It feels like the whole world stops. And you, well… You float on the top of it, up so high that nothing can get to you. In that moment you forget you’re fighting in a war. You forget you’re probably about to die.
The peacefulness of being wrapped up in that big blue sky is better than a thousand sunsets over the ocean. Once you experience it, you’ll never want to come down. But you will. You will fall. Everybody falls.
To my guard:
The first thing you need to know is that the king died last night, as I am certain you have by now heard. Indeed, for our mighty kingdom, this will be tragic news. He was a merciful king, a kind king. May the king rest peacefully.
Of course, not everyone held a fondness for him.
“Top straps to Level 4, middle and bottom straps to Level 3,” he instructed his new boots.
The straps tightened into a snug fit around his feet. Too snug.
“Top straps to Level 3.”
The top straps loosened. He took a stroll around his ship, but the fit was still a little off.
The train sped along its rails at a steady pace. The clacking of its wheels over the separation between each steel beam was its metronome to a rumbling song that only it could sing. A straight path to a sure destination. An unwavering confidence. Its resonance boasted of everything she had hoped for but never found.
“Two cuts,” a man demanded of her with a gruff voice.
“Two? For a city hop! Your brain is dust!” she shouted.
It was the oddest sight I ever saw, if what I saw was ever real. Lost in the vast plains of an unexplored island, I must have been fated to come across it. I didn’t dig through the dirt or go searching in any way. It found me, not the reverse. And why it found me, I will never know…
“Stop that boy!” Hands blackened by layers of coal dust grabbed at him as he shoved his way through a group of workers. It was pouring rain, and the normally dusty path had transformed into a muddy mess, making it nearly impossible to run. Several powerful lights on generators glared down, gleaming off the men’s hardhats and casting hard shadows from every object. He tried to stay in the dark, but it wasn’t working.
When the city’s lights went out, it was the first time she had ever seen the stars. They twinkled and shimmered, boasting of their brilliance in the eyes of onlookers. Attention wasn’t their goal, just happy dancing. Had she been on the streets below, the buildings towering overhead would’ve blocked most of the stars’ performances, but she happened to be on the rooftop of Aliento Del Cielo, or Breath of Heaven, the tallest building in Mexico.
Each breath inside the mill is a battle. Overhead, iron pulleys spin flour dust into every cubic inch of air, drying my eyes and choking my lungs. Every so often, my chest fights back with a violent coughing spell, and the outside air is my only reprieve.
We trudged through the snow, praying for sure footing beneath each step. The wind hurled ice at our faces, trying to push us back. A corpse back home, absent warm blood coursing through its veins, would have found itself still warmer than us — three frostbitten adventurers.
Darby Ferne was doing well on his first voyage as a cabin boy. Like every other cabin boy, he dreamed of someday becoming a captain with his own vessel to steer and crew to command. But he never dreamed it would happen so soon, and he certainly wished it had happened differently…