Evan stared at the Receptor, an amazed laugh tickling his throat.
Grace looked up from her sewing.
“There will be a World’s Fair,” he gurgled. “In Queens County, of all places! Queens!”
Putting down her embroidery hoop, she came closer. It would appear that in just nine years, the rural Queens County would become a part of Metropolitan New York City. And forty one years after that, what was currently a ragged string of small towns would host a fair. A World’s Fair, in Flushing. Who would have ever thought…
“Goodness, what is all this?” Evan exclaimed, tracing the screen with a fingertip. “The World of Tomorrow they call it. Fascinating! Automobiles. Oh, Grace, just look at what this company, General Motors, has in store for us in forty years!”
Staring at the pictures of the exhibition models; tiny vehicles on long stretches of roadway, like insects gliding endlessly along angled veins of leaves, Grace felt immeasurably sad. She frowned.
“How dreadful. People going their lonely way in those… pods… Isolated. Sterile. Where has our city gone? Just these cement tracts?”
Evan’s face twisted. “Darling, must you be so damned sour about this? Perhaps we should have tapped into the past’s Temporal Current since you don’t like what you’re learning about the future.”
Grace sighed. “True, I don’t. I’m sorry love, I don’t meant to dampen your excitement, but sometimes you don’t understand what you have wished for, or the consequences of those wishes, until they stare back at you.”
Not to be dissuaded, her husband gazed at the screen in wonder. “I think it’s fantastic.”
Grace pursed her lips. “I wonder what will come of it.”
The Borough of Manhattan,
Ellen Hartford awoke with the same image in her mind that she went to sleep with for years. Her dead mother Jeanette, hunched over her desk, brains blown out over the antique blotter, soiled red. “I’m sorry, Ellen,” The suicide note had read, the words screaming up from the paper, forever burned in Ellen’s mind; “I lost the keys in the Meltdown. Salvation of our world was in Halford women’s hands. But I’ve ruined the future, and I can’t live with it any longer. Read about it in my diary if you like, all our diaries. Bottom shelf. I failed you. I hope someday you’ll understand and forgive me.”
Ellen never had read that diary, or any other. Her mother had gone painfully crazy and her words were never to be trusted. There was no time for crazy in a post-Meltdown world. There was only time for survival. Tend the gardens. Feed the people. Take Father’s orders.
Those tasks had consumed her since childhood.
But the haunting remained, and she was damned tired of it. Crazy or no. Her mother’s memory was a ghost, wondering why she never went to those diaries, if nothing else but to satisfy curiosity.
Ellen rose from the sofa where she’d fallen into a listless sleep. She blinked away her mother’s corpse from her eyes, and opened the door she hadn’t once touched all this time. Feeling like she might just go crazy too, reading the scattered refrains of mother’s faltering mind might not be as bad as it sounded. It might ease the pain of her own descent into madness, should she inherit such a mantle.
Moonlight cut its way through the haze to paint a wide swath on the empty waters of theEast River.
On theBrooklynshore, Jack Barton found himself, as he often did, wondering what had ever happened to Ellen Halford. Though his father’s life had been prolonged by the rare, first rate supplies Ellen had proffered, the wound eventually claimed his life.
He was sure she wouldn’t remember him even if they did meet again. Surely she was busy, heir to an Empire.
Shaking himself from the lure of forbidden Manhattan, whose broken teeth towered so closely by, Jack turned his attention to the rubble at his feet to scavenge. That’s all they were anymore. Scavengers. So much for Innovation.
His hands weren’t dexterous in the awkward metal suit, but he cleared enough rubble away to grab a tube, the corner of which had been glinting in the moonlight.
Dented and scratched, the metal tube bore a clear date. 1890.
He trembled, opening the top and sliding out a brittle roll of a sacred, rare substance. Paper. The corners flaked into the harsh breeze. He grimaced, hating to lose even a particle of the treasure but curiosity overtook archaeological training.
Unrolling the thin paper to arm’s length, he stared at a confusing mess of pictograms outlined in dark blue. His heart leapt with excitement.
“What is it, Jack?”
Jack glanced up to see a metal form awkwardly approaching. He knew a petite brunette named Marcy was somewhere beneath the mass of armor, all grating plates and heavy joints, but only her voice through her mask was recognizable. She looked like a lumbering, four-legged bug with metal exoskeleton and tinted, insect-glass-goggled eyes.
“What did you find?”
Jack shook his head. “I was sure original plans like this were long gone.”
Marcy leaned closer and took a sharp breath. “Oh God.”
“What?” Jack said. “What’s frightening about a factory blueprint?”
“How did that get out here? Shit. It’s a sign. Please tell me that’s a sign.”
“Marcy. Talk to me, you sound like a luna-”
“A factory,” she repeated quietly. “A place where things were made, in say, the 19th century. Manufacturing. Our future. Maybe it isn’t all lost after all…”
“Should I shake you?!”
“Get this back to Central. Now. Just give me a moment.”
“Christ you are weird.” Jack stormed off towards the gate. He hated it when people seemed to know or guess things he didn’t. Being ahead of the curve was his game.
Want to read more? Pick up your copy of the Doctor Fantastique’s Show of Wonders Winter 2011 issue.