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flying

by Miriam English

2 - warning

Christine was hurrying to meet her friend, Anita, who was waiting with a couple of other friends further down the mountain, somewhere below on this winding dirt road. The strong head-wind made it difficult to run, but she enjoyed the feeling as she leaned into it, reminding her of her flying dreams as it took some of her weight. She spread her arms, taking pleasure in the way the wind pressed against her, supporting her as she ran. It was comforting that she could feel this invisible thing cradling her as she pushed into it. It tugged and flicked her hair behind her and roared in her ears. Her eyes were watering as she squinted into the airstream.

Suddenly she noticed her steps coming further and further apart, becoming strides, then bounds. This wind was surprisingly strong. It was very exciting and felt very much like it did in her dreams. Then finally, by angling her body just right she glided on the wind for several meters before lightly touching down and pushing off again.

Ecstasy exploded in her mind. This was really happening! She really could fly! It was much more difficult than she remembered in her dreams though. She was very conscious of how unstable her position was. It was scary how easily she slipped sideways towards the precipice at the road's edge or the rock wall on the other side, and the danger presented by each. The gusty wind would sometimes drop her suddenly closer to the rough road surface and the risk of scraped knees and palms there, but would then lift her another couple of meters just as abruptly, and her mind felt like it would explode with joy. She was actually flying! Even if she needed all her concentration for control... she was flying!

It took her a while of experimenting with the angle of her arms, legs, body, and even her head in steering and maintaining lift. As in her dreams she would turn to the left by changing the position of her left arm, pulling it in closer to her body or pointing it more forward. She was glad that in some sense she'd already had some kind of practice at this. She found that her position became more stable if she stretched her arms straight out as wide as possible with her body forming the vertex of a shallow "V" between them and her hands a little behind the plane of her back. Birds instinctively form this shape with their wings because it is self-righting. As she gradually she became better at controlling her movement, her progress down the road became faster. She started to understand how the wind whirled and rushed up the valley and this mountainside, and why some spots were dangerously turbulent, while others were relatively smooth sailing, and yet others were left in a wind "shadow" where she had to land and run on foot to the next windy part of the road.

She had landed at one such windless corner which nestled into the mountainside and was running down the road beneath the tall trees when she saw Anita and her friends ahead.

"Anita!"

Anita turned to see her friend and waved.

"Anita! You'll never guess what's happened!" Gasping for breath, she ran up to her friend, grabbed her hands, and jumped up and down, laughing.

"What?" Anita laughed too. "What's happened?"

"It's amazing -- I've found I can really fly."

Anita laughed again and pursed her lips, clearly wondering if this was a joke. "But Cristine, that's impossible, you said so yourself."

Christine felt giddy with excitement. "I know, I know. I thought so, but I really can fly -- just like in my dreams... when the wind is strong enough."

One of Anita's friends was giving a lopsided skeptical smile. "Show us."

"Okay," Christine grinned and pointed ahead to the next corner, "over there, the wind's not strong enough here." She turned and ran for a few minutes down the road to the next bend and was met by strong wind again. Behind her was the sound of running footsteps as she threw herself at the wind, arms out sideways, angling her body to catch the wind and maximise lift. It worked. She lifted off, slipping left and right as she worked to balance herself on the onrushing air. After several seconds of precarious hovering, she touched down again and turned back to her friends, her arms still stretched out and a grin so wide on her face that it almost hurt.

"Wow," was all Anita could say, her eyes all a-goggle.

"Yeah. And the best part is I'm not dreaming."

Anita nodded, awed, "You can believe me, this is not a dream."

Christine's smile fell a little. "Actually, I can't believe you. If this is a dream it is exactly what the dream-you would say." She pinched her own arm. "Does pinching yourself wake you up?" Then she stopped suddenly, frowning, worried.

Anita stepped forward, a concerned expression on her face, "Are you all right?"

"That pinch should have hurt, but it didn't... what if..."

She felt the warmth of the bed and the left-over sleepy dullness in her head as she stirred awake. She gave a long groan. "Ohhnoooo! It was just a dream. Bother! Bother!" She sighed, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. Then she smiled and looked up at the dim ceiling of her room, "But oh! What a dream! How wonderful that was!"

As she lay awake in her bed in the dark, a wide grin across her face, she thought to herself how incredibly difficult it was going to be to keep from telling her best friend about this dream.




Christine was riding home in the school bus. Her home was near the end of the bus-route so there were not many kids remaining onboard, and she was always the only one who stepped off here.

She still had a bit more than a kilometer to walk to home along the dusty, unsurfaced road, among the dry, straggly trees and shrubs. It was always nice to be alone here, preceded by her shadow, with the sun warming her back. She walked at her own pace, deep in thought and feeling pretty proud of herself that she'd made it through the whole day without telling Anita, or anybody else, about her latest dream. Her dreams were now her private secret. Somehow that made them feel even more special.

"Christine! Wait. I need to talk to you." A young girl's voice came from behind her as the bus drove off.

Christine stopped and turned to see a girl, perhaps one or two years younger than herself, running up to her. She was wearing the same kind of clothes that girls at her school wore, and carried the usual small pack on her back.

When she reached Christine she introduced herself. "I'm Betty. You probably don't know me. I'm a year below you at school. I, um... this might sound a little odd, but, uh... I just wanted to let you know that it is dangerous to let people know about the flying thing. It's important to keep it to yourself."

Christine did think this was a bit odd. "I know. The Head Matron, Mrs Archen already warned me."

Betty's eyes widened and her face whitened. "Yikes! She knows?" She put her hands to her head, looking terribly worried. "Christine you may be in great danger."

Who was this crazy kid? Christine wondered. "Um, don't you think you're overstating it a little? I know that rumors about people start when they hear unusual things, but I've got it under control."

"No, believe me, I'm not overstating it. You can't control this kind of thing. It is incredibly dangerous, especially if the Head Matron knows, and the..." her voice trailed off. "Rumors?" She tilted her head and looked puzzled. "What rumors?"

Christine frowned and put her hands on her hips. "The rumors about my flying dreams, silly -- people making stuff up about me thinking I can actually fly, which I don't."

"Dreams?"

"Flying dreams."

"Dreams where you fly... not real-life flying?"

"Of course not real. Nobody can fly for real."

Betty's expression shifted to a more guarded look. "Of course not. Best to avoid telling people about flying dreams -- no telling what people would think. Dangerous. Not as dangerous as actually being able to fly, but of course nobody can do that. I'm glad we had this chat. Um, it's getting late. I'd better be getting home. My folks will be wondering where I am. See you at school maybe. Bye." She gave a little wave and hurried back the way she'd come.

Christine thought, this kid's a kook, then sighed and called out, "Betty! There isn't another bus for a couple of hours. How far away do you live?"

Betty stopped, but didn't do anything for a few seconds, then turned. "Uh, a couple of hours' walk."

Christine rolled her eyes and smiled, "Come on, you nut. I'll get Mum to drive you home."

She frowned, "I'm not a nut," then after a pause, smiled sheepishly. "Okay." And walked back to Christine.

"Nut or not, I can see you came out of your way to help. No matter how misguided, I'm grateful for the thought... and I'm pretty sure Mum won't mind."

Betty asked, "Look, ummm... can we not mention this to anyone, please? It's a little embarrassing."

Christine smiled. "No worries. I don't tell anybody about this stuff anymore anyway. Not even my best friend at school."

Betty looked very relieved. "Thanks." After a minute of walking in silence, listening to their footsteps and the songbirds in the surrounding trees, she added, "You're welcome to talk to me about it if you ever need to. I promise I won't tell anybody." Then after a short pause, "I have secrets too."

Christine looked at the younger girl walking beside her and wondered what secrets she could possibly have. Did she have flying dreams too?


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