The Short Story Series were originally published on Through Frog Eyes as a collaborative effort between a guest photographer and my writing. I am relaunching the stories individually for all those who are new to the website and Marie Balustrade´s writing. The EB Series features guest photographer Ed Bannister from the USA for four stories that are supplementary to Wings At Dawn, featuring lead character Alexander Adler. Click HERE for the full set.
Alexander slammed the door of his jeep shut and placed both hands on the steering wheel, mentally wishing it were someone else’s neck. Waiting until his breathing normalised again, he glanced quickly around the car to check that his bags and equipment were there before starting up the engine. There were days he wished he could simply pack up and disappear into the mountains forever, never having to deal with taxes, deadlines, lawyers, and worst of all, editors. Up there the only element there was to contradict his decisions was the weather, and Mother Nature was the one female in the world he allowed himself to be bossed around by. He was passionate about his work, and good at it as well, as the shelves of awards proved, but he did not often have a choice when it came to assignments. This latest bombshell that his editor had dropped on him was going to send him to hell and back, and there was no guarantee of coming out of it alive. At least he had been given carte blanche for putting a team together, and no expense was to be spared. He grinned at the thought of his accountant and insurance agent blowing their tops again when he submitted his receipts for auditing or claims. Being the best in his field came with pitfalls, being constantly on the road was one of them, and never knowing if he would see the morrow was another. Airports and highways were like a revolving door to him, given the frequency with which he travelled.
For the last assignment, Alexander had taken no notice of the rhythm of the seasons as they came and left. They were like silent ghosts passing through his life without really making a difference one way or another. In fact, he couldn’t even remember in which hemisphere he had witnessed Spring this year, if at all. The only thing was mattered was maintaining his cool in order to remain objective when investigating and later putting the facts together for a comprehensive and in-depth piece. That was easier said than done though, since the subject matters he specialised in were always taboo, controversial, and pushed him to the verge of insanity each and every time. Not that he was a cynic, but there was no such thing as a correct side, and the pursuit of truth was something that often came hand-in-hand with peril and sacrifice, not necessarily his own. This was the age “artificial information” as he called it, the internet providing more confusion than truth for those who sought it, and Alexander was not about to succumb to second-hand research done in front of a screen. He knew the strength and value of a solid step, a grip on the side of the mountain when you did rock climbing, and transferred these values to his work ethic.
There were still a few days to spare before leaving and Alexander decided to seek strength and inspiration in the only place that offered his body and soul the solace he needed: the mountains. His friends often laughed at him for preferring the seduction of the rough terrain to the bright city lights, but the open spaces, the embrace of the mountain air, the welcoming soil beneath his trekking shoes, and the kiss of the morning sun were the priceless romance his spirit needed when things got rough. He could close his eyes and be transported back to his favourite places when need be or he felt the onslaught of another anxiety attack. The remedy his soul yearned for during such moments could be found at dawn at 10,000 feet.
As a young boy, Alexander often joined his father on long drives and endless camping trips. It was during those isolated escapades to the desert or the mountains that he learned to appreciate clouds and what they did to the sky. Father had made it a point to teach him to be mindful of the graceful movement, the mystery of the colours, and the humour or drama of the shapes. Clouds were the language of the soul he said, not just meteorological physics or puffy manifestations of evaporated water. Legends and philosophies were woven around clouds throughout the centuries, and one could always pin flailing hopes on the silver lining on a gloomy day. His mother was more of the opinion that it was never good to have one’s head in the clouds all the time, but over the years Alexander found the right balance and his peace with the clouds.
After three hours of driving, Alexander realised he had automatically taken the coastal road and was about to witness a spectacular sunset. Although his heart was in the mountains, the power of the ocean drew him in just as strongly. He pulled over to the side, switched off the engine, grabbed his camera and tripod and walked down a trail to the beach. This was a much needed moment to collect his thoughts and map out his life for the next six months. A permanent home would be nice, and so would be a partner to share life and the quiet moments side by side with, but fate had other plans for him and they were just about to unravel his organised life in the most spectacular manner. Certain dreams would remain elusive, but that was the only way to give wings to others.