Flights of the mind
By Ammar U4
The warm soft golden hues of the rising sun cascaded across the war-torn horizon, its gentle glow embracing the scarred landscape, as if nature itself aimed to mend the wounds inflicted by the First World War’s relentless conflict. No man’s land was a tranquil place, when there weren’t shells going off or bullets speeding in, slicing through the air, creating tears in the atmosphere. When there were no sirens wailing in the distance, only bringing despair and fear, pulverising any man’s courage; when there were no roaring engines readying themselves to deliver fatal blows, it felt peaceful, somehow.
Captain Tommy “Bird” Sinclair loved the mornings. He could forget about what was down below because he knew nothing could touch him. Tommy’s call sign was Bird because of how elegantly he flew his plane, as if he and the sky were supposed to co-exist. However, if he weren’t so sensational at flying, and fighting, he would have been kicked out of the Air Corps for frequently flying without permission.
On 17th July 1917, Bird sat tightly strapped into the cockpit of his Boeing P-12. The wind whipped around him, his hair flying in the sky. It was a cold and crisp morning. As he ascended into the sky, the world below slowly transformed. The trenches, barbed wire, and craters seemed to shrink to miniature proportions. The once terrifying landscape became a patchwork of colours and shapes, and finally diminished to a mere stain, on a world of green fields and flowers.
Bird’s mind became untethered; it became free from all the drags of reality, and he took this experience and treated it with a care unlike anything else. He marvelled at the grandeur of the world, despite so much destruction, devastation. The French countryside twisted and turned, hills and valleys popping up, sinking down. Bird gazed down at the verdant life down below, sprinkled with the odd village here and there and thought how life in those villages was uninterrupted by this war, and people felt ease and could continue with their daily lives. On the ground, Bird was jealous. Yet as he was, flying freely, he couldn’t care less.
Bird was in his element, up in the sky, just him and his machine. With every swift manoeuvre of his aircraft, the feeling of exhilaration brought his mind to another realm. He executed loops and rolls, twists, and turns, defying gravity and felt at one with the skies. Just like a bird.
The morning was ending, and the sun was rising into the new day, and Tommy knew that he must travel back to reality, and leave the serenity of the heavenly high skies, to dive into the saddening thought of another day at war.
Stepping out of the cockpit, Bird couldn’t help but feel a sense of gratitude. Amid the chaos, he had found solace in the skies. He had glimpsed the world from a unique perspective, reminding him of the beauty and fragility that existed beyond the battlefield.
Even after the war, Bird continued to fly, no longer controlling his beautiful Boeing P-12 with his amputated arm, but in the flights of his mind.