Trees, walls and bulbous rocks were an opportunity for climbing when I was growing up. Craving new heights, I scrambled up castle turrets and spiralling monument stairs, bursting out at the top, eager to be near the whirling clouds. I watched as they broke apart innumerable times, coagulating into ships that rose out of gullies, riding a darkening sea-sky as the clouds became heavy with water. Skulls yawned at me, engulfing the ships, sucking them into their eye sockets, collapsing them into a homogenous grey. I dreamt of exploring those mysterious realms.
One day I stopped dreaming and said to Cinn, “For our tenth anniversary, would you like to float? But first we would fall, like Alice down the rabbit hole, and we’d have a stranger strapped to our back.”
That’s how we came to be packed into a tincan plane, sitting in the laps of our strangers, wearing conehead hats and sexy jumpsuits with straps where straps should never be. As we made the journey into the sky Cinn’s stranger fooled around, cracking unfunny jokes. At four thousand feet I looked down at the Scottish coastline, the beaches burnt white with heat, the calm sea a deep blue. The fear came at nine thousand feet as our strangers finished strapping us together. Ten thousand feet, and Cinn and his stranger were the first to go.
I watched my partner fall and felt the urge to pull him back, but instead I followed. In a second we were gone, tumbling through the sky like roiling storm clouds, lost in a mixture of exhilaration and shock. I felt the jerk of the parachute pulling us out of our freefall. Directly below us was a smudge of grey cloud, and we were swallowed up, just as the skulls had swallowed the ships. Cradled in the cold grey, I felt like I had disappeared. I stared at my feet, my toes pointing as if reaching for a foothold in the cloud. The world below emerged in glimmers of colour; green patchwork fields and the yellow insect-figure of Cinn walking back to base. I helped steer the canopy, feinting left towards the airfield. We continued our journey to the earth, dropping out of paradise, drifting on azure and eddies of cotton-white. “I still believe in my childhood dreams,” I said, as little wisps of cloud snaked around us like a cartoon spell.