0

Ornithopter

I put down the manual and looked around the room for a while before my gaze settled on the mess of parts in the center of dad’s workshop. It was almost done. All I had to do was to mount the engine, attach the wings and bolt the harness on. I felt proud with myself for being able to build this in 3 days with only PVC pipes, canvas, metal rods, an old engine, gears, and parts from a wheelbarrow- all without dad knowing, too! I almost tripped over a PVC pipe as I jumped about in joy. Back to work.

The last bolt. Being the clumsy oaf I was, I dropped the wrench on my foot. I nearly swore as the pain shot up my ankle. Oh well, no pain no gain, as they say. Soon, the craft was done. I stood up and looked proudly at my handiwork. It was a beautiful thing; it had 2 sleek canvas wings attached to a simple motor that hung above the harness, PVC pipes connecting the tail rudders to the cockpit and 3 wheels beneath the cockpit to support the rider while he was on land. It had the basic design of Da Vinci’s personal ornithopter but the system was of modern 2 pilot flyers. A hybrid, one might say.

I hauled my masterpiece out of dad’s workshop and started my way up the hill. I had asked a few of my friends (Oswald, Emeret, Hal, Leo and Daniel) to meet up there to see the ornithopter in action. When I finally got there, I strapped myself to my ornithopter and put on a helmet and protective gear. Oh, and don’t forget a parachute. The view was stupendous; you could see the entire island from here. I shivered with anticipation.

Ready for take-off. My friends looked on eagerly, excited to see my first flight.

For once, I actually felt slightly nervous. What was the price to pay for flight? I could possibly get hurt, dad would scold me, mum would go hysterical, Miss Anne would be disappointed at her favourite student and that grumpy old Mister Albert will go on & on about how the youth these days aren’t supervised enough. But it’s worth the risk. I’ve always dreamed of flying ever since I saw a gigantic luxury liner airship- The Eclipse (so named because it completely blocked out the sun when it passes overhead) -dock at our island for supplies. Lighter-than-air travel was the norm nowadays since they’re quiet, efficient and luxurious. Despite the success of airships, a few heavier-than-air flyers (ornithopters, gliders) managed to sneak into the air industry as they were tiny and agile, useful for sport and security (unfortunately, pirates generally used ornithopters for plundering). Daniel called my name, snapping me out of my thoughts. It’s time.

Alright. I emptied my head of thoughts. All I needed now was to remember how this thing worked and how to fly it. I said Ok to my friends and they pushed me down the hill. I felt a sudden jolt and the wind blew past my ears.

The wheels cluttered and clunked as they carried me and my craft down the hill. I zoomed down faster and faster, almost enough to get airborne. I turned on the engines so the wings would start flapping. The wheels rattled against the rough ground. Adrenaline pulsed through my body. After a few wing strokes, I felt the wheels slowly easing off the ground. Soon, I was flying. Nose up. Bank left. Increase speed of wing flaps. I was airborne. I left the ground behind and headed for the open sky; I gained enough altitude to start gliding. Cut engines. Switch to manual flight. I tugged on the two handles hanging above me that controlled the wings. My feet controlled the rudders and ailerons. I was on my own now, gracefully soaring above the island, tail and wing under my control.

Looking down, I saw everything. Tiny people scuttling around the roads, houses and forests, sailboats leaving the port. I could imagine soaring ever higher. These continents from overhead look like tiny paper shapes, intricately set in place. I could see an airship in the distance, lazily drifting through the atmosphere towards the island. Wind whipped past me as I glided along with the clouds in the bright blue sky. For once, I truly felt alive. I was living my dream. I didn’t care anymore if I would get in trouble or if anyone would think less of me. It was sure worth it. Nothing could go wrong now, I thought.

Don’t jinx it! Too late, I’m afraid. I was too distracted to notice the flock of seagulls that were straight ahead of my ornithopter. We swiftly collided, one of them clipping the tail and rudder. Immediately, the craft banked to the right before plunging down to the ground. Without hesitation, I switched on the engines to gain lift. The wings flapped furiously, trying to achieve flight; hopefully before we smacked into the earth. Losing altitude. I looked behind to see the problem. The rudder was jammed. I braved myself to unstrap the harness and climb to the tail. With a tug the rudder unfurled and the ornithopter suddenly jolted upwards. I held on tightly, lying on my stomach with my feet faced to the front of the ornithopter.

I had 2 options: climb to the front and slowly strap myself to the craft or control the tail from here. No time to choose. The ornithopter flew dangerously close to the ground towards the town. With a swift maneuver, I banked the craft to the left. I zoomed past an old man drinking his tea, knocking him over. I really hope it wasn’t Mister Albert. I tried to control the thing and land safely in a clearing or field. It was extremely difficult to fly something backwards with your bare hands in case you hadn’t guessed.

Fortunately, luck was on my side as I wasn’t far from the park. I managed to steer towards it and positioned my ornithopter for landing. Unfortunately, luck decided to ditch me right then and there, for as I was about to land, a gust of wind blew the craft off course. Even more unfortunately, the already tired engine began sputtering and coughing before it gave up, stopping the oh-so-important flapping that gives an ornithopter its lift.

My masterpiece spiralled towards the ground beside a pond. Remembering I had a parachute strapped to my back, I decided to let go of my handiwork in favour of dear life. It might not work this close from the ground, but it was worth a try. I let go, then I was in freefall. The ground rushed towards me as I deployed the parachute. My body jerked up as the parachute opened at roughly 40 meters above the ground. My luck returned as I landed in the pond with a splash. The ornithopter crashed beside me, unfortunately missing the pond. It was reduced to a smoking heap of canvas, metal and PVC. I fared better with only a sprained foot, an extremely aching back and cramped arms.

I heard voices and footsteps coming towards me. I climbed out of the pond and took off the soaking wet parachute. Looking up, I saw a few people running towards me. They consisted of Emeret, Daniel, a police officer, a worried woman who might have seen what had happened and a furious old chap with tea stains on his shirt who -coincidentally- happened to be Mister Albert The Grumpy Old Fart.

They all had to speak at once.

“Woah, that was cool!” said Emeret. “Oh my gosh, are you okay?” said the lady.

Mister Albert then spontaneously erupted into a rage. “Why you little rascal! I will call your parents at once for your disgusting behaviour! Don’t you know this shirt-” he pulled it furiously “-is a gift from Paris?! It’s practically priceless! And just what do you think you are doing; flying about dangerously in a crudely made aircraft?! They’re only for trained professionals, do you understand?! Oooh, back in my day, kids like you would be WHIPPED! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!?!?!”

We all exchanged glances, too distracted by the red faced screaming old man to remember why we were even here in the first place. He continued his endless ranting. “Oh, the state of the youth these days! I tell you, every parent must be EXTREMELY STRICT, DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!”

The policeman tried to calm him down. “Sir, please calm down, I’ll talk to the boy myself.” Mister Albert The Red Faced Nuclear Explosion settled down for awhile, although he muttered swear words under his breath.

A man came toward us. He was my dad. “Felix Lee Young! Just what have you been doing in my workshop?” Oooh boy, was I in trouble.
Advertisements
0

Dream Journal: Albatross

I fell asleep.

“Wake up! Wake up!” my teacher scolded. Groggily, I lifted my head from the desk. I looked around the class. Everyone was busy.
This was it. The last day of school.

The day to say goodbye to everyone I knew: friends, enemies, strangers. I was changing school after all. Goodbye, guys.

The last day of school. Hmm, I remember that day. It was so long ago yet it felt as if it were yesterday. Drowsiness suddenly overcame me.

New year. New place. “Hello!” said a tall-ish lad. “So you’re the new kid, eh? You’ll love being part of our crew, aboard the Albatross! I’m Everett, Captain Eric’s first mate” Ah, the Albatross…. the grandest airship to ever fly the seven skies. A few moments later, the captain showed me around the ship. It was a beautiful thing.

We were off. “Up ship!” cried the captain, the ballasts were dropped and we took off. Looking out of my cabin window, I saw colourful effervescent clouds sweep past the propellers surrounded by gigantic four-winged birds. I could see paper airplanes and notebooks zooming past. Am I asleep? Where am I? Why am I in an airship? I thought I was in school. Oh well, might as well enjoy it here. A sudden jolt through my body made me jump before suddenly, I was falling. Falling, somehow through the floors and cabins. Another jolt brought me to a stop at the control car. Everett glanced at me and smiled. “Oh, fancy you coming here! We could use a bit of help actually.”

So there I was, aboard the Albatross: the finest cruise ship to sail the sea. For a moment there I thought I was on an airship. Silly me. Airships don’t fly anymore.

Waves rocked the boat, sloshing back and forth. It was a particularly frigid morning; mist and fog covered the horizon. Quiet.

Suddenly, it happened. Something burst through the window of the boat, smashing it to pieces. The ship flipped, water burst into the hull. We were sinking. I fell out of the boat into the freezing, murky water. The thing that attacked our boat turned to me. It plunged directly at me, knocking out all the oxygen in my lungs.

I drowned. I died.

I sighed as the last pond skater zipped away. Looking around, I realized I was fully submerged and yet I could still breathe. Astonishing. Another wave of drowsiness hit my body and I floated above the infinite pond into inky blackness. One by one, tiny sparks appeared around me before zipping away in a multitude of colour. The darkness lit up, transforming into a cloud before bursting into a painting. The colours and patterns transformed into words that filled an entire page.

I flipped the page of my textbook. This was the last time I could read it as it had to be returned soon. The hours flew by. The last minute of school. I bid farewell to all my friends for the last time. The bell rang. The ringing grew louder and louder until-

I woke up.

0

Astronaut

Here’s an english version of my previous post because I didn’t feel very satisfied about it. Writing in Bahasa Melayu feels awkward and clunky for me…


I stared out the window. Darkness. Silence. Emptiness. Nothing but the stars to light up the backdrop of the void. All my crew-mates were busy doing experiments or research, it was my free time. I sighed while thinking about how lucky I was to be able to experience life above the sky. Countless generations have always looked up to the stars with wonder, dreaming of what it is like to be there. Well, I’m living that dream.

I looked down at the planet below. It was completely dark, save for a few bright light from large cities that dotted the Eurasian continent. Not long now, the Sun would rise above the Mediterranean. Ah, the day-night cycle, a regular mundane phenomenon for us all but for me, it is the most beautiful thing on the planet. The sun rays that illuminate the valleys and hills, the sky that changes from black to yellow and blue, the light that gives warmth to the chilling landscape, the clouds that cast shadows across the backdrop as they dance along the sky.

I thought for a moment about all the people living down there. Every individual scuttling around their tiny homes that look like toys from this height. Tiny. Everything, it seemed to me, didn’t matter. Every war, fight, love, happiness; it all doesn’t matter. We don’t leave any mark to the universe. That’s what we are, tiny. From my cramped module, I saw no mark. No wars, no violence, no hatred. Just silence. Silence stretching for miles and miles across this living planet. If you think about it, we are unbelievably insignificant to the universe. Each lifetime lasting only a blink in the cosmic eye of the 13 billion year-old universe. We. Make. No. Difference.

And yet we are special. Our home is the only known planet to harbour life (as far as we know at least). We are living, thinking, intelligent lifeforms. We have the chance; the potential to change the world around us because every man, woman and child here has something ingrained into our feeble minds. A natural desire to explore, learn, venture, teach, create, help, discover. We can at least try to leave a beautiful stain on this tiny, pale blue dot.

The space station continued its orbit around Earth. The dazzling Sun that I just saw rise above the Mediterranean began to complete its perpetual journey from east to west as it sank behind the opposite face of the planet.

Silence.

0

Angkasawan

Aku memandang ke luar tingkap. Hitam. Sunyi. Kosong. Gelap. Hanya bintang berkelip yang mengisi latar belakang. Seluruh kru sedang sibuk membuat kajian dan kerja masing-masing; sekarang merupakan waktu rehat bagiku. Aku menarik nafas panjang sambil memikirkan betapa bernasibnya aku kerana dapat mengalami kehidupan di langit. Tentulah generasi-generasi lepas akan berasa dengki padaku, mereka hanya boleh berangan tentang eksplorasi ke angkasa lepas.

Aku terpandang ke planet di bawahku yang gelap gelita kecuali beberapa lampu dari bandar. Tak lama lagi, matahari akan terbit di negara-negara Mediterranean. Ah, pertukaran siang malam, satu fenomena terbiasa bagi kita semua tapi bagiku, tiada pemandangan yang lebih indah di dunia ini. Pancaran matahari yang menerangi laut & bukit, langit yang bertukar dari hitam ke kuning ke putih & biru, cahaya yang memberi  selepas malam yang sejuk dan awan yang menari melintasi langit. Allahuakbar, memang indah ciptaanNya.

Aku terfikir sejenak tentang orang yang hidup di bawah sana. Setiap kesusahan, kemiskinan, peperangan, kekayaan, pergaduhan, cinta, kegembiraan dan kemenangan sebenarnya tidak penting. Ia semua tidak memberi kesan kepada alam semesta yang begitu luas ini. Dari tingkap modulku, dunia seolah-olah aman. Tiada perang. Tiada pergaduhan. Hanya keamanan dan kesunyian sejauh beribu kilometer. Cuba fikir, setiap individu yang berjalan di muka bumi ini hanya setitik di dunia yang luas. Dari perspektif alam semesta yang sudah tua berbillion tahun, kehidupan kita adalah sangat pendek, sekelip mata dalam usianya Aku berasa amat kecil berbanding planet yang kita semua mendiami.

Tapi, pada waktu yang sama, setiap orang adalah sangat penting sebab kita mempunyai sesuatu yang tertanam di dalam minda kecil kita. Sebuah biji benih yang terus bercambah dan subur. Sebuah keinginan untuk belajar, mengajar, mengembara, mereka, mencipta, menolong. Kita ada potensi untuk menjadikan dunia lebih bahagia. Untuk meninggalkan kesan yang cantik di titik biru ini.

Stesen angkasa terus mengorbit bumi. Matahari yang baru kulihat terbit pun sudah menghabiskan pusingannya dari timur ke barat bagi hari ini lalu tenggelam ke belakang bumi.

Kesunyian.

0

Doodles: Aerial Machines

Aerial machines

Once upon a time, I got bored so I drew a few flying things.

From up > down, left row:

1. A large orange cruise skyship, used for flying long distances over long periods of time. Average passenger number.

2. A small red delivery skyship, commonly used to deliver a small amount of supplies or equipment across short distances, usually islands. Can also be used as a 2-3 passenger leisure vehicle (think; hot air balloon).

3. A small blue nimble flyer, used as sport. Can fly at high speeds, fastest at 80-90 miles per hour. Carries 1 or 2 passengers only. Compare to a jet ski or speedboat.

Middle row:

4. I have no idea what this thing is, probably a glider and/or ornithopter thing.

5. A red-tinted airship, one of the most commonly used ones. Can be used for various purposes ranging from sport & leisure to emergencies & delivery. 15-25 passengers.

6.A small, lightweight, one-man hovercraft; used for exploration and mining in places where no other airships can go due to their size and relative bulkiness.

Right row:

7. A large green skyship, comparable to the pirate and biologist ships of the 19th century. Used for deliveries, transporting people, exploration and occasionally warfare.

8. The largest and grandest of them all, a floating city. Supported by one large gas balloon divided into 50 smaller gas cells and 100 other smaller balloons around the city. Used as a portable mining base that can be transported by a system of fans and rudders powered primarily by captured solar energy. Maximum population: 12000 people.

0

Reality is a lovely place, but I wouldn’t want to live there

Somewhere far away from reality and the nightmares that haunt us all is a lovely place. A small island covered in white satin sand, beautiful forests and a city ablaze with wondrous things. It is bordered by an Umbrella Beach to the north and Port Blue to the south. In the city all your wildest dreams can come true. If you go there you will see ten million fireflies light up the world around while people with rainbow veins walk around the metropolis. You can visit Umbrella Beach that is so dusty with starlight, to learn about how I became the sea before taking a dip in the saltwater room with your darling. Or, if you like, you can take a hot air balloon to see the strawberry avalanches; and if you can wade through the air traffic, you could go sky sailing to be captains of the sky. You can see sights so beautiful, they rival the real world, like Dubai, Seattle, Vienna, Brielle or Miami beach. If you want to, just ask me and I’ll take you along, to Owl City.

0

Dream Journal: Midnight Saltwater Cavern

I drifted to sleep. I stood at the table in the dining hall next to the door. It was a fairly large room, enough to fit a small elephant in, I thought. I looked around and saw people. Too much people, I thought. So I immediately ran out the door.

I was asleep, but I felt tired. In my dreams, my eyelids could hardly stay apart and my body felt like passing out all at once. But I just couldn’t bring myself to lie down on the wet asphalt of the street. Drowsiness flooded my mind.The streetlights flickered. I looked at my watch: 11.42 pm. I staggered to a telephone booth and started dialling a random string of numbers: 0122872001. 4242424242. She answered, “No, goodbye.” I sighed. Girls will be girls, I thought. I half expected the phone booth to dematerialize like in a sci-fi tv show, but no, it just flew away into the street.

Look at watch: 7.56 am. Should be morning. two seconds later, I glance at my watch again: 1 pm. The sun shone brightly above the atmosphere but the sky was still pitch black. I felt hot and cold at the same time, tired and awake simultaneously. It was nauseating.

I suddenly realised I was lost. Where was I going? Memory seems to hate me. I just kept on walking until I found an old curiosity shop at the end of the road just outside the city. I shrugged, why not? So I entered. It was chock full of antiques, crafts and used machinery. The music that played was a mixture of Port Blue, Unwed Sailor and something from the 19th century. Why would a curiosity shop have engine parts? I said to myself, perhaps out loud. An old man behind the counter stood up and gave me a small wooden toy car, consider it as a gift from an old friend, he said. I asked him, what time is it? Is it morning? Yes, no. he answered. Confused. Who was I talking to? There was certainly nobody behind the counter.

The shop felt damp. I looked around a bit at the stuff cramped into the shop: a TARDIS, a Malay romance novel that would surely be adapted into a tv drama sometime soon, a helmet, a wooden paper airplane, a small car, a humongous wheel, an hourglass that was nearly running out and an astronaut suit. Strange, I thought. Water began dripping from the ceiling as the floor began to shrink. Suddenly, a window burst open and seawater flooded the place. The water level was rising quickly so I had to move fast before I drowned. The astronaut suit, my mind screamed. Somehow, I put it on fast enough and somehow, it worked. The room shrank to an incredibly small point before exploding in a brief flash of blue and green.

I opened my eyes to see I was in a large underwater cave with a small opening at the very top. Sun rays danced brilliantly in the crystal-clear saltwater around me. I realised that I had a small wooden toy car in my hand. How did that get there? Moments before started to erode from my memory as if I didn’t remember what I did before. Details I missed started to disappear from existence. I climbed up the opening which had conveniently became wider. I stood up at the top of the cave and looked out to see galaxies dancing around me. My watch showed the time: 1.05 pm. Either it had died earlier or time passed by incredibly fast.

As usual, a wave of drowsiness hit me as my surroundings dissolved into nothing. Momentarily, I was floating around in an endless sea; alone.

Darkness.

Then I woke up.