A Christmas Mission
By Caroline Stevenson
And it’s more than overdue. Just last week it was 17 degrees. Who can drink a mulled wine in that heat? It’s about time we made our entrance and got people into the Christmas spirit.
Now of course we don’t get verbal instructions from the Mother Cloud once we are released into the atmosphere to freefall, but if we did, they would go something like this: “Ok Flakeys – you know the drill. Land as delicately as you can, as beautifully as you can, as slowly as you can, as twirly as you can. Don’t screw this up. The earthlings are really counting on you to lift their spirits this year…
If I were to be really nit-picky I would have to argue that the best strategy to determine a snowflake champion would be to release all the snowflakes from the cloud at once. You would never dream of giving a select number of runners in a marathon a 10-second head start to determine who was the quickest, would you? But even I have to concede that such a policy would be at the expense of charm, equivalent to just dumping an entire pack of icing sugar onto your mince pies instead of just sprinkling it on gently.
Mother Cloud releases us according to her whims. All you can do is hope you’re not the first. If I had to make a rough estimate, I’d say I was released midway through the line-up.
Some comrades spatter immediately onto aeroplane windows – where at least as some consolation they are made immortal by a passenger managing to snap a photo of their ornate structure before they melt into indistinct water droplets. I come one ice shard away from being sucked into the jet’s engine.
To my left, at the outermost point on the horizon, the rising sun has a golden glow and bathes the scattered clouds in a pinkish hue whilst to the right, Santa is making his final rounds in the land still cast in darkness but illuminated by Christmas decorations galore. To an alien, Planet Earth must look like one huge Christmas tree bauble at this time of year.
I feel fortune is on my side and my skydive will ultimately make a more memorable and meaningful impact for someone down below when I realise that I am descending above a town and not above a mountain range, where snow is no less picturesque but hardly a one-off event.
The skill at this altitude is to look out for obstacles below whilst retaining awareness of the snowflakes still descending above you. Too much twirling and you will accelerate your descent needlessly plus raise the chances of self-sabotage by colliding into a fellow snowflake. My strategy is just to let the air buoy me up whilst making the occasional incremental swerve to the side to make sure a neighbour overtakes me. If you love your neighbour, you let them go. Ahead of you.
The last stretch of my mission, I’m at the height of a church steeple now. Schoolchildren certainly appreciate us. They have made idols of us and stuck them to the windows of their classrooms. At their young age, they already know that we are all as individual as they are. But then this is where the going gets tough. It’s at this altitude that you can see where most of your comrades come to land. One just landed onto the bulb of a streetlamp and made just the briefest of fizzling noises before it expired. Ouch, that’s gotta hurt.
But I can’t let that distract me. I have to focus on my own landing. And I have just spotted the perfect target. A dog’s nose. A puppy’s nose to be more precise, a little golden retriever with a permanent grin and a dark, slightly damp snout. By this stage, enough fallen soldiers have created the right conditions for the puppy to leave its footprints in its wake. Falling into the centre of one of those would be a nice touch, but no, puppy’s snout is still better. My hug would be just cold enough to be a refreshing amusement, and if I’m so close to its eyes it won’t be able to focus on me accurately enough to bat me away with a paw in an instant.
I angle my outer blades to determine my trajectory. The wind is threatening to pick up again and throw me off target.
Please, just let me have this one Christmas wish.
Sunday Wrters' Club member
Portrait of Caroline courtesy of Markus Raffeis