Knight & Deigh started life as a retelling of The Orphans, from the point of view of the second lead character, Hannice Knight. It begins in Tanzania as I remember it from the early 1980s, but some of the technologies used are much more recent. To that extent, it is anachronistic. Don’t forget, though; it is fictional, made up, lies. All of it.
Hannice Knight had run the African operation of his father’s global business for many years, when a freak accident at home left him unable to walk. Together with physiotherapist Sophie Deigh, he tries to bring into his life the excitement and adventure he missed in his formative years, due to the need to be tied to the business.
A number of adventures and activities follow including scuba-diving, sky-diving, power-boating and camping, and a half-brother he never knew about; but even these can’t lift Hannice’s spirits.
What, or who can? Will the developing closeness between Hannice and Sophie come to anything, and what of the rumoured advances in medical technology?
Beginning on 12 February 2017, I am publishing Knight & Deigh here as a serial; one scene each Sunday.
The full list of scenes so far published is here
Knight & Deigh. Chapter eleven, scene four: Skydive.
The email from the Round Table said that, despite their best efforts, they were unable to arrange a balloon safari. There are companies that can take people with disabilities, but you still have to get in and out of the basket by climbing over the side, which is more than a metre high, and to stand for the entire flight. I understood and accepted that to mean that I couldn’t have the flight, but it didn’t help my mood.
They did find someone who could offer a tandem skydive to someone with my condition, and we made our way to the airfield for our pre-arranged appointment. The instructor who had been assigned to me took extra preparation time to secure my legs to his, using more straps and braces than he usually would. This was to make sure that my useless legs didn’t flail about during the descent. I went through a few preparatory exercises to prove that my upper-body strength was adequate, whilst Sophie was strapping on to the lady who would be accompanying her. Naturally, we were both excited, and more than a little scared.
We boarded the plane and climbed to our jump height and position. My chap asked me to confirm that I was ready to jump, which I did; as did Sophie when asked the same question. Then the co-pilot opened the side door The immediate rush of noise was indescribable. We had been told there would be a wall of sound when the door was opened, but I expected nothing like actually happened. We were then taken to the door, where the instructors double-checked all the strappings while we waited our turn. Suddenly, the instructor moved me toward the door and said it was me next. I have never felt such an adrenaline rush. I looked outside. What can I say – 3000 meters is a long way up; a very long way.
Time seemed to freeze as we went through the door. I felt as though we were living the experience in slow motion. We were moving forward at the same speed as the plane, and not losing much height. Forward motion slowed, and we seemed to accelerate downwards very rapidly. We reached our terminal velocity of a little over 200kph in less time than it takes to say it. I can’t describe the exhilaration of falling through hundreds of metres of air, supported by nothing other than… well, nothing. The first thing I noticed was the very strong, and extremely noisy wind pushing against my face and body. The sensation of falling I had expected wasn’t there, certainly not during the free fall, because nothing was moving past us and we really had no point of reference. The cameraman who jumped with us approached, took some pictures and high-fived me before moving on to the next person. I could see Sophie, strapped to her instructor, some distance away. She saw me and raised a hand. That small action changed her profile and she and her instructor wobbled briefly.
Suddenly, before I was ready for it, my instructor deployed the parachute and our rate of descent slowed abruptly, dizzying me a little and almost knocking the wind out of me. We approached the ground in what felt like a corkscrew movement as we navigated toward the landing zone. My ears popped painfully at one point, and the spinning and descending left me a little nauseous, but the views, at that more sedate rate of descent, made it so worthwhile. All too soon, we were rushing headlong toward the ground. Silly expression that, we were heads-up and feet-down, so were probably rushing footlong! We slowed some more and some of the downward motion was translated to forward movement. Fiannly, we hit the ground, rolled together and came to something of a graceless stop. A member of the ground support crew came, unstrapped me from my instructor and helped me into my wheelchair. By that time Sophie was down, too.
She rushed across to me, and said only one word, “Wow!”
We went to the clubhouse, where bacon sandwiches and hot tea were waiting for us. If we could only manage single, monosyllabic words on landing, we certainly made up for it while having our snack.
Ten people had made a tandem dive that morning, and it was a first for all of us. All ten had been through the same experience; all ten had felt the same rush. And yet each of us had a different way of describing and expressing it; and each was ready, nay keen, to get back up and do it all again; straight away if possible.
In the briefing beforehand, the instructors had recommended talking about the experience straight afterwards, to keep perspective, and to cement the memory. Had they not recommended it, I think we would have done just that, anyway. Oh yes, they also recommended the bacon sandwiches after landing. Good call.
The next activity we had arranged was a trip to Kimberley and a tour of some of the facilities around the Big Hole, the original diamond mine. When we arrived back at the hotel, though, the receptionist told me that there was a message for me. It was from Henk Overbock, and simply said to check my email.
Once back in my room, I fired up my laptop. There were 87 new emails for me. Fortunately or unfortunately, it’s hard to tell these days, more than 70 of them were spam and all but five of what remained I immediately consigned to the deleted folder.
Of the five, one had been forwarded by Henk. It was originally from the solicitor who was the executor of Papa’s will. It read:
“I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, Mr Knight, but we have received a contest to your late father’s will. A Mr Stephen Parker claims to be the illegitimate son of Mr Knight by a Miss Joanne Parker, who alleges that she was in a relationship with your late father whilst at university. I need you to return as soon as you can, Mr Knight, to resolve this business.”
I called Sophie. She came in straight away.
“Take a look at this, Sophie,” I said, handing her the laptop.
“Can this be true?” she asked.
“Papa never mentioned it,” I replied, adding, “but then, Papa never mentioned very much at all. I suppose it could be true, but how can anyone tell? Papa’s not around to take a paternity test, is he?”
“I’m sure they have some tests they can do, DNA or something,” she said. “They would need to be sure, there’s a great deal at stake.”
“I think we should abort the Kimberley visit and go back straight away. Do you agree?”
“Thank you for asking, Hannice, but I don’t really have much say in it, do I? You know, anyway, that I will support whatever you decide to do.”
“Let’s do it, then,” I said.
Sophie called the airline and changed our tickets to the following morning’s London flight.