Author : Waldo van der Waal

I sat down heavily on the rickety chair at my console. A quick look towards my brother confirmed that he, too, was feeling the firm fingers of fatigue. Four straight days of coding will do that to you. Four straight days of inventing and shaping and testing… I opened a couple of beers and passed one to Stephan, who sipped from it with gusto. After he wiped his lips, he said: “I’ll flip you for it.”

Going back to our childhood, we always decided things by chance. Never age or skill or any kind of decree – just by a roll of the dice; a flip of the coin. And each of us had the scars to prove that the odds really are 50/50. “Do you think that’s what the Wright brothers did?” I asked him, drawing deep from my beer. His rejoinder was quick: “Does it matter? Can you remember who was piloting their flyer when they first flew? Everyone knows the Wright Brothers. Not many people know them individually.”

So I relented. He fished a coin from his pockets, and got ready for the flip. As the coin left his thumb, I called “heads” – I always called heads – and watched as he caught the coin and clapped it firmly on the back of his other hand. A quick look in my eyes, with a little wink, then he lifted his hand: Tails. Stephan had won.

From that moment on, we both knew how the rest of the evening would play out. He went to get ready, while I prepared the device. To anyone peeking into our shed, the myriad of wires and pipes and screens would’ve looked just as alien as the Wright Brothers’ flyer must’ve done more than 100 years ago. But they believed they were onto something good – and Stephan and I? We knew we were onto something good as well. Something that could shape the course of human life for eons to come – if only we could give it wings, like the Wrights did.

Stephan walked back into the shed just as I finished preparing. He had on a pair of faded blue jeans, a t-shirt and a leather bomber jacket. Old-fashioned but classic – perfect for our test. He glanced at me, smiled nervously, and proceeded to affix himself to the device – straps, cables, electrodes… He knew the drill.

Then, when he was ready, I looked fondly at my brother, and cleared my throat to say something. But he held up his hand, stopping me before I could say anything. He looked around our shed, maybe checking that everything was ready, or maybe taking it all in once more – the dusty equipment, the haphazard technology… Then he nodded at me.

I walked over to my console, and with just the briefest of looks towards Stephan, I executed the command. There was no sound. No light, no fanfare… But even so, Stephan had disappeared in a millionth of a second. The electrodes and wires swung lazily backwards and forwards, in the spot occupied until moments ago by my brother.


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