Welcome to the Attic!

Card Challenge: Day 2

Card Day 2: A castle floating through the sky from a hot air balloon.

Mark carefully navigated the narrow passage between the spires, pushing the throttle to pull himself from what, in the hands of a less experienced pilot, would have been a certain fiery explosion. The controls were smooth beneath his hand, reacting not as mechanical components, but as some biological extension of his own will. For Mark, such things had always come easily. The plane was not an object hurtling through the air, but his own consciousness speeding towards his desired ends.

He brought he plane to rest, his heroics having, once again, saved the day. He pulled the needed coordinates from the copilot’s chair, handing them off to the waiting private, who hurried off with a look of admiration and awe. Mark smiled, a swagger to his steps, scanning the hustling faces until her found the one that met his eyes with a sultry stare. She moved towards him, her hips swaying side to side hypnotically as green eyes pouted at him from above full red lips. Her hair fell in perfect golden curls, brushing up against her pressing breasts. Her eyes were hungry and amazed, taking in his tall physique, his cavalier grin, his heroism and success.

She reached him from across the tarmac, her eyes never leaving his body. Her lips found his, pulling him closer so he could feel the rise and fall of her chest, the fullness of her breasts, the heat of her desire. Mark thrust himself into the moment, the passion, the—

–sound of laughter jolted him from his momentary revelry. He looked about, quickly, taking in the pool of sticky drool on his desk and the disapproving stare of his third period history teacher. Ms. Spinham fixed him with decidedly less interested stare, but one that cut to his core with all the ice of the dream woman’s warmth.

“I’m not sure that level of enjoyment is appropriate for World War II, Mr. Cavanaugh.”

A giggle rippled through the classroom again as Mark fumbled to pick his fallen glasses off the desk, muttering an embarrassed apology as he tried to make himself small in his chair. Gary gave him a woeful half smile from across the room, shrugging his shoulders in solidarity. At least, Mark reasoned, he had an ally in the battle that was high school.

“That was brutal,” groaned Gary as they melded into the mass of students. Mark shook his head.

“You don’t have to tell me. It’ll be the end of the semester before I live that down.”

“Hey, it could’ve been worse.”

Gary’s attempt at reassurance was flimsy at best, and Mark was in no mood to graciously accept the trite sentiment. “Really, Gary? How could that have been any worse?” Mark snapped, throwing his hands up in the air in defeat.

Gary knit his brows together, a flash of irritation in his eyes. “At least all that moaning wasn’t talking, compadre. You could have been all ‘Oh, Janice, Janice, kiss me harder.'” His words had the magical ability to cut through the din of the hallway during passing period, and Mark felt the color further drain from his face. From around him, people turned to glance his way, not bothering to hide their smirking faces. It did not take long for the whispers to start. To his credit, Gary looked similarly pale, and threw him a half-apologetic glance before distancing himself from the heartily labeled social pariah. Mark sighed. This too shall pass.

Fourth period, Science. Fifth, lunch. By that time, Gary had developed a sufficient apology, and cautiously shared the table with him. Sixth was English, and nearly the end of the day. Mark slouched into the classroom, trying not to make eye contact with all the grinning faces waiting to make some remark. Not making eye contact did not stop them from making the comments, but Mark reasoned it gave him plausible deniability that he ever heard them. Mr. Stonebrook began the lesson on the early works of American literature, scrawling dates and authors across the board with reckless abandon. Mark tried to keep up, but soon found himself doodling fantastic castles, as well as a dubious self-portrait topped with a marvelous crown. Of course, to an outsider looking in, the scribbles more closely resembled the fallen walls of a ramshackle shack, and his crown appeared to be misshapen antlers protruding from a potato, but Mark amused himself nonetheless. Until his felt the heavy silence of the classroom.

Mark looked up from his doodles to find Mr. Stonebrook smiling at him. “Can you read the next paragraph?”

Mark floundered. “Uh—I think I can—” his fingers danced across the book as his eyes tried to sneak a glance at the page number. “What’s the first word?”

“She walked.”

Flustered, uncomfortable, and uncertain he was on the right page, Mark began reading, his words coming in starts and stops as he eyed the class for any sign of mistake. Fortunately, the paragraph ended without event, and Mr. Stonebrook turned his smiling gaze to the next student.

After an eternity of forced attention, the bell rang and freed Mark from the building. He hurriedly packed his bag, but was stopped by Mr. Stonebrook’s friendly voice.

“Stay a minute, Mark?” Mark nodded, mute, and waited by the door of the room until it was finally empty. “I got you request to write you a letter of recommendation for college,” began his teacher, “and I’m more than happy to. I was just wondering if, maybe, you know—” Mr. Stonebrook was stumped, and Mark could see it clearly. The man stumbled for a few more moments over the words before they finally spilled out. “Have you, just a thought, but maybe considered community college or a trade school? I mean, they can both be great options.”

Mark was stumped. He stared at his teacher for a moment, before mumbling some sort of assent with a forced smile. Mr. Stonebrook smiled.

“Good, I just, ah, just wanted to see what your plans were. Have a great afternoon.”

Freed, Mark walked home in solitude, finding his way back to his room for another round of peace and quiet. He lay back on his bed, visions of fighter pilots and beautiful damsels dancing through his head. He smiled. When you could imagine as well as he could, did it really matter what the reality was? He closed his eyes, opening them on a dense jungle. Behind him, gunfire tore through the surroundings, overwhelming the frenzied yells of his pursuers. Mark lifted himself into the branches of the tree, scaling them swiftly as his eyes picked his targets from the underbrush. It was good to be the best.

Full confession, this is one paragraph over two pages, but…it’s close, and the dialogue took up a lot of room. By word count, it is equal to day one, so I may adjust to 1000-1200 words max rather than the page count, just to keep dialogue from messing me up! Also, this is inspired from the card as seen through the lens of the “building castles in the air” idiom, in case it wasn’t clear. I thought about a fantasy piece about a flying city, but I kind of like this one better. Hope you enjoyed it!

Creative Commons License
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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