Hurricane Adolphe

It was a Friday at the Winterfell office of Steampunk Explorer in Laudanum and I was about to sneak out early to spend a quiet weekend at my Caledon retreat on the shores of Cape Wrath. But the best laid plans… A dispatch arrived with news of a terrible storm in New Toulouse. As a homeowner in that fine city I had no choice but to go and assess the situation.

Upon arrival it was clear that this was no mere rainstorm. A hurricane had struck and there was much activity as people boarded up their windows and placed sandbags at their doors. I immediately followed suit. I spent the evening by the wireless, cup of soup in hand, monitoring the weather bulletins. In the morning, though the wind and rain were strong, I could not resist the temptation to get a first hand look at their effect on the city.

The streets of New Toulouse proper were empty. Shops were closed but the bars were open. I had heard a report that things up north in the Bayou were already quite bad. Only a fool – or an explorer – would venture up there under such conditions. I put my new rowboat in the channel and headed north.

On the way I encountered Mr. Denny Kozlov who had come from Caledon after reading a dispatch I had sent. We paddled close enough to each other to discuss which way to proceed through the high water. I chose to head up through the inland river and he to approach from the western edge of the Bayou. We wished each other luck.

Along the way I offered help to a couple of locals though there was not much one could do at that point. They declined to evacuate but were grateful to hear news of how the city was faring. I rowed home, leaving my boat alongside the canal that separates New Toulouse proper from Bourbon parish. The channel waters were rushing wildly but their level was not much higher than normal.

I live just across the channel from Mari Moonbeam’s bistro in Bourbon. She had been to Babbage where she got a good deal on boards for her windows. She remarked (in a colorful manner) how much more expensive the lumber would have been in Caledon. Her place was surrounded by sandbags and she was preparing coffee and donuts for rescue workers and other stragglers. Back at the house things were holding up well except for a minor leak from the roof

A few hours later the city streets of Bourbon parish were underwater and there was some water in the streets of New Toulouse proper too but most buildings were still dry at ground level. An invitation went ‘round by word of mouth of a Hurricane Party at Le Vieux Canal Jazz Club up in Algiers parish. In the three months I have had a home in these environs I have found that the locals are never at a loss for a reason to party. At this point my only options were to huddle in my boarded up house alone by the radio until the electricity gave out and await the waters to enter my living room – or to go hear hot music and enjoy the company of others in Algiers – the highest ground in New Toulouse. Off I went.

The party was a smashing affair and very well attended. I joined in with the band and, though I had not played the bass fiddle since my school days, I was able to keep up. The music director, the famed Gabrielle Riel, displayed a touch of dark humor, calling one song about rain and water and wind after another. The musicians were wailing, the people were dancing, the liquor was flowing…and then the zombies attacked!

I was not aware of what was going on outside when Mr. Breitman suddenly leaped up from the piano and headed for the door calling, “Keep the music going Mr. Whitfield.” I happily obliged until Abi and Amber, the club’s owners, began passing around the moonshine. It was my first taste of this famous local concoction and it certainly packed a punch! As I drank someone shouted, “New Babbage has sent naval assistance!” I assumed this was to help with hurricane relief and I went to the window to see. Had the music and partying not been so loud I would already have heard the sounds and not been so shocked at the sight of Mr. Breitman, rifle in hand, firing away at the dreaded zombies with the help of other locals and navy personnel from Babbage, including the Commodore. The fighting went on for some time but it didn’t stop the music and dancing. I saw one zombie take a direct hit and fall into the river. The militia seemed to have things under control so as the bullets passed by the window I returned to the safety of the bandstand. Such a wild time!

Back in New Toulouse proper the streets were now full of water but the sandbags at my door were still holding. I read several messages left by friends who had come calling while I was gone. Robyn came from the mainland and watched the channel rise from a bridge connecting to Bourbon. Seamus had come to take a tour but was unprepared, not expecting a storm of this magnitude. He had taken refuge in my guest house for a time and left a note, “Danko, are you sure you want to live in a place where such a thing as this can happen? Please send word when it’s over so I know you have survived.” Ms. Macchi, late of Winterfell, had explored the parishes more than once during the storm. While the streets were flooded she noted that the streetcar (named Desire) continued to operate. “Such service!” she wrote.

Much as I felt the need to remain and keep watch over the house there were a couple of items on my calendar and I thought a break from the intensity of the situation might be healthy. I ventured back to Winterfell and up to Ray Weyland’s estate for a party featuring a performance by Mr. Weyland, a noted writer and singer of songs in the acoustic style. It was my first chance to hear him and what a pleasant time it was. His relaxed presentation of original songs and a fine selection of familiar tunes was the respite I needed. I wore my steaming top hat with the settings on a purple hue in tribute to Winterfell and watched the dancing and hummed along.

Afterward I left on a brief journey to a faraway place on another grid. I found my way to Lost Pages, the lands Ms. Macchi has told me about so often. She is resettling there and so I established a time link and had transported there for a preliminary look. After further investigation I shall record my observations here.

On the return trip from that world I encountered a burp or “glitch” in time that had me back in New Toulouse in daylight. This was the “eye” of the storm – blue skies, gentle breeze. The water in the city streets was much higher now and I knew what that meant. When I got to the house it was just as I’d thought, the ground floor had flooded. Worse yet, long time residehnts of the city had told me that the worst of a hurricane comes after the eye passes. They were right.

The skies darkened and the wind picked up. The rain returned, the thunder and lightning too. The storm was at its height when I foolishly decided to venture outside for one more look. The rowboat was tied up in front of the house and was filling with water. I climbed in anyway for what turned out to be a very short trip. As I passed the cemetery I saw three zombies staggering about. It would have given me the chills if the hurricane had not done so already. Now that intrepid street car was approaching. A strong gust came up and pushed me toward it. I lost control of the boat and slammed into the street car, nearly capsizing. Struggling to right the tiny vessel I paddled as hard as I could back toward the house and looked up to see a tornado coming right down the middle of the street. This was absolutely unexpected and I paddled even more furiously, narrowly escaping the twister. The zombies, the streetcar, the tornado had all appeared in the space of five minutes or so. I got the message and took shelter. I stayed in the house for the remainder of the storm.

This storm is like none I have seen in all my years. I have heard tell of storms such as these and have experienced some hurricanes in the past but this was surely the worst. It was so mighty the local authorities chose to give it a name, Hurricane Adolphe. A proclamation was issued that all hurricane-level storms in New Toulouse in the future will be given a moniker following the letters of the alphabet. The next shall begin with B, then C and so on.

It is now Sunday afternoon and Adolphe is gone for good. As I write this, the sky is blue, the winds are near normal and the water in my living room is nearly waist-deep. I took a tour by rowboat thru New Toulouse proper, up to the Bayou and back via Bourbon parish to view the damage. Tonight I will give a prayer of thanks that no lives were lost and tomorrow, if the water recedes, the clean up will begin.

I hope never to paddle down these streets again. I hope the next time I see that blasted street car I am riding it through the city. I could go back to Cape Wrath, where I’d hoped to spend a quiet weekend, to enjoy the few hours the weekend has left but I don’t think the sounds of the sea are what I want to hear right now. Nor do I want to look at any water for awhile. So I’m off to my main home in Winterfell Laudanum for a stiff drink and some much needed rest.

Explorer’s Journal: Reverie and Beyond

The balloon was red and yellow. As it approached, it became clear that the man operating it was smoking a cigar.

Aren’t there rules about such things? Am I going to get into a balloon operated by a man who is smoking a cigar?

His crew of two had arrived earlier by boat. When the balloon was over our heads, the man with the cigar threw down the ropes, then the ladder. I climbed the ladder and crawled into the basket.

“Mr. Whitfield I presume?” he said matter of factly though loudly over the sound of the fire. It seemed a perfectly normal greeting but I had lived in a time when this would have been deemed a cliché or worse, a poor attempt at humor. The thought of all that made me laugh. A small laugh. I quickly added, “Yes, ah Mr. Northwind?” I had to shout as well. “At your service sir,” came his loud reply.

At that, he leaned over the side and shouted, “Jimmy!” He then removed his cigar and dropped it over the side. Jimmy stepped on it as he and the other man continued holding the ropes. “Are you ready sir?” “I am.” “Okay boys!” he said as he waved his right arm, “Here we go sir.”

The ferry was not running so I had hired Mr. Northwind’s hot air balloon for the day to travel up to Reverie. The day was warm. The sky had that Winterfell glow. The wind was just right – more than a breeze but less than a gale. It was a good day to explore.

I was headed to Reverie at the invitation of Ms. Dot Macchi, who has an estate there. Though she would be away, I had been encouraged to visit and explore the grounds. I had planned to make this trip earlier but Mr. “Quin” Oddenfen, who has been using Ms. Macchi’s estate as a base for his research work, had asked me to postpone. Now he had sent a message saying it would be an appropriate time to visit and requesting that I give him my impressions of his work thus far. I wasn’t sure exactly what Mr. Oddenfen’s work was about but he had told me enough to make me curious. He had talked of linking with other places but had never fully explained where these places were.

We landed in a clearing. Mr. Northwind let me off and stayed with the balloon. After descending the ladder I walked toward the Macchi estate which I could see through the woods. I glanced over my shoulder and saw Mr. Northwind lighting another cigar.

The estate sits on the southwest coast of Reverie, Weyland Manor to the north. It hosts two houses and a tower on the rocks just offshore. The larger house is Ms. Macchi’s cottage. I entered and found a dog nestled by the fireplace. As I stooped to pet the dog a cat spoke out. The cat had made itself quite comfortable on the couch and was clearly in a playful mood. I lingered for a few moments.

Outside again, I walked toward the smaller cottage which is where I assumed Mr. Oddenfen stayed when in residence. He was not home. Walking to this smaller house I had passed a clear, blue globe on a post. I returned to it and, after some hesitation, touched it. In a moment an elevator arrived, or rather appeared. Right away I had a suspicion about this contraption. Although its design was foreign to me, my experience caused me to wonder if this was, in fact, a time machine.

Inside there were two buttons, one for the Tower which I could see off shore. I pushed the other. The door shut and motion began. It was one raucous ride, I must say! It lasted several minutes. Even before opening the door, it was obvious quite some distance had been covered. But was this distance measured in space or time…or both?

I opened the door and walked into a very foreign place. Was it another world or another time? I was not sure. Nor was there a way to take measurements.

Some do find it strange that a time traveller would not wear even the most basic of measurement devices, a watch. Yet when one is travelling great distances such a simple meter would be of little value. And even if one had the extensive gauges available in a proper laboratory, these are only good for finding one’s way from here to there.

While time is, of course, a natural phenomenon, the measurement of such is a human concept done with manmade devices. A calendar, while useful in a given period of time, is a counting method based on rules that require an arbitrary starting point. There is nothing natural or “real” about it. It is only reality as we have decided to define and perceive it. If the train is to get from one end of its route to the other and successfully pick up and drop off its passengers, there must be a measurement of time. We must make an arbitrary decision as to what time it is right now for reasons of daily order. But as the songsmith Lamm once queried, “Does anybody really know what time it is?”

Enough philosophical and theoretical digression…

Wherever and whenever I was, I had certainly not seen such a place before. I was now glad there was no one else here so I could wander without concern. I would not be able to digest or catalogue all I would see on this one trip. Repeated visits and further investigation would be necessary to understand what lay before me. Most likely more trips than one would ever have time for. (Was that a pun?) The best I could do for now was a quick inventory of observations.

I appeared to be in some sort of remote outpost. The land was mountainous, the valley I was in was relatively small. There is no way to say what lay beyond the mountains. So it may not have been remote at all, again, there is no way to say. But it definitely had the “feel” of a remote outpost.

A river of hot, red lava flowed and burned down the mountainside in one area. I chose not to approach it. Nearby was an airship of a design I have not previously observed. Yet, inside it was appointed in a manner that arguably was not so different than something one might see in Caledon. I suppose from one world to another there are only so many ways one can appoint the inside of an airship.

Away from the airship was a structure that might serve as a station or home. The stairs leading to it brought me up to a main level with two rooms. They were empty. There was an observation deck, accessible by ladder, on the level above.

Back on the ground I looked up to see something in the sky above me. I can not say what it was as I must have been looking at the bottom of it. Its base was round, possibly of stone. It may have been a platform. As with the mountains, one could only imagine what lay on the other side.

My eye was drawn to a cave in the side of the mountain. The opening was wide enough – and it was lit well enough – that you could see before entering that there was a waterfall inside. I went in and found the light to be from two sources: a presumably natural opening in the rock above, which was large; and from crystals in the ground in two places. If there were others I did not notice.

I pondered the crystals for sometime. Taking a pencil from my pocket, I carefully and lightly touched one. Nothing happened. I poked a little harder. Something happened. It was not in a flash but there was a moment in which there may have been a sound or a mist or there may not have been, I am not sure. But after that moment the crystals changed color. I walked over to the other spot where crystals lay and touched one. That group changed color but a different color than the first. I touched it again and it changed to a new color. I went back to the first group and changed its color on touch again. I continued to use the pencil rather than the hand. The pencil showed no sign of deterioration (and worked just fine later) but I chose not to touch the crystals directly. After two more pokes which brought two more colors I thought it best to leave the crystals alone and walk away. I wondered if my touches caused more than just a color change but nothing around me had changed as far as I could tell. I can not say what these crystals are for. But I must say they were beautiful.

I left the cave and walked over to examine the only other structure I noticed on this visit.

It was a steam vent and steam was rising up from it but the source of this steam was not within my view.

There being nothing else to examine I boarded the “elevator” and returned to the grounds of Ms. Macchi’s estate. It was dark so I hurried through the woods to the balloon for the return ride home. Back in Laudanum I headed for The Emerald Inn to sit by the fire with a pint and my thoughts about what I had seen. It might be awhile before I would be ready to report back to Mr. Oddenfen. There was much to consider.

I Write Like…

During a recent trip to the 21st century I was made aware of a website called “I Write Like.” This site invites you to input good sized excerpts from your personal writing and analyzes which writer of note your style most resembles. Why I bothered I do not know. Vanity may have played into it though one would hope not. Possibly it was simply my sense of fun.

I entered the text of my Letter from New Toulouse which appears on these pages and “clicked” the button. The result came most quickly proclaiming that I write like David Foster Wallace. Interesting.

As I was about to move on to other things it occurred to me to enter another of my writings for analysis. I selected my entry, Day of Change and was told that I write like James Joyce. This was a bit much to take and caused me to laugh quite loudly.

But why stop there? I continued to “cut and paste” several other essays I have penned and published here. The first eight that were entered were met with the names of eight different authors. It does cause one to wonder if perhaps they suffer from some sort of multiple personality disorder. On the ninth try finally an author’s name was repeated by the analyzer. I submitted a total of ten manuscripts which I have published previously on these pages. Should you be interested, here are the results. They are listed in the order in which they were analyzed, rather than their order of appearance here.

Letter from New Toulouse – David Foster Wallace

Day of Change – James Joyce

Winterfell, The First Days – Douglas Adams

Journey to Ravens Reach – Ursala K. LeGuin

Letter from Austral – Arthur C. Clarke

Date With A Beauty – Raymond Chandler

Whitfield Talks of Franklin’s Civic Strategy – Kurt Vonegut

The Five W’s – Gertrude Stein

An Introduction – Douglas Adams

Explorer’s Journal: Austral – Arthur C. Clarke

Now that you know that my work has been compared to so many great authors you may wish to go back and read my entries again. Ha!

Should you decide to visit the I Write Like website and try this process yourself I would suggest you do as I did and enter only the body of your text, skipping its title. I also deleted notations such as the date or time if they appeared in the original text. I only submitted the actual narrative of each entry. However, I must warn you that at this point the entire exercise seems like a tremendous waste of time.

Before I close, let me just enter the article you are reading here and see whose writing this most resembles. I shall not include the list of titles and authors above.

Just one moment…

I write like H.P. Lovecraft.