Hoogvliegers

High-flyer, part 1

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As I had not succeeded with being even slightly satisfied with my life for years, although apparently having all one could wish for, I decided to step up and search for a higher level. There must be something better, something higher, I thought and at that very moment an advertisement caught my eye. ‘Rise above yourself,’ it said, followed by something that came down to the possibility of building your own wings at the High-flyers Society. By flying as high as possible with those, you could build even better wings at a higher level and reach even higher ones, up to the highest heavens! You only had to entirely commit yourself to the cause and you would also receive all the help you needed.

It really appealed to me and I immediately contacted the society. I would be welcome for a first meeting the following morning, I was told. The location was not far away at all and I arrived early. My heart jumped with joy with what I saw there. Men and women of less or more weight were fluttering around wearing a sort of light-wood, double pairs of wings, with fine gauze fitted in between. They were laughing and encouraging a lot of small children who were trying to take off with their cardboard training wings. ‘Run faster and flap your wings at the same time,’ ‘Yes! You are almost flying!,’ it sounded enthusiastically. The children were jumping and running around, not all of them equally serious, but it was clear that they liked it.

To my right, there was a covered workshop, where people were busy building and repairing wings. They waved at me warmly and I wanted to go there, when a small boy of about ten years old caught my eye. He stood out because he was quietly sitting on a stone, watching a twig in his hand. He was not very remarkable, he had brown, spiky hair, a slender body and a common boy’s face. He was the only one not busy doing something. When I walked past him, he greeted me with a nod. He had green eyes and a pondering expression. But we did not speak and I went on.

How warmly I was welcomed in that workshop! Men and women were working side by side. The hardest job was bending the wood. It became clear to me that you could not just fly away, but had to work hard for it. Under the supervision of two enthusiastic men I learned about the different wood species and their properties, about soaking the wood and bending it, very carefully, so that it would not snap. The wings were quite heavy, I noticed, and I was wondering if you could actually rise up with them.

For three months, I spent every day in the workshop. At night we would sleep in tents, where I heard quite a lot about ‘above’. I could not wait for it to happen. Then came the big day: I was standing on the fly-start, a tall tower, and started flapping carefully to try out the product of my diligent work: the wings. They remained intact, fortunately, and I flapped my wings faster and faster and counted till three. At three I set off firmly and actually succeeded in staying in the air for a few minutes. It required so much concentration that I was not able to look around me at all.

My friends patted me on the back and encouraged me to keep trying. It could take a few weeks before you could really fly for a while and I practiced frantically as my urge to go up was very strong. With my childish wingstroke I disturbed many flying parents (they were the lowest layer of flyers), but they took it well. I could look around now and downwards, to the funny children with their wings. But I preferred to look up, because here everything was familiar to me.

If I flapped my wings harder and made a series of beautiful curves, I came higher, I noticed, and it was quieter there. Yet it disappointed me somewhat; I did not see anything really unknown. For that I needed to go even higher up, but that exceeded my current abilities. At night, in the tent, I asked the others about it, but, for themselves, they were satisfied with my current level and they did not understand what I was talking about. The next morning the boy with the green eyes suddenly spoke to me in passing: ‘You want to go higher? Then you must climb on the plateau that you can see when you are flying as high as possible. They make different wings there.’

Huh? How did he know what I wanted? I did not ask him but grabbed my wings at once and flew and flew, without breakfast, as high as possible. It took a lot of effort, but I finally saw, in the north, a kind of plateau and managed to climb on. I saw no-one but there was a small workshop and a manual on the wall for making wings. A bunch of bamboo stood in the corner and rolls of fine gauze were on the floor. There was a bed and a cupboard with food. There was a fly-start, too. I went straight to work and as a result of my upward urge, I finished my wings within a few days. Now that I had gotten somewhat used to being there, I could see people flying and once in a while one would land, shake my hand and wish me luck. I liked them.

It took me less trouble to learn to handle the wings this time; still I did not get very high in the beginning. I chatted with my co-flyers and scanned the surroundings. I saw handsome mountain peaks with snow on them and regularly flew in the clouds. It was great! Yet, after a while, I got tired of this level and longed to get higher up again.

It was not until I could really fly high and easily hover around while sleeping, that I detected a plateau. It was less visible than the last one; it seemed thinner. I managed to climb on it and again, I found a workshop and amenities there. I set out with the thin steel and the even finer gauze. The manual was brief; yet I succeeded and I was proud of it. The fly-start was high, however, and suddenly the risk of falling occurred to me. I reassured myself with the thought that the wings would break my fall and that I could never fall deeper than where I began.

The flying itself was not very hard but moving up was. I had trouble breathing and decided to remain on the lowest flying level. From time to time I flew back to the fly-start to rest. Still, I adapted and I could look around me and downwards, where I could see the bamboo-flyers deep down, if the clouds allowed it. After a lot of practice and struggle on this level I finally got higher up. Patience, that is what I learned here and it paid off in the end, for I saw a vague plateau in the distance, even if I could not reach it yet.

To part 2

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