Thursday, 22 May 2014
News from the Clouds
As supporters of the 2nd book in the News from trilogy, I thought it only fair to give a taste of the final book, News from the Clouds.
As most of you will know, the story of Gavin Meckler's journey into the future ended rather abruptly in News from Gardenia, the story is then continued in News from the Squares and it is all tied up and explained in the final book.
At the end of News from the Squares Gavin makes a supreme effort to get back home to 2011 and I understand that some people don't want to read spoilers and if that is the case, click away now, there is a spoiler in the first line.
The final book is still a work in progress. It's currently being studiously edited by Unbounds editing supremo, Rachael Kerr. I have already realised there are many changes I want to make but it's getting there.
If by any chance you haven't pledged for a copy of the final book, please allow me to encourage you to do so.
I have worked hard for 100's of hours to tie the trilogy together and make sense of the emotional, technological and environmental journey Gavin has undertaken.
News from the Clouds
Why I was surprised to see a load of white doughnuts floating around the Yuneec as I came out of the cloud is easy to understand.
Why I wasn't alarmed that I might run into them or be destroyed by them is, on reflection, harder to grasp. I was flying along at a speed the Yuneec had never previously achieved, I remember glancing down at the data screen, 482 kilometers an hour.
Up until the crowd of doughnuts appeared in the clear blue sky I could see nothing, I was totally blind, the cloud was such a thick mass of grey nothingness and I had no idea where I was or what was happening.
It stopped as suddenly as it started, I just burst out into bright sunlight surrounded by a load of floating white doughnuts that scattered and formed a little ring around the Yuneec. Maybe a more accurate description would be floating padded toilet seat covers you sometimes see in a disabled loo as I suspected they were much larger than an actual doughnut, maybe even a couple of meters across.
The sun was low and in front of me, just as it had been in London, but I didn't need to blink and rub my eyes to know this was somewhere very different.
The sky above me was beautifully clear, the deep blue of an early autumn morning, in the distance a few low cumulonimbus clouds but other than the doughnuts, nothing.
I did burst into tears. I'm not proud but it did happen and it happened suddenly. I suppose the obvious reason is that it was immediately bloody obvious I wasn't flying over Didcot in 2011. I was somewhere else, somewhere completely new and weird and exhausting. However confused I was at that moment, however tired and wired I was fairly confident that flying doughnuts had not been around in 2011 or I think I might have read about them on TechCrunch.
I'll tell you now it's quite hard to fly a plane you're not used to when you're sobbing, but although I'm sure I wobbled a bit I managed not to loose it completely and dive the damn Yuneec into the ground to get the whole nightmare over with.
It crossed my mind more than once. I was obviously trapped in a bizarre vortex of peculiar worlds, none of which felt like home. I don't know if I gave up at that point, I don't know if I just shrugged off the ache for home and accepted I was doomed to be stuck in bonkers realities 200 years in the future but whatever it was I didn't kill myself.
The Yuneec flew true, straight and at great speed yet it felt like I was gliding along an invisible silk ribbon.
The doughnuts travelled alongside me and for some odd reason I found this mildly reassuring, there is something completely un-alarming about a flock of floating white doughnuts. It is hard to explain why as it's not something anyone from 2011 is likely to have witnessed. It was their shape and manner that reassured me, there were utterly non-threatening, it was as if they were expecting me.
The experience of flying through a small gathering of these things was akin to being met at an airport by friendly people you've never met before but know who you are.
Like a smiling Japanese woman holding a small sign with a friendly kitten illustration at the top and your name written on it at Tokyo airport. That happened to me once in 2009 and it was very reassuring, it was my first visit to Japan and I was confused about where I should go until I saw this sign.
The white doughnuts weren't carrying signs with 'Mr Gavin Meckler' written on them but they may as well have been.
I was smiling as I looked out at them, for some reason they made me want to chuckle.
This mood was altered with some alarm as I felt something make contact with the Yuneec that was nothing to do with wind turbulence or changes in air pressure. Whatever had made contact was mechanical.
I peered out of the side window with what I can genuinely describe as mild panic, I couldn't see anything, the second event which would have taken place mere moments after the first was the complete cessation of my control over the plane.
I could sense it instantly, for reasons I had no chance of understanding the joystick was not connected to any of the plane's control surfaces. I wasn't flying the Yuneec, someone else, or as I suspected something else, was.
The plane didn't fall out of the sky like a rock, explode in a ball of flame or start behaving erratically, it continued in the same direction at the same speed and I continued to be surrounded by a load of flying white doughnuts.
After a while I could sense that we were banking slightly to the left, it was about this time that I realised the prop was reducing speed, the new electric motor Pete had fixed into the nose cone was slowly spinning down and yet I couldn't sense a drop in speed.
All the data readouts on the smooth screen in front of me were blanks, there was nothing going on, it looked the same as when the plane was switched off.
Was I alarmed?
To quote a wonderfully amusing Australian colleague I'd worked with in an open cast coal pit in Northern Queensland in 2010, 'How about yeah!'
I suppose to be fair I was less alarmed than I would have been had this happened when I emerged from the cloud over Gardenia, my experiences over the previous months had hardened me to technological, environmental and psychological events over which I had no control.
As the Yuneec slowly banked to the left, something came into view that is once again very difficult to describe. Yes, by this time I'd seen filaments of ridiculously strong thread reaching from the planet's surface into deep space, I'd seen massive ships that moved across the top of the waves with no moving parts.
Now all I was seeing was a cloud.
Anyone can describe a cloud, it's a white fluffy thing that floats in the sky or a grey low thing sitting above your head for months on end.
If like me you grew up in the UK, clouds are very familiar and all I was looking at was a cloud.
The things that set it apart from its fluffy brethren was primarily the height it was floating along at, it was much lower than I would expect. This cloud was well below me but also on closer inspection the shape and size where unusual.
This was a very big cloud; I would estimate several kilometers long, more than one wide, fairly flat and generally white. That's where it's cloud-like appearance ended.
I continued to glide toward this extraordinary vision, I say glide as now all I could hear was the rush of wind over the Yuneec, the motor had stopped and the soft propeller blades were stuck to the nose cone like damp dishcloths.
As I got closer, the inconceivable became concrete. I don't mean I was looking at a cloud made of concrete, I mean I was seeing a human made construction and not a large formation of water vapor. The floating structure my eyes and brain were struggling with was something more solid and I could clearly see human figures standing among the billowing white shapes. Had I a scintilla of religious sensitivity about me I might have presumed I was seeing angels but as I got much closer I couldn't spot any wings, I was seeing people, a crowd of people who appeared to be staring up at me.
The cloud did appear mostly white but as I could see more and more detail there was evidently a great many colourful constructions in the centre of this mind-boggling apparition. I could not work out what sort of constructions I was seeing, they were sort of tent like, vaguely balloon like but not quite. They were mostly cloud like.
I felt the Yuneec slow down, not violently, more akin to the experience if I throttled back and applied the air brakes when coming into land. The alarming part was at the point when I could sense no forward movement at all, I was static in space as far as I could sense, hovering above an inhabited cloud that was in turn floating above the ground. By this point I was seemingly directly above the crowd of people I had spotted as I approached, all I could see was the bulbous tops of some bizarre structures surrounding me.
As I slowly descended the crowd came into view and I was by this point genuinely alarmed. I had been flying free and under my own control, I emerged from the cloud into clear sky but somehow all control had been taken away from me. Feeling like a fly trapped in a spider's web was one possible analogy, it was creepy.
The Yuneec eventually came to a gentle and slightly bouncy halt, I noticed by this point that the white doughnuts that had been escorting me had disappeared.
I was stationary, resting on a bouncy cloud surrounded by several hundred people of various races and ages. They didn't look alarmed, in fact they looked quite friendly, some of them even made little waving gestures.
Two people broke ranks and walked up to the plane, an old man and middle aged woman. They were moving in a peculiar way, I suppose it was a little as if they were walking across a giant mattress.
They both had their palms held up indicating, I hoped, that they meant me no harm. It did cross my mind that they might be sporting some kind of fearsome body-disintegrating weapon resembling an upheld human palm to the uninitiated but they were smiling.
I opened the cockpit door slowly, I didn't want to alarm anyone but it seemed like the right thing to do.
The woman, who was not as tall as the people of London, stood next to the Yuneec's wing and spoke slowly: 'Hallo Gavin, es ist eine Freude, Sie zu treffen, willkommen in der anthropocene.'