Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Intermundia Airport (Chapter 3).

Chapters 1 and 2.

They were sitting on a bench in a large plaza adjacent to the platforms.
'Did you work out the route last night?' Giacomo asked Eddie. Eddie looked sheepish. 'I thought it was your turn.' Giacomo growled. 'Every time, every single time!' They took out notepads and started scribbling furiously, their eyes darting from the platform sign to the route display. He looked at the platform sign and noticed something peculiar: the number seemed to be changing at a regular interval.
'What's going on?' he asked.

Eddie looked up from his notepad. 'The system is....a little complicated. The number of the platform changes every twenty seconds. So, platform 1 changes to platform 2, and so on, and the whole system of stops moves like a wave, back and forth throughout the day. Now, the problem is that the number of the trains also change, every thirty seconds. So the train you get on will be a completely different train, with different stops, by the time you get to your destination.'
'And your destination will have a completely different name by the time you get there,' Giacomo interjected.
'So you have to run two different sets of calculations, to insure that the train you get on will stop at the platform that your destination has become by the time you get there.'
They returned to their scribbling and bickering.

'Platform 4b will be platform 2b at 4.15p.m., right?' Eddie was saying. 'If we take the 25C train at 4.15, we should get to Central Command at 6.30. So at 6.30, the 25C will be the 48A, and Central Command will be Terminal 123B, right? Does the 48A stop at 123B?' 

Who could have composed such a tortuously bewildering and perverse method of organising rail schedules? And to what end? It made him nauseous just to look at the security guards with their furrowed brows, poring over endlessly revised diagrams that floated in a sea of scribbled computation. Was this how Intermundia Airport controlled its workers? By insulating them from the rest of world, and brow-beating them with a system of absurdities that made the simplest thing an ordeal? Did they really pass their entire existences here, in this hub of ceaseless motion, still points fixed in a sea of transience? He felt almost sorry for them, if that were the case. They seemed like rodents, or some other poor beasts, that eked out their living on the interstices of a teeming motorway. No scavenging rat or fox could comprehend the meaning of cars and trucks, or fathom who had built them and what function they served. Yet the system of the motorway enclosed their entire being, imprinting itself in the seat of their instincts and reflexes. They lived off the scraps of this system, which never ceased its motion, and was as inscrutable to them as nature is to us. 

'We've got it!' Eddie said with a bright smile. 'And a few minutes to spare as well. Are you hungry?' He went off to a little kiosk to buy coffee, pastries and a newspaper. The Moroccan in the kiosk seemed to know him well. They made jokes about their wives, and the general dissatisfactions of existence. 'Yesterday it finally happened,' the Moroccan said, 'I am fatter than my wife. That was the only thing I ever had over her!' Giocomo passed the time by glancing at women with a lazy, non-committal gleam of lust. He had trained his facial muscles to hover on the periphery of a smile that never quite appeared, a sly apparition haunting his eyes and the edge of his mouth. 

Eddie came back with breakfast. He refused a pastry but excepted a Styrofoam cup of coffee. The cup was branded with an image of two crudely anthropomorphized coffee beans, a male and female. The male, with large, bulging eyeballs, was accosting the female: “I'VE GOT A CRUSH ON YOU”, he was saying. 'We better get moving,' Giacomo announced, and they took off briskly through the plaza, weaving around its maze of stalls, kiosks and terraces. The people who staffed the kiosks were from all over the world: Europeans, Asians, Africans, South Americans. The majority, he noted, carried out their work with quiet, disengaged patience, and seemed to glance at intervals to the left of their peripheral vision, as though something hidden were progressing behind the ordinariness of their lives, and the routinised bustle of the station. 

As they got closer to the platforms, the roar of the trains drowned out every other sound, and the whole scene assumed a distant quality, as though it were underwater. The vendors and their costumers communicated adroitly with hand signals. He had gulped back his coffee greedily, and the caffeine and sugar hit him in a sudden, ecstatic rush. For the briefest instant, he felt rapturously happy and alive. In that moment, the lack of a past was a blessing that rooted him firmly in the present instant like a virgin seed. Similarly, the absurdity of his situation felt like a kind of liberation: in a world without reason, he was free to exist fully in each instant, without hopes or expectations of any kind, only the neutral purity of his sensations. The world was alive with the power, the speed and the sound of the trains, hurtling off in unimaginable directions.

That wondrous sensation evaporated in a flash, leaving him only with a image: he saw himself, lead by Eddie and Giacomo through the crowd, suddenly become incandescent, as though some ray of the sun had pierced through the vast fortress of steel and concrete overhead, and turned his body into a brief avatar of the stellar heavens. Then he was returned to the jittery awareness of a living nightmare. Eddie motioned towards a train. Sleek, gunmetal grey, the design of its front carriage resembled the snout of a bloodhound or shark, some metallic predator that strained against the brief stasis imposed by the stop. They embarked, and the doors snapped after them as though to nip at their heels.

They took their seats at a table. In contrast to the train's gleaming and vigorous outer shell, the interior reminded him of the mournful decrepitude of the Intermundia Overnight. The materials of the seating, the fabric and designs of the carpet and cushions all shared that sad quality of a thing which had never been new, a place prematurely soiled by cigarette smoke and the intestinal anxiety of endless bad dinners and portentous appointments. It had the ambience of a hospital cafeteria, of the blanched aesthetics of a failed bureaucratic regime whose utopian dreams lingered on only as an ancestral spirit that whispered hollowly in the bite of the wind. He was lost for a moment in a reverie of such a world: a wintry city of concrete geometry and faded furniture, where the people had, over generations of perpetual paranoid vigilance, evolved into silent, industrious and inscrutable masks, working and eating and bearing their children like automatons. Inside each of them there must have been fugitive dreams and fantasies, imaginative worlds vast and discontinuous as their public lives were solid and circumscribed, luxurious desires that far outstripped the cold formalism of their marriages, heresies, hymns and obscenities sung beneath the affectless composure of their visible lives. And yet none could ever know for sure if they alone possessed these riotous inner kingdoms, and all others were precisely as they appeared on the outside, such were they all subject to the perpetual fear of a vigilant bureaucracy which might, for all they knew, have ceased to exist many generations ago, for there was no outwardly discernible difference between the total success of the regime, and its complete absence.

Eddie looked relived. 'Well, we're on the right train anyway, look - ' he said, pointing in the direction of a table towards the rear of the carriage. The table seated four individuals – two men and two women – who were clearly distinguishable from the rest of the crowd by virtue of their dress and bearing. The women and one of the men were Caucasian, with the fourth having an African appearance. They were all tall and lean, with beautifully symmetrical features and a kind of coltish quality that suggested superior breeding. They wore sober, finely tailored business clothes, the women with blouses of a lustrous, delicate silk, and the men with crisp suits that looked fresh from the rack. The group weren't speaking, and the two that faced him had lazy, slight grins fixed on their faces, as though savouring a private joke.

There was something unnerving about this group which was difficult to pin-point. As he watched, it occurred to him that they didn't seem to make the slightest movement – they were as still as a photograph against the rushing terrain of the window. It was as though they had fallen asleep with their eyes open and alert. Their detached, patrician bearing suggested beings who inhabited their bodies with the evanescent casualness of tourists.
'They're technocrats,' Eddie explained, 'on their way to Central, no doubt.'
'Are they case officers?' he asked.
'No, the case officers tend to be a little older. I would imagine that they are traffic controllers, or some lower functionaries of the technocrat class.'

He was thinking again that it was surely all a dream. It didn't feel like a dream, but was that not after all the nature of dreams? It was supremely comforting to entertain the fantasy that he would soon be waking up in his own bed, luxuriating in that keen sense of relief that often comes in the wake of a disagreeable dream. Would he be married? Rich or poor? Happy or miserable? Perhaps in his real life he knew Eddie and Giacomo, or some or other of the technocrats, in an altered guise. It was almost blissful, for a moment, to imagine the whole situation vanish abruptly like a swollen soap bubble, and become no more than a fragmentary riddle he would carry around for a day or so.

The train passed through a monotonous expanse of concrete tunnel illuminated by large yellow and orange sodium lamps. Occasionally, they passed an embankment where crews of workers toiled on construction sites, welding large iron girders and wheeling concrete blocks about. After longer intervals, they arrived at various stops, and the personnel of the carriage morphed rapidly, with the exception of the technocrats, who remained poised in their seats with their strange half-smiles. Each of the stops had its own distinct architectural style, as though belonging to a different country or temporal period. The passage of time and distance became difficult to gauge. He felt that they were going deeper underground.

'How long have you guys been working together?' he asked, to break the silence.
'Well,' Eddie replied, 'that's a difficult one to answer. How long is a piece of string?'
This seemed to set Giacomo off again.
'I hate that one!,' he growled.
'What one?'
'That expression “How long is a piece of string.”'
'What's wrong with it?'
'Well, show me the piece of string!'
'Show me the piece of string, and I'll tell you how long it is.'
'That's not the point. There is no piece of string.'
'Then why ask how long it is?'
'It's a figure of speech. It's not a specific piece of string, it's a notional piece of string. It's any piece of string. How long is any piece of string? Who knows?'
They were both getting red-faced.
'There is no such thing as any piece of string, there are only specific pieces of string. And if there is a specific piece of string, it can be measured. It's the easiest thing in the world to measure.'
Eddie looked away from Giacomo with resignation:
'You want to know how long we've been working together? An eternity. That's how long we've been working together. An eternity!'
Giacomo shrugged. Eddie, perhaps aware that he was becoming weary of their endless bickering, passed him the newspaper. 'You can read this if you like,' he said, 'to pass the time. It's always good to stay informed.”

The paper was called the Intermundia Chronicle. The masthead featured an image of an airplane ascending diagonally in a circle, and the slogan: “BEASTS ASK FOR MERE FOOD AND SHELTER; MEN ASK “WHAT NEWS?” In lieu of a date, the paper was simply designated TODAY'S EDITION. He read the lead article:

Mankind's Moment of Triumph Turns to Eerie Tragedy: Returning Astronauts Replaced by Lifeless Mannequins.

Drake Space Centre, Cape Canaveral, Florida – We all watched in awe and suspense as the American astronauts Mike Summers and Budd 'Slingshot' McGinty became the first men to walk on the surface of the moon. On the day that the world was due to welcome back the heroic Mithras 5 crew – Summers, McGinty and Command Module pilot Frank Logan – the assembled world press discovered only grief, confusion and macabre horror. We knew that 3 days ago (July 23) the command module Mercury splashed down near the Utirik Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, where it was met by the recovery vessel USS Philadelphia.

Then came the silence – and the rumours. For two successive days, the press men who had gathered on Florida's Space Coast were kept in the dark about the circumstances of the Mercury's re-entry and splashdown. During today's sombre press conference, chaired by USAF General Tyrone McClinton and Mithras 5 CAPCOM Duke Toynbee, the world finally learned the truth.

As journalists assembled in the Drake auditorium, audible gasps were heard. The seats reserved for the heroic astronauts were occupied by an eerie trio of store-front mannequins. General McClinton explained that Mission Control had lost radio contact with the Mercury Module some 14 minutes before the scheduled splashdown. “We weren't too alarmed, and felt that things would go according to plan without further communication at that point,” Toynbee added. However, when divers from the Philadelphia investigated the floating capsule in the early hours of July 23rd, they noted that Summers, McGinty and Logan had been replaced by the mannequins present at the conference. According to McClinton: “The men who made this grim discovery are still in a distraught condition. Whether or not they will return to active duty, it is unlikely that they will ever be able to pass a department store without experiencing extreme distress.”

Next, Florida state pathologist and noted ethnomusicologist Lonnie Vargas spoke briefly about his examination of the mannequins carried out with the assistance of a Sears and Roebuck window dresser. “The figurines themselves are quite unremarkable. They are constructed of a terrestrial wax and plaster composite which is standard for the industry. As you can see, no attempt has been made to mimic the actual appearances of Summers, McGinty and Logan. Rather, they have the unnerving, doll-like quality common to the mannequin – I would call it the suggestion of a distant, anaesthetized happiness. In lieu of genitals, they have the smooth, rounded protuberance common to the dummy.”

Investigation of the phenomenon is advancing on two principal lines of enquiry: scientific explanation, or possible sabotage by the Russian Comrades. Toynbee explained: “At the present time, we know of no conceivable naturalistic mechanism as to how the flight to the moon and subsequent re-entry might cause the transformation of living human tissue into plaster-based lifeless simulacra.General McClinton suggested that the uncanny mystery bore the imprimatur of the Kremlin: “This is precisely the kind of transformation the Comrades would gladly enforce on the entire planet – turning free men into standardized dummies!” He added, however, that there was at present no plausible scenario for how the Comrades could have made the switch in the available timeline.

The mannequins were dressed in checkered wool flannel shirts and half wool cashmere slacks, a sneak preview of the Sears and Roebuck autumn catalogue. Pipes had been provided to complete the rugged, rustic look. Despite the intensely sombre and portentous nature of the occasion, all agreed that the ensembles were quite becoming. General McClinton praised the versatility of the new line, noting that “everybody would feel comfortable in these, from college Johnny to retiree Joe!”
Puzzled by how such a blatant flight of fancy could be presented as an item of factual journalism, he scanned some of the other headlines:

Department of Health Warning: Physical Acts of Intimacy May Be Catalyst for Invasion of Little People – Home Office: “First they take Your Identity – Eventually they will Bury You” - Conservative MP: “The Little People are Inculcating the Ethos of the Welfare State in Every Home.”

'But this is nonsense,' he finally blurted, pushing the newspaper away.
Giacomo sneered. 'Sorry, Einstein.'
Eddie seemed upset. 'The Chronicle has a superb reputation, I can assure you.'
'This paper has a reputation - '
'Yes, yes, the Chronicle is really above reproach. Their diligence is outstanding.'
'Their diligence - '
'I wouldn't mislead you, sir. They have excellent fact checkers, really tireless.'
'Fact checkers?'
'Absolutely. If they discover that any factual content has crept into a story, sir, they immediately issue a retraction. That happens very, very rarely – but whenever it does, I can assure you, the offending content is retracted immediately.'
'But – newspapers are supposed to be factual!'
Eddie and Giacomo regarded him as though he were drunk.
'Where did you get that idea from?'
'Well – I don't know – I can't remember – you mean that they're pure fantasy?'
'What else would they be?'
'But – don't people want to know what's happening - what's going on around them?'
Eddie look at him incredulously, and then sighed: 'Well, why would they want to? Nothing happens here, nothing at all really. People arrive, and then they go away' – he moved his hand from side to side – 'arrive, then away. What kind of news would that be? It would be the same paper, every single edition: “Yesterday, Some People Arrived in Intermundia Airport, and Some Others Departed from It.” Not very simulating news, is it? Not very edifying work, either for the journalist or the reader. But delusions and flights of fantasy – well, sir, they need not be so static and predictable.'
A look of mournful longing came over Eddie's face as he continued:
'Well, for most people, I suppose they would. They say, sir, that the average chimpanzee who is taken from the wilderness to the zoo soon forgets the forest, and dreams only of the bars of his cage. And that's the way it is for most of us. But the journalist is an exceptional creature – he has somehow cultivated the temperature of his imagination, so that it is a hothouse where strange, luxuriant things blossom.'
Giacomo nodded at Eddie with a look of sardonic cruelty:
'He wanted to be a journalist when he was younger!'
'I did – I still do. But – oh, it's too late now. Too late. I wouldn't even get a job as a stenographer in one of the papers now. But what a life – what a wonderful life! The journalist doesn't sleep much at night. What does he do? Well, I imagine he wanders about, talking to the people who work the night-shift, looking at the planes in the night sky, having adventures in a world that the rest of us don't see. The journalist, you see, must be awake and active while most of us are dreaming. This allows him to dream while while the rest of us toil away in the workaday world. The busy news office is a work environment like no other. It is make up of rows of hammocks, which serve as the journalists' desks. And when the reporter clocks in to work in the morning, he lays himself out on his hammock. It is considered professional to wear pyjamas or perhaps a dressing gown, but the occasional maverick arrives to work fully clothed. There are hookahs positioned by the hammocks, and some of the journalists consume narcotics to insure a greater accuracy in their work. Imagine it! Everywhere else, there is noise and bustle and busyness. But in the newspaper office, a blissful silence, a languor, a porous, dreamy atmosphere, plumes of smoke swirling into evanescent patterns above the recumbent workers, the Sandman lulling softly to sleep those strenuous, invisible weavers who knit our thoughts together into rational and coherent sentences. The journalist, you see, in order to file his stories, must drift into a trance-like state, neither fully conscious or asleep. A place between the two states – an airport, if you like, which is not really one country or another, where the point of departure and the destination are blurred together. And when he becomes thus inspired, the journalist begins to speak in a low whisper. Crouched at a little desk beneath the hammock, his head aslant so that his ear is close to the whispering mouth, the stenographer records each journalist's dream, editing factual and biographical material out as he goes. What a strange place – a gaggle of hushed voices, distant and unfamiliar, and keys clacking to catch them in ink before they vanish forever – the place where the daily news is made!'
Eddie had an awestruck, faraway expression as he contemplated the life of the journalist. Giacomo continued to goad him:
'But you tried, didn't you? You tried to be a journalist - '
'Oh, shut up Giacomo - '
'But when you lay down on the hammock, and drifted off into your trance - '
'The only news stories you could come up were events from your own life - '
In low voice: 'Only the bars of my cage...'
'Trivial little episodes – broken hearts and roast dinners - '
'Only the bars.....'
' - that the stenographers instantly edited away into nothing.'
The pair fell silent, Giacomo apparently satisfied at having humiliated Eddie. Nothing happened for a long time, and he felt an unbearable tension, as though one of them would soon have to become hysterical or violent. Then Eddie's face brightened.
'I think we're here at long last!' he said.

The train was stopping. Eddie and Giacomo got up briskly from their seats and headed in the direction of the doors. He followed then reluctantly, becoming aware that his nerves were mounting again now that the journey was completed. Stepping out on the platform was the most awesome shock he had yet experienced in Intermundia Airport. The station was a vast cyclopean enclosure, more redolent of an ancient temple or mausoleum than a train stop. The structure's brooding air of antiquity and scale, so incongruently juxtaposed with the poised, illuminated train, took his breathe away. He had that quiet, eerie perturbation of soul that a person experiences when they cast a rock into a dim abyss, and only a prolonged silence follows. The technocrats glided away, the clack of the women's heels echoing through the vast space like tumbling pebbles. Then the train took off again, departing into a tunnel so small and dim that it seemed to simply pass through the stone wall. Its sound died away slowly and a profound silence filled the cavern, like a vigilant animal resuming its habitual watchfulness having just swallowed the last morsel of a meal. 

Eddie and Giacomo remained immobile, leaving him a moment to take in his surroundings. The outer walls were constructed with huge, misshapen limestone boulders, fitted together in a haphazard fashion which made him recall – for some obscure reason – Eddie's earlier discussion of a putative asymmetry in the human mouth which implied senility or malice on the part of the creator. Nearer the tracks, a series of pillars, terminating in cornices at the roof of the cavern, suggested a later, more sophisticated addition. The pillars were carved with abstract decorative figures of a sensibility so obscure that it felt almost impious to contemplate them in the harsh light of the orange sodium lamps.
Finally, Eddie nudged him gently.
'Your case officer is over there.'
He turned and followed Eddie's pointing finger. High up above the tunnels where the train had just departed, a massive, brooding face was carved into the limestone where the wall met the roof of the cavern. Indistinct in terms both of race and sex, the features were austere and expressionless with the exception of the eyes, which were fixed with fierce concentration on the platform floor. It was, he thought, the perfect epitome of a primitive ruler of infinite power and eternal, implacable judgement, a ruler whose silence and immobility contained the clap and the rent of thunder. He became conscious of Eddie and Giacomo's bodies shaking behind him. Turning, he found that they were laughing silently.

'Sorry,' Eddie said, red-faced, 'sorry – I can never resist that one. Parts of this underground are very old. Who knows who that fella is up yonder? He wouldn't make much of a case officer though.'
Giacomo was sniggering. 'We're going this way,' Eddie said, having composed himself, and they made off away from the platform. As they neared the far wall, he noticed that there was a single kiosk in the gloom. The kiosk sold pretzels, pastries, coffee and newspapers. A wizened, heavily made-up woman with a sullen expression sat inside smoking a cigarette. A good half of the cigarette was untipped ash that seemed always on the point of falling away. 

'Busy today Maria?' Eddie enquired as they passed. The woman in the kiosk extracted the cigarette from the side of her mouth in a distasteful manner, as though it were a thermometer. She grunted, rolled her eyes slightly, and returned the cigarette. Her bulging eyes and rhythmic inhalations reminded him of a fish in a tank.

'She's one of those women who can smoke an entire cigarette without tipping it once,' Eddie said, 'it's a skill that the older generation have. I used to watch my grandmother doing it.'
'I had an uncle,' Giacomo interjected, 'who could smoke an entire cigarette without exhaling any smoke! I was fascinated by this as a child, and I asked my father where the smoke went. He told me that my uncle farted all the smoke out of his asshole like a chimney before he went to bed. To this day, I still want to know where all that smoke went!'

They reached the far wall. The lichen-mottled stone had been excavated, and a modern structure built into the wall. Eddie opened the glass door, and they entered what appeared to be an abandoned work station of some kind. It was a dingy complex that branched off into offices, store-rooms and a canteen where a fluorescent lamp flickered and buzzed. Tools, hard-hats, Styrofoam cups and old newspapers were scattered on the floor, and a thick smell of kerosene and disinfectant hung in the hair. 

'This place,' Giacomo said sourly. They walked through dimly lit corridors for what seemed like an age. Occasionally, they encountered other security guards escorting New Arrivals back through the complex from Central Command. The New Arrivals had haunted, perplexed expressions, and appeared dissociated from their surroundings. He was troubled by the awareness that this situation would be reversed in a short time – he would be returning, and encountering others on-route. Finally, they arrived in the main electrical distribution room, and Eddie typed a code into a steel door behind a row of switchboards. He was smiling. 'I hope you're ready for some exercise.' The three men entered a narrow, dark metallic shaft. Giacomo shone a pen-sized torch, revealing a steel ladder fixed to the wall. 'We have to climb,' Eddie said, 'I'll go first, and you can go in the middle. That way, if you fall, Giacomo's thick skull should cushion you.' Giacomo grunted.

He looked up, but it was impossible to determine the extent of the shaft in the darkness. 'Is it high?' he whispered. 'It's not too bad', Eddie said, 'just take it one step at a time.' Eddie started climbing, and when his feet were a few rungs above his head, Giacomo nudged him to begin. He felt strangely powerless and fixed his hands on the railing. Soon all three were ascending the ladder at a deliberate pace. The darkness of the shaft became nearly complete, and he orientated himself by means of Eddie's heavy panting above, and the sound of Giacomo's feet below. His arms became fatigued, but whenever his pace slackened, Giacomo's head butted brusquely against his feet. His hands were slick with perspiration. He wanted to tell them to stop, to turn back, but his mouth was dry, and he seemed to have lost all volition in the arduousness of the climb. 

'We should sing a song,' Eddie said above, 'Giacomo, would you like to sing a few bars of something?' Giacomo grunted. 'Well, I suppose I better sing one.' They continued climbing. Eddie started to sing a lullaby in a strange, affected lilt which was completely unlike his speaking voice:

Train whistle blowin',
Makes a sleepy noise,
Underneath their blankets
Go all the girls and boys.

Rockin', rollin', ridin',
Out along the bay,
All bound for Morningtown
Many miles away.

Eddie paused, and his breaths came in thick, wheezing gasps. 'Come on gang, join in', he said finally, and continued:

Driver at the engine,
Fireman rings a bell,
Sandman swings the lantern
To show that all is well.

Giacomo joined in the second chorus, and the combination of their discordant and poorly synchronized voices was eerie and terrifying:

Rockin', rollin', ridin',
Out along the bay,
All bound for Morningtown,
Many miles away.

He was getting more exhausted and faint-headed, and his mind entertained grimly elaborate conceits. Perhaps the stern stone visage had really been his case officer after all. Perhaps it had, in that instant, judged him for sins that he would never remember, and consigned him to this punishment: to climb the darkened shaft for all eternity, trapped between two madmen, perpetually on the brink of total exhaustion. Above, Eddie continued to sing:

Somewhere there is sunshine,
Somewhere there is day,
Somewhere there is Morningtown,
Many miles away.

After another bout of choked spluttering, Eddie stopped climbing. 'Slow down a bit there!', he shouted. He struggled for a moment with a latch, then lifted himself up. There was a heavy clang, and then white daylight coursed through the shaft, like water through a sluice. With the light came brisk, revivifying fresh air, and a gentle sound that stirred something in his memories. Eddie had clambered out of the shaft, and he followed with a sudden burst of energy, lifting himself over the edge of a steel trap-door, and rolling over soft ground to lie on his back. 

He was looking up at the blue sky through a dense canopy of coiling branches and fluttering leaves. They were in a forest. His senses were ravished by this first encounter with nature since arriving in Intermundia. He inhaled deeply the scent of soil, grass and bark. He knew them so intimately that they were like a childhood memory, or the memory of childhood itself, come back to him. He stood up, and his eyes delighted in the colours and forms of the forest, so vivid and alive after his journey through the steel and concrete landscape of the terminals, runways and underground.
Giacomo was emerging nonchalantly from the shaft. Eddie sat against a tree stump, wiping sweat from his brow and smiling boyishly. 'It's easier going back down,' he said. 

 "Morningtown Ride", lyrics by Malvina Reynolds.  Continued shortly.