He was never going to get down.
Billy Greenfield and his class were on a school trip. It was one of those outdoor school trips where you go rock climbing and abseiling and swinging from ropes. Most of the children thought it was great fun and had a whale of a time completing all of the challenges.
But Billy Greenfield was not having fun. He was terrified of heights. And when I say terrified, I mean knee-knockingly, teeth-chatteringly, stomach-churningly terrified.
They had come to the abseiling challenge. A huge rock wall stood below them, and it was up to them to make it down. Five children had already gone before him, and now it was Billy’s turn. The ropes were tied around him, an instructor had told him what to do and now there was nothing else for it. He had to climb down the rock wall.
The wind was blowing. The air was cold. He could feel the churning feeling starting to rise, deep in the pit of his stomach. All of his classmates stood at the bottom, waiting for him to come down. His instructor was at his side, offering him kind words of encouragement.
“Now, just remember everything that I told you. Legs out, back straight and don’t look down. You can do this. I know you can.”
But Billy Greenfield knew otherwise. His knees began to knock together. His teeth began to chatter. And right there and then, he knew that he wasn’t going to make it. He turned to shout to the instructor.
“I can’t do it! It’s too high! Please, let me out of here!”
“Don’t give up now! Think of how proud you’ll be to make it to the bottom! You can do it, Billy!”
“I simply can’t! I feel sick, my head is sweaty and I feel like I’m going to faint. Oh please, let me out of here!”
There was nothing else for it. The instructor pulled Billy back over the wall and undid the ropes supporting him. Billy had never been so glad to feel solid ground in his life.
But, at the same time, as he walked down the steps to get back to his class, he couldn’t help but feel disappointed. This could have been his one chance to conquer his fear. A fear that had followed him through life and had stopped him from having all the fun that he could have had. But instead, he had taken the easy way out.It was frustrating.
He made it back to the bottom. The next child went up to abseil. All the while, he could hear sniggers and whispers behind his back. He didn’t have any friends, they were the sort of children who preferred to laugh at him than play with him.
“Can you believe he wimped out of that?!”
“Honestly, what a baby!”
“Did you see his knees knocking together? I thought he was going to wet himself.”
Billy hid his face. It was embarrassing. Here he was, a nine-year-old boy who couldn’t climb down a wall. His classmates were right. He was a baby.
He arrived home later that evening and disappeared into his room. He often did that. When he wasn’t in school, Billy didn’t have any friends. He was the sort of boy who would rather make up imaginary friends, who wanted to play with him and didn’t laugh at him for being scared. It was nicer that way.
In the corner of the room, amidst the many pictures on the wall – Billy loved to draw – was his most precious possession. A beautiful blue kite stood proudly, clean as a whistle and without a single scratch on it. It had been his favourite toy for as long as he could remember.
Just as he was admiring it, there was a knock on his door – “Billy, sweetie. I’ve a cup of tea here for you. Did you have a nice day?”
Billy opened the door. From the way his face looked like a dropped pie, the answer was clear to see.
“No. It was hopeless. I couldn’t do any of the challenges because I was too scared. They all laughed at me. They always laugh at me.”
“Oh, Billy. I wish there was more I could do. Did your teachers say anything?”
“They told me not to worry and that there would be a chance for me to do it again. But there won’t be. I’m always going to be a wimp.”
“Now, I’m sure that’s not true. You’re my brave boy. Being afraid of heights doesn’t mean that you’re scared of everything. Look at the time when you saw a cat about to get hurt crossing the road and you jumped right in there to save it. You almost gave me a heart attack. But that was my brave boy.”
“I suppose. But I was still a wimp today.”
“Don’t worry about that now. Being afraid of something doesn’t make you a wimp. Why don’t you drink your tea and take your kite out for a fly? You love doing that, and it looks like it’s going to be a nice evening tonight.”
Billy smiled. His mother always knew how to cheer him up.
“OK. Thanks, Mum. I’ll set it up now.”
And with that, his mother went back down the stairs whilst he got ready to venture out.
The evening was cool and clear. The sun was just beginning to set behind the green hills that lay at the back of Billy’s house, capturing the shadows of the trees that lay in the distance. This was where he came to fly his kite. It was his favourite place, where he didn’t have to feel awkward or afraid of anyone. He could watch his kite roam free and let his imagination run wild.
He stood at the top of the hill, watching his kite soar and swoop in the air. How amazing it must be to have such freedom. He imagined being able to glide across the sky, overlooking the trees and buildings like they were his own little kingdom and being so close to the stars that he felt like he could touch them.
He wished he wasn’t afraid of heights. Here he was, a boy imagining what it would be like to be a kite and yet he couldn’t abseil down a wall.
But that didn’t stop him from enjoying the evening. Flying his kite always had a way of making Billy feel better. Eventually, the night grew later and colder and he knew that it was time to go back inside. He ate his dinner – fish fingers, chips and beans – had a lovely hot bath and wrapped himself up into bed.
He fell asleep quickly. He was drifting into a vivid dream, as he so often did. He was a brightly coloured kite flying across the sky, looking down at the towns and streets below him. Nothing needed to control him, he had nothing to be afraid of. He was free and in his dream-like state, knew that this wasn’t real and he would eventually wake up in his own warm bed.
This dream was turning out to be rather interesting. He had had vivid dreams before, but they had never been quite like this. He could actually feel the cold air hitting him as he flew across the sky, he actually felt as though he was weightless. Slowly but surely, he began to feel himself waking up and was somewhat disappointed. It had been a really good dream, and now he here was having to face another boring and ordinary day.
He went to lift the covers off himself. There was nothing to grab. He went to clamber out of bed. There was nothing to clamber out of. He could still feel the cold air on his face and, oddly enough, a sense of weightlessness about his body. He opened his eyes.
Below him, there stood a large town. He could see lights and cars below him and a tail of string stretching out behind him. Above him, the stars glowed. As his stomach lurched and his heart thumped, he realised something he would have thought to be impossible.
His dream had been no dream. Somehow, in some bizarre way, something extraordinary had happened. Billy Greenfield had turned into a kite.
He hung in the air, shaking and terrified. This couldn’t be real. Surely this couldn’t be happening to him? It had to just be all one vivid dream where he would wake up and vow never to eat cheese again.
He flew one way. He flew the other, stifling the urge to scream. However terrifying this was, he knew that he had to find his way home somehow. He looked down at the cascade of lights reflecting from the buildings below him and recognised the direction that he needed to go in. The sky was still dark and the stars were still twinkling above him. He prayed that he would make it back home by morning.
He travelled across the sky, his stomach continuing to lurch and loop and make him feel like a thousand butterflies were trying to escape. Billy Greenfield had encountered a lot of scary things in his life. But this had to be the scariest of them all. He jumped away from chimney-tops and quivered over the roofs of houses, convinced he was going to lose his nerve and fall all the way down.
But he didn’t.
He made it back to his house and flew in through the open window of his bedroom. He sat on his bed, the tail of the kite trailing on the floor and examined himself from head to toe. His body and face were perfectly shaped into a diamond. He was a deep blue with red stripes running through and in the middle were his eyes, nose and mouth.
It was bizarre to look at. Anyone would have thought he was a character from a cartoon. He still couldn’t imagine how this had happened.
Before long, however, the sky was starting to get lighter. As the sun rose higher and higher in the sky, Billy found himself returning back to his own body. He had never been so relieved to have feet in all his life. He sunk his toes into the carpet, as though they had forgotten what solid ground felt like.
He thought back on the events of the night. His head was filled with questions, few of which he could answer. He had no idea how this had happened to him, why this had happened to him or whether it would happen to him again.
He did know one thing, though. Exhausted as he was, he was ready for breakfast. And he could smell toast coming from downstairs.
He appeared in the living room, where he was presented with a cup of tea and a plateful of hot buttered toast. Breakfast was his most favourite meal of the day.
“Good morning, sweetie. How did you sleep?”
“Um, not so bad, thanks. This toast is nice.”
“That’s good. Though you do look tired today. Did you have a bad dream again?”
“Not a bad dream, no. But it was definitely an interesting one…”
“Oh? What was it about?”
Billy munched his toast and thought. If what had happened last night was going to happen again, he needed to tell someone. And he knew that he could talk to his mum about anything. Though he wasn’t sure whether she’d believe this one.
“I dreamed that I had turned into a kite. I was gliding through the sky and looking down at all the buildings below me. It was magical for a time. But then I realised something.
I could feel the cold air on my face. I could hear the wind blowing. I could feel the tail of the kite pulling behind me. I’m not sure how to put this, but it wasn’t a dream that I had last night. I actually turned into a kite.”
His mother looked shocked. But Billy was in full flow now. He had to tell her everything. He had to get it all off his chest.
“It was terrifying. I’m afraid of heights as it is. I could see the ground below me and how hard it looked, and I wanted to be sick. I could feel myself floating and at any point, it felt like I was going to fall. But there was nothing I could do about it. I was just there, hanging in the sky.
“I knew I had to find my way home. I saw the top of the old church that we walk past to go to school and followed the path from there to my bedroom window. I looked at myself in the mirror and it was the biggest shock of my life. My body and face were a blue diamond, just like my kite. I never thought I would see anything like it.
“The thing is, I have no idea how this happened. I don’t know if it’s going to happen again, and that scares me. People will think I’ve gone mad. I’m scared that you think I’ve gone mad. But I simply had to tell somebody. I just hope that you believe me.”
Billy’s mother sat and thought. It was about time that Billy knew a secret. A secret she had kept from him all his life. But it was time for him to know now.
“I believe you, Billy. If I’m honest, I’ve been waiting for a long time for you to say this. Let me tell you a story…
“When you were young, I knew instantly that you were afraid of heights.You’d cry when I picked you up, you never wanted to come down the stairs. We went on a mountain holiday one year and you spent most of it with your hands over your eyes.
“The truth is, there’s something you don’t know about me either. I come from a very special family, with the power of connecting you to the thing you most fear through something you love. I blessed you and your kite with that power. I knew that your kite was your most favourite toy in the world and through that, I could help you to conquer your fear of heights. I gave you and your kite the power to become one.
“It will take some time to get used to. Fears always take time to overcome. But you will get there one day and before you know it, you and your kite will have a connection like no other friend. And when you are old enough, I will bless you with the same power to pass on to children of your own. It is something you can do great things with. You just have to work with it.”
Billy was shell-shocked. It was a lot to take in.
“So, you’re telling me I’m a kite boy now? Like a super-power?”
“Something like that. It won’t happen to you every night, just as fears don’t come for you all the time. It will happen at a time when you need courage the most, when you need something to feel strong about. It will be a shock at first. But you will get used to it. And I will be here to help you.”
“Should I tell anyone?”
“Only if you want to. But if you don’t, nobody will find out. You will only turn into a kite at night, and it will forever remain our little secret. It can be something to remind you that you’re special, like no other boy I know.”
Billy sat back and thought. A whole new super-power to have for life. It would certainly be something to get used to. He still didn’t know if he could live with it. But he felt like he wanted to try. He thought about his kite lovingly. The kite that was soon to become his best friend.
“So, if I can fly, what’s your super-power?”
“My power is being your mother. Responsibility was always something I feared when I was young. But through having you, I realised that it could be something to be cherished and loved.”
“You love me?”
“Billy, of course I do. And I always will.”
That day, Billy Greenfield realised that he was a special boy. He may not have had many friends and there may have been people who laughed at him. But he had a gift that would last him for the rest of his life, with a loving mother who would always be by his side.