Night Flight

Sometime one May night, I watched the late news, for the comfort of crime. But then they got a funny look. This just in–rushed to the station via a series of signals carried on cable through ocean sand, and sounding as odd–: A pilot flying over Soviet airspace has reported seeing a column of flame rising straight up from the Earth for a mile through the blackness. It appeared in a distant region of Siberia. We cannot say what it is.

And suddenly, you know, I was there, in a cockpit. No lights down below, stars just as far; each lighted dial on the screen trying green yellow red before claiming they are no match for the night. Air makes a thump on the fuselage in the dark, it too invisible. The engines buzz through the floor into my feet, their ground. I have been thinking. I have been flying. There is singing in my ears.

The black is unrelieved, as it should be. It seems so solid I could land. It has been hours that I have been thinking, Why, this is all there is.

When I saw that orange fire (How could I ever tell you what I saw? How can I ever be anything but alone henceforth?) the world tilted and I fell off the side. How lonely, strange, it made me feel; no longer held fast, I was instead the last human on Earth, above Earth, doomed to fly and never land. I could not hear the last cry of man behind the turbines’ rush. In the distant flame was my fate: to live, to fly, to fly.

Later I forgot how the whole thing made me feel.