And Lo, His Wings Hath Melted.

By Jay St John Knight.

sun sky

Thomas Osbourne stood on the runway before his prototype craft as his assistants checked his pressure suit and ensured all equipment was operating at maximum efficiency. Everything had to be running perfectly; his entire future was dependant on this flight succeeding.

“Sir, pre-flight checks are complete and everything is working at optimal conditions. We’re good to go.” His assistant handed him his helmet.

“Weather conditions are fine, yes? All back up teams are primed?”

“Yes, Mr Osbourne. Everyone’s ready and it’s a clear day out there. Optimum flying conditions, sir.”

From the crowd a sharp dressed man in a white coat emerged reading from a tablet in his hand. His coat was emblazoned with the Sol Space logo of a sun surrounded by a ring of stars.

“Thomas, it’s ready. I’ve run every test possible and I’ve run simulation after simulation and they all come back with a high probability of success, theoretically it’s sound to fly. There’s just one concern of mine.”

“What’s that? If the craft is ready then surely it’s ready?”

“Well we both know this prototype is rushed, it was the last one we could afford and every piece of technology on board has been upgraded using the data from the test flights of the last prototype model but these upgrades are untested. Most of it is fine, however, the engine software and the actual engine systems themselves underwent a significant recalibration and I’m unsure of their reliability and efficiency.”

“The other scientists said the engines are fine.”

“There’s a reason why you put me in charge of this project, Tom. I’ve worked in this field for all my life. I hate trumping myself up but I am the expert. There’s a level of chance improbabilities that nobody can predict and that’s why we have test flights.”

“We can’t afford test flights, Steve. If this doesn’t go to plan then the company will collapse in on itself. You know that. Shares have dropped massively since our last flights and investors are disappearing like rats from a sinking ship.”

“Well at least let a test pilot fly today. Do me that favour please?”

“I can’t. The world’s media has to see that I did this, that I’ve still got confidence in this company. We’ve lost the majority of our ticket deposits in eighteen months. Nobody wants to fly to space with us anymore. You can’t talk me out of this, Steve.”

His stern face melted into compassion. “Well, good luck. Just make sure that you don’t overwork the engines. Keep them under seventy percent and you’ll be able to break into the thermosphere, once that’s done drop it back to Earth and land it. Then we can crack that champagne.”

Steve waved off Thomas Osbourne as he strapped himself into the cockpit and the ground vehicles wheeled the craft onto the runway. Everyone was then ushered over to the observation area and a voice over a loudspeaker started a countdown from thirty. As it reached the fifteen mark a deafening rumble resounded across the complex as the engines roared into life. Then, before the countdown had even reached five, the craft shot across the runway and up into the air. Steve smiled to himself, Thomas always did things his own way.

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One Night By the Sea.


By Jay St John Knight.

A short story written as a creative response to Eva Figes’ novel Light.

The noise of the waves lapping against the beach drowned out the crunch of the shingle under his feet as he got about setting up the tripod. He extended the three slender black legs and planted them firmly into the lose stones with a stab. Next, he moved over to his rucksack, unzipping the main compartment to reveal the tools he had at his disposal: three separate camera lenses within their padded compartments, along with two camera bodies in their respective cells, and several boxes of film of varying grain. The sun was low on the horizon; already the golden sky had streaks of scarlet running through it like a celestial hand had squeezed a blood orange and its juice had splashed across the sky. Judging by the sun he had about twenty minutes to work with before it would fully set and darkness reclaimed the world and, with that in mind, he picked out the larger of the two bodies, his cherished digital camera, and felt the surprising lightness of it considering the camera’s size. Without much thought he reached into the bag for his favourite lens: a wide angle Nikkor that he’d spent several months working late shifts in a supermarket to save up for. He delicately lined up the pins on the mount and twisted the lens into place on the camera body before securing it to his tripod.

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By Jay St John Knight.

Today’s the day. Liberation from this quilted prison of undulating sheets and pillows. Emancipation from this reclusive envelope of solid planes that I call home. I’m going to do it. I’m going to place my hand firmly on the handle to my front door and break the seal, burst through into the real world; actually feel the invigorating glow of sunlight on my skin that’s not been diffused and mediated through the barrier of my double glazed windows. I’m going to walk the beating; breathing streets bathed in golden light and not be a ghostly ethereal refraction watching from a prison of glass. I’m going to stand outside and feel the crystalline, cold rain on my bare face; feel the wild and unrelenting breeze tussle through my hair. I’m going to run through the heaped up autumnal drifts of bronze and auburn leaves I can see in the park from my window; trudge across the open grass lawns after its rained, spraying mud up my trousers and caking my shoes in wet earth. I’m going to do it. I’m going to walk up the road to the pub, stroll up to the bar with a beaming smile, proud as an Oscar winning actor, and order a drink without having the barman stare at me like I was talking some alien language of guttural stops and starts. I’ll walk down to the beach; kick off my shoes, then pull off my socks and stand at the shoreline as the freezing cold waves lap over my toes, watching the foam of the sea ebb and flow before me. I’m going to hop between rock pools with bare, sandy feet and carefully upturn stones to find crabs that I’ll pluck out of the water with my fingers pinched behind their ears. I’ll stand on the rocks that jut out into the ocean and feel the tempest of the sea against me; the minute specks of spray from the frosted tips of the waves gathering like drops of perspiration on my cheeks and clouding my eyes. I’m going to do it. I’m going to get up early one morning and clamber up the headland that I can see from my window rising up above the rooftops; I’ll watch the first rays of dawn creep across the landscape like a fist uncurling and sip steaming tea from the heavy, blue flask that gathers dust at the back of my cupboard. I’m going to shatter this safe and comfortable microcosm that I have built up around me, my bubble within a bubble. I’m going to do it. I will do it. Maybe tomorrow.