To Soar Like Rockets

By Andrew Dunn

Ehsan squinted through thick lenses, aged fingers working the tiniest pliers and scissors he had to complete his masterpiece. One by one he weaved threads, each no thicker than the grey on his head, to create rigging every bit as elaborate as that which adorned sailing ships of old. Ehsan felt it fitting to decorate his masterpiece that way – this ship was different than other models he’d constructed in his spare time.

“Spare time.” Ehsan huffed. That’s all there was anymore, after he’d retired from the mines.

In place of masts and sails he placed a balsa wood frame and sheathed it in white mylar to form a dirigible’s balloon. On either side there were wing-like structures with moveable flaps, manipulated using interconnected gears culled from old timepieces. A rudder was affixed aft of the balloon, controlled by thin lines that led down into the wheelhouse. The craft itself was loosely based on dhows Ehsan remembered from his childhood in Marjand.

Childhood seemed such a distant memory, as Ehsan christened his masterpiece Al-Sadiq, ‘The Friend’, and placed on her decks captain and crew whittled from birch and pine. Each sailor was painted in vibrant hues; they knew their roles – some would study charts and plot the course; others would tend lines, flaps, and rudder; a contingent would stand ready with long guns to load and fire from behind gunwales if the time came.

The only thing missing was the magic.

Ehsan rose up gingerly and steadied himself on his cane. Then, he moved slowly over tile until he reached the closet where an old shoebox waited. Ehsan removed the lid, cradled a cloth bundle from inside the box, and carried it back to his workbench.

The memento wrapped in cloth was at once an old friend, and at the same time a memory distant and far removed from the day he’d chipped it free from the moon’s interior a generation before. Back then, Ehsan and so many other young men gave up work on dhows to soar on rockets bound for the moon. They slaved deep in lunar mines digging out magic for a succession of multinational corporations to earn remittance money they sent back to loved ones in Marjand.

As hard as those years were, Ehsan couldn’t help but stare out his window at the full moon rising, feeling as though a part of him still belonged up there, so far away. It made giving the stone away even harder.

Ehsan steeled himself, “You have to, old man. It’s time.”

Ehsan placed the stone inside his masterpiece’s hull. The magic in that rock began to feed off the full moon’s vitality, breathing life into the good ship and crew. Ehsan knew Al-Sadiq would rise up aloft any minute, begging to fly.

The old man shuffled on his cane, from workbench to his window, and flung it wide open. It would be up to his masterpiece to soar like rockets did so long ago, and carry his memento back home where it belonged.

This story originally appeared in 365 Tomorrows.
Edited by Tochukwu Okafor

Andrew Dunn's stories have been previously been published in Antipodean SF, 365 Tomorrows, Daily Science Fiction, and will soon be in Penumbric Speculative Fiction.