I had never thought about flying. I had thought about the goshawk which could fly, and catch, and rip, and devour, but I had never thought about flying. Flying meant power and control. Flying was to be like the goshawk, looking down on a world that was defenceless to your scrutiny, and willing to give up parts of its bounty if they were demanded. I thought about the goshawk and it thought about me. And there was Sandham, sleeping in the earliest of early mornings, frost laying on the grounds as if it was a sugary decoration.
I could have stayed up there forever. Nothing could touch me and the thermals obeyed my wishes. Sandham was a toy castle and the surrounding vegetation had taken it upon itself to surround, overgrow and suffocate. From the outside, from the ground, there would have been no suggestion of Sandham having existed. The trees and nettles, and thorns provided a supreme barrier, one that could not be guessed at. But sometimes, being a goshawk meant that primal desires controlled all else. Being a hawk meant that meat was paramount, eating was supreme, and killing was the only way to satiate it. It was Friday and fish was on the menu for those boys down there. For a hawk, Friday did not exist, for a hawk that had spent so long developing, anything its gaze desired was on the menu, and woodpigeon was too small a meal for a growing hawk.
On that morning, the fields were empty of movement. The white of the frost covered all that offered themselves up. It was blank canvas that had not been spoiled by man nor beasts. And there was I, the very nature of hunger held within my frame, the very essence of fate that was falling with a precision that could have only been created in dreams. What awaited me was a total absence of life. Not even a woodpigeon flew or a rabbit nibbled. At times such as this, all the creatures of the world lay close to the ground and undercover for fear of being seen. Life in this world appeared to have truly taken sleep as a precaution. But then the lamb wandered out from beneath the canopy of a elm.
Did I say that it was a lamb? It was too big for a mouse and yet too small for a horse. I said lamb because that was the first thing that came into my mind. I needed a target, a focus, a reason for aerodynamically falling from the heavens and that particular thing was what had just dropped into my mind. Whatever it was that awaited me still waited. It was possibly something to do with echo, or fate, or an echo of fate. At this moment, I will have to delay my present thinking because the ground was coming up to me and it was coming up to me at an incomprehensible speed.
“Before it becomes too late, could I make a suggestion?” interrupted, echo.
It was fortunate that I had extremely good hearing that had become even better since the emptiness of the thing they called ‘lockdown’. Lockdown was when the world went quiet, when the detritus disappeared and when the things that hid from man came out into the open. Perhaps, when I was descending at such a speed with the air ripping around me, I should not have heard the girl who was echo and I certainly should have not been able to listen to her suggestion.
“As what you think is a lamb is actually the frost-hardened ground that will meet you like the unforgiving concrete that it really is, would it not be wise to not be so focussed? And how about thinking of yourself as the person who you are rather than something you are not? And you are not a mini meteor.”
Sometimes words stop you in your tracks. Although I believed myself to be the winged reaper, travelling through the air as if it was my own kingdom, these words stopped my descent regardless of there being no tracks in the air around me. For some moments I was suspended in contemplation, incapable of movement, trapped by the in escapable logic of the questions. What it seemed to boil down to was that I was deceiving myself. Everything around me was a creation and that included myself. The more this solidified in my cognitive digestive system, the less I could defy gravity. I was thus fortunate that my descent had halted a mere six feet-from the ground. Still, six feet does hurt when you are travelling it head first. I was doubly fortunate to hit soft mud rather than ice-hard grass. And a lamb was there to witness it.
She could have said, ‘told you so’ but she was no longer there to say it. As it turns out, neither was I. Echo was no more, well at least for the time being. I was coming around with a very sore head and a neck that seemed to be trapped at one particular angle. When I raised myself in order to confirm that no serious injury had occurred from my rapid descent (all of six-feet), I was able to see that I had not landed in the place that I had first thought would be touchdown. Yes, I was a little muddy, both inside and out, but I was not within sight of the wonderful old folly that was Sandham. What I could perceive was that next to me was a huge growth of trees and bushes which had formed themselves into an impenetrable mass of branches and thorns, with a very definite warning sign that read, KEEP OUT.
If the school had been a confusion, this new world was doubly so. For the first time in my recent memory, I was on the outside trying to get in, but Sandham was closed. The KEEP OUT sign stared down at me with a certain contempt, daring me. I was on the outside yet was not part of it. The world was a miasma of frost with ill-defined shapes appearing out of the near distance. Somewhere the muffled engine of a vehicle rattled into life whilst someplace else a dog’s bark snapped at the air. My own hands offered up no consoling definition and I was sure that the rest of me would be likewise. This must be how ghosts felt, lonely and incapable. On the positive front, being so nebulous could be a benefit. I knew that ghost were renowned for passing through walls (a feat I had already achieved to some extent whilst on the inside) and I thought that I might try my hands (ill-defined as they were) at that.
It was the first time that I thought that being a ghost could be advantageous. Forget about all the dead stuff, the coffins, the last words, actually walking through barriers that were intent on ripping the skin off any trespassers, and coming out unscathed, seemed to be a brilliant advantage. It’s probably hindsight that did the damage. In hindsight, I would not have imagined myself to be as invulnerable to the barbarism of ancient branches and vengeful thorns as I thought I would be. Hindsight would have told me that because of my delusional state of being convinced by my ghostly standing, I was also convinced by my impunity towards aspects of the physical world. Walking through a jagged hedge, that was intent upon keeping people from walking through it, was just a tiny measure of my personal misunderstanding. Still, I did it – eventually.