Going Up

The old man climbed the rusty ladder and I followed, around us the night was windy and rainy. The ladder lead up a pylon that used to be yellow with black stripes or black with yellow stripes. It lead up to a clumpy structure that I could not really see in the dark. Above that was a black, black shaft shooting up into the sky.

We reached a ramp and he turned his flashlight on. The ramp led to a causeway of metal net with metal railings. There were more sets of stairs and ladders leading higher and higher. The man shone the light at me, then at himself, smiling tired from under his rain hat.

“The auxiliary elevator is busted,” he said, “So it’s a bit of a climb,” he pointed the light at the causeway, “But you can make it. The code is in the book that’s by the control panel. Good luck.” He gave me the light, “Leave that outside the door, there’s light inside. Good luck,” he repeated.

The climb took me almost half-an-hour and I slipped on the wet metal a few times, but I finally reached the launch platform. The elevator car was parked there. It looked like a bunker on vertical rails. The outside walls were painted black and yellow and I could barely make out the three-feet-tall letters that said Daedalus 13.

“Good thing I’m not superstitious,” I said and snickered.

I punched in the code and the elevator came to life with a whir or servo motors and the orange glare of emergency lights. The sturdy door opened and I went inside.

The interior smelled like mold and rust, it was really old, had not been used in decades. I turned off the flashlight and put it in my pocket, then I found the book and checked all the things in order: the pressure, oil levels, energy throughput, motor condition, and so on. It all looked good. I remember wondering how they built it so well that it lasted this many years without maintenance.

I finally sat down in front of the control panel and strapped myself in. I punched in the initiation code and the computer came to life. I tapped “START” and the whole bunker lifted off, up and up along its rails.

“Father, I am coming. Receive me,” I offered a short prayer.

Then I remembered I was supposed to leave the flashlight outside. Well, it was too late now.

Suddenly Born

Pete suddenly came to life in Machine City and he wondered the block for a little bit until he stumbled into a little shop where somebody was making iron bannisters. That somebody was rusted and dented and moved with a lot of screeches.

“Hello, I am Pete and I am an eight-year-old boy,” said Pete, using his voice for the first time.

“Hello Pete, I am EG-78,” said the old man, “I make iron bannisters, what do you do?”

“I don’t know,” said Pete, “I just came to life over there, in that place around the corner. I don’t know much about livingĀ and doing things.”

“You should have a proper job,” said EG-78, “A purpose. That’s what makes life worth living.”

“I guess what you say makes sense,” said Pete, “And I don’t know what else would. So what can I do?”

“Well, seems like making iron bannisters is the best thing I know to do. But I’ve seen other folks do other things. Some clean the streets, removing the green stuff that seems to appear places overnight. Some move things in giant boxes. There’s one fellow comes and picks up the bannisters I make.”

“All those things seem like somebody is already doing them,” said Pete, “Maybe I should come up with something of my own. Something that needs doing just there’s nobody to do it.”

EG-78 scratched his old beat-up head and thought hard. “I once saw a fellow who did nothing,” he said eventually. “He would just sit on the fence yonder and look at the mountains, or play with the thing that sends out little white fluff when you blow air on it. I would often wonder what he did, never thought to ask, though.”

“Did somebody come over and grab him?”asked Pete, “Make him back into parts so he could fit to do work?”

“Not sure,” said EG-78, “One day I just stopped seeing him.”