The First Chapter

1

I danced that night, in my sleeping trousers and tunic, in our back garden. The moon was bright, and the stars watched over me like shining sentinels. I danced on the grass and path. Never had I felt so free. Morning came and still I danced, ignoring the fact that it was a school day. School was not important. The dance was. The sun rose and I turned towards it. Not once did I feel tired, not once did my feet tread on a twig or a stone and be hurt. I was as energetic and unharmed that morning as I had been the previous day; despite not have slept and staying outside to dance through the night. There was dew on the long grass and it wet my feet but I did not get cold, or catch a chill. The morning went past like a dream, the dance being the only thing real to me. I remember my mother, Marian, coming out to the back door. She said I had to go to school, I’d catch a chill, I should come inside. I told her I wouldn’t. I told her I couldn’t. And still the dance went on, and one thought rose to the surface of my mind.

It is time. I told it to the wind, and the leaves of the trees echoed the message.

It is time. I told it to the flowers, and the petals flew up into the ear, taking my words with them.

It is time. The grass bent under the sweeping power of a thousand voices saying, ‘It is time’.

The afternoon began and although no morsel had passed my lips and no drop had I drunk, I was not thirsty and I did not crave food.

The sun shone on me, asking me one question. I felt that it was the one question the world had been asking me throughout my life.

Is it time? Always I had replied, be patient, not yet. But now I could say yes. It was time! I cried my challenge to the heavens and they complied. Rain fell from the sky. I danced still, but fled indoors though I could have stayed, as it was not my part.

First came the preparation, then came the time. I ran upstairs, my clothes dripping on the carpet. Somebody called after me but I had more to think of. Surely, no one could expect me to be worrying about the carpets at a time like this.

When I reached my bedroom at the back of the house, I flung my wet clothes on the floor and dried my body with the green towel that always hung upon my radiator. I noticed how neat my bed was when it had not been slept in: the dark green duvet was flat and tucked in at the edges, whereas normally it would have been in a heap at the end of the bed. My sister would tell me on holiday, whenever we had to share a bedroom, that I flailed around and kicked my legs in my sleep. I suppose it is quite likely, as I do have weird dreams. But now I am getting off the point.

From the cupboard, I took almost reverently a pair of shamrock-green trousers and put them on, and then a light-green tunic, which was almost the same colour as my bedroom walls. I had a thing about tunics even though no one else would be seen dead wearing one.

Finally, I picked up the narrow strip of (green) fabric that I used as a belt. Wherever I was going, surely I would need to be decent. There was no point putting it on so I laid it down on the end of the bed, by the window. Then, trying to think about the future and not the past, I locked my bedroom door and ran to the window, slid the lock across and flung it open, leaning out as soon as it was possible.

It never occurred to me that the window could have fallen down and paralysed me. It’s just lucky it didn’t. Everything looked calm now the rain had subsided, but I needed power. I needed electricity. I needed a storm. I shouted at the heavens, asking them to open, telling them to open, and the rain fell down in buckets.

The thunder in the distance rumbled as it moved closer. The lightning forked on the horizon, striking a tree. Everything was driven out of my mind. There was only one thought that remained.

It is time, said the trees and the flowers and the grass.

It is time, said the incoming clouds and the red setting sun.

It is time, the moon and the stars whispered from way above me. The grass rustled under the power of a thousand voices telling me that it was time. And I told them that I knew, that I was coming, that it wouldn’t be long now. The rain hit my window with cracks like the whip of a giant made of thunder. Although it was not yet dark, the sky could hardly be seen for clouds and the only light was when the lightning illuminated the rooftops. 

My window shattered and the glass hit the floor. None of it hit me. A voice reached me through the non-existent window. The rain came in, wetting the end of my bed and soaking me. I pushed my sodden hair from my eyes and looked out over the garden. It was a voice from nowhere, I thought, just a shout on the wind, and how wrong I was! Wasn’t it true that everything I was sure of ended up changing? The wind rushed in through the comically empty wooden window frames and played with the papers that were neatly stacked on my desk, sending them swirling about the room in a frenzy.

You can’t fight the elements, and I wouldn’t need them any more. I watched them go, not attempting to catch them or stop them escaping.

Next, I saw the lightning forking through the sky, searching for me, finding me. I stretched out my arms, and how fragile they looked, how pathetic! The light forked down and felt my pulse, encircling my arms, filling me with power. The light was wrapped around my fragile human body like a snake, and to an outsider it would probably have looked like a special effect from ‘Doctor Who’ or ‘Star Wars’.

I cried to the wind, shouting as I smiled, filled with the urge to prove myself. Am I dead? I thought, because I was sure that no one could experience the full power of lightning and live. Everything was like a dream, so I couldn’t be sure, but it didn’t seem to matter. Not now. Not any more.

     “Show me the wind!” I cried. “Take me home!” I was swept from my safe eyrie and as I soared like an eagle across the streets of Sidcup, I saw my mother looking up, calling after me. But now that it was time, she wasn’t my mother any more. I was finding it hard to break away from my old life, from what I’d always known. As I swooped across our garden, I managed to put my belt on, making me automatically look more like a decent human being than a ragamuffin from the streets. I caught my mother’s voice. Marian’s voice, I should say.

     “Come back!” she shouted after me, but I couldn’t, and I wouldn’t if I could.

     “I’m going home,” I replied. “You should never have taken me away from there!” Marian began to cry, I was sure, and suddenly I was overcome with remorse.

     “Call me,” she said, when I was nearly out of earshot, “so I know that you’re safe.” I didn’t answer. And then she changed her mind, regretting giving in. “Don’t go yet,” she said. Was it that her voice was quieter or was it that I was further away? I could still see her, in my heart, in front of my eyes. “Don’t leave me now!” But by then I was gone further still, flying without wings, swept along and soaring with the wind. I was going west, as I had dreamed for years. Now I approached my homeland, faster and faster. It was like the most dangerous rollercoaster, where one swirls upside down and shoots down almost vertical slopes, but although I was not in any way strapped in or protected – quite against health and safety rules – I did not fall. The wind knew its dance too well for that.

The End

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