Archive

Posts Tagged ‘flying’

Day One Hundred and Eighty-seven: Up, Up, and Away

November 24, 2011 2 comments

Daniel hovered about three feet in the air so he could get at the top of his bookcases with a damp cloth. “No, Jeff,” he said again.

“But Danny, c’mon!”

Daniel swiped away a few months worth of dust and wondered if he should clean more often. “No, Jeff,” he said. “I’m not taking you flying, and that’s all there is to it.”

His friend dropped onto the sofa in a classic sulk, and Daniel rolled his eyes. “Look, Jeff,” he said. “It’s just not a good idea, is all. Okay?”

“Okay?” Jeff glared at him from under black bangs. “It’s not okay, man. Look at you!” He thrust his hand out at Daniel, who looked down.

Okay. He was floating, which he figured was probably really cool if you weren’t used to doing it. But Jeff hadn’t said that he wanted to float – he wanted to fly.

“I just don’t know why you won’t share,” Jeff said. “Did I tell anyone when I found out you could fly? No.” He leaned forward, jabbing his finger as he spoke. “Because I’m your friend, Danny. I’m your… your…”

“You’re my Jimmy Olsen, yes.” Daniel turned in mid-air and looked down on his friend, arms crossed. “You’ve told me this before.”

“And it’s all true!” Jeff stood up and walked over to him, his neck craning to look up. “You can trust me, man. Just take me up. Just once. Quick trip around the block, that’s all I’m asking for.” He stared up at him, his eyes expectant. “Huh?”

Daniel dropped to the floor with a thud. “That’s it, huh?” He crooked a finger. “C’mere.”

“What?”

“Just come here.” Daniel looked Jeff up and down. “How much do you weigh?”

“Dude!”

“Just… How much, Jeff?”

His friend shrugged. “Maybe one eighty-five, one ninety?”

“Right.” Daniel reached down and, with a little effort, lifted his friend in his arms. He staggered slightly under the weight. “Seriously?” he asked. “Maybe one ninety?”

Jeff tried to shrug. “Maybe a little more,” he said. “But…” He looked at the arms holding him up. “Um. What’re you doing, Danny?”

Daniel was already gritting his teeth, but tried not to show it. “How long do you think I can hold you like this, Jeff?” he asked. Jeff looked like he was thinking, but Daniel didn’t let him answer. “Ow. Get down.” He nearly dropped his friend to the floor. Jeff got his feet under him while Daniel rubbed his arms. “Jesus,” he said. “I need to lift weights or something.”

He looked over at Jeff, who was eyeing him with suspicion. “Look, Jeff,” he said. “Imagine that right there from fifty feet up.”

Jeff blinked. “Oh.”

“Yeah,” Daniel said. “Being able to fly doesn’t make me Superman. I can’t carry any more than I normally could, and I’m sorry to say that I can’t carry you very far, Jeff. On land or in the air.”

Jeff nodded, slowly. “Okay,” he said quietly. “But what about -”

“No,” Daniel said, slashing his hand through the air. “Jeff, there’s just no way around it, okay? I’m sorry, but that’s it.”

Jeff looked genuinely hurt. His big shoulders slumped and he slouched over to the sofa where he collapsed against one arm. He stared at the TV, but didn’t turn it on. Daniel knew this sulk well.

“Look, Jeff,” he said. “I know it sounds like a lot of fun, and yeah. Sometimes it is. But other times?” He sat next to his friend, who didn’t look at him. “It’s cold when you go up high. The wind means you can’t see anything without goggles, and your hair gets blown all to hell. And god forbid there should be rain.” He leaned back on the sofa. “Making sure you don’t hit power lines while you’re cruising. Small airports. And bugs – Jeff, you would not believe how many bugs are up there all the time.”

Jeff glanced over. “Bugs?”

“Yeah. Tons of them.” He started counting off on his fingers. “Bugs and birds, bats if you’re flying at night. And then there are the people down below who think they see something, so they call the cops on you – and how’re you going to explain that?” He patted his friend’s shoulder. “It’s not everything the comics make it out to be, man,” he said.

Jeff looked over at him for a moment, and then shook his head. “You just don’t know what you got,” he said.

He got up off the sofa and tugged his shirt down. “I’m gonna take off,” he said.

Daniel saw him to the door. “Jeff, I’m sorry I was such a… A bummer about this. You gotta know I’m not trying to be a dick. Right?”

Jeff nodded. “Yeah, man,” he said. “I know.” He gave Daniel’s shoulder a perfunctory punch and then headed out the door. Daniel watched him through the window, sighed, and went back to cleaning.

An hour later, his phone rang while he was in the middle of doing dishes. He toweled off and answered it. “Yeah?” he said.

“Danny, it’s Jeff!” His friend seemed to be shouting for some reason.

“Jeff? Where are you?”

“I’m standing on top of the Calcara Art Museum downtown!” Jeff yelled.

“Art museum? What the hell are you -”

“Danny, I’m gonna wait five minutes and then jump! You gotta come get me, okay?”

Daniel’s stomach dropped. “What? Jeff, what are you doing? Talk to me J-”

There was a noise like wind whistling past the phone, and then the call ended.

“Shit,” Daniel said. “Shit, shit, shit.” He ran to the front hall and grabbed his leather jacket and motorcycle helmet. He’d never known Jeff to be suicidal, but he had known him to be dramatic, and Daniel was afraid that right now Jeff might be confusing the two. He shoved the helmet on and zipped up the jacket as he jumped off his balcony and soared out over his neighborhood, praying that no one was looking up.

The art museum was in downtown, which was to the northeast. He curved to the right, keeping an eye on the Cerbecorp Tower, and poured on the speed.

Finding the art museum from above was difficult. He knew the city, but he knew it from ground level. Up in the air it was mostly just a bunch of grey rectangles, and if it hadn’t been for the small crowd that was clustered against the wall of one of those rectangles, he probably would have missed it. He swooped down and saw Jeff on the ledge. The crowd spotted him first, and people began to point and aim their cell phones at him. Daniel cursed under his breath. Then Jeff turned around, gave him a wave, and stepped off the edge of the building.

The museum was only six floors high. A fall from that height would take just over two seconds.

Daniel reached him in a second and a half.

He wrapped his arms under his friend’s armpits and started yelling before their feet touched the concrete of the sidewalk. Daniel was ready to rip off his helmet and beat Jeff with it, but the crowd surrounded them, taking pictures and asking questions and yelling all kinds of things all at once.

Jeff was beaming, and Daniel wanted to slap the smile right off him. “We’re not finished,” he said, jabbing a finger in Jeff’s chest. Without another word, he took off, straight up into the sky, ignoring the collective amazement of the crowd. He shot up as far has he could go, past the thin clouds and into the cold, clear air. He was breathing heavy and sweating in the helmet, but he could already feel the cold around him. He needed that. He needed something to cool him down, because if he went back the way he was, he would probably say things to Jeff that couldn’t be unsaid. Things that would be mean and hurtful and unfair.

Instead he stayed there, up above the clouds, and waited for his heart to slow and his mind to become calm. He watched a jet pass by and considered waving at it.

This was going to take a while.

*****

Daniel King’s page on 30characters.com

Day One Hundred and Eighty-four: Prince of the Air 1

November 21, 2011 4 comments

“You’re gonna get killed, you know that.”

Crown Prince Calaris, heir to the throne of Ardenspire, watched his younger brother in exhausted disbelief. The field was full of canvas and wood and hardware, stacked, spilled, and rolled out every which way. At the far end of the field was the Drop, a cliff that led a hundred feet down to rocks and thundering water. In the middle of everything was this… thing. It looked like a bird, if the bird had been designed by someone who’d never actually seen one before. And under the thing was Rissandir.

“I’m not going to get killed,” he said, gently hammering at something. “The model worked, didn’t it?”

“The fifth model worked,” Calaris said. “The other four dropped like stones and smashed to pieces in the courtyard. Much like you’re going to do.”

“Am not. Hand me that brace?” Rissandir gestured vaguely to a piece of metal laying nearby. His brother dropped it into his hand.

“Sand, if you want to fly so badly, why not just ask Canucog? I’m sure he can get you a spell or a potion or a ring or something.” He poked the canvas-covered frame. “Something that works. He’s not busy these days, so come on. We’ll ask Father and you’ll be up in the air in no time.”

Rissandir shook his head. “No magic,” he said. “I want to do this by myself.”

“But why?” He threw up his hands. “Sand, we’ve figured out flying! Hell, Grandfather did it – remember that story? The siege of Thysnamos? He and his twelve guardsmen came right in on top of King Vysoli. The guy never knew what hit him, and it’s been fifty years of peace since then!” He held out a hand to help his brother up. “So come on, Sand. Take this thing apart, and if you want to fly, fly right.”

Rissandir looked at his big brother and wiped his hand on a rag. “Cal, I get it. You’re scared.”

“Yeah – that you’re going to break every bone in your body and then I’m going to have to explain it to father and then he’ll break every bone in mine!” He was starting to shout, and the was usually the sign that things were about to get bad. His brother had been the one to point that out to him, years ago.

The truth was, Rissandir was smart. Smarter than Calaris, definitely smarter than their father, and probably smarter even than Canucog. If anything scared Calaris, it was that. That, and the knowledge that being smart didn’t mean you couldn’t make mistakes.

Rissandir didn’t often make mistakes, though. That was his particular gift – the ability to see the way things should go and to learn from his mistakes. Their father liked to joke that he’d been bespelled to be bright, but Canucog always swore that nothing of the sort had happened. The boy was just a natural.

He also seemed to be without fear. Or common sense. His wood-and-canvas bird thing looked like it would fall apart long before it even found the air. But he’d been working on it for months, putting together models to try and figure out how wings should work and what it would take for it to carry a person. Deep down, Calaris suspected that it just might work, but he also suspected that it would only work briefly.

He looked out at the cliff’s edge. “Please tell me you’re not planning to fly this thing off the cliff,” he said.

“That is, in fact, exactly what I’m planning to do.” Rissandir tightened the knots on his canvas winds and smiled that brilliant, boyish smile of his. “Nearly done,” he said. “Just one more thing I need.”

“A good thump on the head.”

“That, and a way to get this thing moving.” Rissandir walked over to a large black trunk, bound with iron. He grabbed one of the handles and jerked his head towards Calaris. His older brother sighed, trudged over, and got the other handle. The trunk was surprisingly heavy for its size. They carried it over to the flying machine and set it down under one of its wings. “Y’see, I figured something out with those models,” Rissandir said as he unlatched the box.

“Yeah,” Calaris muttered. “I think we all did.”

“This thing will have to be going pretty fast if it’s going to be able to catch the air and lift itself up.”

Calaris clutched his head. “See? This is what I mean! I have no idea what you’re talking about!”

His brother grinned. “It’s okay, Cal. You don’t need to. It works whether you understand it or not.” He reached into the case and pulled out a large silver cylinder. It was open at both ends and about as big around as his thigh. “In order to make this go fast enough, I need a kind of motive power. And that, I’m afraid, is where I have to bend my ‘no magic’ rule a little.”

That caught Calaris’ attention. “What do you mean?” he asked.

Rissandir took what looked like a bracket from the case and started attaching the cylinder to the wing. “I thought about having horses pull it,” he said. “But they can’t go fast enough. And I thought about just dropping it off the cliff, but no matter what you think, Cal, I’m not an idiot.” Calaris’ face reddened, but Rissandir didn’t seem to notice. “So finally I asked Canucog for help.”

That was a shock. The wizard wasn’t the most forthcoming of men, which was normal for wizards. And Calaris had been almost certain that he would have had nothing to do with whatever it was Rissandir was making. “He said it sounded like an interesting project,” Rissandir said, stepping away from the wing and examining his work. “So he agreed.”

Calaris was impressed. He still didn’t think it would work, but if the Royal Wizard was involved, then maybe there was a small chance that it wouldn’t be a complete catastrophe. At his brother’s insistence, he helped carry the case over to the other wing. Surprisingly, it was no lighter for having lost such large cargo. Rissandir lifted an identical cylinder out and started to bolt it to the wing. “I told him what I needed, and he made these.”

After a moment, Calaris couldn’t wait any longer. “And they are…?”

“I call them my portable dragons,” Rissandir said. He took one more item out of the case – a small wand with a bright blue gem on the end of it. “All I need to do is speak a Command Word into this and they’ll go off.” He closed the trunk and dragged it away. Then he jumped up into the machine and pulled a couple of levers in the place where he would probably sit when he finally decided to try it out. “C’mon,” he said, jumping down. “Let’s go off a bit.”

The brothers walked about ten paces from the flying thing, and then Rissandir held up the wand. “I had Canucog set a few different commands for these. Test, go, stop, things like that. I’ll just test for now.” He held up the wand and said, “Coscade.”

The portable dragons roared to life, fire shooting out from their backs. The whole machine seemed to want to leap forward, but it didn’t. It shook and it rattled, and the roar of the dragons was getting louder and louder. Everything behind the dragons blew away down the field, tumbling and flying. “What’s supposed to happen?” Calaris yelled at his brother.

“When they’re at full power,” his brother yelled back, “they should be able to – WOAH!”

The dragons had ripped loose from their wings, tearing the wings half-off in the process. They were dragging wood and canvas behind them, but they were moving at a good speed.

Right towards the edge of the cliff.

The brothers ran after them, and Rissandir had the wand up to his mouth. He was shouting, “Wannek! Wannek!”

The dragons stopped spitting their flame and rolled to a stop within a few feet of the cliff’s edge. Rissandir fell to his knees, breathing heavily. “Oh, thank the gods,” he said.

Calaris walked over to one of the dragons, trying not to look down at the crashing waves and jagged rocks below. “I know,” he said. He touched one of the fire-breathing things and was surprised to find that it was cool. “Canucog probably would have used your skull as a raven’s nest if you lost them.” Rissandir just nodded and picked them up.

They carried the dragons back to the flying machine, which was missing most of its wings. Calaris ran a hand over the front of it. “Sorry your… thing got destroyed, Sand,” he said. “Who knows? It might have worked.” He shrugged and started picking up scraps of wood and canvas. “Oh well. May as well take this thing apart and get home.”

Rissandir started to laugh, and he was actually shaking his head as though Calaris had said something stupid. “I will take it apart, Cal,” he said. “But only to build it better.” He patted the machine with far more affection than Calaris had, and looked at it with the gleam of anticipation in his eyes. “Now I know what the big problem is, I can make it stronger. And when I do, big brother…” He looked over at Calaris, and there was an earnestness, a belief in his eyes that almost – almost – made Calaris want to believe that he could do it.

“When I do,” Rissandir said again, “I will fly.”

TO BE CONTINUED….

*****

Calaris den Raud’s page on 30characters.com

Day Seventy-five: Coach Class

August 4, 2011 Leave a comment

I jerked awake when the plane hit turbulence. It was right in the middle of a weird dream, one that I couldn’t remember very clearly, and there was that moment of disorientation where I didn’t know where I was or why I was there. For all I knew, it was still the dream, and I had dreamed that I woke up.

The droning sound of the engines filled the darkened cabin and I tried to stretch my legs – not easy for a six-foot guy in economy class. The only bright side was that the guy in front of me hadn’t put his seat back, so I had some room, but not a lot. I unbuckled my seatbelt, stood up, and stretched the kinks out of tight muscles. The cabin was quiet, except for the engines, and it looked like the movie was over and everyone was getting some sleep. I wanted to check my watch, but then remembered that I’d put it in my bag. It seemed like a bright idea at the time, but now I wasn’t so sure.

At least with everyone sleeping, I was free to walk around. I strolled up the aisle, stopping at every exit row to stretch a bit and try to look out the window. Nothing but my dim reflection out there, and even if that wasn’t there, the window was still way too small to see anything. The toilet was unoccupied, which felt like a minor victory, and I took my time in there. When I got out, I walked right up to the business class curtain and imagined, for a brief moment, what it would be like to travel that way. I’d gotten lucky once, and was bumped up. I remember it as a paradise in the sky, an Eden of air transportation, and that knowledge makes every coach class adventure seem that much worse.

My legs felt a little bit better, and my head didn’t feel so stuffy. I bent down to touch my toes a couple of times and peered into the cabin attendants’ kitchenette. They had left some drinks and cups out for self-service. Smart move, I thought, as I helped myself to some orange juice. On a little screen in there, I saw that we still had at least six hours to go and I sighed. These international flights were long and tedious and horrible, but they were worth it. When I saw my little girl – though she was growing bigger all the time – it made all that time wash away like it had never been.

I stretched one more time and made it back to my seat. I buckled up, wrapped the blanket around me, and used the soft hum of the engines to lull me back to sleep.

This time I remembered the dream a little better. It was a violent one, the kind you’d rather not have on an airplane. There was lightning all around me and people pressing in from all sides. Then a guy who looked kind of like my old boss and a little like my grandfather walked up to me with a gun in his hand. He pointed it at my heart, said, “Are we clear?” and then pulled the trigger.

I woke up again, and the dream slipped out of my mind.

I got up and stretched my legs. In that dark, humming cabin, I had no idea how long I had been asleep. Maybe an hour? Thirty minutes? Time runs differently on airplanes, especially when you’re flying to the other side of the world. It backs up on you and then pounces forward. It walks away a bit and waits for you, and then walks away again. It’s not the same orderly procession of seconds, minutes and hours that we’re used to at ground level.

I got to the kitchenette and poured myself an orange juice. While I gulped it down, I looked at the display. Six hours left. I sighed and dropped the cup in the garbage. It looked like I had barely slept at all.

Once back in my seat, with the seatbelt buckled and my mask on, I told myself that I would get some real sleep this time. I yawned, a real jaw-cracker, put my head back, and was out in a few minutes.

This time the dream wasn’t violent, jut weird. I was in high school again, standing in the gym. A kid, one of the freshmen maybe, kept hitting me with a basketball. Not angrily, not like he was trying to hurt me, just a steady rhythm: he’d bounce the ball against my chest, it would hit the floor, and then he’d catch it and do it again. After a few times, he looked at me and said, “You queer?” Then it all started again.

After maybe three iterations of this, I woke up.

I walked down the aisle again, shaking out my legs. I made another trip to the bathroom and washed my face. No one looks good in an airplane bathroom, no matter how good-looking they might be otherwise. There were circles under my eyes, which were getting kind of bloodshot. I splashed some water on my face and peered into the mirror. No, I would never be mistaken for a good-looking man, but even so, that mirror made me look positively grim.

This routine of sleeping, dreaming and waking was starting to take its toll. I wanted to sleep, but if this was how it was going to go, then I figured I could just stay awake until we landed. It would be hard, especially with everyone else just snoozing away like –

I stopped a few rows up from my seat, and looked around at the other passengers.

Nobody was sleeping.

Every person, in every row, was awake and staring straight ahead. There was no movie, nothing for them to watch, but they were all facing forward, heads up and eyes open. Nobody was reading or listening to music or trying to fall asleep. No one was dozing off or playing a game. Everyone was just staring.

I backed up and got a good look at the rest of coach class, and it was the same in every row and in every seat. All the passengers were up, but no one was doing anything. I looked around for a flight attendant, and couldn’t find anyone. My chest clenched in panic. I saw the curtain separating us from business class. It was normally an unstormable barrier, but I figured these were special circumstances. All the other passengers on my flight looked like they were moments away from starting a full-blown zombie movie, and I really didn’t want to be caught up in the middle of that.

I grabbed the curtain and yanked it aside. Standing there was one of the missing flight attendants – tall, dark, dressed immaculately. She looked me up and down and said, “You do not belong here.”

“I know,” I said. “But there’s something weird going on back there. Everyone’s awake and -”

She put a hand on my shoulder and bent down a little to look me in the eye. “No,” she said. “You do not belong. Here.” She put her other hand on my chest and pushed, and that push was like a kick from a mule.

When I hit the floor, all the breath got knocked out of me. She walked over to stand over me, and she looked a thousand feet tall. A few other flight attendants gathered as well, each one of them fierce and beautiful. “You do not belong here,” the first one said again. “Go back.”

“Yeah, okay,” I said, holding my chest. I tried to get up, but she pushed me down again, and again it felt like something slammed into me.

“Go back,” she said.

“I can’t go back!” I tried to scream. “Not if you keep hitting me!” I tried to stand up again, and one more time, her hand moved out – gently, slowly, and yet unstoppably, and pushed me in the chest. And this time, I nearly blacked out when I hit the floor. My vision swam and my ears rang and it was hard to breathe. I couldn’t tell where up and down were, and I felt like throwing up.

“Is he back?” The voice was indistinct and different – not the Valkyrie flight attendant who had hit me. Another one?

No. Not them. This time there was laughter and cheers as I took a breath. I blinked my eyes open and there was a crowd around me still, but different. Their faces were expressive, human, and – if I had to guess – very relieved. I tried to sit up, and one man, an older-looking gentlemen, touched my shoulder gently. “You lay back, son,” he said. He was hard to understand over the humming of the engines, and a little hard to see in the cabin darkness, but he held a flashlight and I could see well enough by that. “You gave us quite the scare.”

He turned and said something to a flight attendant, who dashed off. I looked around at the people staring at me, leaning out of their seats and looking my way. There were two patches with wires stuck to my chest, leading to a plastic case that lay in one of the seats. “What happened?” I asked, though it mostly came out as “Wuhhuppn?”

The older man smiled. “You went and had yourself a heart attack,” he said. “Pretty bad one, too. Thought we lost you for a moment there.” He looked up at a young man, a teenager really, who was kneeling behind me and grinning stupidly. “You’re lucky this young man knew CPR,” he said. “Also lucky that the plane had one of those AED things on board.” He gestured at the plastic case.

My brain put the pieces together slowly, but when they came together they started to fade. People were going back to their books and magazines and the movie, and pretty soon the flight attendant, the teenager and the old man helped me into an empty seat in business class. My chest hurt, and it tightened as we went past that curtain, but there was nothing to worry about. They got me settled in a seat, gave me some orange juice and told me there would be a doctor to meet me when we landed.

A heart attack. I shook my head in wonder and tried to remember what had happened. Little flashes came to me – people sitting, a bathroom mirror – and then faded away like mist in the morning.

I put the cup down on the seat tray and lay back. Each breath hurt, but each breath after that hurt less. I felt tears well up as I thought of what had almost happened, and I didn’t wipe them away.

After a while, I slept. And I had no dreams.