Fiction: Sci-Fi set in SF After the Apocalypse, Part 2
(Or How Rock and Roll Survived The Apocalypse)
The doc leaves me alone in that cold-ass room in that damn ridiculous dress. Strange lights are hummin’ in the ceiling and the faucet’s drippin’. I hear people talking outside. Footsteps. Makes some lyrics start creepin’ through my mind: “Footprints dressed in red…”
And I think back to the last time I’s singin’ that song…
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It’s almost the golden hour and I’m creepin’ along the planes of the Pacific Ledge up towards Devil’s Teeth. There’s no wind, so I’m pedaling my kart down the El Camino Real. We call it a road but it’s mostly just a stretch by the cliffs that’s been swept clean by the wind.
It’s pretty much the only road twix the northern towns and the southern rancherias and villas. Off to the east of the camino are the dunes laced with the hulls of old ships and other ancient debris. Beyond that are the scavenging lands, the abandoned old towns from the old times.
Beyond that is the Spike.
“Will the wind ever remember, the names it has blown in the past…”
The sun is a giant, red disk, low against a black horizon in an orange sky. I’m pedaling mindlessly, pushing foot stroke after stroke, squeaking along, dazed, half blind. I barely notice the piece of ditchweed that skitters by. I quit pedaling and the squeaking stops and the buggy quietly crunches to a halt.
Scannin’ the sky fer wind-sittin’ lazybirds but there’s nothin’. When it’s blowin’ good, crows and gulls will sit on the wind, facing into the breeze. When the air is dead, like now, they circle around like vultures. I spy a few Sirius clouds forming on the horizon though. Good sign.
I creak my aching body out of the seat and walk towards the sun a few steps. Taking a knee, I reach down to the cracked earth and scratch a circle on the dried clay. The cracklin’ sound of worn leather against dust joins the light tingle of the air in my ears. Pullin’ my hunting knife, I trace a star in the circle, oriented towards the setting sun, and stab the blade into the center. This ain’t my good blade, mind you. It’s the everything knife for shucking oysters, pryin’ things and splitting logs into kindling.
I scoop up sand into my brown leather palm and slowly grind it out a few inches above the butt of the knife. The whisperin’ of the wind gets slowly louder in my ears. At first the grains fall on the knife, but the breeze picks up an’ they fall further and further from the knife and blow towards the edge of the circle.
The wind pushes harder an’ I can feel the cool air against my wet neck. At last the grains begin to fall past the circle’s border.
Again, I scoop sand and grind it out above the knife – just to be sure. I have to set these limits for muhself. Otherwise I spend all day setting up kites in light wind, which is a damn fine way to break gear and waste time — ya’ know, if you’re into that sorta thing.
The grains keep falling out of the circle. Reliable like.
I bolt upright and rip the knife from the ground — flingin it into the air. Bits of dirt flitter down as the blade spins end over end.
“Zephyros!” I yell, getting’ ‘cited. “You’ve returned!”
I spin around and grab the twirling knife as it plummets towards the earth, then sheath it thoughtlessly for the latest, innumerable time.
Shoulders back, I walk to the beetle-shaped kart. I bend over the pedals and unclip the lynch-pin and pull it out. I move both the pedals to the front and pop the pin back in. I slide another pin down, lockin’ ‘em there, switchin’ the thing from pedal-power mode to the steering-only settin’.
After that’s all set, I reach just behind the pilot seat and grab my flying harness. Walking around to the back of the rig, I pull back one of the spring-loaded, gear-covering wings and untie a faded canvas bag, slightly smaller than a bedroll.
Walkin’ back, I stand in the wind-circle I done drawn, face east and twirl the bag’round a couple times ‘fore hurlin’ it out ‘bout twenty feet. I loosen the straps on the flying harness and buckle it around my waste. Striding out towards the bag, I’m calm, but itchin’ to fly.
Methodically, I fold out the orange and yellow twelve-meter kite and weigh down its trailing edge with sand. It puffs and begins to inflate just a bit — a good sign.
I walk backwards past the buggy, laying out the strong, thin lines. A couple quick flips of the control bar gets the strands spread out evenly and I clip the chicken loop to the harness.
“Yah,” I whisper as I take a step back and tug the lines. The cells of the kite fill with air and it springs to life, popping into the wind and tugging me into the sky. I lean back against the harness, getting more lift and climbing higher into the sky. The kite reaches its zenith atop the wind window and I begin to drop. A short tug on the right line gives a slight tilt and swings me above the chair of the buggy.
My feet hit the foam seat and I squat, kicking out my left leg to one of the steering pedals, pointing the front wheel to the right. As I settle in I bring the kite down towards the right as well and the buggy turns east and pulls forward. My right foot finds the other strut and I immediately turn back north, zagging the kite to aim north, too.
The strength of the wind grows and I pull the left side of the rectangular kite towards the ground, near vertical, and I lean back. She’s pinned and the buggy hums a faint purr as the wheels compress the silt and sand. Behind me, a large swath of dust begins to rise and flow east towards the great dunes.
“Thank Zephros,” I say to myself as I reach for my water skin. I was startin’ to worry I was gonna miss the festival. There would’ve been hardly any point in going — not to mention how tuckered out I was gettin’ from herkin’ this damn cart across the plain.
At this rate I should make Devil’s Teeth by sundown. Which is good ‘cause flyin’ at night’s about as safe as shavin’ in the dark and less fun, too.