Two boys were sitting on the castle wall, looking over the grounds, the lights of their hometown shining some way in the distance in a bubble of chaos far away from the calm of the castle. The keep was of Norman design and despite most of it having crumbled away, you could still make out the bailey, the motte however, was now less of a raised hill and more of a sheer drop to the ground below. The rooms that were left intact within the castle were now filled with discarded bottles of cheap beer and cider, amongst the array of plastic wrappers for various sweets and sugary snack foods. It was rare that the ruins were deserted; usually they were bustling with teenagers doing what it was they did best, but for some reason, that night, the castle was vacant.
The bigger of the two boys was sat still, staring contemplatively towards the town, the other, a small, timid, but excitable child, was fidgeting and kicking his legs against the wall as he struggled to make himself comfortable.
“This wall isn’t comfy!” he exclaimed after some time of squirming.
“I know, Barry.” The other said, simply, “But you’ll just have to get used to it.”
“Why are we here?”
“Because I wanted to come here,” he bluntly replied.
“Is there nothing else we can do, James?” Barry inquired, clearly displaying his boredom purely by the tone of his voice. Barry’s whining irritated James in a way that he was struggling not to snap at him.
“Do you have any better ideas?” Barry thought for a bit, biting his lip and looking up into the night sky, before shaking his head in defeat. “Well then, just shut up about it, and enjoy the view.”
“It is… pretty, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, Barry, yes it is.”
Barry threw his arms out either side of him, narrowly avoiding hitting James in the face, “I wish I could fly, don’t you, James? Looking at all this, it just makes me think how much better it would look… from up there!” He raised his head, and again, looked inquisitively at the stars.
James turned his head to look at Barry gazing up at the stars, his dark eyes studying him, almost maliciously. He licked his lips before saying the words.
“You know that you can fly, don’t you, Barry?”
Barry looked at him, puzzled, “what?”
“Yeah, you can fly.” James’ throat had gone dry, partly due to excitement, partly due to fear. He swept the hair out of his eyes and turned to look out over the scenery, he couldn’t look him in the eyes for this, not even when it was this dark.
“I can?” Barry questioned, a slight sense of excitement rising in his voice, “but how?”
“Anyone can fly, they just need a big enough drop to get started-“
“Really? Seriously?” Barry was now visibly excited by the prospect of his potential flight.
“Yeah, no kidding, you can do it any time, you could do it now, we’re in the perfect spot for it.”
Barry stopped, his smile dropping from his face as he gazed down toward the ground. He suddenly became extremely aware of how precarious their choice of seat was, he couldn’t see the grass clearly beneath him, it was too dark; all he could see was a void of blackness with only a hint of dark, murky green.
“Boy, that’s a long drop down, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, it is, that’s why it’s perfect for this.” James clasped his hands together tightly to stop himself from shaking. He still couldn’t bring himself to look Barry in the eye, he knew if he looked at him he would lose it.
“Are you sure?”
“How do you know?”
James thought back, his teeth clenched at the memory, “I’ve seen it happen before.”
“Yeah- there was a man who lived in the same building me and mother do, I was in my bedroom, looking out of the window, when he flew past.”
“He did, mother said he jumped from the roof, he was trying to fly, and just before he reached the bottom, he did it, and he flew away.” James looked down, his eyes trying to focus on the ground below, but like Barry he was unable to see anything other than a murky, green shadow waning in a deep, sea of darkness. “We’re higher up here than the man who jumped from my building, so you’ll definitely do it.”
Some of the excitement, and colour, had returned to Barry’s face. He had started to fidget again, but this time it wasn’t due to lack of comfort, it was purely the anticipation of flying that had caused this elation.
“This is so cool!” He put his hand on James’ shoulder, “you’re my best friend, James!”
“Oh,” He looked Barry in the face, for a brief moment he developed a lump in his throat which he quickly rid himself of, “thanks, you too.”
Barry smiled wider than James had ever seen, then he began to shuffle forward so he was teetering on the edge of the wall. James’ heart began to thump wildly. Barry looked into the blackness, and after a minute of deliberation he shuffled back slightly.
“I don’t think I can do it.”
“I’m not brave; I’m not brave like you.” Barry looked as though he might cry, his eyes becoming somewhat moist and his freckled cheeks growing red with embarrassment. James placed his hand firmly on Barry’s back, pressing firmly against his spine as he gently patted him comfortingly.
“I can promise you, Barry, you are way braver than I will ever be.”
Barry chuckled as he rubbed his reddening eyes, “you’re just lying to make me feel better.”
“No, seriously, if you even consider doing this, you are already braver than I am.”
“Really,” James smiled.
“Okay- okay, I won’t let you down, I’ll do it! Watch me fly!”
Once again, he shuffled forward, his hands clutching onto the edge of the crumbling stone wall. He began to breathe faster, his skinny arms trembling as he held on. His legs felt so completely exposed and powerless as they hung over the void aimlessly. His eyes searched for the ground as he bit his tongue in the hope he wouldn’t shout out and show James how much of a coward he was. Then it hit him, something clicked in his brain and the realisation came; he was going to be fine, he was going to fly, there was nothing to be afraid of. The fear he felt in his heart, in his mind, in his stomach, it all dissipated into nothing and he could finally do what he wanted to do. He turned to James and smiled at him, “thank you.”
Then he pushed himself forward, and he fell.
James listened and heard the crunch as Barry’s body hit the ground.
Now there was nothing but silence.
James got up from his seat and began to walk away, but something made him turn back and look back over the edge of the wall. He couldn’t see Barry anywhere, he was really gone. James smiled as he felt a weight lift from his shoulders, then a single tear fell from his eye.
“Mother said I was too old for imaginary friends anyway.”
He found his way down to where Barry would have fell and still failed to find him. Maybe things worked out better than he had hoped; maybe Barry had actually mastered the art of flight and flew away. The thought filled him with happiness as he walked the long, dark walk home.