Saturday 24 June 2017

'The Rocket ' by Avery Powell

His mother had promised him a rocket ship. Now it stretched out in the arroyo ninety meters long, red in prow and dorsal fin. Finding a crew had not been a problem. The district was full of handy folk, second daughters and unwed sons ready to try their luck amongst the stars. They gathered at the rocky mooring just before dawn: Red Moss, White Bird, Elk-Sandy and the rest, children of chieftains all, and Eagle was their captain. His mother’s silhouette could be seen by the big house on the caprock, backlit by the coming day. Eagle did not look up but set his crew to work.

The rocket bucked and bounded from shore to celestial sea, a contrail wake marked its passage. The red prow crested the turbulent atmosphere and broke into the placid star-road. A calm hand held the ship in line. The steersman and engine crew were no strangers to riding on the abyss. He took them straight to Karrasland on the far side of the Leopard Nebula. The planet was a blue jewel and the rocket fell like a leaf to shore beside a thundering sea.

The dusty crew had never seen so much water or such tall, green trees as those that grew on the slopes above them. They wandered among ferns under pines and splashed among tide pools and breakers. Eagle stood at the foot of the gangplank and looked up at the big house built on the cliff that overshadowed the bright bay. When the others returned he organized work crews to harvest lumber, fill tanks with and run the desalinators to catch salt and fresh water. He set a watch for intruders.

Dusk began to settle over this corner of the world as the ship filled with mountains of salt, lakes of water and forests of timber. The crew chatted happily of the fortune they would make on all three. The daystar’s glory burned behind the northern horizon, the air was still warm, the ocean ceaselessly singing and lights were on in the house above when the rocket was fully loaded. The crew made ready to go, taking deep breaths of surf and sky.

“It would not be right if we came all this way and took such a haul if no one knew we had been here,” Eagle said.

The crew urged him to board and be off with their prizes before anyone stopped them but Eagle would not listen and headed up the rocky beach. The night was full dark, except for a band of gold in the north when he came to the big house. The windows were too high to look in. No one answered the knock on the door. The wind blew off the sea and the great water crashed to land far below. Eagle heaved a sigh overboard.

The rocket swung more from its berth into the sky. He sat silent at a telescope. On the cliff the great house burned into the night.

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