A cold wind whispered through old oaks and tall birch trees, playing across their leaves in the darkness of the night. They rustled softly, producing a calming music that drifted across the hillside where Ferdinand laid.
However, he didn't much care about the song of the trees. His eyes were fixed elsewhere.
High above him, the stars glittered and glistened. In the black expanse, the ceiling of the world seemed so close, and yet so far away. It seemed that if he could only get high enough he might be able to touch it, yet his efforts had always been in vain.
Heaven's Gate. He thought to himself.
His friends and family who had taken notice of Ferdinand's love of the stars above had questioned him several times as to what drew his attention. The answer was always the same. During the day, the sun threatened to burn him, but at night it seemed to be Heaven's Gate. Holes punched through darkness that shone through with divine light. A promise of what was behind the black canvas of the night sky.
Many of them had told him to forget it. To focus on his farm and on his work, but he never could really listen to them. No matter how hard he tried, the beauty of those glittering dots above always drew him back til he found himself lying in a field or sitting in a tree looking up at them.
If only there were some way to get up there. he wondered.
He had tried climbing every tree he could, but to no luck. He had climbed atop the village buildings and jumped up to try and reach it. Once he even built the tallest ladder he might and propped it up. He fell and broke several bones, but his will was not shattered.
Instead, he found himself once again under the stars, staring up at them. He had tried so many times yet failed.
What am I doing wrong? he groaned angrily.
Reaching down to a loose rock nearby, he grabbed it and threw it as hard as he could into the sky. He watched it soar up and moments later, disappear. For a moment, this didn't occur as strange to Ferdinand. Clearly he had just lost sight of the rock...or did he?
Picking up another, he threw another rock hard into the sky, only for it to disappear up into the the starry darkness. He tried another and yet another, each time sending them hurdling up into the sky and each time losing track of them in the black.
I've got it. He thought to himself.
The next day found Ferdinand waking bright and early. While his thoughts should have been on his crops and his cows, he could not escape what he had seen the night before.
What if the answer is not to climb, but to soar? he mulled over while he sat upon his straw bed. To soar like a bird to the stars and the heavens above?
Ferdinand was not a learned man and had no use for writing instruments or any real instruments of measure, yet he felt he needed them. He would need a machine of some kind. A creation that, much like his hand might throw the rock, he might be thrown to the heavens and to God's doorstep itself. Ferdinand made his way off into the countryside, forgetting his farm duties completely.
That afternoon, he arrived at the monastery several miles away. He was well received and soon was speaking to one of the monks there with regards to his idea.
"A machine. Nay, a fist to hurl men towards the sky." Ferdinand said with a smile he could not contain!
"It is not the place of men to expedite their trips to Heaven." the monk told him. "To do so is to damn yourself to Hell."
Ferdinand left the monastery crestfallen, but not defeated.
He arrived in the little village where he lived a short while later. It was there that he found his brother. He explained his thoughts to him as well.
"You're a fool." said his brother. "You will soar to heaven! When you smash upon the rocks!"
With a sigh, he left the village and returned home once again. His crops were ignored. His cows were forgotten. Without so much as a look at his farm, Ferdinand went to sleep.
The next day, to his surprise, a strange man came to his house. He was notable smaller in stature and shorter in height. He wore strange robes in a style Ferdinand had never seen and spoke with a strange accent that he had never heard.
"I look for place to sell toys." said the man in the thick accent and the strange robes. "You know where sell toys?"
Ferdinand was about to suggest the village when he saw the cart that the man traveled with. It was decorated with all kinds of wooden imaginations. Automatons that bent and tops that spun and every other toy of wood and stone that Ferdinand had ever seen or heard of.
"I know of a place nearby," said Ferdinand. "But before I give you directions, let me ask you a question."
And so he shared his idea. A great and powerful machine to hurl men to the stars to greet God at his feet and see the heavens not as pinpricks in the darkness but in divine light and holy favor. The man listened, clearly confused often but attentive nonetheless. It was only when Ferdinand finished that he responds.
"Yes. I have thing like that. Small. Need big though."
And in exchange for directions to the village, the strange man with his strange robes and his strange accent gave him a small wooden toy. It had a bucket on one end and rock on the other that was supported by a beam in the center. When he touched a small lever on the side, the rock dropped and whatever was in the bucket was flung away.
This is what I need. He thought to himself.
The next months dropped away with Ferdinand almost completely engulfed in his project. His crops failed. His cows died. It didn't matter though. What little food he had left was enough. Once he visited the stars, it would be all worth it.
With the unwitted help of other members of the village, he slowly gathered the pieces he needed to construct a much larger version of the toy the man had given him. The towering behemoth stood nearly three times as high from head to toe and the bucket that it had could easily toss any of the dead cows that were quickly piling up.
There was only one thing left.
On that final day, the day before he traveled to the stars, Ferdinand said goodbye to his family. He said goodbye to his wife and his kids, who begged him to stay and farm. He said goodbye to his mother and his father. He said goodbye to the monk at the monastery, his brother in the village, and anyone else who would listen. Whenever they asked why, his response was always the same.
"I'm going to the stars." he said.
His heart caught in his throat as the sun sunk below the horizon. His elation only intensified the darker it became. In the failing light, he quickly checked his machine once again to make sure everything was right. Everything had to be right. With the growing pitch of darkness, Ferdinand climbed into the bucket.
Holding a long rope that he'd tied to the lever, he stared up at the stars once more as he had that fateful night before.
Here I come. he thought with a smile.
There was a yank and a jerk from below and, within the space between heartbeats, Ferdinand was flying. Flying towards the sky. Flying towards the stars. He extended his arms, ready to grab hold of the sky and pull himself up into Heaven.
Several hundred feet away, his remains were unceremoniously splattered across a little hill under the stars near some old oak and tall birch trees.
(I hope you all enjoyed. This was a dark little diddy inspired by a silly Facebook post. Originally it was just a one sentence joke, but I had to run away with it. Huge build-up to one punchline, but what can I say? :P )