I'm writing this story for my grandkids... It is a work in progress, and my hope is that it will stir their imaginations. Your comments are welcome.
Copyright © 1997 by "Papa" Dann McCreary
Skylar and Christopher were in the living room playing. Chris was playing video games and Skylar was saying "Mooo" while he played with his farm. The phone rang in the kitchen and Mama picked it up and talked to someone for awhile. Chris and Skylar didn't pay any attention. They just kept playing with their toys.
In a little while Mama came in from the other room and said "That was Nana on the telephone." "Nana? Nana!" said Skylar. "Can I talk to Nana?" asked Chris. "Nana had to hang up because she and Papa are very busy getting ready to come for a visit." "Papa? Where's Papa?" asked Skylar. "When are they coming?" asked Christopher. "Tonight," said Mama, "but you boys will be in bed when they get here, so you won't see them until tomorrow morning." "Oh, boy, I can't wait!" exclaimed Chris. "Papa! Nana! said Skye.
Before long it was bedtime. "You boys need to take a bath" said Mama. "Bath?" asked Skylar. "Do I have to wash my hair?" asked Christopher. "What do you think?" asked Mama. "Yeesss" said Chris, "cause Nana and Papa are coming." "OK - Go!" said Mama. Chris turned and ran up the stairs to get ready for a bath. Skylar climbed upstairs after Chris just as fast as his two-year old legs could carry him.
After their bath, while Mama was tucking Chris and Skye into bed, Chris had an idea. "Can I stay up until they get here?" he asked. "You have to stay in bed" said Mama, "but you can stay awake if you want to. Just be very quiet." "OK!" exclaimed Chris with a big smile. "When they get here, tell Nana and Papa to come in and see me." "I will" said Mama with a smile. She knew Chris would be asleep soon after she left the room. "Night-night Skylar. I love you." "Night-night" said Skye. "Music?" he asked. Mama turned on his lullabye tape. "Sweet dreams" she said, and turning out the light, she left the room.
That night a very large shadow crossed the moon. All the way from San Diego on up through the central valley, the moon would quietly wink out, only to reappear a moment later. Hardly anyone noticed except for an occasional dog or cat. Sometime around midnight, something large, very large, settled to earth in the field behind Chris and Skye's apartment. Soon there was a soft knock at the door.
Mama went to the door and looked through the peephole to see who was there. She unhooked the chain, opened the door, and in walked Nana with Papa right behind her. "Hi!" said everybody all at once. There were hugs all around. "How was your trip up here?" asked Mama. "Just fine" said Nana. "I think we made record time." Suddenly Papa said, "I'll be right back" and he ran up the stairs. He walked into Chris and Skye's room. Of course, they were both sound asleep, but Papa just wanted to see them and thank God for another chance to be there.
When Papa came back downstairs, Mama asked "Do you need any help bringing your luggage in?" Nana and Papa looked at each other with a little smile. "We don't have any luggage this trip" said Papa with a twinkle in his eye. "How could you drive all the way up here to spend the weekend without bringing any luggage?" asked Mama. "We didn't drive here" said Nana.
Mama began to look very confused, which made Papa laugh. "We aren't even going to sleep here tonight" he said. Nana and Papa usually slept on the couch in the living room when they came to visit. "Are you staying in a hotel?" asked Mama. "No" said Papa, "we're staying at home." Now Mama looked really confused. "We brought the house" said Nana. "It's parked in the field behind the apartment" said Papa.
Mama sat down on the sofa. "And here all these years I thought you were just teasing me, talking about a flying house. You weren't kidding me, were you?" Papa just smiled. "We'll show it to you all in the morning. For now, we're pretty tired and we'd better go home and get a good night's sleep. I know Skylar will wake up early, and I want to be here on the couch when he comes downstairs." "I'll give you the key to the front door, then" said Mama. "Goodnight." "Goodnight! Sweet dreams!" "See you in the morning!"
The next morning Skylar was the first one awake, as usual. Mama heard him chattering away in his bed, and after a few minutes got up to rescue him. Chris was still sleeping, but even he was starting to wake up a bit. Mama carried Skylar down the stairs. There were Papa and Nana sitting on the couch. "Papa! Nana!" said Skylar, sliding down out of Mama's arms and running over. There were lots of hugs and kisses. "Shall we go outside and see what kind of day God made for us?" asked Papa.
While Papa and Skye took a little walk outside, Mama and Nana went to the kitchen to make some coffee. Chris was coming down the stairs just as Papa and Skylar came back in. "Papa!" said Chris. Papa smiled and gave Chris a big hug.
"What have you been doing, Grandpa?" Chris asked. "I have a surprise for you today" said Papa. "Oh boy!" said Chris. "What is it?" he asked. "If I told you what it is, it wouldn't be a surprise, now would it?" said Papa. "But I'll tell you what, it's in the field behind the house. If you go back upstairs and look out your window, you'll see the surprise."
Christopher couldn't wait, so he ran back up the stairs, went to the window, drew back the shade, and looked out. At first, he could hardly believe his eyes. There was something huge sitting in what had been an empty field only the day before. Just then Papa came into the room.
"What is it?" asked Chris. "It's as big as a house!" "It IS a house" said Papa. "It IS?" asked Chris in wonder. "Yes, that's the flying house I've been telling you I was going to build." "Oh, boy!" Can we go see it? Can we fly in it?" "Why don't you get dressed, have some breakfast, and then we'll see about that" Papa replied.
I don't think Christopher ever dressed or ate any faster in his life. By the time Papa was done with a cup of coffee, everybody was ready to go out back and have a look at this new and wonderful thing. As they walked the path to the field out back, Chris bubbled over with questions.
"Does it really fly, Grandpa?" "How do you suppose it got here?" answered Papa. "But it's so BIG!" exclaimed Chris. "How heavy is it?" Mama said, "I thought the flying house was one of those things you'd just talk about, Dad." Skylar pointed to some horses across the way and said something in his own unintelligible language. "How can it fly?" asked Christopher. "It doesn't have any wings!" "Do balloons fly?" replied Papa. "Oh, yeah..." said Chris, looking thoughtful.
From a distance, if you didn't look too closely, Papa's flying house looked kind of like a medium-sized blimp, the kind you might see flying over a football field. The outside was smooth and shiny, and it looked very streamlined. Papa said that was to keep people from noticing too much when it was just parked somewhere (he called it "hiding in plain sight") and also so that it could move through the air more smoothly.
Underneath about in the middle was one of those passenger gondolas, looking rather small by comparison to the rest of the machine. It had windows all around, a door in the middle, and a pod in the back with a shrouded propeller.
When they came up to the door, Papa reached for the knob and opened it. "Don't you keep it locked, Dad?" asked Mama. "Yes, I do; but the house knows me and so it lets me in." Everyone followed Papa up the short steps and into the gondola. It looked a lot like you might imagine; rows of seats down either side with two special seats in front for a pilot and co-pilot. There was a fairly simple instrument panel in front, with an altimeter, airspeed indicator, inclinometer, and a radio.
Papa, however, turned and led them all toward the back of the cabin, up to a little door marked "private". When Papa touched his hand to the door, it swung quietly inward. "Follow me" he said.
Chris, Skye, and Mama found themselves standing in a small entry room. There were closets and shelves on either side and to the rear. Chris could see some funny looking hats on the shelves, kind of like what a diver or an astronaut might wear. The most surprising thing in the room, though, was a kind of a ladder with handrails leading up overhead to a round hatch.
"This is the airlock" said Papa. "What's an airlock?" asked Chris. "An airlock is a special room that's used to keep the air from rushing out of the house if we park somewhere where there is less air pressure." Papa answered. "It's time to climb up the ladder."
Nana led the way, followed by Chris, then Mama, then Skye. Papa closed the airlock door below and brought up the rear. They found themselves standing in a long "room". A funny looking room it was; over 50 feet long but only twelve feet wide at floor level, with four-foot high ledges on either side leading up to walls that curved outward and up. It kind of made you feel like you were standing in the bottom of a long trough.
"This is the garage." There was a small white Mazda Miata parked in front of them, hitched to the back of a 30 foot Airstream motorhome.
In the other direction was a bulkhead with another door in it. They walked through the door into the next room. Once again, they were in a long room with ledges on either side; but the room was not quite as long, and it was filled with benches, cabinets, shelves, and all kinds of machinery.
"This is the workshop" Papa said. "If I need to fix something or make something new, I can do that in here." Papa looked like he was going to start showing them everything in the workshop, but Nana interrupted and said "Come on, now, Papa, you can show the boys your workshop later - lets finish our tour of the house first."
"OK" said Papa, "but you know we won't be able to tour the whole house today - after all, it is pretty large."
"That's true" said Nana. She turned to Mama and said "We've just shown you the garage and workshop so far, which are both pretty big - and the rest of the house is more than 10,000 square feet. We'd better keep moving!" Nana led the way up a spiral staircase to a landing. This time, when she touched the door, it opened on a hallway with closets and shelves and shoe racks. "Leave your shoes here, boys. I don't want you tracking dirt into my clean house."
Nana led them all through another door, and they found themselves standing in what was obviously the kitchen.
"Here's where I spend a lot of my time" said Nana. She started to show Mama all the new electric appliances, but Papa said "What about that tour? You can finish showing off the kitchen later while the boys and I finish checking out the workshop!" Mama laughed. "You two are a pair!" she said. "Anyway, I can see from here that this must be the living room."
The two rooms were really part of one big space, with only a counter in between. "Yes" said Nana. "This way Papa can't claim not to notice when I ask him for something." The living room had comfortable-looking furniture in it, and several good-sized picture windows looking out in two separate directions. There were several doors in a nook in the wall at the far side of the room. Papa led the tour over to them and opened one.
"Here's where you boys will sleep when you come to visit" he said. It was a small bunk room. The bunk beds inside had built-in chests of drawers, and there was a desk in each corner. As Papa shut that door, Nana opened one next to it. "Here's a guest bedroom" she said. Just across the nook was another door, already ajar. It was plain to see that it was a bathroom; but there were more doors to go. Behind one of the doors was a hall closet. Behind the next was another spiral stairway. Nana said, "Come on, there's more to see." She led the way through the door. "Here we go up to the mid-deck."
"How many decks are there?" Mama asked. "There are three living decks, the garage and workshop deck make four, and you might even say five if you were to count the gondola and airlock" Papa replied. "I tired" said Skylar when it was his turn at the stairs, so Papa picked him up and carried him.
When they had all followed Nana to the top of the stairs, they found themselves in the master bedroom. To one side was a door to the master bath which contained two washbasins, a toilet, and a large jacuzzi bathtub. Of course it was all impeccably decorated as you might expect Nana to have done.
"Over here is the walk-in closet and utility room" said Nana. "Everything I need to take care of the laundry and put it away is all right here."
"Don't stop now" said Papa. "We're almost done." He led them to the other end of the room and around a corner. "This is the library" he said. Row upon row of books lined shelves from floor to ceiling.
"And now I'll show you something that most houses never had." Once more they found themselves climbing, all the way to the upper deck of the house. "What's behind that door, Papa?" Chris asked at the top of the stairs. "That's the observatory where I keep my telescopes" Papa replied, "but we're going the other way at the moment." Papa led them the other way down a long hallway, past mysterious doors on either side.
Finally the hallway opened out onto a surprise; they walked into a room that was bright and sunny. Instead of carpet on the floor, there was soft green grass. "This is the garden" said Papa. "Flowers!" exclaimed Skylar. "Pretty!" Just then there was a commotion as something brown and furry ran out from behind a planter and started jumping on people. "Get off, Coco!" said Papa. "Coco!" said Skylar. "Hi puppy!" said Chris. "I didn't expect to see you!"
"Why do you have a garden in the house?" asked Mama. "Think about it" replied Papa. "When your house can just lift up and fly away, you want to be able to take all the comforts of home with you. This way, no matter where we are or what kind of climate surrounds us, we have a pleasant garden to sit in and enjoy. Come on, now, there's something else for everyone to see." Papa left the garden through another door and headed downstairs.
Everyone followed Papa down two flights of stairs out of the garden, and into a room in the center of the front of the house. The room was almost entirely enclosed by windows; there were windows that went all the way down the walls to the floor. In the center of the room there was a big chair with armrests and a seat belt. There was even a window in the floor right in front of the chair! "This is the bridge" said Papa. "I sit in this chair when it's time to take the house up." "Can I sit there?" asked Chris. "Sure!" said Papa. Chris climbed into the chair and pretended that he was flying the house. "Don't worry" Papa said to Mama, "everything is shut off for now."
A few minutes later Nana took Mama back to the kitchen to show her some more of the details. Papa turned to Chris and Skye and said, "I have one more very important thing to show you." The boys followed Papa up a ladder and down a long hallway on the mid-deck. Papa lead them to a rather large door.
When Papa opened the door, Chris and Skye looked inside. What they saw didn't make any sense to them. It was kind of dark in the room. There were lots of pipes and wires, and some strange looking machines giving off a funny blue glow. "What is it?" asked Christopher. "This is the engine room" said Papa. "This is where we gather the energy we need to make the house fly.
"These are over-unity zero-point energy generators, and those pipes carry the electricity made here to the scalar field coils located on the upper deck of the house." "Wow!" said Chris. It was for once all he could think of to say.
Finally the tour was over, just about in time for lunch. "Did we see everything?" asked Chris. Papa laughed. "Not by a long shot" he said, "but I didn't want to wear everybody out. We'll save some things for another visit." Back down through the garage they went, through the hatch and down the airlock stairs.
When they left the house and started walking back to the aparment, Chris remembered something. He turned around, ran back to the door of the flying house, and grabbed the knob. Sure enough, it wouldn't open. "It doesn't know you yet" said Papa. "I'll introduce you later."
Back at the apartment they sat down and ate lunch. Skylar didn't understand what was going to happen next, but to Christopher, the day seemed to drag on forever. He could scarcely wait to go for a ride in the house!
"We don't fly it too fast or often during the day" Papa had said. "Might upset some people if they were to see what it can really do."
At about three in the afternoon Papa announced "I'm going home to take a nap. I want to be wide awake when it gets dark. Chris, I suggest you try to get some rest too because I might need some help tonight."
Now usually Christopher might say something like "Do I HAVE to?", but today he just didn't want to take any chances of missing a ride in the house. He gave Papa a hug and scooted right upstairs to his room. Then Papa headed out the kitchen door and went home.
The sun was going down when Papa woke up. Lights were going on around town. When Mama, Chris and Skylar came to the door, Nana was already in the kitchen making some sandwiches for supper. She saw them on a TV screen in the wall as they were coming up to the door of the gondola. Nana pressed a button and started talking.
"Come on up to the kitchen" they heard her voice through a speaker, "I'll push this button to unlock the door." The three of them stepped up into the gondola, closed the door behind them, and headed right for they airlock. In a few minutes they had climbed up through the garage deck and found Nana in the kitchen.
"Where's Papa?" "I think he's in the workshop or engine room getting things ready" said Nana. "Why don't you all sit down and have a bite of supper." While they were eating, Papa walked in and said "We're ready to go." "Not until you have your supper" said Nana.
Nana and Mama were putting things away in the kitchen. Papa was strapped into the big chair in the middle of the control room. Chris was in the co-pilot chair on Papa's right, and Skye was in the navigator's chair on Papa's left. Papa had told the computer to turn off all the switches that Skye could reach, and Skye was having a good old time pushing buttons and turning knobs.
Papa typed a few instructions to tell the computer to darken all the windows on the house. "Nana can read or watch TV and nobody on the ground will see any lights" said Papa. "Let's go!" and with a few more keystrokes the house began to rise silently and smoothly upward. Soon the apartments looked like small lighted toys through the window in the floor of the bridge. Papa twisted the tiller and the house twisted so the bridge was facing the mountains in the distance. Papa pushed the tiller forward, and the house began to pick up speed. "Whee!" said Skylar. "Moon!" he said, pointing to the full moon just rising over the rapidly approaching Sierra range. Papa was headed towards Yosemite National Park. He watched the display screens very carefully to be sure there were no airplanes in the way. Soon they were cruising into the moonlit valley.
Papa pulled back on the tiller, slowing the house to about the speed of a cloud drifting across the sky on a lazy breeze. In the valley below the flicker of campfires could be seen here and there through the trees.
"Chris, see that knob by your left hand?" asked Papa. "This one?" asked Chris. "Yes. Turn it about a half turn to the right." When Chris did as Papa suggested, the control room was suddenly filled with sounds. There was the sound of Bridal Veil Falls, water plunging over rocks. Birds sang. As the house drifted over the largest campground in the valey, voices of campers fixing dinner drifted up. Papa eased the tiller to the neutral position and twisted it to the right. The house stopped moving forward, spun almost all the way around, and then stopped dead still in mid-air.
"Come on" said Papa, "Let's get Nana and Mama and go sit on the starboard observation deck for a while". Chris, Skye, and Papa got up from their chairs and walked into the living room. Mama and Nana had finished straightening the kitchen and were looking out the living room windows. "We're headed for the observation deck - we'll have a better view from there."
There were some chairs and a swing-seat on the observation deck. Almost the whole wall was windows, and the sight of Half Dome under a full moon was breathtaking. There was a pool with a fountain in the middle of the floor. The window-wall sloping outward made it easy to look down and see whatever was right below. The sound system was working here too, so the family could hear all the sounds coming up from the valley floor.
"This house is something else! Who knows about it?" Mama asked. Papa seemed to become suddenly serious. "Only a handful of people" he replied. "Big Chris, of course, for one." Papa was speaking of Chris and Skye's Uncle. "As you might have guessed, Uncle Chris was a great help to me when it came to building this thing."
"No way you and Uncle could have built this whole house!" exclaimed Chris. "Well, no," agreed Papa. "There were lots of other people that worked on it - but they just didn't know exactly what it was they were building." "I guess I just let them think whatever they wanted to. Some of them thought it was some new-fangled modular home. Some thought it was a houseboat. Some thought it was a big storage barn."
"About six months ago I took delivery of the shell in several pieces. Helicopters delivered them, right to our back yard. Fortunately, our nearest neighbor is a half mile away. Besides, the neighbors gave me up for crazy a long time ago!" "So did I!" said Nana with a twinkle in her eye. Papa just sat there and grinned.
"I hired some engineers from Boeing to work out the details of making this ship airtight. She'll hold a full 15 PSI, although I'll normally keep her at about 2/3 of that pressure to reduce stress."
"Where would you go that you'd need to keep air pressure, Dad?" Mama asked.
"A better question might be where wouldn't I go" Papa replied, gazing thoughtfully skyward. "Of course, I might say that, like any airplane that flies to altitudes above 10,000 feet, this house needs internal pressure and oxygen to keep its occupants alive and well; but at the moment I'll only say that I expect she'll ultimately go much higher than that."
They talked for a little while longer, and then Papa said "Let's head back before it gets too late. Chris, how would you like to fly us home?" "I don't know how to fly!" said Chris. "It's really easy" said Papa. "The computer will help you. It does most of the work".
"We'll just stay here on the observation deck" Nana said. "You guys go ahead and handle the driving". Papa and Chris headed back to the control room. Skylar was busy playing with Coco, so he just stayed with Mama and Nana.
In the control room, Papa set Chris in the driver's seat. "How do I fly this thing?" Chris asked. Papa took a seat next to Chris. "Just pull the keyboard in front of you - that's right - and now type in `rerun'" said Papa. "That's all there is to it". "What will it do?" asked Chris, as he started carefully typing, `r' - `e' - `r' - `u' - `n'..... "When you type `rerun' and then hit `enter', the computer will remember the path that we took getting here. It will turn us around so that the control room is facing forward with respect to our direction of motion, and the computer will fly the house right back exactly the way we came." "Can it land the house too?" Chris asked. "Right exactly in the spot we took off from" said Papa.
Chris hesitated only for a moment, with his hand poised over the keyboard. "Hang on" he said, and then pressed the "enter" key. Smoothly, slowly at first, the house began to move. It picked up speed and they were soon sailing swiftly and silently out of the valley and back toward home. Papa said "Chris, even though the house is doing most of the work, your job as pilot is still very important. You must watch carefully ahead of us to be sure that we avoid any traffic. Sometimes there may be aircraft in our path, and we may need to stop quickly or change course to avoid a collision."
Chris peered intently ahead, alert for any sign of running lights in the distance. However, the flight passed without incident, and soon they were slowing and descending toward the field behind the apartment. "Can Skye and I spend the night at your house?" he asked as the house bumped to a gentle landing. "Sure, as long as it's OK with your Mom" Papa said.
(of Part 1)