Plugs

(From The Knowledge: An A-To-Zed Of That City We Almost Know)
It will probably be dusk by the time you turn onto Day Street. The brick house-fronts will be darkening with approaching evening; between the chimney-stacks, the blue is draining out of the sky. The lawns are converging, with the brickwork and the trees, into a mass of indistinct purplish-gray. Out of that dusk, the legs of lawn furniture gleam fitfully; the white fences holding in the back yards; the curtains in the windows. The pavement, stretching before you down the street and trailing perpendicular paths up to the stoops, luminesces faintly under your feet like a phosphorescent wake.
The air is soft along Day Street. Past your ears float breezes, and the sound of voices talking; not out here, on the sidewalk empty except for one walker, but coming from somewhere very close, just over a white fence, just around the corner.
As you pass the house, a light comes on behind the translucent curtains. There is a movement of shadows in the window; a barely audible clatter of silver, a muted murmur of conversation. Up and down the street, just like in Magritte’s painting The Empire of Lights, the streetlamps are flickering on.
Above the roofline, the chimneys and the satellite dishes have been reduced to silhouettes. Above them, in a band of limpid blue, one bright star is coming out in the west. Very high up, a curve of light has pooled, like a rim of salt along the edge of the world.
A person could stand here for quite some time, looking at the streetlights, the sky. But it is possible that it may be time to lower your eyes, to move on down the street. It is possible that you have someplace you need to be.
The air you move through down Day Street is grey and gentle, cool and faint, suspended between the darkness and day. The pavement is an auroreal glow beneath your feet. In the darkened houses, all down the street, the lights are beginning to come on in the windows. The silver is starting to clink.
In the dew-laden grass, the flowers yawn. The wind is bright and silent: clear, cool, clean-smelling, as the air is just before dawn. Seeping upward from somewhere behind the houses, behind the one bright eastern star, the sky is beginning to turn blue. As you pass beneath them, following the pale line of the madrugal pavement, the long row of streetlamps, one by one, begin to flicker out.

I grew up in a tenement that looked out on the back of the minotaur’s head. The minotaur statue is older than the city and taller than any building in it. Our tenement is nearly as tall, not nearly as old, and in far worse repair.

The statue gazes out across the plain of salt, which the scholars say was a sea that dried up years ago, and my siblings and I gaze with it into the hazy horizon.

The scholars don’t know who built the statue, or why, but everyone else says it’s a marker to guide travelers over the salt plain. However, everyone, including the scholars, agrees the plain is impossible to cross–too vast, too empty of landmarks. With all the wind-stirred dust, you can’t navigate by stars; by day, you can barely guess where the sun is.

My brothers and sisters and I do go out onto the plain at daybreak and dusk, when the twilight seeps into everything, and we might be walking on a flat of sky. It’s the one advantage we’ve got in the salt quarter. The old city has history; the river districts have trade and communication with distant lands; and the elite quarter has the evening cool of the mountains. A half hour at either end of the day to explore an empty blue world doesn’t seem like much in comparison.

We find our way back by the broken silhouettes of the mountains, and the prongs of the minotaur’s horns above them. One night, we found a man collapsed at the base of the minotaur statue, covered in salt dust. Under the white coating, we saw his boots and glasses were the blue of twilight on the plain.

We went for a healer and returned to find the man gone. The scholars and city guard told us he was a lunatic who’d wandered out onto the plain. We didn’t believe them; we knew the impossible when we saw it.

They built his pyre on our rooftop–our building was closest, and they didn’t want to move him far, which made us even more suspicious. We knew secret ways to the roof, so we crept up and stole his glasses and boots.

We argued all night and drew lots. In the predawn twilight, the glasses show me trails on the plain. I set my foot on one to see where the boots will take me…

Captain James and the Red Cassandra bore down on a merchant vessel reported to be carrying a King’s ransom in Spanish gold. Ever since they had retrofitted Cassandra with parts of  the strange ship that fell from the sky, the seas were full of easy pickings and pirate life was good. The royal navies of Europe were no match for Red Cassandra’s new armor and firepower. James knocked back a swig of rum. His pirate ship was invincible.

 

He was almost ashamed at how easy plundering had become. Why had the occupants of the flying ship abandoned it? And where were they now?

 

The merchant vessel drifted into range. Easy. Too easy, James thought.

 

Ten navy ships crested the horizon. He could have given the order to fire on them but he wanted them to be close enough to see.

 

He waited till they approached and then gave the order.

 

Fire !

 

Beams of red light shot from Red Cassandra’s new cannons. The navy ships wooden hulls were neatly sliced in two with a series of satisfying hisses. Then the seas were alive with the sounds of panicked men, burning wood, and frigates filling with water on their way to Davy Jones’ locker.

 

“Aw, that was too easy, Captain,” first mate Rudolph said. “At least they could have fired on us. I like the sound of cannon balls bouncing harmlessly off Cassandra’s hull.”

 

As Rudolph spoke a shadow fell over them. The sky was cloudless and the rest of the sea was bathed in afternoon sun. James looked up. A giant sphere of shining metal hovered above.

 

Cassandra’s cannons shook in their casings and lifted into the air, ripping planks from the deck along with them. The new hull plating followed into the sky and disappeared into a hatch in the belly of the floating craft.

 

The strange spherical ship rose into the heavens.

 

James ordered the Cassandra to sail back into hiding. The navy was defeated today but they’d be back. He knew without their new weapons and armor the days of easy pillaging were numbered.

 

James watched the flying craft until he could see it no more.

 

Who were they, he wondered. Was life the same for a pirate up in the sky? Maybe somewhere, among the stars, there still was a place where a man could be free.

 

-End-

Captain James and the Red Cassandra bore down on a merchant vessel reported to be carrying a King’s ransom in Spanish gold. Ever since they had retrofitted Cassandra with parts of  the strange ship that fell from the sky, the seas were full of easy pickings and pirate life was good. The royal navies of Europe were no match for Red Cassandra’s new armor and firepower. James knocked back a swig of rum. His pirate ship was invincible.

 

He was almost ashamed at how easy plundering had become. Why had the occupants of the flying ship abandoned it? And where were they now?

 

The merchant vessel drifted into range. Easy. Too easy, James thought.

 

Ten navy ships crested the horizon. He could have given the order to fire on them but he wanted them to be close enough to see.

 

He waited till they approached and then gave the order.

 

Fire !

 

Beams of red light shot from Red Cassandra’s new cannons. The navy ships wooden hulls were neatly sliced in two with a series of satisfying hisses. Then the seas were alive with the sounds of panicked men, burning wood, and frigates filling with water on their way to Davy Jones’ locker.

 

“Aw, that was too easy, Captain,” first mate Rudolph said. “At least they could have fired on us. I like the sound of cannon balls bouncing harmlessly off Cassandra’s hull.”

 

As Rudolph spoke a shadow fell over them. The sky was cloudless and the rest of the sea was bathed in afternoon sun. James looked up. A giant sphere of shining metal hovered above.

 

Cassandra’s cannons shook in their casings and lifted into the air, ripping planks from the deck along with them. The new hull plating followed into the sky and disappeared into a hatch in the belly of the floating craft.

 

The strange spherical ship rose into the heavens.

 

James ordered the Cassandra to sail back into hiding. The navy was defeated today but they’d be back. He knew without their new weapons and armor the days of easy pillaging were numbered.

 

James watched the flying craft until he could see it no more.

 

Who were they, he wondered. Was life the same for a pirate up in the sky? Maybe somewhere, among the stars, there still was a place where a man could be free.

 

-End-

Auto Draft

by Rudi Dornemann

Schooling Valdan Mechaieh

by Trent Walters

It was a balmy afternoon on the sands of Newport Beach when Valdan Mechaieh–playing hooky in the month of May, his seventeenth birthday–first sensed his ice soul.

He’d been in science class with Dr. Wall.  That bloated blimp bastard had actually tried to make him study for and retake a test Valdan had failed.  He’d mentioned something about the behavior patterns Valdan used today would be harder and harder to break in the future.  That old fart pretended to care but didn’t know a damn thing about his life.  He told the old man that he hated science because it was pointless and he would never use it in his life.  Besides, he’d show that stupid jerk: He’d make a life for himself without him and his stupid science.

Valdan had involuntarily leaked a few tears and asked to go to the locker-room restroom, at which point he grabbed his gym bag, ducked out of school and puttered his moped out to Newport.  The Pacific waves were a sedative.  Wind rippled palm leaves overhead.  A couple on the pier talked in low tones of white hills like garbage trucks.  A bus screeched to a halt on West Balboa Boulevard.  Bell chimes announced someone shuffling inside the 7-11.  Sailboats scraped their hulls against the marina.

A trickle of sweat slid down the crease of his spine.  He arched his back a little so his Black Flag T-shirt wouldn’t cling.

All sound ceased… but for a final wave clapping the shore.  Not even the slightest of breezes stirred the palms.  An icicle crept down where the sweat had trailed.  Mechaieh shivered.  He flicked icy half-pellets stuck to his forehead.  The pellets sat on his towel like the half shells of albino ladybugs.  Mechaieh had not puzzled out their essence until they melted…. Waves clapped the shore, the bus pulled away, and boats again scraped the marina.

Mechaieh lay on his towel, trying to recall what he’d been thinking when this all occurred, when he’d received this gift, this sensing of another soul.  Valdan’s grandmother, a Jew of the more Heterodox variety, once explained there were thirteen souls for humans to discover.  Was this the fourteenth?

Mechaieh sat up.  Now he had something to use against Dr. Wall!  He’d freeze time, go look up the answers and then fill out a test.  That’d show him mastery.