Floating in the Clouds


Florence, Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat and Timbuktu. Those were the exotic places Maisie was going to visit now the wings of her kite had been attached. All she needed was a strong breeze to lift it from the ground.

Her creation was a wonderful device; a large, box-shaped dragon with patchwork wings and enough space to seat one tiny girl.

The adults would never have approved. Intercontinental flight was strictly for their benefit. They would only nag about air turbulence and how this 10-year-old was not strong enough to control it. They were always worrying; especially when it came to her strict, boring diet, not sitting in the sun too long and regularly making her swallow that ghastly medicine. Maisie sometimes wondered if they would be happier if she was swaddled in pink cotton wool and never allowed out of her bedroom.

But not today. She had escaped to a place where there were no rules.

The dragon kite's wings opened and spread out as far as the flower borders on either side of garden.

Maisie took her place in its seat, sat back on its soft cushions and lifted the reins. She was going to the clouds, through flocks of squabbling starlings, to soar with the swifts. Then she would fly to other worlds where angels wove melodic curtains of sound on their golden trumpets.

The sky was a bright cobalt blue filled with morning sunshine. Maisie put on her sunglasses. The breeze increased and the nose of her dragon kite lifted as it slowly rose. Up and up, clearing the tops of trees and chimneys, and then over the Downs where grazing cows looked up at the multi-coloured dragon soaring higher and higher.

Maisie passed over Florence, Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat and Timbuktu, waving to macaws, macaques and people reading holy books, whose prayers helped to lift the kite into the strands of high, pearlised clouds girdling the Earth.

The sky turned to indigo and became filled with stars. A full moon smiled as she passed. Then, faster than thought, it carried Maisie deeper and deeper into space. Out here, where the tales of comets were studded with diamonds, imagination ruled. Welcoming supernovae guided Maisie's kite towards an eiderdown of glittering stars, each one of them orbited by weird, wonderful and mystical worlds.

Maisie saw a plum-coloured planet crowned by pale pink mist. "That one!"

The dragon kite dipped its nose and descended through a sky glittering with sequinned snowflakes that parted as they passed. Powder puff birds chirped at her arrival and invited the dragon kite to rest on a billowing mattress of cloud. Maisie reached out; it was quite firm, like her comfortable bed at home.

The journey had been tiring, so Maisie flopped into the cloud and stretched. The birds made a blanket with their wings and sang a soft lullaby.


"Time to sleep, darling," a familiar, distant voice said.

Maisie gently drifted into an ocean of glorious light.

"I'm sorry... so sorry." The doctor had seen many children die, yet could never get over the helplessness he felt whenever it happened. "She's at peace now."

Maisie's parents remained quiet. They had known their daughter's death was inevitable. Yet, now it had happened, they were numb. They had lost the most beautiful thing to illuminate their lives. Time would pass, but there would always be Maisie, bright, brave and imaginative Maisie; the child who loved everyone and never complained, except when she had to take her medicine.

Life would never be the same without her.