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seaplane night landing

from Firmament by Museum of Natural History



"What you have to know about landing a plane in the middle of the ocean is," growled the drunk, "the ocean doesn't give a god damn if you do everything right. It doesn't care how lucky you are. How smart. How young or old. Sometimes something goes wrong and that's just how it happens. Rogue waves, a loose screw, a trick of the light forcing you to hit the water at a bad angle. You think you can just coast down, easy as you please, but everything out there, in the world, is trying to stop that from happening."

He took a massive chug from his enormous beer and rested it on the bar, either unaware or apathetic that he had the whole room's attention.

"Do you ever stop and think about it? We're flying now. Up in the sky. That's a miracle. There is nothing up there for us to live on. We can't float. It's not our world. How did we even do it? Looked at birds, said 'oh we can do that', then bent metal and used tiny explosions to make it happen. Pretty bloody clever."

"But – listen to me - the ocean and the sky don't give a damn how clever you are or I am or any of them. Listen! We can all make pretend like we're defying gravity and soaring up there - but everything gets thrown back down again sooner or later and trying to land an amphibian on the ocean is like... its like..." He stammered and lost the room.

The weary bartender used the gap to turn around and start wiping down glasses, too familiar with these sermons. The rummy was a regular barfly, one of about twenty unshaved men in the village who all had similar stories of uncharted waters: done a bit of trading with other islands, went out further than sensible, see something they can't explain, came back different. More intense. Not worse, but more excited, optimistic - and crushed with disappointment, huge bitter weeping fits and angry tirades when whatever it was inevitably didn't pan out. But the next day they’d bounce back, good as new, throwing themselves wholeheartedly into another unlikely scheme. The rotating cast of elderly men usually ended every second day back in the bar.

The drunk had quietened down again so the bartender snuck another look at him. He was resting his forehead on the rim of his beer glass, murmuring quietly to himself and already thinking of sleep in one of the dark corner booths, where he’d awake and sneak out the next morning, revitalised as always with an unspeakable optimistic gleam in his eye about a life of possibilities ahead.


from Firmament, released April 20, 2022


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High Mage Productions Colorado Springs, Colorado

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