Everything was ready. Most importantly, all of us had prepared our parachutes to catch the wind. We had been that way for quite a while.
Now all was left was to wait for the wind itself, and that gust of air was certainly taking its time. There was a certain number of us who had become very frustrated at how long it was taking, but it was not as if the forces of nature ever had to listen to what we thought. Like its peers, the air currents came and went as it pleased.
Not that I particularly minded that. Some of my siblings were a little more impatient, but they were the optimistic lot who did not think that anything could ever go wrong. They were the ones who longed for adventure. For their whole lives, they had been waiting for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and now that they were close to it, they could not wait.
I was rather proud of being in part of the sane crowd - that is, the majority of us who would gladly wait for another lifetime for our adventure. But despite everything, we all knew there was little point in complaining about or fearing it. It was part of our way of life, as it was for all other dandelions. We were born to be parachutists, and nothing could change that, save for billions of years of evolution or some very dramatic genetic engineering. And even if they did happen, neither would have any effect on our generation.
A slight rustle in the leaves of nearby trees announced the arrival of the wind. It was not quite strong enough to pick us off our mother dandelion against our will, but sufficient for my more adventurous siblings to fill their parachutes and take off with.
"Goodbye, goodbye!" came their cheery, faint voices as the draft carried them off into the distance. Having already tried my hardest to convince them to stay, all I could do now was to wish them the best, and hope that the wind would be kind enough to drop them off at a good home.
Those well-wishing thoughts soon became directed at myself, as the gust grew stronger and forcefully ripped us away from our mother. Before I had realised, I was being carried higher and higher into the sky. I surveyed the world around me, to find many more dandelion seeds suspended by the wind. Soon, the air was filled with the likes of us.
I often wondered why Mother Nature had to do this to us. Why did she have to give us life, if it was her intention that half of us lose it before our biological clocks ran out?
I clung onto my parachute for dear life as the wind seemed to die down a little, and desperately tried to puff out my parachute so that it could catch more air. Our mother dandelion never stopped emphasising to us that the ground would eventually break our fall, but looking down at the miniature lawn from my height, that was an idea I was much less inclined to try. I had told myself that that little piece of advice would be saved until I had no more alternatives to choose from.
The wind died down a little, and I plunged with it. Then it suddenly picked up again, and I was thrown up as well. As if it enjoyed seeing my terrified reaction, the wind continued on in such a pattern, violently tossing me around in the air. This was nothing like I experienced before – previous to my parachutist career, I had happily spent my time balancing on my little spot on our mother dandelion.
Mother dandelion isn't here any more, I reminded myself. Somehow, this gave me more strength to hold on to my parachute. Mother dandelion was a survivor, and I was determined to be one too.
The wind must have sensed the change in my thoughts, for it calmed down significantly after that. Whilst riding on the gentle breeze, I got my first good look at the world. My attention was not on them any more, but I knew that the rest of the dandelion seeds hovering in the air were feeling much the same way.
This change of scenery had a strangely soothing effect, and I began to enjoy myself. The view from up here was very different from the one on the ground, which was all seen through the eyes of a dandelion. That meant a lot of looking up and feeling as if everything else was superior.
Riding on the wind was quite a different experience. For the first time in my life, I got a good view of the world in which I had spent my life, but knew so little about. From the ground, the dandelion fields seemed to be the only thing that existed under the sky – it extended past every horizon I could see. However, within only minutes of my flight, I had passed the edge of it, and found myself hovering over a park. It was a very serene place, and it had plenty of trees.
I would have appreciated it, except something in my mind told me that things were not going to be so simple…
The wind chuckled, and suddenly split into two. The more alert dandelion seeds quickly jumped into the safer gust of air passing over the park, but I was too slow. By the time I realised what was happening, it was too late to jump ship.
It was not so fun any more.
I screamed as the gust propelled me at the trunk of a tree. Mother dandelion had never taught us how to avoid obstacles, but luckily that seemed to be one of the innate abilities of dandelion seeds. It must have been one of those things our ancestors had left us after their own battles for survival against the cruel gales.
Similarly, I managed to dodge my next few obstacles, including rubbish bins, shrubs and more trees. Soon, I became an expert. Seeing that I was not going to be eliminated in this way, the wind gave up and carried me up to join the other dandelions seeds.
We passed the park, and found ourselves above a small town. The scenery was no less captivating, but with my previous experiences, I found myself much more cautious. While I tried my best to enjoy myself like I did earlier, I found myself already occupied with keeping an attentive eye on the activity of the air current.
The town was a rather cold place, and I suppose that accounted for the slowing of wind speed as well as our drop in height.
Four children – no doubt siblings, just by their likeness – burst out of a small, low building, not unlike the way bees flew out of their hives when their colony was threatened. The analogy was about the right size too, even though I was still within a distance to clearly hear every word they said.
"Look, it's the dandelion seeds again!" cried the younger boy excitedly, jumping up and down as he pointed at us. The proximity of the town to the dandelion fields meant that they got these spectacular shows of parachutists every so often, whenever the wind was blowing in the right direction. It surprised me that they had not yet gotten so used to such a sight that they would ignore us completely.
"Yes, Albert," said the eldest girl who tried to steady him as she wrapped a scarf around his neck. She tried to act uninterested – she probably did not want to be seen enjoying some commonplace occurrence that fascinated the three significantly younger children beside her – yet we could see her eyes were shining as she looked up at us.
"Do we get to make a wish?" asked the younger girl, putting her hands together. Her sister replied with what looked like 'No', except she took no notice of it.
The elder boy was quiet for a while, unlike his two chatty younger siblings. He took a good look at us, being carried away by the wind. Then, after a while, he thoughtfully said, "I wish I could be one of them."
I would gladly exchange places with you, little boy, I thought as I floated past him.
"Why's that?" his elder sister asked, in the tone reserved for showing the young children respect while not really caring that much about the answer.
"They're so…free," he replied after a moment's thought. "They don't have to worry about anything, and they just get to take to the skies as they wish and get carried along by the wind…"
His voice trailed off. Or perhaps he did not, but I would not know – I was out of hearing range by then.
The more I thought about him, I more had to say that he was a very strange child. In the least, he did not act his age. However, it was not that I did not agree with him.
As if to prove my point, the wind took advantage of me being lost in thought and left me stuck in the leaves of a tall, evergreen tree. It whispered a light, cheery, "Goodbye!" as it continued on its merry way delivering the other dandelion seeds to their doom.
"'Farewell' would have been a better word," I called after it, but it ignored me. Knowing the air current, it was probably busy looking for another location of similar 'pleasantness' to where it had deposited me. I might be out of the competition, but the sky was still filled with many parachutists determined to settle down well and alive.
I sighed as I examined the tree. There was no way I would ever be able to snap off a branch or a leaf. That meant, unless in the unlikely circumstance that I was lucky enough for a leaf to fall, I would be stuck here forever. There would be no nutrients up here, and more importantly, no water…
You're wrong, mother, I thought with a slight smile. The ground didn't end up stopping my fall after all. And how I wish it did…
I suppose it was time to accept my fate. I was not like our mother dandelion. She had survived, whereas I had not.
Without anything else to do between now and when my energy stores would finally be used up, I turned my thoughts back to the boy.
It was rather interesting how he had described us as 'free'. In fact, now I thought about it, it was amusing how almost anything capable of flight could be so easily linked to the word 'free'. So it might be applicable to others, but certainly not us.
Perhaps he had not realised that while we flew, we were at the mercy of the wind. High, low, near, far – we only went were the wind took us. We had no freedom of choice. He might be confined to the ground, but he had the liberty to go where he wanted, when he wanted. I would argue that that was a much more accurate representation of the word 'free'.
But he was a bright kid. I was sure that one day, he would understand.