(6-1) Fortune, like the sun

229 37 35

Samuel was fond of solid ground.

It wasn't something he knew about himself until now.

There's comfort in the constant. And until this very moment, the ground pushing at Samuel's body, be it on his feet as he stood on his side as he slept, was as constant as his heartbeat and as dependable as the Spire.

Until this very moment, when his feet left this balcony ninety-four stories up, and he dangled in the sky.

"Spit and simmering bile bubbling in a cauldron of shit-sodden ash billowed by the bowels of the abyss," Samuel cursed aloud, clinging to the cable that dangled him on an extended beam off the side of the Songbird's deck.

His feet dangled comically over the cityscape, which looked entirely too much like teeth of some massive titan waiting to devour him if he fell. Samuel's mind, deep in this irrational, primal panic, was busily imagining what his corpse would look like when he smashed against the various walls and monuments littering the causeway below.

And somehow, feeling the cable haul him up somehow made it worse.

He shot up like he was falling up into the clouds until he passed above the hull of the Songbird and touched his feet on the plank extending out.

He grabbed onto the railings just as soon as his feet touched the ground, and cried out in relief.

"Not a flyer," someone said from beside him, pressing a heavy hand on Samuel's shoulder. "Don't worry, you'll feel better as soon as you make it to the deck."

Samuel nodded, barely able to hear whoever was speaking to him over the sound of his own panic. Samuel made his way timidly across the wide beam until he made the last step and strode onto the deck.

The fear washed off of Samuel like dust in the river. Almost immediately, he could breathe and relax, and his heart stopped trying to crack his ribs.

"I didn't know you could swear, Sam," Angela said, patting Samuel on the shoulder and guiding him towards the middle of the ship.

"You heard that?" Samuel asked, now calm enough to feel embarrassed.

"Pretty sure most of High Central heard that,"Angela said as she struggled to keep herself from laughing. "It was crass. I think I blushed a bit."

"Go throw yourself into the Bore," Samuel muttered.

"We're high enough that I might make it," Angela said.

Samuel looked around the ship and saw the nearly two dozen people on board were all busy. Combined with the muffled whine of machinery, the quiet cacophony left Samuel with a practically private conversation with his partner.

"How are you taking this, Ang?" Samuel asked.

"Are you kidding? This is my second airship ride in two days. I'm starting to feel like the most important person in the City right now," Angela said.

Her smile had a certain wistful gaiety to it, and her laughter was warm and heartfelt. Samuel sighed in relief, and let himself look around.

The City stretched beyond Samuel's sight, in every direction. The tops of High Central's towers were only eye-level, and the rest of the City unfolded below him as if it were drawn on a map. He could see all of Central, and the districts that saddled it. He could see the levee walls along the river, dozens of bridges and the Irondrome racetracks.

Samuel knew that everything he saw below were expressions of the incredible industrial might of the City. But from the deck of the Midnight Songbird, it looked like a child's model.

Bitter Cold Truth: A Tale of the Everburning CityRead this story for FREE!