My favorite thing to do in London is to fly the Eye.
On a clear day you can see for twenty-five miles in all directions because you are in the largest observation wheel ever built. You are sealed into one of the thirty-two capsules with the strangers who were next to you in the queue, and when they close the doors, the sound of the city is cut off. You begin to rise. The capsules are made of glass and steel and are hung from the rim of the wheel. As the wheel turns, the capsules use the force of gravity to stay upright. It takes thirty minutes to go a full circle.
From the top of the ride, Kat says London looks like toy-town and the cars on the roads below look like abacus beads going from left and right and stopping and starting. I think London looks like London and the cars like cars, only smaller.
The best thing to see from up there is the river Thames. You can see how it loops and curves but when you are on the ground you think it is straight.
The next best thing to look at is the spokes and metallic hawsers of the Eye itself. You are looking at the only cantilevered structure of its kind on earth. It is designed like a giant bicycle wheel in the sky, supported by a massive A-frame.
It is also interesting to watch the capsules on either side of yours. You see strangers looking out, just like you are doing. The capsule that is higher than yours becomes lower than yours and the capsule that is lower becomes higher. You have to shut your eyes because it makes a strange feeling go up your esophagus. You are glad the movement is smooth and slow.
And then your capsule goes lower and you are sad because you do not want the ride to end. You would like to go round one more time, but its not allowed. So you get out feeling like an astronaut coming down from space, a little lighter than you were.
We took Salim to the Eye because hed never been up before. A stranger came up to us in the queue, offering us a free ticket. We took it and gave it to Salim. We shouldnt have done this, but we did. He went up on his own at 11.32, 24 May, and was due to come down at 12.02 the same day. He turned and waved to Kat and me as he boarded, but you couldnt see his face, just his shadow. They sealed him in with twenty other people whom we didnt know.
Kat and I tracked Salims capsule as it made its orbit. When it reached its highest point, we both said, NOW! at the same time and Kat laughed and I joined in. Thats how we knew wed been tracking the right one. We saw the people bunch up as the capsule came back down, facing northeast towards the automatic camera for the souvenir photograph. They were just dark bits of jackets, legs, dresses and sleeves.
Then the capsule landed. The doors opened and the passengers came out in twos and threes. They walked off in different directions. Their faces were smiling. Their paths probably never crossed again.
But Salim wasnt among them.
We waited for the next capsule and the next and the one after that. He still didnt appear. Somewhere, somehow, in the thirty minutes of riding the Eye, in his sealed capsule, he had vanished off the face of the earth. This is how having a funny brain that runs on a different operating system from other peoples helped me to figure out what had happened.
Copyright Siobhan Dowd. Reproduced with the permission of Random House Children's Books. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
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