"...He in his youth strangely aspiring, had made and fitted wings to his Hands and Feet; with these on the top of a Tower, spread out to gather Air, he flew more than a Furlong; but the Wind being too high, came fluttering down, to the maining of all his Limbs; yet so conceited of his Art, that he attributed the cause of his fall to the want of a Tail, as Birds have, which he forgot to make to his hinder parts."
    - John Milton, The History of Britain

Since the first time Homo Sapiens looked up and witnessed flocks of birds in the air, man has dreamed of flight. Since the first time that man has dreamed of flight, many lives have ended in the pursuit of flight, usually punctuated with a large 'splat'. This is but one of the myriad stories of morons with dreams, and how they failed to achieve them.

Malmesbury is a small English town about 25 miles south of Gloucester. They have a small abbey, and they've had the abbey for well over a millenium. At one time, around the turn of Y1K, they had a young monk named Elmer.

Elmer was a jack-of-all-trades, as were most monks at the time. He attempted to design machines; he studied astronomy and astrology; he learned the secrets of reading and writing. Apparently, somewhere along the way, he gained to yearning to do something else. Not something banal, like his abbeymates. No quiet contemplation, no learned studies. Elmer wanted to shake up the world. And he knew just the way to do it.

Elmer used his learned ways to study birds. He tried to discern their powers of flight. He built a pair of wings to mimic those of a bird and attatched them to each arm. The exact nature of the wings vary from story to story; the details are not important. What is important is that Elmer went to the top of a local church steeple and jumped.

Every account of the story holds that Elmer achieved some sort of flight. Milton claims he glided for a furlong, or around 200 meters; most stories agree with him. He glided to the ground. But anyone who has flown before knows that it's not the act of getting in the air that's tough; it's the landing.

Elmer was going a tad fast on touchdown, and he ended up breaking both of his legs.

Now it's perfectly debateable whether or not Elmer actually flew; had he plummeted from the church steeple like a cannonball, the results would have been the same - two severely broken legs. But if he did just drop like a rock, no one let on. As for Elmer, he claimed that he needed a tail to complete the dream of flight. Apparently, wisely, he never tried again.

"This story, though seeming otherwise too light in the midst of a sad narration, yet for the strangeness thereof, I thought worthy anough the placeing as I found it plac’t in my Authour."

    - John Milton, The History of Britain

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