Size / / /

             Rumors web down the peninsula: the Cloud
is approaching. The Cloud is going to make a pass
                 near the village.
                                                                        Old solar laptops, out of hiding,
                                                            mop up dewy morning light. Men and women pore
                                                                 over manuals, cheeks brushing.

             Grandfather says to Solomon: watch
for the black government truck, that sometimes fights its way
over the moor. Sometimes they know.

                                                Tonight, they don't. Grandfather stays awake by mate and caffeine
                                                spray until midnight
                                                drops cold
                                                over the village. Then he puts the precious tablet, nylon-bagged,
                                                onto Solomon's small shoulders.

                                                They climb the knoll.

                                                The moon is a shard of scoured bone; Solomon's chest is a shard of
                                                night, of sea-breezes slapping. His young ears hear the hum first, as
                                                the Cloud crests.

             It dips and slides
like quicksilver, it

             divides into machines, scarred
                   caked

    in birdshit, aloft on synchronized
    rotors, blinking carmine eyes
                   on blue-black sky.

             On grandfather's knee, the tablet
comes awash with light: flesh slapping
            flesh, foreigners burning cars, bristles sliding
across bright white teeth.

             downloading, downloading, downloading.

Down in the village, shadows rush from door
to door to share the rain caught, collected, til slowly
red pinpricks blink out; the machines drift east.

Screen freezes, grandfather swears
but not so angrily, then they sit and rub their eyes
and watch the Cloud
disperse

until the moor sky is empty, tinged rawpink with dawn.




Rich Larson was born in West Africa, studied in Rhode Island, and at 22 now lives in Edmonton, Alberta. He won the 2014 Dell Award and the 2012 Rannu Prize. His work appears in Lightspeed, DSF, Strange Horizons, BCS, Apex Magazine, and many others, including anthologies Upgraded, Futuredaze, and War Stories. More information can be found at his website.
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23 Mar 2020

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