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A Dream of Flying

I had a dream of flying. I drew the eight of wands from the Tarot. Eight wands flying over peaceful countryside. My business had just folded, leaving me with debts and a fortnightly Giro cheque from the government. The dreams grew, took over my nights and my days.

People kept making demands. I had been comfortably off, my time flexible. I helped people change old car engines, let them use the telephone, gave lifts and free advice, drank with people and listened to their problems, brought life and humour to parties. Now I struggled to be my former self for others sakes. All I needed was space and time. The lease on my house was not renewed, the bank pressed me, brown envelopes piled up on the doormat. All I needed was space and time.

The dreams grew stronger and more detailed. Now there was a girl who flew with me, always ahead and above. We flew on filmy wings of immense strength, silently and steadily over peaceful countryside. I always followed, she never spoke. I didn’t know where we were flying to, nor did it occur to me to wonder. We were between space, outside time. I hated the mornings.

My wife was supportive. She was one of those extraordinary people to whom another’s happiness means more than their own. I suppose she loved me. An Earth sign, she understood nothing about flying, was happiest in the garden on a Spring morning. When I went to work for a local flying school she made me sandwiches and kept my supper warm.

I worked six days a week for my flying. I learnt to fly microlights, those noisy two-stroke powered kites with their unlikely prehistoric silhouettes. I took bookings, did paperwork and spannerwork, organised publicity and dispensed enthusiasm. I got my licence and planned out my future career as an instructor.

My family life became difficult as the workload grew. My finances were in an appalling condition and we were soon to become homeless. My children ceased to expect anything of me. The dreams stopped and my flying remained indifferent. Sometimes, on a calm and sunlit day with the engine throttled back, I would momentarily fly in a dream sky before the demands of machine and environment reasserted themselves. More often I was apprehensive as the ocean of air played with my device of sticks and string, and then I would return to earth with a feeling of relief, changing shortly to disappointment at my failure to create my dream as others seemed to do in their machines.

In early Spring the dreams returned, but they had changed. Now the two of us would fly towards a bank of gathering darkness into which sank a blood-red sun. Under us an endless, twisted forest lurked in glowering twilight. Islanded in the threatening cloudbank was a pinnacle bathed in golden light from below. I knew we must reach this island of light, and that below it was our final landing place. Flight became an effort for the first time; the air seemed viscous, and subtle currents pushed me from my track, yet I still felt powerful. Only when I looked down at the grim landscape below did my wings falter and my mind begin to cloud over. I tried to catch up with the girl, to warn her of the dangers of the forest and urge her to the pinnacle, but the air became like treacle and I could not close the distance. Suddenly the girl dipped a wing and began to spiral down. As she passed my altitude I saw her face for the first time. She was painfully beautiful, yet in that brief instant as I fell truly in love for the first time she seemed to grow older and somehow smaller. I tried to cry out her name, but I did not know it. She fell faster into the spiral, and I dived to follow. My speed built rapidly, but she fell still faster into the darker layers below.

I was in an almost vertical dive now, and she was a small limp bundle of rags falling into the waiting treetops. My mind dove after her to welcome oblivion, but my treacherous body refused to follow. Buffeting and straining, I pulled out of the hurtling descent scant feet above the treetops. My last glimpse was of bones glistening whitely in a small clearing, then my wings were beating laboriously as I climbed heavily towards the last vestiges of daylight. I emptied my mind of all but the desire to reach the pinnacle, which was no longer in sight. The air grew darker and thicker, and I could not tell if I was gaining height or not. My body ached and I began to long to give up the struggle and let myself fall to the forest, yet each time I eased my climb for an instant I saw those bones among the forest roots, and terror made my torn wings beat again. Pain and panic grew together. The blackness seemed to deepen in front of me. Suddenly I realised I was falling, not flying, then there was a crushing impact and I awoke.

Every morning I awoke bathed in sweat and greeted the sun with a relief I had never felt before. I was flying more often and better now, but sometimes an unaccountable dread would seize me as I came in to land. I would climb on full power to two thousand feet and circle for minutes on end until my pulse and breathing returned to normal. I told no-one of my private battle with the dream, and determined to overcome it. Coming in to a short, difficult strip one day in a crosswind I felt the demon in my mind. I shut it out. I was high and fast over the threshold when it went dark and I saw the bones. I pulled in the bar and floored the throttle, completing my dream dive to add my bones to hers.

I came to in a pile of twisted wreckage, the engine revving its guts out now the propeller was broken. I was miraculously unhurt; witnesses had seen me dive into the ground at seventy miles an hour. I went into the house and took a card from the Tarot. The eight of wands: flying over peaceful countryside.

We took the plane apart and rebuilt it. It cost over two thousand pounds, and I worked for six months for nothing to pay for the damage I had caused. I haven’t seen my wife or children for nearly a year, but I keep their photographs with me. I am a qualified flying instructor with my own school now, so I send them some money now and then.

I do not dream of flying any more.

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