|The Gate, Part Thirty-two
||[Dec. 15th, 2015|05:21 am]
The Angel was restless.|
He dreamt of the glorious conurbations back home; crystal cities spanning entire continents, stretching from permanent dusk to twilit sea.
The scents and the sounds of the bazaar where he grew up, raised by his parthenogenetic sister, selling opalescent trinkets to the throngs of pilgrims. The comforting white noise of a billion Voices.
Drowned beneath an ocean.
He awoke with a panic when he realized where he was.
A city-sized castle built along a cliffed coast overlooking the sea, the product of a mad dynasty. A storied, schizophrenic design, with concentric curtain walls, winding staircases leading nowhere, honeycombed with secret passageways amid quietly crumbling arcades, and forgotten, overgrown courtyards with marble statues that only felt the sun’s rays one day out of the year. A vast Kitchen District that once catered ten thousand and decaying dungeons preserved the dessicated remains of countless forsaken prisoners.
Baileys accounted for fully half of the Safehold’s land footprint, grassy areas where a herd of twenty thousand could graze during a prolonged siege.
Once the seat of government the Safehold was now sparsely populated by hill people fleeing the government. Encroaching forest had breached the north wall, spilling into the crowded Servants’ Quarters District, and a century of coastal erosion had claimed over twenty percent of the castle grounds, as they tumbled into the sea.
The entire structure was centered around a secluded cloister situated directly beneath the object that inspired the cult which became the state religion for almost 20 years: a gate, miraculously suspended in the air nearly a kilometer above the surface like some twisted planetary oubliette. The Angel’s prison for the past fifty years.
Stranded, on this world of marsh and clay where sulfurous mud caked everything and the sun refused to stay put.
He still hadn’t gotten used to that, the daily transit of the sun across the sky. Shadows moved. It felt fundamentally wrong. As did the preternatural stillness, the total absence of proper seasons. And the Silence was almost unbearable. No one to talk to besides ignorant savages.
The inhabitants of this world, the shepherds, were primitive, superstitious. Their quaint little “empire” barely covered one third of one world, crossing oceans in leaky ships of timber as they sold one another. They’d yet to even develop a germ theory of disease and were perpetually perplexed when plagues decimated their population, when they shat where they ate in the squalid hellholes they called cities.
And within a century they’d possess the microprocessor.
The process of uplifting the shepherds was extremely tedious. Their short lives meant that by the time he’d finished training one it was already succumbing to dementia. His current protege was especially bright, however, and for the first time in decades he felt optimistic.
Patiently introducing all the ancillary technologies necessary for one invention, giving rise to entire industries in the single-minded pursuit of his goal.
And after all these years construction had finally begun! Manufacturing the required turpentine, rubber, acid, and procuring enough silk had been taxing, but his efforts would soon pay off.
With it he could finally escape this world and return home.
Or what was left of it.