A dull thud chased by a deafening shriek cleaved the sleep from my eyes. I tumbled down fastened to my seat in loud silence. Strewed debris plummeted around. The plane had exploded in midair and although I was not dead yet I was soon to be. In a surge of defiance entwined with acceptance I unbuckled the seat-belt and floated free.
I assumed a spread-eagle position bringing my fall under control. Fragments of memory whooshed with the rushing wind illuminating pinpoints of realization on a giant blank screen. Seconds earlier I was fast asleep at a cruising altitude of 37,000 feet. Now that my body had reached terminal velocity nothing stood between me and the solid ground but 45 seconds of feckless time and a bank of clouds. An endless bank of clouds.
As the white expanse loomed closer the silence grew quieter. I was involuntarily slowing down and upon reaching a mushrooming top its ethereal substance brought my plunge to a gentle halt. I pranced, furtively evading the unseen and distant ground below, shaking with disbelief. I gasped to breathe and was instantly rewarded with a lung-full of brisk air. I floated in the pleasure of near weightlessness. Every cell in me cried with incredulity. “I am dead. I must be...”
“No you’re not!” her mellow voice came from below and a little to my right. I strained my eyes to see her, almost invisible in her whiteness, my heart pounding savagely in my chest.
“This can’t be real”, I stammered. “Who are you? Where am I?”
“This is very real to me and believe me you’re not dead my handsome man. I am Gwen and I live in the clouds.”
“But... but I just... I was..” my memory faded.
“Come follow me. Let me show you.” She flittered closer and softly pushed me forward. “Pick a name to call you by in your new home.”
The way we moved together defying every known law of physics was neither clumsy walking nor bird flying but a delightful hybrid of hovering and capering, As we skimmed the top of the adjoining nimbi I shed my clothing and rejoiced in my translucency. “My name is Baal, tell me about the clouds.”
We drifted over land and sea, our evanescent home receding then expanding, ever-changing, wrapping the earth like a shawl of silk.
“This is your home Baal. You will follow the clouds in their endless voyage above the white-caped mountains and the luscious forests of emerald. The wind shall take you over distant lands across the ocean and bring you back. You will precariously get close to the edge of the desert and seeing the vapor disappear from underneath your feet you will scurry upwind hopping from one lonely puff to another to be with me again. You will make love to me here and there. Everywhere! Your seed will infuse me with your thunder and our progeny, a flock of cirrus strands, will grow and propagate to inundate that distant ancestral land that is forever on the fringe of memory.
Day and night came and went. One misty evening we escorted a brood of dripping grays over a park to the north. A small fountain encircled by wooden benches gurgled in a whisper. Two lovers sat hand in hand oblivious to the world. Gwen saw a tear forming in the young man’s eye and reached with an invisible hand and wiped it away. She put it to my lips to taste. “Every once in a while we are blessed with a drop of moisture more precious than all the water of the oceans below,” she breathed softly in my ear.
With the tip of my finger I carried the tear back and delicately placed it on the girl’s cheek. The young man held her face in both hands and kissed her with thirst. “There! It’s back where it belongs.” I enfolded Gwen with my body becoming one with her.
Lightening awoke the shadows in the dark and they hurried along the passageways looking for a place to hide. We made love and rained all night. When morning yawned we watched the wet streets coming back to life. The rising sun dried them quickly helping us reclaim what‘s always been ours. Our cloud bank broke then scattered across the sky. We drifted apart and waived so long. “Till we meet again my handsome man.” She waved at me. The wind carried my kiss to her ears alone, “I won’t be long I promise.”
Cloud people, that’s what we are.