There is a city. It is high above the ground, almost amongst the clouds, on endless pillars. It is a city of platforms, large and flat, in all kinds of colors. The platforms have no railings, it’s a freefall, straight down for what seems like eternity. But there is a bottom; the planet is completely green, covered in fields and tremendous forests.
Among the clouds, a race of aliens live on these platforms. The aliens are made up of two parts, attached in the middle to form a symbiotic-parasitic partnership. There is a thinking part and a part made of meat that mainly processes food and feels the winds. These aliens make up the majority of the planet’s inhabitants.
David and Dawn were walking in this city, David first. They were headed up a stairway (also without railings) that seemed to continue forever upwards. There were many stairs like this in the colorful city; not steep at all, just with an endless row of steps until the next platform. The view was vertigous, David told Dawn not to look down, but she did anyway. Her blue eyes widened. “It’s so far to fall!” she gasped. David kept walking up the stairs without replying.
It was a clear blue day. Not many of the aliens were out; there was no one coming down the stairs to meet them, and the platform they ascended from was all but empty. The large, double-bladed axe, which was strapped over David’s back, flashed white in the sun.
They were an odd sight, these two lonely humans, blond and pale and dressed in blue, carrying medieval weaponry as they climbed the endless, slightly curved stairway. The steps were of varying colors, red and blue and green; it all reminded of pieces of Lego, the whole city was like this, with its thousands of platforms all connecting.
Dawn was carrying a backpack, pine green and completely stuffed with things; brass buckles and belts covered the bulging sack. A harvesting sickle firmly attached to her right hip, she climbed without flinching, her fit, young body barely breaking a sweat in the morning sun. David led the way as the wind made ripples in his short, blond bangs, his back straight and his ocean blue eyes constantly scanning the stairs ahead of them. They were alert and focused, his face as straight as his back, his facial features as well defined as those of his sister. Their pale skin was smooth and unspoiled by stormy weather or harrowing events; these two adolescents had not had a hard life, lacking both in emotional stress and the toil of regular folk. They walked with confidence through this strange city, whatever misfortune had led them here, it had not broken their spirits, at least not in any way that was revealed by their physical shape or the cadence of their movements.
Dawn, whose eyes were fixed on a point slightly down and in front of her, spoke.
”Who do you think – would win in a fight, between a lion, and a tiger?”
David didn’t answer for a while. They advanced up the steps.
“Don’t know. Have to think about it.”
She made a face. “Bore.”
The blue sky was getting clearer, white clouds thinning and dissolving. It was a bright morning.
We’re somewhere else now. An old-fashioned pub, smoggy and dank. The lights are low under the low ceiling. A man who sounds like David Carradine is sitting on one side of a wooden table. David and Dawn are on the other side. The man is older, possibly middle-age. He’s wearing a black suit and a dark tie of indeterminate color. The man says, “So you realize how much is at stake. I’m not saying it will be easy. Jobs like these never are. But rest assured that you are doing God’s work.” David nods. Dawn is watching the man intently, eyes indigo in the darkness. They are lit only by the fluttering lights of small candles on the wooden table. David asks, “What’s the end game? What’s in it for us?” The older man smiles. In his coarse voice, he says, “More than you can imagine. And”, – he turns away from the siblings, reaching for something under the table – “more than I can possibly show you at this moment. Not here.”
Dawn’s face looks disappointed. She glances at her brother. Ignoring her, David says: “You said, last time, that it’d be unprotected. You said it would be ‘no biggie’. That’s what you said.”
Still not meeting David’s eyes, the older man produces a suitcase from under the table. It is an old-fashioned, rectangular, chestnut brown Samsonite, decorated with gold buckles. He places the suitcase on the table, sliding it towards David. “Half now,” he says. “Half after the job is done.” David places one hand on the case, pulling it to himself. “Who?” he asks, simply.
The man smiles. He is an aging fox in the candlelight, grey sideburns rough and unkempt. His forehead is full of wrinkles, his green eyes ringed with darkness. The man’s name: Joe Bob Fenestre.
Flashforward to the staircase. The sky is now a perfect blue. The siblings are still by themselves, nearing the end of the stairs. Dawn is panting slightly. There is a dog on the stairs, a Siberian husky, lying on its side at one of the steps. It is a big, greyish-white canine, well trimmed and fast asleep. Its eyes are shut and it’s not moving; you could easily mistake it for dead.
David spots the animal. “Dog”, he says. Dawn looks up, indifferent.
He takes one more step up the stairs, hesitant. The dog remains immobile. He keeps his gaze at it, carefully lifting one boot and putting it down right next to the dog’s fuzzy, grey stomach. The dog doesn’t move.
David softly lifts his other boot, over and across the animal, then puts it down. The dog yelps. Its eyes open, watching David alertly. He quickly lifts his boot, freeing the dog’s left paw. David is close to losing his balance, leaning backwards on the small, unprotected step, almost completely dominated by the motionless dog. He waves his arms in circles through the air, once, twice, then regains his posture. Dawn, who has been staring at him throughout, exhales.
“Easy”, she says.
David says nothing, giving the dog one short look, then continuing up the stairs. Dawn follows, leaping nimbly over the Siberian husky and its selected spot. The dog flicks an ear, shuts its eyes and seems to go back to sleep.
The climb continues. They reach the top of the stairs, stepping through a square hole in the massive plateau above them. Once out on this plateau, which is gold with swaths of dark blue, they stop for a minute to rest. This level is empty, just like the one now so far below them. David and Dawn are standing in the middle.
“That damn dog”, David says. Dawn looks at him, curious. “What about it?” she says. David takes a look around, panting from exertion. “What was it even doing there?” He pants. “Damn near crushed its paw.” He looks at Dawn.
David looks away, then back at her. He seems unsure of what to say. His sister keeps watching him, uncomprehending. He eventually turns away from her, surveying the sky. The double-bladed axe glimmers in the sunlight. Dawn looks at her brother’s back as if trying to unveil a great mystery. It is very quiet on the platform.
The bird flies, relentless, miles above the dark and empty street. The skyscrapers continue their rigid salute, an alley of massive, black buildings, like angry policemen. The sky is pitch black. There is little wind, despite the great altitude. The metropolis sleeps – or is it dead? We have seen no one, not a trace of life, since the young man at the balcony. No cars go along the motorway, so far below the bird of prey. Its red tail is barely visible in the darkness. The rusty color seems black, too. Still the bird flaps on, tirelessly, apparently in absolute awareness of its goal.
This bird’s name: Kore.
The man named Joe Bob Fenestre is holding up a small, brass key. “This”, he says, “will open the door to a hotel room. The room is nr 17, at the Norwegian Hotel. This is in the center of the city.” He hands the brass key over to David, who takes it. “When you’re inside, walk in the bedroom. In the suitcase to the left you’ll find my favorite axe.” He winks at David. “I know you’ll wear it with pride.” David’s face is indifferent. “As for you”, he turns to Dawn, “we’ll have to find something more delicate.” Dawn looks as if she’s going to retort, but David puts a silent hand on her arm, and she says nothing. Joe Bob Fenestre leans back on his side of the table. He lifts a glass of whiskey to his lips; it’s hard to make out in the dim light, but they are broken and cracked, like a gravely road. Grey hairs surround them in thick, bushy layers.
Taking a sip of his drink, the old man makes a satisfied noise. David is staring at him, not saying a word. Joe Bob eventually meets his gaze, subsequently putting one wrinkled hand inside his jacket. Grunting slightly, he pulls out a small bag, brown paper bag, a black string tied around its neck. He places the bag on the table.
“Divine wisdom and superhuman strength”, he says. It is unclear if he is speaking tongue-in-cheek or serious. Either way, David grabs the paper bag and slips it into his pocket. “Thanks, Mr. Fenestre.”
Dawn is still silently watching the older man. Her indigo blue eyes glimmer in the candlelight. She says nothing. Mr. Fenestre looks at her, then back at David, and says, “Any other questions?” Without hesitating, David says: “Who do you work for?”
There is the ghost of a smile in Joe Bob Fenestre’s old and harrowed face.
On the blue-and-gold platform, Dawn takes a deep breath, closing her eyes. “Oooh, it’s so fresh!” she exclaims. After a second or two, David replies, “Yeah.” He is looking into the distance, surveying the abandoned platform. Dawn looks at him, then turns away. She performs an impromptu cartwheel, bare feet supporting her flawlessly upon landing. David keeps watching the surroundings. He doesn’t appear to be thinking about anything in particular. Looking back at her brother from a bit further away, Dawn says:
“Remember when I told you it will be a silent spring?”
David finally looks at her. “Yeah.”
There is a mischievous smile on her face. She doesn’t say anything else.
This time, he is the one to keep his gaze on her as she turns away.