’s fright faded.
Patchwork fields and farms stretched out below. Tiny villages and insubstantial towns. The concerns of an earthly realm were an irrelevance in the world of air. In that day of sublime delight, as he swooped and dived, riding the nebulous currents, it seemed that his joy was a fire, burning beyond control.
Blue day blazed into golden twilight. Twilight gave way to night. The boy flew through a sea of stars, transfixed by their transcendent beauty. The moon glimmered high above him, masked by the soft, grey wisps of a solitary cloud. Seduced by the spell of the stars the boy journeyed on, undaunted by time or destination, content to live his dream, to exist in each idyllic moment.
A slow but steady ache drew his mind to his body’s labours. A wave of weakness caught him unawares, sending him falling. The boy struggled to slow his descent, emerging from chaotic flight in disorientated state, his body screaming with the effort of sustaining his quest.
Darkness lay below. A fathomless space, inky black, absolute. With bitter realisation and a surge of fear, he knew he could no longer land. The ground was now denied to him. He was destined to wheel amongst the stars, across the great arc of the heavens, bound to his weary flight, until dawn’s light touched the chthonian realm below.
A cold current of air whirled in, buffeting his flight. The stars ahead—the twinkling of a million, distant worlds—winked out, one by one, as a heavy blanket of black rolled across the sky.
The wind whirled and churned. Bolts of lightning split the blackness. Shivering and shaking, numb with cold, at the mercy of the manifold winds, the boy braved the storm. Flight had become nothing more than the struggle not to fall.
Caught up within the storm’s fury, the boy was tossed upon the thunderous winds. Seizing his frail form within its monstrous maul, the maelstrom savaged him, whipping his body backwards. Snapping a wing. And then his spine.
Darkness descended, merciful and swift, stealing breath and silencing pain, as he plunged into the depths of an endless void.
Into emptiness—bleak and cheerless. A gulf. A realm of shadows.
Shadows, now pierced by a soft, shaft of light.
Light—rich and warm—gently awakening him.
Light that surrounded him, as he found himself soaring in graceful flight, towards a horizon flushed red with the day’s new dawn, his wings seeming to work without effort to keep him aloft.
The memory of his troubles, the terror of the storm, the knowledge of his injuries, stirred no emotion within him, no accompanying pain. He felt no sensation in his injured body, and yet, although he understood the ultimate certainty behind the extent of that wounding, he knew no fear.
The joy of flight returned. The journey continued. What need for feathers now? What need to confirm their loss? While the womb-red sky swelled with the promise of tomorrow, and he rode the warm, crimson currents, skimming, wheeling and gliding.