Tiny droplets of water swelled along the window's surface, and I followed them with tired eyes, watching as they converged and became crushed rivers, eventually swept off the tiny unblinking window and left in the plane's invisible but powerful wake, floating, buffeted by weightless and mighty hands. The tray resting dully on my knees was scattered with crumbs, hand written notes, tiny books of poetry, and at least one empty cup. I looked out the window again, feeling myself shifting, becoming disconnected as I boomeranged back across the Atlantic, returning to the family I still called home.
Looking around, I tried to focus, but my eyes danced over the seated mob, and I saw only strangers, empty cardboard figures, and a thick haze of artificial light. We were separated by more than nationality or accent, and I soon turned away, towards the slumbering light of false dawn. My eyelids brushed heavily against the window, a voice whispered from darkness, and I felt myself sinking into space, sky, and dream. I dreamed of poetry, perfect passages engraved in what had once been an architect's mind, images replacing equations and angles, and an image which still haunts me.
A blue sky, streaked with broad swaths of aquamarine, as if a painter's watery brush had strayed, blending the spheres of sea and air. A pale gray dot hangs within this cloudless sky, an improbable apparition. The dot is solidly defined, but distant; it hangs upon the skyline like an unplayed note, a ready dept; a rock floating still in quiet wind.
Features leap into distinction as I move closer, and my eyes dance over parapets, crenellations, sharp towers, and a central keep. All inverted, reaching for the sea below. The parapets hang lowest, a gap toothed half frown. I remember my life, remember my father, remember
“parapets?” My feet swung beneath my grandfather's old tall chair; fingers pried and searched the chair's painted back. The test was tomorrow, Monday; the calender had become a menacing, looming figure. One small hand beat the seconds against my seat, minute shivers against solid stained wood. A palm fell, fingers tapped, and I strained against time. That moment grew closer and I didn't have time and my father spoke.
“P-A-R-A-P-E-T-S” He speaks slowly, distinctly, the same way we speak on the phone, now.
“Uh...” I stall, of course. He knows. I can see it as I rewatch the scene. I've remembered that pause many times, remembered the stacato of young hands and my father's bright waiting eyes. I will always remember my father's eyes, remember watching him. Speaking, knowing a slow burning pride which has never faded even when speak, later.
“It's like, something in a castle...” That's what we were studying - what I was studying.
He doesn't smile, but his eyes are larger, and I feel small, like I'm about to watch an actor perform. His arms bow, index finger extend, and he's suddenly a monkey, hands raised, pointing at his underarms. He's started to laugh now, and I laugh too, watching him hop around the ground.
Of course, that was a long time ago, and now I can identify the castle's features as it moves closer.
Bird droppings speckle the castle's numberless roofs. The dark shingled roofs seem somehow older, greyer and more weathered than the stone which supports them. The stone itself is painted with moss, thickest on the ground, thinner as the towers and walls rise. I find weak spots in the north tower roof, spots along the wall where water has leaked through the roof and given rise to independent colonies of moss.
I don't need to see the roof from inside the tower to identify the problem. It's common in buildings from that time period, a major problem for the societies which restore old English estates and castles. My father and I discussed the flaw when I was still studying architecture, when we had something in common besides a love for bad jokes and worse food, and we never agreed. It was a disagreement we cherished, one which led to boisterous laughter and complaints about new techniques and textbooks.
He built mainly residential then, and the work had become a part of the household, since he started working out of an unused upstairs room. He liked skylights, clever corners, French doors, and open winding staircases. Now, I look for these features as I pass through houses, and can only completely approve when each is present.
The castle sits on a ball of mud and rock, like a strange and inturned growth, slumbering as it hangs in the sky.
My feet touch the ground with that weightless, one small step quality I never feel in life. It is hard to tell the difference between earth and stone. The ground has been broken into itself by hundreds of feet, hundreds of years, and nothing soft remains.
There are only a few feet of cold naked ground between the edge and castle. One step, an outstretched arm, and I stand rooted between earth and stone walls. My fingers pry the wide cracks between immense blocks, and I reach higher, look higher, and see
the blue above me, gray castle walls my horizon, the distant ocean reflects a quiet sun. I should feel vertigo at this point, and I concentrate, probing with perverse curiosity for that slow and deliberate full pendulum swing as a weight travels around my stomach and my ears rebel while eyes water and tears betray my body's struggle with the impossible sight. This is a dream. I feel nothing.
My feet echo silently as I step back, gain perspective. The gates have opened to the left; perhaps they were open when I arrived. These things happen, and I ignore them as I must ignore so many other minor inconsistencies, both in life and dream. I walk towards the waiting void with an eagerness that isn’t reflected in my slow steps.
Stepping through the open gates under ordered rows of eternally empty holes, I feel the silent moist watchfulness of the mold which now grows throughout the castle’s portcullisse. Narrow iron grates line the floor, unstained by blood. In older times, in other worlds, this chamber was the castle’s last defense. Boiling tar was poured through “murder holes” in the high ceiling while broad headed crossbow bolts tore through any surviving invaders. It is a design infrequently seen in modern homes, a room designed for efficient killing.