When Ismay was nine she learnt to fly. It was all semblances, dreamscapes of course. Even a child of nice can distinguish between what is real and what is not, but for her, sleep had become more than a necessity. It was a refuge.
Her mother and father had rowed before, of course. But never that badly ever before. “Of course” – she learnt to accept it too soon.
She watched love turn to loathing. Wakefulness was increasingly painful to her. There was nothing she could do to change the goings-on in her home, so instead she searched for sleep. She was forever sleeping.
Years later, she could still remember with perfect clarity her first encounter with Patrick. He came to her in a dream.
She was sitting in her aunt’s garden, under the walnut tree, reading her favourite book. This was the place she felt safest in. It was hers to escape to. The gate creaked open. As she looked up from the page, she saw a teenage boy fighting his way through dandelions to reach her. He smiled. A second sun joined the day.
She was transfixed by his other-worldly beauty. That skin, so pale yet radiant in the summer light, that rebellious mop of jet-black hair, and those eyes: indigo – like bathing in the sun-dance of a field-full of violets.
He offered his hand to help her stand up next to him: “Hi, Ismay.”
“Hello…” she paused, suddenly unsure, “Why are you here?”
“You were unhappy, so I came. I’m Patrick.” He kept her hand in his and motioned over towards the little plum orchard at the back. “Tell me, Ismay, did you get your wings yet? Can you fly?”
His question was an odd one, but she did not find it so. “It can’t be done.” She told him. “It is an impossible feat.”
He picked up a couple of pieces of flat timber from under a plum tree. They were even and thin and Ismay noticed that their edges had been smoothed out so that they looked almost oval in shape. Patrick ran his fingers over the two surfaces in turn and then placed them on the ground one next to the other. He stepped onto the board closest to him and indicated for her to step onto the other.
He took both her hands into his. “Close your eyes. Feel your feet against the timber.”
She did as he said.
“Can you feel it?” he asked after a few moments, “Can you feel its stillness against the ground?”
There was no mockery in his voice. He told her to trust him and Ismay took a leap of faith. “Yes.” she said.
Her feet were one with the timber. The timber was one with the earth. There was a flowing energy connecting all together.
“Now drive it into the ground,” said Patrick, “Imagine that you want to push it down, all the way to the centre of the planet.”
She did as she was told, but nothing happened. She opened her eyes and looked at Patrick, her lower lip protruding slightly. It did not work. It could not happen. But Patrick did not seem unhappy.
He held her hands and grinned broadly, “You’ve got it!”
And she had! Incredibly, they were floating on their boards a few inches above the ground, as if the magnetic force of the Earth had reacted to that of their bodies, set against it and pushed them skywards.
“We are flying!” she laughed happily. “Patrick, I am flying!”
“Not yet. But we are air bound and that’s a start. Now you need to imagine yourself moving forward. Just imagine the force in your back foot outweigh the other and find a point of reference… How about the gate?”
He let go of her hand and moments later was at the gate, floating just above it. He waited for Ismay to join him. The strain of the exercise had crowned his forehead with water beads. They glinted in the summer sun like gemstones.
She focused all her new-found elation of flight on him. He was her point of reference. She wanted to be next to him, to hold his hand again. This will move her forward. She strove to get near, and her board seamlessly carried her to where her heart’s wish lay.
The lesson was over. Their adventure was just beginning.
Soon they were two blurry outlines above the yellow-green fields. Then hand in hand they crossed oceans, the saline wind whipping their cheeks.
“This is heaven!” she exclaimed, “Let’s never stop!”
She breathed in the flagrance of prairies, of algae peppered seas, and frosty mountaintops. She abandoned herself fully to this voyage he gifted her. She will always crave the exhilarating newness of a journey.
But stop it did. As the evening approached, Patrick told her that she had to return home. It was with great reluctance that she agreed. And as she waved goodbye, standing next to the gate at her auntie’s house, she wished with all her heart that she would not wake up.
Morning came. The dream was over. But from that day onward, Ismay could not wait to go to sleep again. Her parents’ drama raged against the walls of her outer-world for months. For months, night after night, Ismay’s mind turned inward as she visited mysterious continents at the side of her wistful companion.
She was convinced that he was real. Somewhere in the world there lived a boy whose face and voice were already familiar to her, and through some unknown magic, their minds had found a plain of existence where they could be together.