From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Lighter than Air

It’s your dream come true, or at least advertised as such. What work-a-day girl on paid vacation from the work-a-day whirl wouldn’t dream of a cruise on a grand luxe liner, and hopefully a romantic one? And here you are parading your stuff up the gangplank of the Cloud Nine.

But hey, you’re not merely parading, you’re sashaying, and so is everyone else, and not up a rickety plank stairway with a third-rate cruise company logo on the canvas sides, but jetway out of a Bollywood musical, a long tunnel undulating in a sensuously serpentine manner whose rose-colored walls curve seamlessly into sky-blue overhead, rising gently to a gilded rococo entry port festooned with a gigantic aloha lei of morning glories and lavender lilies wafting welcoming sultry perfume towards you.

Everyone ascending to the cruise liner, whatever they’ve actually paid for, is dressed in first class Eurotrash yacht-guest style; pastel blues and pinks, lime greens and lemon yellows, whites and creams, pinstriped seersucker and tastefully-muted floral prints, Panama hats and straw pillbox hats. You can’t tell the penurious party-crashers from the minor movie stars, Colombian cocaine heiresses, and four-star TV chefs, and you certainly don’t want to be taken for one yourself.

Mysterioso is the cruising style of your onboard cruising game, who’s to know who you are or how long you’ve had to save up for your less than top of the line accommodations when you put the land behind you, as long as you dress first class, right, and it’s not as if you’re planning to sleep alone in your second class cabin. For which purpose, better not to dress to blend in, but to stand out.

If everyone else is dressed for the Polo Lounge or the Cannes Film Festival boardwalk, show some stark black and red flash, nothing punky, Ralf Lauren forbid, but with just enough edge for the metrosexual Flapper to draw the masculine eye. A loosely-flowing sleeveless Coca-Cola-red silk shift cut asymmetrically from the right hip down across to below the left knee. A primary black lace cloaky thing that only looks like a sweater rakishly tied over your shoulder for a trip to the tennis court and a black derby titled the other way, who cares about the less than appreciative looks the outfit gets you from the feminine competition, you’re not here to hang with the girls, now are you.

Through the lei-draped entrance and directly into the Grand Salon, a great flattened ovoid space, windowless, but with a round bubble of a skylight over the center of the room where fluffy white clouds drift across a bright blue sky, sending a slow dance of light and shadows across the softly glowing mother-of-all-pearls walls. A light-as-air spiral staircase depending from a spidery cable frame ascends at the fore of the salon.

A long bartop of thin silvery metal is likewise suspended along the port curve, and there are service doors along the starboard curve through which waiters in white eternal summer surfer tuxedos emerge carrying ice-buckets of champagne to round tables with seating for the full compliment of two hundred and fifty passengers scattered around the floor, laid out with white napery, but otherwise holding only white champagne flutes and finger-food platters.

No one’s sitting down as the last of the passengers board, and you secure a glass of grand cru brut, and drift about to the low muttery mix of retro Dixieland jazz and instrumental steel drum reggae like everyone else waiting for the magic moment.

Which arrives to a blare of french horny fanfare modulating to a bassoon and flute hornpipe as the Captain descends the staircase from on high.

Of course he needs no introduction. Of course he’s the Captain. Who else could he be in that costume?

A royal blue officer’s uniform, but rakishly cut and tailored into a kind of punked Deco tuxedo, complete with white ruffled neck and cuffed formal shirt and one heavy gold chain in lieu of a silly bow tie. Cowboy cut pants tucked into black patent leather boots six inches below the knee. A red leather captain’s hat with a white brim trimmed with a golden eagle’s wings medallion, long carefully coifed wavy blond hair flowing down around the ears like the drapery on a Foreign Legion Cap. A dark black moustacheless beard closely trimmed to accent a noble Tarzanic chinline. Aquiline nose supporting airforce mirror shades.

Descending the spiral staircase with the athletic grace of a ballet dancer on his way to dunk one off the backboard.

A dreamboat hunk to die for!

“Welcome to the Cloud Nine,” he intones in a rich and projective captainly bass, but with something tantalizingly arch beneath it like a cowboy take beneath a BBC accent. “I’ll be your Captain Nemo for this voyage, it’s not my name, but what the hell, maties, better than Captain Bligh, now ain’t it? We’re about to depart on our magical mystery tour, and you don’t want to miss that, so y’all come up to watch from the Sky Dome.”

And he turns to lead the parade up the spiral staircase.

There’s no unseemly rush, but still you find yourself in the middle of it when you emerge under a clear glass dome, a long ovoid that covers most of the length of the body of the ship, about two football fields long, with a fenced porch of some kind running around it behind lines of closed doors. There’s a small bridge fore of it with a windowed balcony around it, making it look like a flattened lighthouse. The round Grand Salon skylight sits in the middle of the deck surrounded by a high protective inward-bending wire fence like something atop a skyscraper viewing platform. Three silver metal cylinders project up through the Sky Dome canopy at regular intervals, looking much like steamer smokestacks. No napery on the small cafe tables up here, and there are also scattered beach chairs, director’s chairs, and chaise lounges.

Nothing else is visible save the blue dome of the cloud-speckled sky.

And the wings of the ship.

Yes, the Cloud Nine does have wings. Huge wings, each twice as long as the ship itself and ten feet thick, covered atop with what can only be checkerboard grids of black solar cells, their trailing edges spouting long lines of presently immobile propellers. It’s like standing on the back of a gigantic metal manta ray.

There’s a judder and then the ship begins to slowly float to oohs and ahs, yours included.

Upwards towards the drifting clouds.

“We are now underway,” the Captain announces superfluously. “The Cloud Nine floats on vacuum cells that fill most of the hull, but the solar cell wings that power it are also vacuum cells, and we can’t turn them into keels until the sails are unfurled, which makes her a wee bit wobbly on the ascent, so you swabs gotta help keep her weight evenly balanced until we reach cruising altitude, which is why you can’t be allowed on the promenade until then. You won’t fall off when we let you out unless you climb over the railing to commit suicide. Go ahead if that’s your thing, you’ve all signed waivers, and anyway we’re insured.”

With which the Captain leaves for the bridge.

The ship continues its stately rise, rocking a bit back and forth on the breezes, until the lowest of the passing clouds are level with it and tracking it like porpoises. Then it stops. As the wings turn on their propellers and slowly drop down to sixty-degree angles to the hull of the ship to form a V-shaped double keel, the three “smokestacks” expand upward, revealing themselves as masts. The foremost unfurls a great silvery balloon spinnaker, the rear mast sprouts spars that spawn two levels of triangular sails, the middle mast, twice as tall as the others, puts out old-time clipper ship square rigging.

The masts rotate independently, the sails catch the winds, the airship heels over a few degrees to port, and the Cloud Nine is sailing through the sky, scattering low-flying clouds before its misty bow-wave.

The Captain returns to the Sky Dome. The airship more or less rights itself.

“We’re crossing east across Upper New York Bay now because they haven’t allowed airships to fly over Manhattan ever since the Hindenburg, but we’re about to let y’all out on the promenade to get a good view of the skyline and the Statue of Liberty as we head out across the Atlantic. But to keep the ship balanced on an even keel, we ask ladies to go to port, and gentlemen to starboard.”

He signals with a wave, and hatless surfer dudes in short-pantsed white sailor suits open the doors to the promenade, and like everyone else, you rush through them to stare outward and downward over the chest-high railing.

You’re not exactly flying, you’re truly sailing through the air. You’re up there in the clouds, you have to hold down your derby against the wind of passage caressing your skin flirtingly, but you can smell the briny odor of the bay directly below, and the elusive hum of the city can still be distantly heard, and while the Statue of Liberty is not much more than a green smear on an island from this angle, the Manhattan skyline maintains a vertiginously foreshortened three-dimensionality.

Awesome, thrilling, spectacular, but in a Zenlike languid manner. The Cloud Nine, to judge by the breeze of passage, can’t be moving much faster than an orca at sprint speed, and the distance and scale of the slowly receding vista of the city creates the visual and visceral illusion that you’re moving even slower, like a great sailplaning albatross riding the mother of all thermals. No engine sounds. Nothing but the wind and the barely audible beehive buzz of the city and the barest undertones of waters lapping shores.

It’s like being at one with the angels.

Or it would be if it wasn’t so erotic.

Well, call it sensual, like the arousal of the skin as a full-body sensory organ, like taking a banked curve in a Formula One Ferrari, like body-surfing an endless wave. As if you were doing all those things while flying like a bird. You could luxuriate unfrustrated in this sweet somatic state forever, you’re not quite sexually aroused, but on the other hand you know you damn well that you would be at the slightest romantic provocation.

And here comes one now, and primo.

Ladies portside or not, and there are a good hundred or so of you lined up gazing out over the railing, here comes the Captain, the only male in sight, promenading towards you through what’s on offer, which most of it clearly is, like the cock of the walk.

Which he clearly is, nodding, smiling, winking, muttering whatevers, not quite yet pressing the flesh but almost, displaying what he’s got on offer.

As he approaches you, call it predatory instinct, call it a spontaneous genius vamp, you brush your hand across your brow under the lip of your derby as if brushing away a breeze-blown wisp of hair, and surreptitiously flip it off your head backwards, away from the wind of passage, and towards him.

The Captain snatches it neatly out of the air.

“Nice move,” he tells you all too knowingly. But he is grinning approvingly. “Dropping your hanky would be so retro.”

“Nice catch yourself.”

He laughs, studies your derby attentively, or pretends to, as he hands it to you. “Nice hat.”

You grin back, a little girlishly, a little edgily, grab his own hat, and do likewise. “Nice hat yourself,” you tell him. You pop it on your own head, plant the derby on his.

The fancy red leather seacaptain’s hat probably looks silly on you from a certain point of view, but it does match your dress, and you strike a pose like a fashion model doing a deliberately retro Coca Cola Girl on the cover of Vogue.

The black derby on his head somehow does go with his royal blue officer’s suit, pushing the effect away from uniform and deeper into Deco tuxedo, and him into arch cinematic suave, as he mimes twirling a phantom cane doing a little two-step.

You laugh, he laughs. You take off his hat, tip it to him, and make to return it, but he clamps his hand on the brim of the derby. “If you don’t mind, I’ll keep this for now, and we can exchange again this evening,” he says and he takes his captain’s hat from you, and returns it to your head.

“Doesn’t that leave you out of uniform?”

He tips your own derby to you. “I’m never in uniform, but I’m always in costume,” he tells you by way of exit line, “and you seem to like it.” And sashays up the promenade, tipping it likewise here and there to the competition.

“And so do they,” you mutter sourly, but he’s out of earshot.

#

You’re still wearing his signature chapeaux as you find yourself gliding up the spiral staircase out of a sea of feminine glowers like Ginger Rogers into the flame and mauve ocean sunset of the Sky Dome and out onto the promenade, men’s side this time, why not.

The sea is an infinite mirror of the equally boundless sunset. The fluffy clouds drifting by you glow pastel red like bouquets of roses tossed by passing cupidly angels. You walk up the promenade towards the bow, towards the bridge, and you discover that it runs all the way around the ship. There’s a ladder leading down to it from the Captain’s catbird seat, and yes he is there gazing heroically forward, of course he is, and yes he still is wearing your derby.

You take off the Captain’s hat, start waving it, and after a few beats he sees you, of course he does, answers with a tip of your derby, and you eye him slowly descending the ladder facing forward, step after step, a vertical dancer’s cakewalk, a show-off routine which he performs with admirable and enticing grace.

“Enjoying the view?”

You look him up and down. He looks you up and down.

“Are you?”

He takes you by the hand and a galvanic thrill runs up your arm and down through your body at this first touch, as, to judge by his self-satisfied smirk, he knows all too well.

He leads you forward to where the promenade bulges outward at the prow of the ship, a pulpit hanging out above the sunset mirror of the sea below like the bowsprit of the ship and you’re the figurehead, a dolphin effortlessly body-surfing the aerial bow-wave, above and beyond the material world.

But you can’t help being a material girl.

You spread your arms up and out like Winged Victory.

You laugh. “You bastard! You’ve got to know I’ve seen this movie!”

He laughs. “Who hasn’t? But this is not the Titanic and there are no icebergs up here to collide with, just clouds, and if you hit one, you float right through it. . .”

And you do, as the bow of the airship glides through a misty white puffball and out again into the open air. “On the Silver Screen as schlocky romantic tragedy, above it all as a merry little take of romantic farce, come on, you know you want to. . .”

And of course you can’t help yourself.

“I’m on top of the world!” you shout, breaking up into giggles, and he breaks up in a more masculine version, and then of course you’re laughing in each other’s arms, which of course was the intent of the pixie piece of business in the first place.

And of course the first kiss is the next step in the musical comedy dance.

But it’s not PG rated at all.

It’s seriously serious and seriously hot, open-lipped, tongue-on-tongue for a long lingering beat, breast-to-chest, a quick swirl of pelvis-to-pelvis that leaves you, if not breathless, full-bloodedly eager for more. Much more. Everything you can think of more, and hopefully a few things that only he can.

A breeze flips the Captain’s hat off your head, up, up, and away. He just laughs.

“Frankly, Scarlett,” he tells you, “I don’t give a damn.”

“And neither do I,” you cry, taking your hat from his head and gaily flipping it away. “Shall we dance? Or you got a better idea? Like in the Captain’s cabin?”

“You do know how to whistle, don’t you Thoroughly Modern Milly, but what makes you think I’m that kind of guy?”

“So what kind of guy are you? I don’t need your little bird to tell me you’re not gay.”

“I’m your Sky Captain,” he tells you, “and don’t you bother to tell me you’ve ever. . . had one before.”

“What do I have to do to. . . have this one?”

“A gentleman never tells.”

“I’m not asking a gentleman, I’m asking you.”

“Then ask me again when I’m feeling less like a gentleman,” he tells you, “like in my cabin. . . when we’re over Paris. I promise you something spectacular.” And he turns and ascends the ladder backwards to the bridge, blows you a kiss.

“Ready when you are, C.B.!”

#

Or so you hope are, as you flash the Captain’s card at the snobbish steward playing gatekeeper to first class. He leers at the sight of it, then at you, as he admits you to the descending staircase with a smarmy little bow.

And now you comprehend why first class is down here in what one would think would be steerage, and why those who can afford it are willing to pay for voyaging in a dreamscape like this.

A salon like the Grand Salon above only a good deal smaller, and with the domed ceiling done up a mirror.

Mirroring not the sky but the floor.

The floor that isn’t there.

Well, it must be there because you’re standing on it, but it’s some kind of plastic or glass so perfect that you can’t quite see that it’s there, holding you in the air thousands of feet over verdant cloud-shadow-dappled farmland in bright sunlight.

This isn’t like flying. This isn’t like floating. This isn’t like anything you’ve ever felt before. And that the ceiling above is the mirror image of the passing ground below doubles the magical effect. If this were at all humorous, which it isn’t, you’d know how Wile E. Coyote feels running a dozen horizontal steps off a cliff and then looking down.

But you don’t fall, and as the shock passes it’s replaced by a giddy hit of transcendent power at the wonder of standing there magically and effortlessly aloft above it all. And as you catch your breath, you notice that there are couches and chairs scattered about the floor, soft cushy things of clear gel, and a dozen or so people sitting in them, talking, sipping drinks, attempting seductions, like gods and goddesses of the air to whom it’s the most natural thing in the world.

There’s a ring of doors around the salon, all of them closed, all of them numbered; the doors to the first-class staterooms, no doubt, save for one right at the front painted royal blue, than can only be the Captain’s cabin.

You stride directly across the void to it, knock.

“Open sez me,” says the voice of the Captain.

It’s unlocked. You push it open and walk on air into the air. Here the floor is not only transparent, it’s some kind of transparent gel itself, soft and spongy.

It’s like walking on invisible cloud drifting westward above the spires of Notre Dame Cathedral, and the ceiling and walls are a seamless video screen displaying a cloud deck that you’re moving through, and there’s a hidden fan blowing artificial zephyrs so that you can feel a wind of passage caressing your body to complete the effect.

The Captain is an unselfconsciously naked Adonis standing in the middle of the air over Paris, hands on hips and grinning at you with an unabashed erection.

“Welcome to my parlor,” said the spider to the fly.”

Bronzed gymnast’s body, hairless save for the golden curls at his pubes matching his long flowing main of hair blowing in the wind. A Greek God with the attitude of a stage-diving rock god surveying his sea of panties-tossing groupies.

There’s a part of you that would like to punch him right in his grinning mouth, but that’s already once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away, after all, this is just what you came for, now isn’t it.

He knows it, you know it, and he knows that you know it too. No fencing match foreplay needed or possible up here in the middle of the air. It’s cut to the chase, your clothes are gone before you can even think about it, you’re bouncing through the sky above the Seine tracking the tour boats, and into his arms.

The open-mouthed deep-tongued kiss is steamily sensual, but far too electrically erotic to last for long, you’re lapping your tongue in snaky swirls down his sweet smoky smelling chest before you can think about it, and long before you get to the object of your desire, your loins are moistly afire, and you’re not thinking at all as you sink to your knees, grabbing his buttocks, and suckling him up like a babe at the teat.

You’re so lost in moaning and writhing and fingering yourself in anticipatory arousal that you not only don’t know how long it’s lasted, you don’t even realize that he’s been standing there absolutely still and silent until he holds you by the cheeks, gently pushes you away, and lifts you, panting and deliciously frustrated, to your feet.

“Nice for the opening act, but not a Sky Captain’s final act thing.”

“No problem, I can deal with that!” you cry, shoving him over backwards onto passing Paris with your strongest two-handed shove, leaping atop him legs spread wide, reaching down to guide him to the sweet spot.

But before you can, he wraps his legs around your waist in a wrestler’s scissors, flips you away off of him onto your side, rolls away, and up into a full lotus sitting position, looking down at you lying there stunned and quite pissed off.

“What the fuck was that about?” you demand as you pry yourself upright facing him.

“The Flying Fuck.”

The what?”

“Look down.”

You’re floating on hover right over the Eiffel Tower. From this position and angle and what’s lighting up your mind’s eye’s frustrated prurient interest, the City of Light’s signature edifice looks quite obscene, the four supporting towers two sets of spread-legged and intertwined wirework thighs in carnal embrace, and the knoblike protrusion atop it seems to be this phallic French monument’s equally monumental glans, squarely beneath your quivering buns.

The vision is a turn-on and a turn-off. Quite literally massively sexual and massively gross.

“What kind of pervert are you?” you demand, hastily looking away.

“A Sky Captain.”

And, rising, he takes you by the hands, and pulls you to him, belly-to-belly, pubes to pubes, he still lasciviously engorged if not even more so, you likewise even more somatically aroused, despite, or perhaps even because of, your frustrated and outraged ire.

“Close your eyes,” he tells you insinuatingly, snaking his hand between your legs and stroking the quick of you even more insinuatingly. “Imagine we’re standing atop the Eiffel Tower.”

He looks you right in the eye with an intensity that’s both terrifying and terrifyingly erotic. You can’t help yourself, you have to close your eyes.

“Imagine leaping off it together into the freefall freedom of the air, don’t be afraid, this is just a dream, you’ve had flying dreams, now haven’t you, who hasn’t, and you’ve had sexual dreams, you can’t deny it, and old Dr. Freud would insist they come from the same place. . .”

He presumes even more welcoming liberties with his thumb and forefinger, melting your fears with your own heat, opening you up like a flower. . .

This place. . .”

You’re spreading you thighs, you can’t help it, you don’t want to help it. . .

“Now open your eyes.”

You can’t help yourself, and now maybe you don’t want to. You do.

“Look down.”

You’re standing in midair in his tight sensual embrace, legs spread wide high above the Eiffel tower, held aloft on the magical power of his hand, on your own erotic energy coursing up your chakras like the elan vitae of the goddess you seem to be in that moment, as he brings you to the brink and holds you there, palpitating in the near ecstasy of it, soaring on the delicious energy of your presently not unwelcome frustration.

“The Flying Fuck,” he tells you knowingly. “You’ve always dreamed of it, now haven’t you, one way or the other, who hasn’t, it’s the impossible dream and the dream of the impossible. Until now. Because now we can really do it.”

“You’re crazy! It is impossible!”

The magic is suddenly all gone.

You’re standing on a spongy transparent floor in an airship over Paris. This guy is running the mother and motherfucker of all pussy-teasers on you with his hand and the most outrageous seduction in history with his words, made all the more outrageous because it’s so utterly seductive. He’s made you want it more than you’ve ever wanted anything, but you know you can’t have it. Like a bad daddy handing his kid the most delicious lollypop in the sweet shop and then snatching it away.

You shove him away. He doesn’t resist it. He grins and he’s still got a grinning erection. You’re about to punch the son of a bitch in the mouth.

“Oh no it’s not!” he tells you forcefully. “Oh yes we can! Oh yes I have! ”

“You have. . ? We can. . ?” You hate yourself for practically whimpering like a dog begging for meat off the dinner table. “But—”

How?” He does an abracadabra move like a schlocky stage magician. “With magic, of course. Don’t you believe in magic?”

“In the magic of a young girl’s soul?” you sneer. “In the magic of rock and roll? Give me a break!”

“This airship is floating on vacuum, now isn’t it, on nothing but nothing. Can’t your young girl’s soul see magic in that? So why not thee and me beneath our own magical balloons?”

Put that way, you can imagine how, but. . .

“How come I’ve never heard about this? How come it’s not in the supermarket tabloids? How come it’s never been on cable TV?”

“Because the best magic is secret magic,” he suggests.

You give him a fish-eyed stare.

He shrugs. “Because most jurisdictions keep their friendly skies rated G. After all, these days you can’t even light up a cigarette in an outdoor soccer stadium. Mardi Gras over Rio, maybe, but Orlando or Salt Lake City? It might not scare the horses over Paris or Amsterdam, but imagine the rubbernecking traffic jams!”

You can’t help laughing at that, but an exhibitionist within you that you didn’t know was there can’t help but being turned on by the sleazy fantasy.

Fantasy? Haven’t you entered that Magic Kingdom already, and certainly not the Disney version, and a dirty little bird is whispering into your nether lips that, yes, you’re up for it.

“Where?” you find yourself asking breathlessly.

“Where there’s no law that says those who go up have to come down, put that in your bong and smoke it, Werner von Braun.”

“Where on Earth is that?”

“Beyond the rainbow,” says the Sky Captain, “and somehow, I don’t think we’re gonna be in Kansas, do you? Come on Dorothy, click your heels. . .”

And you do, you click the heels of your naked feet, one, two—

—and on the third beat, you’re wearing high-heeled red pumps, and there is a rainbow, and the Cloud Nine is sailing through it.

It must be magic, for now you’re standing beside the Sky Captain in full kit at the bow of the upper deck promenade, and you’re once more decked out as the Coca Cola girl.

And if that’s not the Emerald City the airship is easing into aerial orbit around, it certainly belongs floating over Oz. A ring of greenhouse glass through which you can make out the furnishings of hotel suites embraces the equator of a glittering neon-pink globe the size of an asteroid big enough to be the one that did in the dinosaurs to make room for hot-blooded life, and there’s plenty of that on display.

Slung a few hundred feet below the giant disco ball is an even huger globe of netting made of synthetic fiber that’s all but invisible, a miniature planet made entirely of air. Swimming within it like a cage full of soaring birds are scores of oversized and overthick hang glider balloons. Hanging from them are couples—well not all of them, some of the vacuum wings seem just ungracefully capable enough to support threesomes—a tropical bird tank of naked or minimally fetishistically accoutered human flesh performing every conceivable variation of the Sky Captain’s Flying Fuck in mid-air.

It’s the grossest erotic sight your eyes have ever seen, a silent Casino show version of the Kama Sutra, and yet there’s a beauty to it too, the clean beauty of a vast naked ballet unfettered by gravity or shame or self-awareness. Okay some of the couplings are less than graceful, and some of the dancers could lose some flab, but it’s hard to conceive of what you’re seeing as “dirty,” there’s a freedom to that dance that makes you want to leap into it like a land-bound seal back into the frolicsome sea.

With who doesn’t really seem to matter, in that moment you’re another totally sensual pure devil-may-care animal.

And he’ll do.

“Shall we dance?” you breathe at him, taking his hand.

“Are you sure this is your fave rave dreamtime fantasy?”

“Sure enough to give you a try.”

“Look down.”

Transfixed by the vision within the ethereal net, you haven’t. Now you do.

There’s a small island there in an azure sea, a Greek one, to judge by the graying white ruins one side of the shore. The rest of the island is ringed by golden sands clogged with swimmers and sunbathers. You can’t see faces from this distance, but you know damn well in what direction their eyes are focused. Hotels front on the beaches for two thirds of the way around the island. There are yachts in a marina. You can hear the faint music of steel drums and electric guitars. An even fainter aroma of barbecue, sunscreen, tropical drinks shaded by paper umbrellas, two-stroke dune-buggy fumes, pollutes the innocence of the air.

“If it’s Tuesday, this must be Tijuana,” you groan.

“Oh it’s a little classier than that, but a lot more expensive! The exhibitionists in the sky have to pay through the nose to join in the dance, and it’s not that much cheaper for the voyeurs paying to just look.”

The vacuum air has quite whooshed out of your horny balloon.

“If you think—”

“It’s not about what I think, it’s about what you think,” he tells you. There’s something challenging in his eyes as he says it, sexual yet not sexual, unfathomably challenging, a seriousness behind the Captainly sex object facade you’ve never seen there before.

“You really do want to know what I think. . .”

“I really do want to know what you think.”

“Is this a test?”

“You could call it that.”

“It’s a desecration!” you blurt. “Up here in the clouds, free spirits, exhibitionists or not, are doing their mating dances for their own pleasures, and down there on the ground they’re watching it with their hands in their pants like pigs.”

He smiles at you radiantly. “You pass.”

“You mean I fail. I’m not going to—”

He silences you with a finger on your lips. “You pass. You really think a nice guy like me would be caught dead rolling in the air with you in a place like this? Not my style, babe, not the real deal, if you say yes, I say no. If you say stay, I say go.”

“Go where?”

“Wherever the angel of your spirit fears not to tread,” he says, sliding his hand oh so knowingly, oh so sweetly between your thighs. “Wherever the devil within you makes you want to go. We’re on top of this world together, and this Sky Pilot’s making you the captain of his soul. There’s more to this than dreamt of in their pornographic philosophies, the ying-yang of it is it takes two kindred spirits to reach the next level. Nothing personal exactly, but we’ve got to be. . . making love.”

“Making love? Where?”

“Anywhere that makes you feel. . . romantic, darlin’,” he croons. “Take me to the garden of your deepest heart’s desire. That’s the deepest desire of mine.”

He takes your hand and places it squarely between his legs. “Think of me as the genie of this magic lamp, little mistress,” he tells you. “Rub it and you get your wish. But I’ve got a better deal than that poor ectoplasmic harem eunuch. I get to go where your wishing makes it so too.”

You stroke it, no fairy godfather’s wilting wand this! And—

#

You and the Sky Captain are hanging nude together from bungie cords in balmy body-temperature mid-air under a black night sky brilliant with stars, the Milky Way a gauzy white wedding veil. Above you, the vacuum balloon is visible only as a wing-shaped occlusion of the heavenly starscape.

You take him in your arms, and you float there silently together in the tender black sea of night until the horizon begins to purple into a deep blue, and the rim of the sun peering up over the horizon line is bright enough to reveal what lies below.

A fluffy rolling white cloud-deck stretches from horizon to horizon.

But no, as the waxing sunrise casts a warm amber radiance and long chiaroscuring shadows over it, the cloud deck becomes an endless greening rainforest canopy seen from on high, hills and valleys from which the tentative songs of awakening birds rise up towards you, the rich sweetly earthy perfume of the foliage shrugging off the mists of the night.

You kiss, long but softly, open-mouthed, but there’s no frenzy of mating tongues up here, it’s a romantic kiss, a melding of the breaths of kindred spirits, of the angels of the air. And as if in response, as if at your silent summons, birds arise towards you from the forest canopy, shoals and schools of golden canaries, brilliant finches every color of the rainbow, as if you were snorkeling above a reef of tropical fish.

Then you are one with the tropical birds of the air as they dip and swirl around you, and you join in the dance, diving, banking, rising, in languid slo-mo, laughing and crying out in innocent delight. And as the sun rises halfway above the horizon in a crown of flaming rays fading the stars into a sky of radiant royal blue, you turn towards it, and he glides into the flowering quick of you with the same innocent grace.

Below a billion flowers are likewise unfolding and opening themselves up to the glory of the new day, red, yellow, blue, rose, purple, pink, all the colors of the floral firmament, transforming the forest canopy into an infinite Arabian Nights tapestry, a flying carpet of flowery majesty rocking and rolling on the sunrise breezes; wrapping you in an invisible cloud of overwhelmingly erotic and tenderly romantic fragrance you soar up into the dawn’s early light on the dance of his cock within you that rises and rises but never seems to descend, taking you higher and higher up out of the caresses of your lower lips upon it, up, up, and away from even fleshly organic rapture, your body rising and dissolving into the light.

A single vast swarm of black and orange Monarch butterflies emerges from the forest of flowers and explodes into a silent fireworks fanfare, silky wings tickling you the last quantum of the way as you feel him riding up and over within you, as you, and he, and the sun, and your mutual bodily completion are transformed into one rapturous celestial light.

Norman Spinrad is the author of over twenty novels, including Bug Jack Barron, The Iron Dream, Child Of Fortune, Pictures At 11, Greenhouse Summer, and The Druid King. He has also published something like 60 short stories collected in half a dozen volumes. The novels and stories have been published in about 15 languages. His most recent novel length publication is He Walked Among Us, published in April 2010 by Tor. He is a long time literary critic, sometime film critic, perpetual political analyst, and sometime songwriter. His latest novel, Welcome To Your Dreamtime, of which Lighter than Air is an entirely free-standing story in the form of a dreamtime scenario, he wrote the novel over several years, and has only now begun to seek a publisher for the book.