ewhightower

Posts Tagged ‘NFTF’

Skyfire Part V

In Fiction, Sci-Fi, Skyfire on May 25, 2015 at 6:45 pm

That first year, most of you remember, we didn’t venture far. When we found the connection to the mines, we didn’t know what to make of it. Was it luck? Probably. I don’t know. Was it Maxwell, leading us to safety? I like to think so. Ten years later, you all know how I feel about him. He was a member of our family, even if only for a time. We, all of us in camp, were his pack. He could never replace Tony, but he made that loss easier to bear. Some of you joke that Maxwell is my Totem animal. That may be.

But what matters now, is us. Standing here and looking out over the Central Valley, I can tell you that I believe we’ll make it. In spite of the fireballs, the storms, in spite of those people with the glowsticks around their necks, I believe we’ll all make it. You can stay here in the mines if you want. Our parents set everything up nicely. We’re pretty safe, and we could thrive. For a time. But I think that it will be safer across the valley, in the mountains. It’s more than the text from Mr. Amberson, it’s more than Maxwell.

I know you’re scared. So am I. But we have to try.

We owe it to Anselm, we owe it to our parents. We owe it to Tony.

I don’t know if we’ll ever find Maxwell again.

But I have hope.

I do.

Because there’s something I found, today, that I want to read to you. I found it here, under this rock, near the entrance. You can see that it’s got some reflective plastic ribbon taped to it. I don’t think I would have found it if I’d been here at any other time. Seeing sunlight in the mine is what brought me here, and the angle of the sunrise hit the ribbon just so. I’m not saying it’s significant. I’m saying it’s lucky. Anyway, it’s dated October 4, 2012, and here’s what it says:

“Dear Veronica,

You’re standing at a crossroads, not merely in time, but also in reality. The fissure in this mountainside leads into a place very much like that from which we come, but slightly altered. If you find this note, stay here. I’ve left a cache of supplies that should keep you comfortable for quite some time. They’re outside the fissure, in an oil can buried next to the coyote bush to the left. Ration carefully, please.

There are two reasons you should stay here. The first is that there is a group of kids coming through the mines. They’re coming from that other place, and they’ve been living in the mines for at least a decade. It’s imperative that they reach a specific set of lakes in the Sierras. They will need a strong guide when they reach this point in their journey. If you’ve reached this spot, I believe you are the ideal candidate. They need your help, and you need people to nurture. We both know this about you.

The second reason you should stay is because he will get here before they do. I know you lost him after the battle at the dairy farm. Slippages in time have sent him on several different paths. I’ve almost caught up to him three times, but that motherfucker Reinblatt with his damned rhyming notes is determined to keep us apart. Maxwell, however, is touched by myth: he has your scent, you saw what he did to Mayberry. And he misses his Mommy.

I dream of him, sometimes, when I can sleep in this place. In my dreams, he is calling to you. He is telling you, ‘Mommy Good Boy Stay, I am Max, I am coming to you. I love you. I love you. I am Max. I keep you safe. I love you. Stay.’

Max and I feel the same way. But I hear my pursuers and I have to divert them so that they do not find this spot. They’ve been altering my notes and moving them, helping Reinblatt obscure the way.

Wait for Max. Wait for the kids. Go to the mountains. With luck, we’ll meet again.

Much love,

Edward”

Okay, so I don’t know who these people are. But they know Maxwell. And outside the fissure, near that coyote bush he mentions, there’s a campsite. It’s been abandoned for a while. The oil can is there, and it’s still got a few useful things in it. I don’t know what he means, all this alternate reality and time stuff. But he knew we were coming. And, look: there, outside the fissure. See them? Those look like Maxwell’s prints. I think he was here. Recently.

There’s a handwritten addition to the note, and in different writing than Edward’s signature. I’ll read it to you before I pass it around. It says, “Hey — I’ve been here for a month. Something large is prowling around my campsite at night. I’ve got friends who can help us, so I’m headed out to get them. I don’t feel safe here, alone. No sign of Maxwell yet. I’d like to wait for him, but if I don’t Good Boy Bounce, I think I might end up Good Boy Dead. If I’m not back in a week, go without me. Give Maxwell kisses when you see him, and tell him I love him.”

It’s signed, Veronica. And the date is May 25, 2015. I think that something happened in their world, maybe on a different timeline from ours, and I think it was pretty big. Like the fireballs, but different. Because look, out there — there’s something weird about the valley: see that shimmering? I don’t think that’s a heat mirage.

I think it’s water. I don’t see an end to it to the north or south. It looks to me like the Central Valley is flooded. Completely.

I’m headed to the Sierras, where we all would have gone if I’d remembered to give my mom Mr. Amberson’s message. We’ve got what we need to make it, and we can follow Maxwell’s tracks. Might be as easy as finding a boat, but I doubt it. So. You can stay if you want to. I’m not going to force anyone to come along. This is my path, and there’s only one thing I know for certain:

It’s time to Good Boy Go.

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Searching for Sibley

In Uncategorized on October 7, 2013 at 7:12 am

My nephew came with my fiancee and I yesterday in search of Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. In my mind, it was in Berkeley somewhere above the Lawrence Hall of Science. I don’t trust my GPS to get me to the right spot these days, so I thought I should ignore it and ask my nephew, a Berkeley High (keyword: high) alumnus. He said he knew how to get there. So we went to Berkeley, took a right on Claremont and climbed the tiny, winding, steep streets in the fiancee’s 2010 Honda Civic until the nephew deemed it appropriate to turn left. This initial left turning was at the intersection of Claremont Avenue, Fish Ranch Road and Grizzly Peak Blvd.

Locals will know that we were wrong. Chuckle at our expense as you read further: it seemed to me that we were headed in the right direction. However, at the moment when the nephew said to turn right and we’d be there, I couldn’t help but notice that we were driving into Tilden. Not Sibley.

My first clue came from the sign that said STEAM TRAINS, before we even reached the official entrance. There is only one park with Steam Trains in the East Bay Hills: Tilden. We drove toward the golf course, ended up back on Grizzly Peak Blvd., and I realized that we were indeed in the wrong region. “Take Grizzly Peak,” I said. “Back toward that crossroads where we left Claremont. I know where to go, now.”

The fiancee did just that. I followed our progress on the GPS. It told me, eventually, that we were inside Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. I watched us drive over the double red lines of the Caldecott Tunnel. Right around the time that we reached the intersection of Grizzly Peak and Skyline, I became frustrated and re-set the GPS to take us to Sibley. Following its instructions, we then took a circuitous, labyrinthine course through the residential streets below Grizzly Peak and Skyline, eventually ending up back on Grizzly Peak, heading back to the first crossroads of Claremont, Fish Ranch and Grizzly Peak. This time, still following the GPS instructions, we turned right on Fish Ranch Road. It took us down the back side of the ridge to the Orinda side of the Caldecott Tunnel, over the tunnel to … a creepy back entrance to the Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. We followed the road a little further past a parking area on what I have since learned was the eastern approach of the original tunnel, known variously as the Kennedy Tunnel, the Inter-County Tunnel or the Broadway Tunnel. Before seeing that road and getting curious about it, I had been told — and believed — that this tunnel was originally part of the pre-BART Key System.

The Key System, for those of you who don’t know, was a system of electronic trains and streetcars that served the East Bay and, to the best of my knowledge, connected with various other local electric streetcars and trains in the greater Bay Area (I’ll update this as I learn more). The lower deck of the Bay Bridge originally had two railroad tracks on the south side for this specific purpose. (My mother used to take those trains to San Francisco with her friend Barbara. They smoked cigarettes and were tres tres chic.) GM pulled some major shenanigans in the late 1950’s, basically buying the Key System through a front company, replacing its board of directors with GM cronies, and cutting back service until they’d replaced everything with buses. For a more detailed history, check here. Guess who fought this transition? Every city council in the East Bay. Guess who won?

If you’re the kind of person who likes moving pictures (and if I have whetted your appetite with all these words of electric trains), you might enjoy this short film.

So: the old tunnel is said to have been open to pedestrians after the Caldecott Tunnel opened in 1937, but closed in 1947 for safety reasons. This is fascinating to me, because I know that my older brothers were exploring the old tunnel as recently as the early 1970’s. Apparently the western end has been completely sealed — we drove right past it in our GPS-led wild goose chase — but the exact condition of the eastern end of the old tunnel remains, as of this writing, a mystery.

Attentive readers will ask the question, “How is it a mystery if you were on the eastern side of the ridge, on Old Tunnel Road?” Thank you for being attentive, attentive readers. The answer is simple: the approach to the tunnel is fenced off, as that area is controlled by the East Bay Regional Parks District. And since the original purpose of our quest was to explore the Sibley Volcanic Preserve, we parked near that back entrance and started walking up a very well-paved road.

Friends, sometimes I have trouble breathing. This was the case a ways up that road, so we turned back to the car and I talked the nephew and the fiancee into indulging me: “You have to pee, I’ve got a bee in my bonnet, let’s find the entrance I was actually looking for.” By the time we reached the Skyline Boulevard entrance to Sibley, my lungs were doing just fine. Here’s the kicker: when I reverted to the GPS for directions at the intersection of Grizzly Peak and Skyline an hour or so before, we were literally a couple hundred yards from the Skyline entrance to Sibley. Annoyed as I was at having chased the wild goose via my fuckmook GPS, I now know many things of which I was previously unaware. Thanks, Garmin! You suck, but it’s educational.

I felt amazing after our sunset hike, but the entire reason that I wanted to go to Sibley was to do some research for Notes From The Future. There is a specific entry that uses Sibley, but I had never actually been there before yesterday. I had used the Interwebs to get a view of Mt. Diablo from the Berkeley / Oakland hills, and thanks to our friends at Google Maps, I was able to get a general idea of how things would look.

Specificity is preferable to generalization. And, while we made quite a nice bit of progress into Sibley, we were forced to return to the car when the sun had set. I was unable to reach the spot I sought, thanks in large part to the educational tour led by our GPS. So I will be heading back there this week, with plenty of water for Maxwell and a camera for tasty goodness. Any local geologists care to join me? I’m just a little bit obsessed with geology and volcanology and will make you talk for hours.

[Update: Apparently there is a separate tunnel, known as the Train Tunnel, somewhere on or near Pinehurst Road. I have yet to see or even approach either end of that tunnel, but will make a point of exploring a bit next time I’m in the vicinity. Perhaps that was the tunnel my brothers explored. From what I understand, it is just as thoroughly sealed as the Kennedy Tunnel.]