An excerpt from Axis Mundi, sequel to Fringe Blue | © Drake Dunaway, 2017
Ravenna DiPatri was a stately frau with the luscious tresses of a baroness, moving quietly through the house like a Victorian whisper. In the noonday, she leaned in the parlor reading alone. Her awareness would pique at a certain time of day when the brass doorknob would fidget. She could sense the antsy twist of the knob in its socket or the telltale awkward thumping of elbows on the door and ascertain that it was not at all Alan, but instead her brave little Squanto overeager to get inside.
Paris burst through the front door, sweaty from running and in a manner most unheard of. She looked up at him impassively from a place where white sunlight bathed everything. Her brow piqued, the flick of a minute hand on a porcelain face.
“I’m going skylarking with Castor this weekend,” he answered her, “Galia’s coming too.”
She sat up straight and crossed her leg the other way. Her patient, gray eyes leveled with his as she lowered the novella and let it hang delicately.
“I’ll be careful, mom!” Paris moaned.
Ravenna closed her eyes, tilted her head to the side and beamed. Appeased, her delicate figure leaned back and her eyes settled into her Louisa May Alcott and placid, white lace, freezing back into the same portrait of serenity as before. Paris then walked into the kitchen where his mother had left him some cooked ham and eggs on the table. ErgoBot was in the corner gathering dust with its head down, unused since the day Paris’ father gifted it to his mother.
The sky rail passed outside of the Los Angeles city walls headed for Lake Tahoe. Paris and Galia looked down over the lakes and rivers as they went. Cal-Tran Magazine stated that Los Angeles had the oldest security walls in the country since they were first adopted by the US Department of Homeland Security. Everything passing in or out of an American city had to cross through controlled access points for scanning. Trucks. Cars. Trains. People. Things were the same for most cities on earth, in fact. But under the warm and easy calm of the Pax Americana, nobody really cared.
The sleepy sun melted over the frosty mountain peaks near Truckee. After aerolane technology debuted, eventually the great superhighways of the last centuries emptied and crumbled from neglect, healing the scars of dead industry as the glades overtook them again. Gone were all but the greatest of them, the cardinal connectors transversing the continent. Few people lived outside the city walls anymore. And when the megacities took hold, most towns and suburbs eventually disbanded, leaving behind pristine countryside and lush forests speckled with farms and resort towns where roving kids would buy fish tacos or brainfreezes while watching the rusted-out dronehaulers and the filthy hicks who manned them.
The train buzzed into station that night, and on collecting their bags they were immediately greeted by the Reno slot machines dinging in front of parquet tiles. Their breaths blew steam in the nippy air as Paris and Galia debouched into the terminal amid a crowd of sleepwalking tourists.
“Haya! Look who just showed up! The new Americans!” Bugs Franklin shouted flinging his arms wide, his eyes bulging out of his head in the way for which he was always teased. Behind him stood Castor and Pollux DiSacra. Tall and always brooding in their grave, gray overcoats, they both raised a hand and quietly smiled. Behind them were Clara and Abigail, Trianna and Inanna, and a morose and reed-thin shadow of a girl, Ayako Yenrai, a Neo-Tokyo exchange student who spoke nary a word of English.
Everyone smiled at Paris and Galia, save Ayako, sulking in studded black and giving a peace sign before returning to her ancient cassette player.
“It’s so good to see you!” exclaimed a bubbly Innana as she tightly hugged Galia.
“Ok, Paris…Here’s the itinerary,” Bugs shifted leaning up against a terminal sign while putting on airs more official than a joker like him could ever be, “We’re skylarking from here to Yosemite. Last night of the circuit we break into the park past the ranger’s cordon and have a night flight over Half Dome and El Capitan. As promised, our precocious Trianna scored some good verve for the festivities and you gotta call your dibs now.”
“What’s on the menu?” Paris grimaced.
“Ok,” Bugs began,“We got racer, some psycho-ass wet-tech, T-Rex and a shitload of sandman for the easy high, fast-forward if you haftah sit through Trianna talk about her poseur-ific goth shit…”
“Just some sandman and powderfinger like I put down for,” Paris muttered looking at his shoes.
“Aww…come on…all that mild herbal feggit shit!? You gotta see this hard-core wet-tech…engineered to give you…”
“Stop fucking around, Bugs. I’m cold.” Paris cut in.
“Ok ok. Relax man. Are you good for it?”
“Front porch under the flowerpot.”
“Great. Under your hotel vending machine. Fly straight, champ.”
“Come on, everyone,” Castor broke in, “We’ve got a big day ahead.”
*Photo Credit: Jacek Irzykowski | https://www.artstation.com/artwork/train-station-2145