Flying Without Wings

Naive style painting of child in blue night shirt flying high above the town among the stars

In his mind, William can go anywhere, do anything – and he so wishes to take his family, too

It’s morning. I hear the birds singing outside. How happy they sound.

My stomach hurts and I wriggle and moan until my Mummy bends over my bed and picks me up.

Her sturdy arms wrap themselves around me and her voice talks soothingly as we plop down the stairs to begin our day.

It is very early, not quite light. Typical – I have wakened too soon again.

She sighs. I feel her sadness.

It flows throughout her body like a stagnating stream.

It won’t be long before he joins us and my body starts to tense, knowing the shouting will soon be thudding against the walls invading the pleasant, peaceful atmosphere.

I try to listen to the birds again but Mummy has turned on the television and she is talking to me with her now shrill, agitated voice that is beginning to become louder – like an aeroplane about to take off.

I am sitting on Mummy’s lap beside the kitchen table when the door opens and he walks in, wondering if there might be a cup of tea for him…

“You’ll have to wait. I’m feeding William. It wouldn’t hurt you to do it for a change, you know.”

“I have to work.” His voice is deep, low, rather resembling a large hole in the garden.

“Hah, what I wouldn’t do to go to work instead of having to stay inside these four walls…”

So it will continue, on and on, until either he goes to work or my school bus arrives.

I stare at Mummy’s face – young, and pretty as her blond wispy hair blows about endlessly, yet harassed with angry creases.

Am I such a lot of work?

Then I peer over at Daddy’s craggy features and I have to smile. His dark beard makes me want to giggle. He leans over and kisses me and the beard tickles my cheeks. I roar with laughter.

“See, look at that, I can always make him laugh. Not like you, forever screeching…”

The voices are rising now, climbing up the hill toward the rain clouds, drowning out the sound of the television and even the sound of everything else.

My mind becomes blank and my eyes turn into a whirlpool of secrets. Hidden secrets, like a whole heap of treasure found at the bottom of the sea.

I am a spaceman and carelessly I drift upwards to the sky, through the cottonwool clouds, and listen to the birdsong – as they fly over and under me, I can almost feel their beaky breath.

Fresh air touches my bare skin and it is wonderful, making me free.

My legs grow and move around expertly, leaping about effortlessly, and the constant pain disappears.

I am a spaceman floating through space, smiling at the moon, winking at the stars, waving to the sun, and I feel happy, fresh – alive.

My bent body is straight as it soars upwards and my arms outstretch while the cool air trickles through my fingers. I smell the freedom and inhale it joyfully.

I can sing, I can shout. I talk like my brother.

We eat McDonald’s and the higher I fly, the more alive I become.

The moon is nearer and the silvery substance engulfs me. I fly over to a large bird, my golden crested bird, and carelessly lean across and climb aboard.

Space is surrounding me and I go wherever I like and I tell the space my requests…

“I want to taste a cup of tea, no more milky drinks today.” My voice croaks out its orders. “No school bus today – a walk in the park instead, so that Mummy can smile again.”

I can demand whatever I want; being a spaceman I am allowed to do this and I tell my bird to zoom higher, higher…

Now the colours are strong, vivid, splashing me like a paint pot.

I pick up a paint brush and I can paint a beautiful picture of birds and trees and people smiling so Mummy can pin it on the kitchen board beside the picture my brother has drawn.

I am a spaceman and I will return to earth and collect Mummy and Daddy and Michael so they can join me in my world of delight.

We will swim through a sea of wine, run through a forest of chocolate and all the time we will hear the birds sweetly singing.

And they will hear my voice shouting out loud and clear for the first time, “I am free, I am free.”

“William, William.” Mummy is holding me upright, rubbing my face, her voice filled with concern and her tired blue eyes a mass of tears.

Daddy is bending down, looking at me, and for once they aren’t arguing but suddenly united. Their faces are close together. I notice their hands slightly touching, and their eyes stare at each other with tenderness. I see the raw emotion of love.

The door creaks open. “What’s going on?”

My brother Michael has joined us and he is looking more worried than he usually does, while his mop of brown hair sticks up. I expect he has jumped out of bed in a rush.

Mum wipes away her tears with the cuff of her dressing gown.

“It’s alright, Michael. I thought… we thought we’d lost him.”

The air is somehow thick and foggy and the silence is intense, painful. I can’t hear the television because black, heavy murmurs are pervading the room.

“You’re not sending him to school now, are you?” Daddy wants to know.

Mummy shakes her head and she sighs that deep sigh of hers again.

Michael tickles my chin for a moment then shrugs and goes over to the cupboard to find some cereal for his breakfast. I feel sad. There is never time for my brother, because they are always wrapped up in me.

Then I grin. They thought they’d lost me? Did they know my secret? Did they guess where I had been?

“Alright Will, mate?”

I look over and stare into my brother’s eyes and try to answer, but my voice has left, flown away into space and now my limbs are rigid and painful.

Yet my eyes look right into Michael’s and I see the loneliness and fear.

I think that next time I am a spaceman I will fly into his deep blue eyes that are like isolated lakes, and find my way around his thoughts.

“Come on William, let’s get you dressed and we can go to the park and feed the ducks today.” Mummy kisses me gently before laying me on the front room floor so I can stare up at the television for a short time while she leaves to quickly get dressed.

I hear Michael leave for school. He will soon be at secondary school, I heard Mummy telling the neighbours, and I wonder what that is like. I was born first, yet he does so much more.

Then Daddy kisses me on my head before he leaves for work.

I lie there patiently waiting – waiting for Mummy to come and help me.

But I am thinking about next time I am a spaceman and where I should take my brother.

We could fly high up above the clouds and we might laugh together, zooming through the space upon our golden crested birds, and we will feel the fresh air on our skins while we drift along with complete abandon.

Suddenly I stretch upwards and listen. What’s that noise I hear? It sounds like the front door opening and closing.

This isn’t usual and, trembling, I look up anxiously, wondering who it could be.

Then I feel Daddy’s big strong arms lifting me up, holding me high in the air, almost as high as those fluffy clouds.

I giggle as his beard tickles my face when he kisses me.

Mummy is standing in the doorway, with her arms folded tightly and Daddy explains why he is back.

“I thought I would take the day off after all – do something with you and William.”

Now his voice is gentle, more like the sound of tiny pebbles crunching on a beach, and suddenly sunshine is exploding into the room, brightening the whole day.

I see Mummy glance away almost shyly as she follows Daddy, still carrying me, back into the kitchen.

If only Michael were here.

We’re sharing another lovely short story of hope for the future from our archives, every Monday and Thursday during January. Look out for the next one!