Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer
Weâ€™re both standing on the rooftops of the train city. Two hundred and twenty-three tracks wide, slowly migrating polewards to more oil and frozen fresh water.
Metal groans as the temperature drops. Tenpenny nails shrink and loosen in the planks holding shacks together. Coal stoves are fueled and ready to go. The whole city has a heartbeat as the connections between the rails tick by beneath the wheels.
Wind-jenny and I are up top amongst the blooming solar fields. She lives up here but I only have a daypass. Iâ€™m one of the Engineerâ€™s children. I canâ€™t spend too much time away from my station or I run out of juice. Wind-jenny keeps telling me that she could hook me up with a solar generator and Iâ€™d never have to go back, no problem.
â€œThat would be against the rules. This cityâ€™s not big enough for renegades.â€ I tell her, quoting the maxim laid down by the first Engineer.
Motion and Power. The whole society was based on it. Feed the engines. Stoke the lights. Keep moving.
Once every two months or so, a junction comes up. If anyone wants to see what life is like on a different traincity, theyâ€™re welcome to get off and set up camp to wait for the next one. The schedules are right there on the wall. Itâ€™s encouraged. The more folks know that thereâ€™s no difference between the other cities, the more they spread the word and the less people want to leave.
There are rumours, of course, born of young dreams and hope, of traincities made of white marble and gold that run on magic. Badlerdash. Boxcar madness.
The Engineer has told me through my downtime interface that this traincity is as good as any other. The Engineer keeps granting me daypasses because Iâ€™m twice as productive after a visit with Wind-jenny. I love her and the happiness she causes in my heart makes me tend the engines faster down in the smoke-soaked darkness of the stokeroom. The burning of the coals reminds me of the colour of her hair.
My daypass has five minutes left. I tell Wind-jenny that Iâ€™ve got to go soon. She kisses me and snuggles up to the biological parts of me to give me a thrill of a memory that will last me until the next time I see her.
She pulls down her goggles and raises her scarf. It makes her look like a desert ant. She looks at me as I throw a metal treadleg over the lip of the porthole, hooking on to the ladder chute thatâ€™ll take me back down. I pause for a moment, looking at her red hair being pulling by the angry children of the wind and take a picture with a shutter click in my right eye.
Iâ€™ll turn it in my mind like a jewel in the darkness when Iâ€™ve put on my shovel hands and Iâ€™m back to work. Iâ€™m already looking forward to next time.