Spread before me was a spectacular view of the Caldenthakk Desert in bloom; the flowers vivid and colourful, the cliffs and plateaux brilliantly painted by the Creators and enhanced in the glancing rays of a setting sun. Malaika and Lenu were growing clearer and brighter as the day faded away.
I’d really have been enjoying myself more if I weren’t trying to convince myself I wasn’t two hundred korĵed from the desert floor dressed for flying which Sal and Mikaila already were doing, swooping and diving over the ‘scape. Varlisha was sitting a little ways off taking a breather and enjoying the remains of the picnic.
I usually enjoy these trips, but normally they let me stay on the ground, choose a lower and less narrow cliff to jump from. Then all I’ve got to do is enjoy the view, enjoy my friends’ stunts and fret one of them will succumb to gravity at any moment.
“Come on, Lor,” Sal said as she landed next to me, “It’s safe, and you’ll love it.” Knowing me so well, she added, “Really, it’s safe. I promise.”
Before I realised what she was doing she’d led me by the hand to the edge then asked, “Ready?”
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I’ve never been sure just why heights bother me so much nor how I had let them talk me into putting on this outfit, but I really did want to try it … flying always looked so beautiful, and free, and fun if more than a little terrifying.
“You don’t have to, you know?” Sal said softy from beside me.
I opened my eyes to see her looking at me still smiling, seemingly oblivious to the fact I’d unconsciously started to squeeze her hand so hard mine was going numb. “I’ll be right here, I promise. You can even keep holding my hand if you want, but you might want to loosen your grip a little; you’d break Cardigen’s hearts if you ruin that manicure this soon after he did it.”
That made me chuckle and loosen my grip a little. “I want to.” I hesitated, torn between wanting the comfort of Sal’s hand and my fear of plummeting us both to the desert sands below.
Finally fear won, and just as I let go her hand I tipped forward with my eyes tight closed and fell into the air. I expected at any moment to feel the ground rising up to meet me, but I didn’t.
There was a rush of air, but not as fast as I’d expected nor, I finally realised, from the direction I’d expected. Keeping my eyes closed was making me so dizzy I felt ill so I opened them to find myself gliding serenely over the flower strewn, silvery painted, moons-lit ground. I felt a burst of panic as I realised I was defying gravity from less than half an hundred korĵed up, but I calmed as I realised I wasn’t falling … well as I wasn’t doing anything to prevent it I, technically, was but quite slowly and very much controlled.
A little tentatively at first and with growing confidence I tried banking and climbing and generally soared my way across the sky; my terror still there but buried under thrill and excitement. I would never bring myself to fly as fast or to dive and do stunts the way the others did, but the odd roll, and just tranquil drifting was soon a new found love.
I still abhor heights – at least from near the edge of them, but if I’ve got my flying clothes they suddenly don’t seem so bad.