This is the story of the boy who never grew up.
Chapter 4 – The Flight
“Second to the right, and straight until morning.”
That, Peter had told Wendy, was the way to the Neverland.
But even if you carried a map, and even if you asked the birds for help, you couldn’t understand Peter’s directions. Peter, you see, just said anything that came into his head.
At first, the children trusted him completely. The delights of flying were so great that they flew circles around church spires and any other tall objects. They were totally carefree.
John and Michael raced (Michael had a head start because he was younger).
They laughed when they remembered how silly they were flying around the bedroom. That wasn’t so long ago. But how long ago? They were flying over the sea when this question started to bother Wendy.
How long had they been flying? This was the second sea they flew over. John said it might be their third night flying.
Sometimes it was dark, and sometimes it was light. Sometimes it was very cold, and sometimes it was warm again.
Did they actually feel hungry, or were they merely pretending? Peter had such a fun new way of feeding them. His way was to chase birds who were carrying food in their mouths. You know, sometimes birds stole bread, hot dogs, popcorn, and other human food. Peter would chase the birds and steal their food. And then the birds would chase Peter and steal it back. And then they would keep chasing each other for miles and miles, finally parting and saying goodbye to each other.
But Wendy was a little concerned that Peter did not seem to realize this was an odd way to get bread. She wondered if he knew any other ways to get food.
Certainly, they weren’t pretending to be sleepy. They were sleepy. And that was dangerous. The moment they nodded off, they fell down. And the terrible thing about it was that Peter thought this was funny.
“There he goes again!” he cried gleefully, as Michael suddenly dropped like a stone.
“Save him! Save him!” cried Wendy, looking with horror at the cruel sea far below. Eventually, Peter would dive through the air and catch Michael just before he struck the sea. It was lovely the way Peter flew, but he always waited until the last moment. And you could see that he was interested in showing off, not in actually saving a human life.
Also, Peter liked variety. Even when he was completely engrossed in an activity, in only a moment, he could suddenly stop and become interested in something else. So, if you fell, there was always the chance that Peter would become bored of catching you.
He could sleep in the air without falling. He simply lied on his back and floated. He was so light that you could get behind him and blow, and he would drift forward.
“Be more polite to Peter,” Wendy whispered to John when they were playing “Follow the Leader.”
“Then tell him to stop showing off,” said John.
When playing Follow the Leader, Peter would fly close to the water and touch each shark’s tail as he passed. The sharks tried to catch up to him without much success, so it did seem like Peter was showing off.
“You must be nice to him,” Wendy urged her brothers. “What would we do if he left us!”
“We could go back,” Michael said.
“How could we ever find our way back without him?”
“Well, then, we could keep going forward,” said John.
“That is the awful thing, John. We have to go on, because we don’t know how to stop.”
This was true, Peter had forgotten to show them how to stop.
John said that if worst came to worst, all they had to do was to go straight, because the world was round. And so, in time, they must come back to their own window.
“And where would we get food, John?”
“I got some food from that eagle pretty easily, Wendy.”
“After the twentieth try,” Wendy reminded him. “And even though we became good at picking up food from birds, we still have other problems. What if we get lost in the clouds or bump into something and Peter isn’t near to help us?”
Yes, they were constantly bumping into things. They could fly strongly now, though they still kicked around a lot.
Peter was not with them at the moment, and they felt rather lonely by themselves. He could go so much faster than they could, so sometimes he would suddenly shoot out of sight. He was having some adventure that they couldn’t share. Once, he came back laughing about something funny that a star said. When they asked him what was so funny, he had already forgotten what the joke was. Another time, he came up with mermaid scales still sticking to him, but he couldn’t explain what had happened. It was really irritating to the children who had never seen a mermaid.
“And if he forgets the mermaid and the stars so quickly,” Wendy whispered, “how can we expect him to remember us?”
And indeed, he did seem to forget them. Sometimes, when he returned, he didn’t recognize them. Wendy was sure of it. She often saw him flying past, and she watched his eyes change from curiosity to recognition. Once, she even had to call out his name.
“I’m Wendy,” she said, agitated.
He was very sorry. “Hey, Wendy,” he whispered to her, “if you see me forgetting you, just keep on saying ‘I’m Wendy,’ and then I’ll remember.”
Of course, this didn’t improve her confidence in him. However, to apologize, he taught them how to lie on their backs and sleep on the wind. This was a great relief to the children and they finally got to sleep.
Actually, they wanted to sleep longer, but Peter quickly got bored of sleeping and he cried out, “We’re here!” in his captain voice. The children woke up and looked around, but they found that Peter was only joking. He did this every time they fell asleep.
How long did they keep flying? They saw the moon many times before finally, Peter calmly said, “There it is.”
“Where all the arrows are pointing.”
A million golden arrows were pointing, all created by their friend, the sun. The sun wanted them to finish their trip before the night came again.
Wendy, John, and Michael stretched their necks to catch sight of the island. It’s strange to say, but when they first saw it, they knew it was Neverland. It seemed as familiar as home.
“John, there’s the lagoon.”
“Wendy, look at the turtles on the sand.”
“Wow, John, I see your flamingo with a broken leg!”
“Look, Michael, there’s your cave!”
“John, what’s that in the forest?”
“It’s a wolf, Wendy. I think it’s your wolf!”
“There’s my boat, John!”
“No, it isn’t. We burned your boat.”
“It is! Anyway, John, I see smoke from a native camp!”
“Where? Show me! I can tell the type of fire just by looking at the smoke.”
“There, just across the Mysterious River.”
“I see now. Yes, I see! That smoke is from a special fire. It means they are preparing for war.”
Peter was a little annoyed at them for knowing so much. But he didn’t have time to continue feeling annoyed because of what happened next:
Arrows flew through the air and headed straight towards Peter and the children.
They had been carelessly flying apart, but now, the children huddled close to Peter. His manner changed, and at once, he became serious. He guided the children lower towards the island. His eyes were twinkling. When the children touched his body, they felt a strange spark.
Now, they were flying directly over the island. They were flying so low that sometimes a tree grazed their feet. Nothing horrible was visible in the air, yet it was becoming difficult to fly, as if the air were getting thicker and pushing against them. Sometimes they had to completely stop, and Peter had to beat the air with his fists so they could continue forward.
“They don’t want us to land,” he explained.
“Who are THEY?” Wendy whispered.
Either he couldn’t say, or he wouldn’t say. Tinker Bell had been asleep on his shoulder, but now he woke her up and sent her on in front.
Sometimes Peter stopped in the air, listening intently with his hand to his ear. And sometimes he would stare down at the ground with big, bright eyes.
He had so much courage that it was awful. “Would you like an adventure now,” he said casually to John, “or would you like to have tea first?”
Wendy said “tea first” quickly, and Michael touched her hand in gratitude. But the braver John hesitated.
“What kind of adventure?” he asked cautiously.
“There’s a pirate asleep in the grasslands just below us,” Peter told him. “If you’d like, we’ll go down and kill him.”
“I don’t see him,” John said after a long pause.
“What if,” John said, “he woke up?”
Peter seemed offended. “You don’t think I would kill him while he was sleeping! I would wake him up first, and then kill him. That’s the way I always do.”
“What! Do you kill many?”
“Tons of them.”
John said “how amazing,” but decided to have tea first. He asked if there were many pirates on the island now. Peter said there were more pirates than ever before.
“Who is captain now?”
“Hook,” answered Peter, and his face became very stern, as if he hated the word.
Then Michael began to cry, and John was speechless. Even the children knew Hook’s reputation.
“He used to be in Blackbeard’s crew,” John whispered. “He is the worst of them all. He is the only man who Barbecue was afraid of.”
“That’s him,” said Peter.
“What is he like? Is he big?”
“He’s not as big as he used to be.”
“What do you mean?”
“I cut off a part of him.”
“Yes, me,” said Peter sharply.
“I didn’t mean to be disrespectful.”
“But, what part?”
“His right hand.”
“Then he can’t fight now?”
“Oh, he can fight!”
“He has an iron hook instead of a right hand, and he claws with it.”
“You know, John…” started Peter.
“Say, ‘Ay, ay, sir.’”
“Ay, ay, sir.”
“There is one thing,” Peter continued, “that every boy who serves under me has to promise. So you have to promise it, too.”
John’s face became pale.
“You must promise that if we meet Hook in an open fight, you have to let me fight him.”
“I promise,” John said loyally.
For the moment, they were feeling better because Tinker Bell was flying with them, and they could see each other in her light. Unfortunately, she couldn’t fly as slowly as the children, so she kept flying around and around in circles. Wendy liked it because it looked like an angel’s halo. But Peter told her the drawbacks:
“She lights up so brightly that the pirates will be able to find us easily. If they find us, they’ll take out their Long Tom.”
“Long Tom? Do you mean a cannon?”
“Yes. As soon as they see Tink’s light, they will send a cannonball flying at us.”
“Tell her to go away, Peter,” the three cried simultaneously, but he refused.
“I can’t send Tink away,” he replied stiffly, “she thinks we’d get lost without her. And anyway, she is rather frightened. You don’t think I should send her away all by herself when she is frightened!”
For a moment, the glowing circle of light was broken, and Tinker Bell stopped to give Peter a loving pinch.
“Then tell her,” Wendy begged, “to put out her light.”
“She can’t put it out. That is the only thing fairies can’t do. It just goes out by itself when she falls asleep, same as the stars.”
“Then tell her to sleep right now,” John almost ordered.
“She can’t sleep except when she’s sleepy. It is the only other thing fairies can’t do.”
“Well,” growled John, “these are the only two things that are important right now!”
Here, he got a pinch, but not a loving one.
“If only one of us had a pocket,” Peter said, “we could carry her in it.” However, they had left the house in such a hurry that no one had brought any pockets.
Then Peter got a great idea. John’s hat!
Tinker Bell agreed to travel by hat if it was carried in someone’s hand. John carried it, though she had hoped to be carried by Peter.
John had trouble flying while carrying the hat and it kept striking his knee, so Wendy took the hat. And this, as you will soon see, will lead to trouble. As you know, Tinker Bell hated Wendy.
In the black hat, the light was completely blocked out. They kept flying in silence. Even the little noises of the forest seemed to grow quiet.
To Michael, the silence was dreadful. “If only something would make a sound!” he cried.
It was as if his request was answered. The air cracked with the most tremendous sound he had ever heard. The pirates had fired their cannon at them.
The roar of it echoed through the mountains, and the echoes seemed to cry savagely, “Where are they! Where are they! Where are they!”
It was the children’s wake-up call. This was the difference between the island of make-believe in their dreams, and the same island come true.
When at last the air was steady again, John and Michael looked around and realized that they were alone in the darkness.
“Did you get shot?” John whispered.
“I haven’t checked yet,” Michael whispered back.
Don’t worry. I’ll tell you that none of the children had been hit by the cannonball. Peter, however, had been carried by the wind and was far over the sea. And Wendy was blown upwards with no companion except Tinker Bell.
Wendy would have been fine, but unfortunately, at that moment, she dropped the hat.
At once, Tinker Bell popped out of the hat. I don’t know if the idea came suddenly to Tinker Bell, or whether she had planned it all along, but she began to lure Wendy to her destruction.
Tinker Bell wasn’t all bad. Well, right now, she was all bad. But, on the other hand, sometimes she was all good. Fairies have to be one thing or the other. It’s because they are so small that they only have room for one feeling at a time. They can change their feeling, but it must be a complete change. And at this moment, she was full of jealousy of Wendy.
She said something in her lovely tinkle voice. Of course, Wendy couldn’t understand the words, but it sounded kind. And she flew back and forth, gesturing. Wendy took it to mean something like, “Follow me, and I will help you.”
What else could poor Wendy do? She called out to Peter and John and Michael, and she only heard echoes in reply. She didn’t yet realize that Tinker Bell hated her so much. And so, confused and dazed, she followed Tinker Bell to her doom.