Imagine, for a moment, a moment.
In this moment there is an aeroplane. It hangs alone by a thread of fate, invisible in the moonlight, which shimmers coldly down from the vastness of blinking stars. It hangs quite still, watching with a quiet curiosity the endless sea of cloud that rolls along beneath it. This aeroplane is full of travellers; some sleeping, some restless, some talking in cosy whispers. It has been hanging here for some time, and will hang for some time further. For time is a resource not lacking here, on this frozen ocean high above the world. Time itself is taken with this moment, and is happy for it to continue.
Now imagine, because you must, a sensation of falling. There is no panic, only a numbing inevitability. The aeroplane shrinks to a tiny glimmer, and a frigid howling wind roars about your ears as you plummet. The murky blanket of cloud grows ever nearer and ever larger until it swallows everything. All feeling is lost, all light is faded. Blackness is the world, and icy lances are the wind. Your bones are sodden and your heart is frosted glass. The overwhelming totality of the fall becomes all that is real. Time is not with you here.
Then, the storm. Stinging, stabbing, slicing rain. Winds like the lash of a titan’s whip. There are no stars to guide, no land for which to bear. Each wave swells and surges up and up, high enough to touch the clouds, before crashing back down, vicious and black and full of rushing fury. It seems as though the entire ocean is a ravenous, cavernous beast of impossible size and immeasurable strength, and its roar is more terrible than can be told.
Yet here, even as we shield our eyes from the downpour to scan the black horizon, there is a light. It is tossed and turned, hurled and churned around and around in this terrible chaos, but it does not go out. It comes closer, and brings with it a wretched vessel. A ship, for certain, but in this moment it may as well be no more than a shattered rowing boat. She is torn and laboring, and no hand or heart could save her now, yet the light flickers still. Closer, and a giant wave sprawls upon the deck. Closer, and the cabin door flails wildly on its hinges. Still closer, and then stop. Stop the rain, stop the waves, stop the flailing cabin door. The storm is all but still. High above, a great sheet of obsidian waits to crash, reduced to just a looming crawl. All around, drops of rain fall like lazy snowflakes in the treacle air.
In this breath of mercy, frozen in time, drift through the cabin door and down into the belly of the ship. All is cold and left to drown. There is cargo, and stinking fish, and hopeless fear. Down further still, through dripping corridors and the rank dark, into the very bosom of the broken beast, there can be found a little door. No, it is locked fast. Do not trouble your mind to open it, for it may not be opened. Instead, sit down in the shivering blackness, shut out all thoughts and feelings, and imagine.
Imagine a moment. In this moment there is a small cabin, so small there is barely room enough to dream. There is a gas lamp, warm and loving in the cold and dark. There are books and charts, piled upon a small table. There is a picture of an aeroplane, drawn by a child. There is a tin, from which wafts the faintest smell of beans. In one corner there is a bunk; no more than a thin mattress on a flimsy metal frame. It creaks and rocks with the jolting movements of the ship. At one end of the bunk, there are two figures. A man, worn and weary beyond his years, sits with his back to the wall and his legs crossed. In his lap, curled up so small and pressed so tightly to his father’s chest, there is a boy. He clutches a yellow crayon in his hand. Quietly now, and listen. Through the howling of the wind outside, and the roaring of the waves, yet softly over the gentle hiss of the gas lamp and the slow, peaceful breathing of the child, there comes the sound of singing. It is a low sound, and full of sorrow, but it carries with it laughter and a flame of life that cannot be extinguished. In its deep and mournful tones there can be heard all the wonders of the world, pouring hot and molten from one soul into another in these final breaths of this final moment.
Stand up, now, and away. Brush your fingers on the cold iron; slosh your feet through the now swirling waters. Breathe in the dead air and exhale some life here, where none belongs. Be coughed out upon the frozen deck, and soar high into the torrential crucible of night. The moment is gone. The obsidian curtain falls, to thunderous applause.
Up now, and the world is cloud once more. The cold bites, the wind kicks and screams. Up further still, with your eyes shut tight and your bones locked against the chill, and suddenly all gives way. All is calm. Breathe deeply now. There is the murky blanket, rolling away beneath you. There are the blinking stars, the shimmering moon, and there is the gossamer thread, its frayed end dangling in the still air. Time has drifted off.
And the plane with it, I’d imagine.