Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Ulrich Johns waited to board the plane to Alaska.
He sat in front of immense glass overlooking the dark tarmac. A coffee machine hissed behind him. A lone worker yawned behind the counter. The only other early passenger mumbled a sleepy message on his cell phone.
Five thirty five on the clock. Even the glow of the digital numbers looked tired. Below, a man dragged the hose from a refueling truck in the predawn twilight.
The lights of Philadelphia speckled the distance.
An unattended world blinking time.
Automation turned the wheels while people slept with the reigns of power tucked under pillows.
But human power was a joke. Unless you celebrated chaos. Left, right, forward, backward, start, never finish, yell, kiss, fall, birth, abuse, exalt, crush, humiliate. Soon, alarm clocks would ring. Drooled faces would roll out of pillowcase craters. Hands would slap snooze alarms and gather back the fluttering threads of dreams.
And Ulrich sat outside of it all. Above the tarmac of Philadelphia International Airport. Like a brooding god. Never in. Never part of. Seeing patterns. Seeing the march of causes and reactions. Seeing the strings pulling millions of marionette skins.
His mechanical calm waned as dawn seeped with pale yellow and infused the black with grey. Families arrived. A breathless little girl bounced into a nearby seat. A father squeezed the bridge of his nose and told another to stop jumping. Ulrich closed his eyes as the attendants opened the boarding station and tapped keys on the computer.
With the night still alive in his mind, he tried to reach beyond the immense glass. Beyond the fueling planes. Beyond the rolling lights dueling on the runways.
He imagined that he felt electricity. Switches switching. Computer code chopping human blundering into manageable packets of perfection.
The crowd heated to a simmer. The noise tapped cracks into the clear glass of his thoughts.
Alaska would be so different. The endless rainforests of the Tongass National Forest. Trails for hundreds of miles. Deep silence so profound that the northern lights sizzle in the sky.
If only he could die under the northern lights.
Somehow they would accept him. Somehow they would touch the poetic reds and ghostly greens buried in his soul. Somehow his tattered emotions would finally be soothed.
At some point, the plane arrived, and the attendants called for first class passengers. Ulrich rose. No way he was going to fly to the wide beauty of his funeral in coach.
(As an experiment, I'm going to be sharing pieces of my new novel-in-progress, but only scenes which have merit as stand alone pieces. If you find something you particularly like in these scenes, such as a mood, style, or theme, please let me know. On the flip side, if you find something you particularly don't like in these selections, please do the same. Some scenes will feature Nami, a woman who finds herself budding with profound powers over the Earth and its elements. Other scenes will feature Ulrich, a man who embarks on a one-way hike into the rain forests of Alaska to die. This particular scene has the distinction of being the opening of the novel.)