Window in the Sky
Dreamed 2006/10/15 by Emily Joy
1. ANGER AND BELIEF
It's a big day for Middle Earth: the master races have called a truce. Elves, orcs, dwarves, goblins, even men, have all agreed to cease their violence. In celebration, a picnic is held on the lawns of Saruman's school. The weather is perfect, the valley green and soft. In no time, elves and orcs are gearing up for sports—soccer, football, handball, who knows. Anything that involves flying objects and competition. The refs are enthusiastic, see it as a great way for everyone to work out residual hatred without getting killed. Football for world peace!
I'm not into sports. Instead, I climb a giant hill behind the school and hike along the grassy ridge, watching the teams look like little orc-ants and elf-mites scurrying around on the fields. It's windy and cool up here, and feels remote, with a few faint yells from below bouncing their way up. A great contentment sweeps over me. They've stopped fighting. Anything is possible now.
I sit down on the ridge. Pull an old, leatherbound book out of my knapsack. It's thicker than my fist but light as a feather; that's why I chose it. I needed lots of pages to flutter, but I can't afford too much extra weight yet. My plan is to hold this book over my head, flip the pages until they remind me of trembling feathers, and, hopefully, convince myself the book is a pair of wings. And then, even more hopefully, I'll fly.
Sounds crazy? Well, yes—a book cannot become a pair of wings. But that's not my intention. I don't need wings; I merely need to believe that I have wings. I'm not ready to believe that I can fly without wings, so this is my adaptation.
I stand up and stretch my arms above my head, holding the book, pages down, to the sky. I take a deep breath, and begin.
After twenty minutes of running about with loose pages floating crazily down around my head, I'm a little frustrated. Okay, a lot frustrated. I'm not believing hard enough! Where am I going to get the energy to power flight?
But then I realize that my anger is a force, too, swirling around me like a thundercloud. I bend it until it takes shape—two big, invisible wings upon my back. Big, leathery, imaginary bat wings. And I believe in them; they're made of anger. I believe in anger. It's an emotion, like belief. But anger is more solid.
Gripping the book high above me, I blaze with temper. Anger and belief rise like claws swiping at the air, lifting me onto my toes. It'll work. I believe it. I open and close the book like a bellows, and feel my wings tracking the movements. Open, close. Open, close. Open—and as I close the book, a tremendous surge of power throws me into the air. Giddiness floods my chest; I nearly drop my book.
I soon find that the great wings flap each time I shut the book. It's disorienting and unsteady power; pointedly ignoring the fact that I'm defying gravity and could fly freely if I wanted to, I rise and fall and shake as though I'm actually being jerked around by the downdrafts of massive wings. The physical implications of this erratic flight are much more baffling than they are with free flying, now that I think about it. I'm not only defying gravity, but also causing it to treat me as though I have wings. I have no idea how or why that works. But I don't want to think about that right now; I'll fall. Instead I practice flying around the ridge for an hour or two, visualizing as hard as I can. By the end, I can almost see the skeletal outlines of my wings.
Dusk is falling, spilling sunset on the school grounds, as I drift back to earth. A small crowd awaits—friends of mine who went looking for me when they couldn't find me at the games. They're all shining with awe; they want me to teach them flight. I carefully slip the book back into my bag and think about this.
"All right," I tell them. "I'll try. But we can't do it here. Anyone know about a wide-open space where we can practice? Preferably out of sight?" I don't know why, but I have serious qualms about flying too much within sight of Saruman's school. Maybe it's because he used to be evil. Or the fact that not even his students learn to fly. Hell, Saruman himself can't fly, and he's supposed to be a wizard. What have I gotten us into?
We decide to meet the next day at a big field in a well-known wildlife preserve. It's in the middle of nowhere, with tall trees to shield us. Everyone is to bring along an item that reminds them of flight; these will become their wings.
Many more people turn up for lessons than were waiting on the ground that evening. Over the next week, every one of them learns to fly. Most of my students have an easier time believing than I did, having seen me do it.
I fine-tune my own flight while they practice. It's getting easier and easier to feel my wings, until one day, I find that I can fly without my book. The next day, I can't fly with my book. I can pick it up and carry it while I fly, but I can no longer use it the way I did before. Strange.
Finally, I feel that my students are flying well enough to go out over Middle Earth. We make a colorful flock: people of every age and race, all holding something over their heads—a pinwheel, a feather, a toy pterodactyl, a drawing of a bird. All except for the one at the front, who flies empty-handed. We form a V like wild geese, and head off toward Rivendell.
Gradually I become uneasy. I think there's someone watching us—and as I confide that to a friend beside me, an arrow comes streaking out of the canopy below and slays her.
The others watch her body fall. And then there is pandemonium. Arrows start whizzing through the air; more of my friends are hit before we can get out of range.
"Higher! Higher!" I scream, but few can follow. My own flight is suffering. It takes concentration to fly; many are sinking rapidly from fear. We need a soft place to land, or we'll crash!
A river appears through a break in the trees. Gratefully, we swoop toward it. But we're nowhere near safe yet. As we plough into the water, orc warriors charge out of the woods, covering the banks on both sides. Saruman's army!
One of the fliers flushes magenta, yells to the others, "Forget your fear! We gotta get out of here NOW!"
Anger. Of course. He rises once more, along with two-thirds of the others. But not everyone can turn fear into anger that easily. I hover above the water, aching, as the orcs capture the rest of my friends.
"Why are you doing this?" I cry to the orcs. They don't answer, just jeer at me and make threatening gestures with their weapons. The river has begun to run red. There's nothing I can do. I leave the ones in the water, though it hurts like tearing holes in my heart, and fly up to rejoin the flock.
The entire day is like this. Everywhere we go, we are assaulted. Not just by orcs, either: elves and men, goblins and dwarves. Everyone in Middle Earth seems to want us dead. Flight is not exhausting, but panic is. We lose more and more of our flock. At last, when we're too tired to fly more than six feet above the ground, Saruman himself leads a charge that strands us on the end of the great stone summit at Minas Tirith, the same place where Denethor fell to his death.
Trying to ignore the orcs crowding the summit fifteen feet away from us, I turn to the last of my companions. Of forty students, less than a dozen remain. They've lost their tools as well; they've been dragging along on willpower for miles. But if we could somehow recharge our emotions…
I quickly evaluate the situation. The summit is one thousand feet above the ground; from this vantage point, I can see that the coast is clear outside of the city. If we can take the leap of faith off of this ledge… But it's so daunting. What if we lost our ability to fly? Suddenly, in midair?
So what if we do? If we stay here, we'll die for sure.
There's got to be a key. Some words. Something to help us remember our flight, make us angry enough to believe we have a chance. It comes to me…
"Ladies and gentlemen," I address my friends solemnly, "let's go live for so much more."
They understand instantly. I've twisted a line from the chorus of a song we all know, Meant to Live by Switchfoot:
It works. We're angry.
Roaring out the lyrics, we move as one and plunge over the ledge. And fly. We swoop down at breakneck speed, like crazed falcons, and then pull up and soar higher than we've ever been before. Minas Tirith becomes a little white blemish covered with orcs—small as ants again.
"Find us a place to rest," suggests a breathless girl. I'm still the strongest flier, so I spiral out of the flock, up, up, up until Middle Earth looks like a circular map spread out to the horizon. I magically improve my eyes so I can scan the ground for movement—armies, at least, will stand out.
Then something shiny catches my eye. It's above me—odd, since there aren't any aircraft in Middle Earth capable of going that high. I fly higher still to investigate, hoping I won't overreach myself…and hit my head. Hard. Stars dance in my eyes as I struggle to make sense of what I've discovered.
The shiny object in front of me is a tiny, circular stained-glass window—and I've just made contact with the ceiling.
Middle Earth has a ceiling.
We're in a bio-dome!
No wonder we couldn't escape—there's only so far we can go! We're trapped in here like fish in a bowl, and we'll never, never be safe until we leave.
I freefall in shock. Back in the midst of the group, I recover my flight and start telling them what I've seen. I'm so excited I can hardly speak. "It's a dome! There's a—not sky—window in the sky—I need a rock! Has anyone got a rock?"
One girl nods and drops dizzyingly out of the air to the ground. We hang in space, watching the swath of forest she disappeared into. Before we can worry about her, she comes racing back, and hands me a small stone. I grab it and speed to the window. Not sure how well this rock is going to work—it's really small—but impulsively I wedge it between two of my fingers, like one of Logan's metal claws, and lash out at the window with my fist.
Glass shatters and falls like colorful rain. I chip away some loose fragments from around the frame, half-float, half-haul myself through…
…And come out through a manhole in the middle of a street. What? Dazedly, I realize that I know this place—it's my friend Madeline's neighborhood near downtown Springfield. I've flown out into Suburbia.
Now I understand why my friends and I are such a threat. Magic is fine in Middle Earth—but we were never in Middle Earth. That's why our flying bothered them so much! This is Earth, where things are Impossible. I've broken more than a window—I've shattered the very concept of Impossibility. Here on Earth, that translates to Reality.
Oops. Honestly, I didn't know.
Sirens jolt me into action. Saruman has called in the law officials. No time to dive back through the hole and round up my friends; police cars barrel down the street toward me. In a blink, I take to the air and fly right over them.
You didn't think I'd stop flying now, did you?
4. THE GOBLINS' MISTAKE
A few weeks later, I'm still loose on Earth. I haven't heard anything from "Middle Earth," but I know Saruman is hunting me.
As it turns out, Saruman is a wizard of sorts: a scientist. And there is no way he can allow me to exist. I'm Unexplainable, a bad smudge on reality. So I've been living in an isolated forest, sleeping in trees like a bird. Two other humans found me and they've been giving me food in return for flying lessons.
Yep, I'm at it again. These two will take decades to get good at it, if they ever do; they've grown up on Normal Earth. So far, only the young girl has been able to do as much as levitate a few inches. Still, they believe, and they love to watch me fly.
One day, the three of us are out on a hilltop in a meadow, talking and having a lesson. They've both chosen their tools: the man favors a book, the way I used to, and the girl has a beautiful fake butterfly made of silk.
They've been progressing slowly; they can now take graceful long leaps and stay in the air for longer than they "should" be able to.
They are practicing this, and having a lot of fun with it, when the ground begins to tremble. Angry sounds float to us over the crest of the hill.
My blood runs cold. It sounds like a goblin war party.
"What—" the man starts to ask. I cut him off with a gesture, listening intently. There are other sounds now, human voices. In a flash of intuition, I see two armies converging behind the hill. The goblins have gotten bored of hunting me, so they started a war with the Earth humans.
"Oh, shit," I say softly. "There's a bomb."
I'm sure they didn't mean to detonate it. Neither side would do a thing like this intentionally. It was definitely the goblins; they could have found it somewhere and mistaken it for something milder. They had no way of knowing what a hydrogen bomb was.
As a cloud of particles balloons silently over the hill, I pick up the girl and fly. My other friend will die; I can only carry one, and the girl is much lighter.
Even so, it was too hopeful to think that I could outfly an explosion of this magnitude. We keep ahead of the wave for a while. But then it catches us, and we are engulfed. Pressure pounds in my head. Then there is darkness.
So many people died that day. I didn't.
I wake up on a sofa inside a musty apartment. The windows show close-packed buildings outside—a completely empty city, left intact when life was erased.
How did I survive? And how did I get here? I lurch around the room, cradling my aching head, trying to remember. Open a door, and walk in on Yoda taking a bubble bath.
He smiles and waves. I yell, slam the door, turn around, and bump into Gandalf.
"Excuse me," he mumbles, and brushes past me into the bathroom. I hear Gandalf and Yoda discussing the survivors:
"Well, of course we have to train them. That much power, and no place to go!"
"Be civilized, they must. The Force, used by cowards cannot be!"
"Presumably, if they're still here…" mutter mutter "…self-necromancy."
As I eavesdrop, the front door opens and Luke Skywalker comes in, leading a few dazed-looking people behind him. More survivors. They sink onto the sofa, dozing off immediately.
Dan Millman (author of The Way of the Peaceful Warrior) emerges from another room. He and Luke chat for a minute, and then Dan goes to join the discussion in the bathroom.
Luke sits down on the sofa, gently taps a man awake, and starts asking him questions.
I have some questions myself. What kept them alive? What kept me alive?
Before I get a chance to ask, I wake up.
Ick. Normal Earth again...
For the full impact of the Switchfoot song Meant to Live, please go read the lyrics if you don't know them. I didn't. I'm terrible at deciphering voices on the radio, so I'd never really understood the words. When I finally looked them up, after I had this dream, I was surprised—some part of my brain had heard the words perfectly, and built a dream around them.
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