Victor's flight of fancy

Science teacher, Victor Brown, has his proud scepticism seriously dented by bizarre experience. (This light-hearted fantasy has a choice of two endings - when you've read the main story go on to read the alternatives and see which you prefer.

Fantasy never appealed to Victor Brown. He preferred a meat-and-two-veg ordinariness where everything was predictable and scientific. He avoided fiction and especially fantasy, and he devoted his time to studying facts. Not for him Tolkien's tales of hobgoblins, C S Lewis's fantasies of mythic heroes, the hi-tech wonders of Star Wars, or even the science-based stories of Arthur C Clarke. He wanted nothing of talking animals, of aliens, of any mystical 'Force' or of people flying unaided - like he was now!

Victor tried to analyse his position. The evidence of his sight told him he was high above the ground. The wind on his face said he was travelling fast. Sight, sound, touch and smell seemed to agree that he was somewhere he couldn't possibly be. He tried the usual trick of pinching himself to check he was awake but he doubted his senses when the experiment reinforced the illusion. Had he been too tentative? If he really hurt himself he would surely wake up. He slapped his leg as hard as he could, then threw out his arms in a reflex movement to counter his sudden mid-air spin. This illusion of flight was following the laws of physics (except for the ones that said he couldn't be up there).

Victor was Brenthorpe school's science teacher and prided himself in rationality. He took delight in systematically debunking every alleged proof of paranormal experiences and unexplained events. He once spent two weeks of his holiday doing complex frame analysis to prove that supposed photographs of levitating Orientals, were merely high speed shots of energetic fraudsters snapped in mid-bounce. But Victor was not just levitating. He was probably 200 feet above the ground and there below was Brenthorpe, his hometown, seen from a viewpoint he'd never experienced before.

Perhaps he could control his flight? If the normal laws of physics were operational he should be able to slow himself down, gain height or swoop lower using aerodynamic principles. His current upright orientation certainly wasn't streamlined! He leaned forward into the direction of flight. Instantly he found himself speeding up and swooping skywards. Too fast. He lowered his legs and slowed to a less spectacular pace. Knees bend. Arms outstretched or lowered. Lean forward. Straighten up. Gradually he taught himself to govern his flight and manoeuvre safely, rather than hurtling out of control. It felt good. But that's nonsense. How could he enjoy something that ought not to be happening and surely could not be happening? Awake he may be, but this must be some kind of delusional state.

If he was delusional then the experience would be his alone. It would exist only within his mind and he could prove that by testing his effect on the material world. He must be careful, though. This was beginning to be convincing and he didn't want to get hurt. Seeing a smoke plume billowing from the foundry chimney he banked round. If his flight was imaginary it would leave the smoke undisturbed as he rocketed through the column. If his flight was real at least he couldn't bruise himself on smoke! Seconds later he burst through the smoke, coughing violently and beating his chest to snuff out the smouldering spots where sparks had caught his clothing. No more experiments. This was real. This was dangerous. This was embarrassing...

HOW DOES THE STORY END? - click to view Ending A, or alternatively, Ending B - then decide which you prefer...

© Derrick Phillips - 1999