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Chapter 18: The only way to fly

April 22, 2013

Lena had done good business that afternoon. Browsers, attracted by the drumming, picking up a little something that caught their eye.

“We should team up,” she said to Jono. “We’ve sold masses.”
He laughed. “We ought to charge you for pitching next to us.”
“I can run to a cup of tea,” she said.

She would make a pot as soon as Hazel got back. She glanced around anxiously, at least the tenth time. Hazel had been gone for hours, she should have been back ages ago. She’d only gone into the wood. Lena got her phone and tried Hazel’s number again. Straight to voicemail.

She contemplated leaving a message, waited for the tone. But she never heard it because the world exploded. Brilliant, blinding light filled the sky. There were screams. The light was everywhere but it seemed to be coming from the direction of the trees.

Andy!” she screamed, dropped the phone, ran for the forest.

She wasn’t much of a sporty type at the best of times. Her breath was coming tight in her chest. She pounded on, across the field, hoping she wouldn’t trip and sprain an ankle.

A forest fire?
Her eyes told her no. This light was like a chemical flash. It wasn’t fading.
It was more like a mushroom cloud than an ordinary fire. But since she wasn’t dead, she knew it couldn’t be that either.

She ran.

She was pelting across the field and she knew the forest wasn’t this far. By now she was running so fast, it was as though time was beginning to dilate and stretch and the space between her and the forest was stretching too. This shouldn’t be happening. The wind-speed around her was phenomenal. She was running into the light and against a headwind so strong it snatched away what little breath she had left. If she only leaned into this wind in the right way, it would carry her into the sky and she would be flying.

The air was thick as she pressed through it. Perhaps she was reaching the speed of sound. Any second she might punch through the sound barrier and – BOOM!

Unthinking, Lena stretched out her arms and the wind took her.

It wasn’t graceful. She was tumbling in a swirling vortex that ripped her in different directions, turned her upside down, skirts around her armpits. She was being thrown about like a rag doll in a washing machine. She fought for breath. So much wind, why was it so hard to get any of it into her lungs?

This wasn’t the kind of flying that happens in dreams. It was the kind that happens when a cyclone picks up your house and throws it half way across a continent, the kind that only really happens in Kansas.

It was still impossibly bright, colours and lines whitened, the world reduced to an over-exposed snapshot. Her eyes were streaming and she could barely see.

She caught glimpses of tents, trees, grass, people. A juggler, surrounded by kids. Two old men eating burgers. The forest – a thick dark green sea, billowing in the tremendous wind. The crack of branches snapping. A young couple among the trees, half-naked, clinging onto one another and staring up at her, shocked. She whirled away from them. A wolf. Trees, endless trees.

The distant sounds of the festival were muffled now, barely audible over the deafening wind.

Lena began to see other things caught up in the storm. A branch. An umbrella. A plastic bag. She was afraid something might hit her. Crazy. Fifty or a hundred feet in the air, twisting around, limbs snapping, totally out of control, and she was scared of being whacked in the head by an umbrella?

Her mind went white.

She shut her eyes, shut out at least a part of the terror. But she found that not seeing was worse than seeing. She opened them again – and stared in horror. There was another person in the storm, someone else flying, being tossed about, just like her. It looked like a child.

A part of her knew there was nothing she could do, yet another part of her knew that she could not do nothing.

The boy gave her something to focus on. She stared at him, frozen, grasping for a coherent thought. She tried to swim towards him. Not the up-down elegance of swimming lessons: the desperate strokes of someone drowning in a whirlpool. It did not work very well. It was like being at sea in a round barrel, with only a smooth pole for an oar.

She flailed and thrashed towards him, fighting the currents that wanted to smash her away. She seemed to be getting closer.

He made no move towards her and as she got close she saw that his eyes closed. She had no idea if he was dead or alive. He was flopping about like a wet sock. She reached him, tried to grab hold of him. She missed, more than once, but then managed to get hold of an arm.

She pulled him towards her, got hold of him properly, held on.

Her arms went all the way around him and then – in what seemed like an instant – all the noise and wind disappeared.  Just went.

Lena felt the stomach lurch of knowing that everything had gone terribly wrong. The little death that tells you you’re only just alive. She knew the big death was coming now, as soon as gravity caught up with her. She held onto the boy. He was warm. Could she cushion his fall? Could he cushion hers? Jesus, what a thought to have to think.

But nothing was happening, and it kept on happening long past the time when she should have slammed into the ground and broken her neck.

Panicked, panting, she felt suspended in a moment that might, after all, go on forever.

Her breathing slowed.

She realised that she was not falling.  She was lying on something. Solid, but yielding. She opened her eyes. Blinked. It was not cold any more, but the light was all gone.

Keeping hold of the boy, she reached out one hand to feel the ground. Smooth, slippy. It reminded her of satin. Her fingers touched something hard and she drew them back as though burnt. Then reached out again. It felt knobbly. Maybe a branch?

They must have fallen into the forest. Perhaps that explained the darkness. Unless she had lost her sight altogether. Her mind slipped away from her. She could not think.

The air was very still. It felt almost tropical, full of humidity – but not damp. Just – thick.

The boy was breathing.
“Are you alive?” she asked him, stupidly. Her voice sounded muffled in the dense air.
No answer, but steady breaths. Not dead. That’s something.

Her eyes began to adjust to the gloom. It was not completely dark. She could see shadows around her. Some of them were moving.

“Hello?” she called out. “Is anyone there?”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 22, 2013 11:09 pm

    Wordcount – 1174
    Prompt – SAVED (BrendaAlicante)

    Please suggest prompts for Chapter 19 in the comments!
    (Check the sidebar for a link to more info about this interactive project!)

  2. brendaalicante permalink
    April 23, 2013 8:00 pm

    Dramatic chapter –

    Prompt – The meeting (Do we prompters get some royalties?) Lol

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