The Flying Boy – Anita Goveas

The storm has passed. The lightning did not strike. The smell of iron is still in the air. This is the day of triumph, of achievement, of realisation. She will complete her quest by herself.

The last item of furniture to be removed from her cell is the bed. The wood is rough against her hands but light. It takes no effort in transit. The last item of importance is the sulphur globe. She scavenged sulphur from the apothecary and the metal rod came from a fireplace. It is the only thing that belongs to her.

She places it by the flowering cherry tree she sees every day through her barred window. She walks past to her tools. She spends time cleaning the trowel, the hoe, the rake until they gleam. They are elements of creation. They should be immaculate for the next person. The first bell rings out and dies away.

She hastens to the lake. The light races across the turquoise water. The three boys are waiting. The tallest with the limp. The middle one, the oldest, with the brown hair and the crooked ear. The shortest, with the strongest hands. She has traded apples, carrots and sweet perfumed strawberries from the garden for their patience and co-operation. The middle one shows curiosity and returns often without expecting trade. He has already placed the frame with its silken ties. They all raise their hands to be the conductor. She chooses the one with the chestnut hair, like hers.

The boy is fixed securely around the chest, with his arms free and his feet entirely off the ground. They have practised sufficiently. They are waiting for the audience.

Michael the treasurer walks past on his usual brisk walk to the kitchen. She waits for the look of disapproval and holds the spinning globe against the feet of the suspended boy. His feet begin to glow. It smells of fireside and approaching storm. The virtue is transferred. Michael falters, a never before witnessed occurrence. He stiffens, turns and walks in the other direction. As expected. She waits now for the confirmation. The second bell rings out and dies away. The echo is louder by the pond.

When Michael returns with Thomas the apothecary, the acknowledged man of science, the shortest boy is holding an open book balanced in his strong, sure hands. As the suspended boy reaches out the pages of the book begin to turn. The boy is laughing, waving continuously, the pages surrendering under each pass. The watching men turn and walk towards the largest building. They will return. This is the day of triumph.

They wait now for the testimony: she, the suspended boy, her fellows in experimentation. They are elements of creation. They will be the things she will regret once she has succeeded. Once she has achieved.

Matthew the leader approaches, bringing men with tools in work-roughened hands. These tools are not for creation. She holds the sulphur globe against the feet of the suspended boy. The feet glow. The tallest boy moves forward to stand on the mat of twigs. Perhaps the lightning remains in its surroundings.

The suspended boy reaches out to the tallest boy and the spark leaps between them. It leaps between them and then to the silken ties. The boy with the chestnut hair and the crooked ear is still laughing as he floats away, feet first towards the incipient lightning.

She walks back to her room. The third bell rings out as she is trapped in the passage between the garden and her destination. The echoes swell in her ear.

She lies down on the stone floor, positioned to observe the cherry tree in the garden. She will leave the sulphur globe for the boy with the chestnut hair and the crooked ear. They will come for her now. This is the day of triumph.

 

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ANITA GOVEAS is British-Asian, based in London, and fueled by strong coffee and paneer jalfrezi. Her stories are published and forthcoming in the 2016 London Short Story Prize anthology, the Word Factory website, Dodging the Rain, Rigorous, Pocket Change lit, Haverthorn, and Riggwelter.

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Image: Public Domain

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