The sickly-sweet smell of solder, thin wisps of smoke wafting in the air. The drip-drip-drip of sweat, slowly pouring over unkempt brows furrowed deep in consternation. The dull thud of metal on wood. Ka-thunk. Ka-thunk.
Pffft. An arsewhisper laid skillfully, just under the threshold of hearing – followed by a noxiously vile assault on the nostrils: an acrid stench of fermented cabbage & rancid cheese. Another day, another silent killer that no one would own up to.
Szsssssst. The sound of scorched skin. Muffled laughter at a team-mate’s silent screams, invoked by the scathing solder-iron’s sweet caress. Hehehehe.
I do believe we got off to a good start, and it was Mike quoting a young Christopher G.L. Wallace when he spastically yelled out at random: “Steeled toe gat straps, with infra-red beams!” This seemed to have a net-positive effect on team morale, and was the push we needed to begin an arduous day; a day that would grow overly ripe with the sounds and smells of banging, clanging and slanging.
A day that harkened back to the metallurgical wonders of the Bronze age… even as it beckoned us to bathe in illustrious reminiscence of the Golden age of hip-hop and Alternative. Little did we know stranded in our almost-Orwellian Oasis, what the epic journey would entail – sounds spanning several epochs, from the third millennium B.C. to the posthumous beats of Notorious B.I.G.
A Champagne Super Nova….
“Enough of that malarkey!” A distinguished gentleman remarked, casually. “You grow too familiar, sir!” I replied in a strangely pitched, nerdy and highly embarrassing accent. As I was lacking fire-breathing drakes on each shoulder, his wild laughter followed by a contemptuous sneer bruised an already-battered ego. The exchange snapped us out of our collective reverie as reality betch-slapped us in the face: the harsh realization that we were the hoi-polloi, peons with pliers … and worse yet, that we needed work, desperately. Skullduggery! We all knew it was so, but breadwinners were highly prized (and ever rarer) in our uber-competitive, self-cannibalizing society.
In the War of the Rosin, you either Pass or Fail; the latter being a sort of slow, self-induced type of torture as one braced for a grueling queue that often lasted many moons, wasting away with other ill-favored peasants who petition alike endlessly, hoping to be granted an audience with either of the Two Great Vicars of Voorhees.
Beknownst to all in person by their august appearance and from afar by their distinctive coat-of-arms, one Great House emblem bears a crescent shield with a loaf of sweetbread amidst a Baker’s oven, enveloped by the glowing tendrils of a fire-daemon that sets the hearth ablaze. Of the other Great House insignia, portrayed is a scenic field of green beneath blue skies and overlaid at the foreground, a giant Smith’s hammer wrought of tempered steel, crossed with a Shepherd’s Sling. Their likeness is awesome to behold and the power they represent, unmistakeable.
The One was known to be Fair & Just, having obtained mastery over the classical quadrivium, a maestro of music and purveyor of other fine arts, wise in disposition and of a gregarious nature … the Other… I dare not speak any further for fear of reprisal! Let it be said that if fortune fares against you, it could induce a sickness, a madness that threatens to consume the mind… forced to throw oneself at the feet of any minor bureaucrat who is willing to listen, begging for a chance at redemption, often just pleading to be heard… I beseech any mortal man, that he should rightly cower at the mere thought of a fate as cruel as the one I describe thusly!
I let out a meek “yes, m’lord,” and the upwardly-mobile gentleman departed, oozing schadenfreude and a sublime self-satisfaction.
Work began as thus: Thin push rods of bronze were pushed, as their nome-de-plume implied and several precise bends were made, at a measurement we carefully discerned by taking twice the degree of axial tilt the earth exhibited on that date, minus Planck’s constant. Or by reading the instructions which said 45 degrees – but uh, Ey oh! Boopity boppity.
A wondrous metallic alloy was used, itself being electrically conductive, conducive to productive tasks, although offensive to little green men residing within the olfactory… that bonded the metal of the push rods with what could only be called a truly tiny, tiny little pipe. OMG, soo tiny! ^_^
The level of workmanship required to solder said pipe to the push rod without causing catastrophic loss of pipeyness was beyond the scope of our lamentable ‘skillz’. Glancing up, we became dismayed. The sun’s warmth was a distant memory and only the truly foolhardy worked into the perils of the night. With the cascading darkness rapidly approaching a deep foreboding settled in and chilled the bones; sheer trepidation struck suddenly as we scattered – cowards! Invertebrate cretin, each and every one! As I ran, the footsteps beating the pavement somehow seemed as some-other’s: growing fainter, then impossibly far away; was it *I* feigning, feinting, fading … from self? My mind was vacuous, reeling, incapable or unwilling to see the danger plainly visible ahead in the garden of forking paths… and for a long, lingering moment as time slowed to a crawl and bent – the sounds of a cold, cold world were muffled by the siren’s song of an immense, relativistic solder sucker in the sky…
An ominous voice echoed deep within the cavernous recesses of my mind’s-eye:
“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King.”