The night has been quiet.
The hum of the engines has been rhythmic and bordering on hypnotic in these small hours. Departure is now a memory - our destination grows slowly closer as the miles countdown and the stars continue their arc across the sky.
At times, towering cumulus clouds been scattered left and right of our path through the sky, reaching high above our flight deck. Some have been illuminated by the brightest of moons, while others have had their fuse lit within, erupting in broad flashes and jagged earthbound spikes. Occasionally, St. Elmo’s fire has crept up the windscreen with its tiny shards mimicking the massive electric claws of the sky around us. But soon they too have faded and all that is left is the darkness below and the sea of stars overhead.
At first the horizon glows and is no more than a hint of the day to come. And then dawn fades into a thin orange band trapped between cloud layers and in limbo between day and night. All the while, the engines hum.
The passengers begin to stir beyond the flight deck door and shifting galley carts join the shuffling footsteps to provide further evidence that the night is nearly over. The once near-silent radio increases its tempo as clearances are issued to the inbound flights, converging on the harbour city from all directions and distant lands.
Day is now pushing the night from its home. Its stars begin to dim and the black sky now turns grey. Only in the land of nod below does night still reign, gathered in by shadows and tinged with the lights of highways. Most of the land is still asleep as we begin our descent through the twilight to the last remaining traces of the evening.
As we pass through a thin layer of expansive cloud, it draws a line like a water level with bubbling clouds bursting through as if they are ice bergs in the sky. Above, they are white and lit by the dawn, while below they are still grey and seemingly menacing. We step left and right with respect, hurtling through imaginary valleys of clear air and further into the darkness. But the day must win as it always does.
The sun casts its rays and the night retreats. As the dark shroud slips back, the terrain grows in character and shadows begin to be cast. The water ahead is glassy and mirrors the sky in both texture and stillness. The calm of the morning is only broken by the slow, strong flashing light that sweeps the horizon with precision. It is the beacon of the airport and like the night our job is nearly done. We are home again.