Oct 09

Skye | Chapter 0

Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward! the sailors cry;
Carry the lad that’s born to be king
Over the sea to Skye

    I was four when Eastne-Fi passed overhead. The largest known sky island rode the northern trade winds of Muraä, blown out of its main orbit by the rare Fell winds that only arose once a century.
    We’d know it was coming. Scientists had developed their aerology to a stunning precision, and they could predict weather, air currents, and island movements to an exceedingly precise degree. They’d announced the arrival of the Fells and Eastne-Fi’s errant orbit three years ago. I’d been unable to eat my breakfast on the appointed day from excitement, and the moment my mother proclaimed me decently dressed I blasted through the front door, my wide eyes scanning the eastern horizon.
    Our red-brick town, Koss, perched on the limestone cliffs that dropped into the cold Rhon Sea. Feathery clouds scudded along the ocean’s horizon, carried east to northwest by the Fell winds. Those variant winds, angled up to forty degrees above the normal trades, stirred the yellow-green grasses that covered the upper cliffs in an abnormal direction. Cloud, water, and grass bent the wrong way. The air sizzled with anticipation.
    I raced around the gnarled seapeach trees of our family orchard, the dewy grasses sticking to my bare feet, and came to a sliding, muddy halt before I could smash into the split-rail fence guarding the cliffs. The Rhon met our horizon from north to south, a semicircle of eastern sea. Salty air blasted about my grubby face.
    Between the cotton fluffs of cumulus I could see the crags of Eastne-Fi. The air pressure from the wake of the massive island shoved the clouds into arcs, like the ripples on our pond when banban frogs plunged into the mud. From a distance, the island resembled a ship cutting through the white surf.
    Even miles and miles from my orchard and my greying fence, Eastne-Fi looked enormous. Small islands often passed over our town, perhaps seven or eight times a year. When I harvested seapeaches or dragged my father’s fishing nets off his boat, I could see larger sky islands riding the trades far off on the horizon. I’d known Eastne-Fi was big, but to my four-year-old mind, ‘big’ was a three story building or a man taller than my daddy. 
    Eastne-Fi blotted out the sky for four-hundred-square miles.
    As the day progressed, Eastne-Fi drew closer and closer. It seemed impossible for its incredible breadth to grow any greater, but then it did and then it grew some more. The sky island took three days to come close enough to blot out the morning sun. I could see the island’s broken, rocky underbelly and the great metal gears that kept it aloft. The metal, light as balsa yet stronger than steel, had been forged through an unknown process lost to human knowledge. We didn’t know if an ancient race of humans had built the islands, or if an alien people had visited Muraä millenia ago and left them behind, or if perhaps some god had pieced them together. Exploring the islands and solving that mystery was the greatest goal of our species.
    Modern humans lived on the islands; Eastne-Fi had three major cities and several smaller metropolises surrounded by rural and agricultural towns. The smaller islands ferried villages and even single farms across the horizon; the colder climate supported a range of flora that could only grow in the sky.
    A week after I’d first glimpsed it, Eastne-Fi grew to cover the sky. Winds wound through its inverted crags, making a deep moaning and a sound like the waves below the cliffs. I could hear the immense gears rolling out the sky island’s ancient heartbeat. The stone-shrouded sky left our town in perpetual night, the air dark and cold. I stood on the ground and watched gear teeth the size of my house turn in the dim light. A great something pressed against my lungs and throat and heart and I wanted. I wanted to find an island no human had ever seen before—at least, no modern human. I wanted to climb into the belly of some ancient machine and figure out how it had been built. I wanted the earth far below me and the wind around me, my lungs in time with the lungs of the world.
    I wanted the sky.