Bobby awakes to his dismay. Another long, horrible day awaits: meager breakfast, frozen bones, being called names, boring lessons, silent work, bread, butter and soup, more work, tea, bread and butter, staring at a square inch of the world through a barred window and then, finally, darkness. May God be praised, darkness.
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Oh he does love darkness. You would too.
When the light of the last gas lamp fades out, our boy will be happy. Safe, under a cloak of shadows nobody will be able to spot him, free to meet his will, preciously alone.
He is a loner. You would be too.
Breakfast time. Bobby stares at his tea. The rest of the workhouse children are giving the bread and butter no chance to escape. His eyes rise up and go from one child to the next, trying to fathom into the greatest fantasies, striving to guess which worlds were still unknown.
The bread! It's gone! Warm tears dip into his tea and a collective laughter burst out: "dreamer, dreamer!" They could not be more wrong, for Bobby has not dreamed once in his eight years. Not before when with mom and daddy they lived in a rented room; and not certainly since they all ended in this workhouse long after every hope died out.
Maybe you wonder, dear reader, what a workhouse is, as I hope, in your reality, they do not function any longer. It is not an orphanage, nor a retirement home, nor an asylum, nor homeless shelter; nor an industry; but all of those, and more combined in a massive monster of bricks and arrogance. Yeah, arrogance; I could tell you of families made to live separately, of regulations enforced by dungeon and whip, of working for little more than food; but all of these evils would pale to the sin of arrogance. It is believed that the poor deserve their condition and hence society is entitled to manage their lives. For Bobby, this meant to be sent to the children's area, separated from their parents for as long as they will remain. Dad is in the west wing, mom at the southern. Visits are short and widely spaced. Life must not be too easy for the inmates, for each one is an unwanted charge for the parish.
Geography... He knows thousands of worlds, but this one. Who cares for this one? What does it matter that every pink dot on the map is British? For he has ruled a thousand more magnificent empires! So when Black Shadow, the teacher admonishes him for being absent minded, he suffers with dignity and patience; the night will come again.
Black Shadow, has a real name, but if I have ever known, I have forgotten it; but it is of little consequence to this story. She is, in truth, but a kid herself, not much beyond adolescence. She wears the black as a memorial for her loving father and teaches the way she has been taught to, with the stick. Maybe, given time, she will learn to use the carrot too.
For the benefit of the younger souls someone - whom I decline to comment, for anything said politely would fail to make justice - established the silent work time before lunch. For Bobby this should mean little impediment as he hardly mutters a word. He can, but with such great an effort that is hardly ever of any worth. However, with the hardy draft horse he tends every day at this hour, he is speaking. Stutering, missing some sounds and making a mistake out of every word, but delighted. If he were to be found this time, black shadow, would tell that devil is in his flesh, as he only talks when should not. But now, under the sun, he is with the only one that listens. He tells Starlet of the wonder he knows every night and the dangers and fears he faces sometimes. The horse thanks him for the care with which it is brushed, and the kisses the child offers. They know each other as a mate of misfortune.
Jimmy, one year older, is his paladin. Not even the older brutes of twelve will mess with Bobby when Jimmy is around, for they know better than that. Bobby and he liked each other at once for a reason unknown to all but our hero. I could tell you about him more, dear reader, yet for you benefit, please allow me to do it at another time.
Lunch is over and work time, slowly but steadily brings less and less light... Soon, the moon would appear, soon he will ride the winds again.
Yet dinner is to happen. Bobby eats in a frenzy; most would think out of his lesson earlier this morning. Nay! He wants this time to be over, he cannot wait a single second. Regretably none of his wishes and efforts make the clock any faster, so he has to stay at the table, his eyes begging for the command to stand up and walk to the beds to be given.
That doesn't work either, time chose its pace long ago and allows no one a special privilege.
Long after, he is at bed, smiling. Three!, the last kid enters the long bedroom; two!, "Silence" is three times shouted; one!, lights are starved out of gas and the fade away into darkness. Still a trice to wait.
It's done! Bobby makes no sound as he steps out of his bed. No one can hears how he uncovers a window. Just a little bit, enough for the rays from the moon to enter. Now he can see.
From the body of every child a lovely beam slowly surges out. Each one unique, each one a wonder. Jimmy's is a silver gel, that seems to be specially caressed by the moon. Another's blue, next one violet others of colors I did not know till this time. Each of a peculiar texture, a special touch to the hand and an aroma.
Yet few have ever felt them. And it is no surprise, as only non dreamers can watch them. And then it is only the rays of the moon that make them tangible to our senses. For Bobby, however is as real as the sun.
After a moment of thought he goes to Jimmy's beam. Smiling, he looks at it like if he were reading. An instant and he is gone. Follow him!
Another world, a place of adventure beyond the boundaries of the night.
Just a little thread of cotton like clouds breaks the endless blue. Farther away a spark of light, that closes with the speed of wishes.
An ornithopter it is! A splendid mechanical bird in bronze, flapping its wings. At the cockpit Bobby commands. In a way, our old Bobby, in truth his eyes tell us of someone resolute, vibrant, filled with life, happy!. Bobby has been having a great time flying this machine again, feeling the breeze on his cheeks, the excitement of surfing the clouds, and being able.
The controls are fairly simple, the bird is steered by a wooden rudder wheel, which commands both the wings and the tail; a row of levers controls the strength of the impulse and with which pace it must be given on each wing; another row of pedals allows the use of beak and talons which are as functional as that of the soaring eagles; a horn allows the pilot to bring out a mighty hoot; and, lastly a switch makes the wings to fold.
Ok, so they are not so simple; but to Bobby they are; now he checks his flying glasses , rolls the orni - which its how he calls the machine - to the right, folds the wings and starts a steep dive. The orni picks up an uncanny impulse in no time as speed builds up. Down there a couple of dragons you can now hardly guess, circle the peak of a snow covered mountain. The wyverns shriek back and with an energetic beat of their long, membranous, wings they climb the skies to face their challenger.
And now he meets them! Dodging two bursts of flames, the orni passes through the mighty beasts and turns on itself while the beasts bank on either side; the golden one to the right, the silver to the left. Bobby makes the 'orni' to climb up, banks left and plunges it on the back of the monster, who now suffers the strength of the sharp claws of the mechanical bird. Quaking the world with a howl of pain the brute shakes itself out of the grip and wings away fast; at this prospect its mate does likewise.
Victory! Bobby extend the wings of wings of his ship of the airs and let it soar down to the mountain top. There, Jimmy, barefoot in his nightshirt, hides his face under his hands. The orni lands and Bobby, abandoning his flying glasses, steps out to hug his friend.
"It is over, friend, it is over. Do you want a "Turkish Delight"? Jimmy nods and finally opens up his arms and, under his tears, smiles.
A little time after that, Bobby is again up in the skies flying. He speeds up as the time to come back is closing. Soon, he finds the star by which he entered and stops the machine in its dock. Ah the star, you might not know, but it is actually a flying fort made from titanium and copper. It includes a docking base, a hangar and a hotel where heroes can rest from their adventures. But Bobby, having no time, only has time to greet the director and heed for the exit door.
But when he opens the door there is nothing to be seen...and this unexpected kind of ethereal darkness Bobby dreads, because it blinds not they eyes of the flesh, but those of his soul. Still, bravely, he steps on...
At the workhouse bedroom something happened even before Bobby started his valiant combat. "Piggy", a child who is fat by the institution's standards or what it's the same, not gaunt, -yes, he sits close to our friend at the table ;) - awakened. A bad dream, maybe; or he was just hungry. In any case he noticed the opened window and for some reason went there and closed it. And then as he was coming back to his bed, he stepped on Bobby. Tried to start an apology, but then he noticed a sound was not there...a breath...Bobby was not breathing!
Bobby finally emerges out from the unfamiliar veil of darkness, still his vision is blurred. That has happened a couple of times and has an easy answer: to open the window again. He is now only an ethereal body but he can still use a couple of tricks, like creating a little breeze. He does now to reveal that...
Everybody is gone!
Even himself, well not himself, but his body is not awaiting for him lying on the floor where it should... Bobby goes from one bed to the other, blowing up the mattresses as he passes hovering over them; but to no avail... Quivering, he whirls up to the ceiling where he stays wheezing...
Not long the door is opened and the children headed by the matron enter. Bobby freezes but cannot stop his noisy breath.Mrs Stiffright, turns to face the children and explodes in anger:
"Do you think this mess is the best way to honor little Bobby?"
Each boy knows he is blameless, but they keep themselves from attracting any attention. Then Jimmy cries out:
"Ah, ah, ah, a ghost!"
He has just spotted Bobby who, disembodied, flies through the ceiling to meet the rising sun.
Morning gives way to the evening, and soon after, comes the night. Jimmy is at one of the workhouse cells, looking through a small window, not to the outside playground but the dungeon. Now, an ethereal something, catches his eye.
The ghost he has been punished because of! He collapses in the cold wet floor and crawls to a corner. A ghost with the face of his dead friend. This cannot be! "Oh my God, I don't want to be a lunatic" he prays "or I will never leave this place. Everyone'll laugh at me...for life...please God...no." But, flying through the walls, Bobby is coming in.
After the shriek, Jimmy sets himself in a fetal position. Eyes firmly closed, hands over them, legs retracted.
"Jimmy, 'ave no fear" "I...er...no harm...'m sad, Jimmy"
That said, they both starts sobbing, for the quarter of a hour, getting slightly quieter every minute, till finally there is nothing left but the cold silence of the night.
And yet some more.
Jimmy allows his eyes to open, and through his tears he can see his friend standing sadly.
"I'm scared, Bobby".
"Scared too, Jimmy".
"Bobby, are you dead?"
"Bobby, what do you want?"
"Where am I?"
"In my mind! I am a lunatic".
"No, been in your min' 'fore. Where my body?"
"At the infirmary...waiting so the doctor can sign your papers tomorrow".
Bobby finally smiled. "T'anks!"
It was a long, guessing wandering, through the corridors of the workhouse. Because Jimmy could hardly see without the guide of the moon, but he finally made it and got back to his body, who was then naked and wrapped in a white sheet .
The doctor announced Bobby had a case of apparent death and Jimmy was just being mischievous so later...
But that dream is yet to be written down.
Playing is the most important thing life...