Chapter 2: Flying There
At that moment, like the deep voice of the mother goddess came the gruff sound of her beloved, gasping “Wh-what’s, huh, what’s wrong, tiger?”
Lavinia had noticed! Even through all the distraction she had pulled herself out of ecstasy to comfort Sally.
Sally tried to talk but could only cry helplessly. God, she hated this!
“Hey baby, hey baby, ‘s okay, ‘s okay. We’ll go down for a while, we’ll, I dunno, we’ll fucking float on the waves a bit, let the sharks nibble at our toes. That was a joke! Aw Jesus, okay, okay, it’s okay.”
In her mind, Sally clutched with desperate hunger at the words, “we’ll go down for a while.” Yes, yes! Down from the blind, hateful sky! Float on those amber blue waves. Her mind scrambled together an image: there’d be a big floating log they could cling to and rest for a while.
The rush of wind had slowly died away as Lavinia breezed to a gentle stop and started to reverse undulate her way down. The clouds were beneath them now, she saw them approaching as she risked a tear-blurred glance down. That would mean a cold, yucky rest…
“Honey, no no, go back up! Don’t land!” she screamed. The cloud layer was all around them now, great castles and drifts making damp fingers reaching up to them. “Once you’re out of the sun we’ll have no way to take off again!”
Lavinia pulled up in time. “Shit, my brain just can’t, huh, fuckin’ work in the sun.” With intense concentration, she focused on Sally’s face, started to move her hand to wipe Sally’s eyes.
“Don’t let go!” Sally was screaming again. The hand quickly firmed itself behind her back again. They floated just above the tops of the clouds, which looked solid like cream puffs.
“Does it, hunh, does it help to see what, hah, looks like ground so close below?” Lavinia managed to ask.
Sally was almost angry to realize how much it did help. She wasn’t a kid to be fooled by illusions or comforted with fake stories! But as her brain edged back to the image of thousands of feet of empty air below the clouds, she clung to the illusion. That was land, right down there, with fairy castles and soft, bouncy cotton canyons.
But it was land slowly turning bright yellow, kindling into molten gold as the sun neared the horizon. What should they do? Turn around and chase the sun so that at least they’d stay in the air? Or fly desperately east as much further as they could, knowing that they absolutely had to be near land? Lavinia couldn’t fly at night. When they’d tried the night before, Lavinia had simply glided lower and lower like a deflating balloon until they landed in a huge cornfield.
That was going to happen in another twenty minutes at most, but there’d be no cornfield to land in. Could they survive a night floating on the North Atlantic Ocean? It would be cold and there might be sharks. But she could handle sharks, she thought with crazy confidence. She’d stake their cold hearts, gut one and push it away from her so the others would attack it in a feeding frenzy.
“Babe?” she started, not sure what she was going to say. “I guess you should just keep going until we lose the sun. And then, then we just start down and hope for the best.” She felt like she could handle anything if she wasn’t high in the air. And she could eat that fucking granola bar and that bag of chips!
Twenty minutes later, the sun eased below the clouds, turning them fiery red for a few minutes. And right on schedule, Lavinia started to lose height. Closer and closer to those fabulous cloud castles they glided, and then with a whoosh they went right through one.
An instant later, Sally was surrounded by a chill damp blanket which whipped tiny droplets into her face. She buried her face against Lavinia’s warm bosom, heart beating with the terror of what they were about to go through.
They emerged from the belly of the cloud roof. Sally risked a look around through the dull grey evening air.
There behind her, directly in Lavinia’s path, was the most beautiful island she’d ever seen, rising like a broken and mossy green bone from the heaving sea. From low on its side came a flash of light. A white lighthouse nestled low in the green folds that robed the rocky island. From the peak of the island rose a plume of white steam. Just below the peak was a cluster of mysterious lumps which for all the world looked like stone beehives.
And Lavinia was going to make it, there was no doubt about it. She had enough height and speed to land on the island, not in the sea. Sally, exuberant with relief, was shocked to hear a now-rational Lavinia say, “Um, babe? I got almost no control. We’re comin’ in like a glider and we might could land hard.”
“What??!” Sally looked down at the snapping waves getting nearer with each second and the rocky green hill approaching like a cement wall. The terror of falling threatened to gag her. Gasping for air, she clung tighter, burying her face in Lavinia’s breast. Get a grip, get a grip, she commanded herself.
But Lavinia was now completely rational and calm. “Get yourself ready, tiger. I think I got just enough oomph to slow us down enough to land in the notch between those two peaks. Otherwise we skim over the top and land in the drink on the other side. Get ready for a rough landing.”
Gasping with terror, Sally nodded against the warm skin. But she couldn’t look as the sound of the sea grew louder. The lonely cries of gulls slipped through the rush of air, a salty briny smell filled her nostrils. The white thunder of the waves crashing against sheer rock hundreds of feet below made her weep with terror. Her stomach lurched, lurched again as Lavinia dropped.
There came an intense smell of heather and grass and a rush of wind. Sally, risking a brief look, saw a reared dragon’s-head of sharp stone against the dimming sky, and a stone stairway that rose toward it like the scales on a dragon’s back. Lavinia, however she did it, braked them hard so that Sally surged against Lavinia’s strong body. For a glorious moment, Sally thought they would land safely in the cozy little grassy notch. But then they were over it and plunging down the steep eastern side of the island toward the sea.
Sally screamed her anguish. They were falling; the rush sent needles through her hands and feet. She registered wild images of a crazy stone stairway climbing up the lonely island like something out of a fairy tale before she had to close her eyes again: they were heading straight for an outcrop of rock. Another surge as Lavinia tried to stop them.
“Shit! Almost had it!
Her voice came from far away as Sally spun toward blackness.