Thursday, December 1

The Albatross

"Look, kid, this is ridiculous. There are no lamps out there. It's physically impossible."

"I know what I saw, Anchormaster," the boy insisted. His ragged sailcloth leggings rustled as he shifted uncomfortably. "I know I wasn't supposed to be in the ambassador's quarters, and I'll take the lashes for that, but I am not lying. Was a man, on a cobblestone street, bold as brass, true as iron."

The anchormaster looked down at the rough-sanded planks, considering. The boy's bare, calloused feet scraped quietly as he shifted position again. "Report to the whipmistress in the morning. Five for trespassing. I will speak with her as to the rest of your sentence after I visit the ambassador. You will take the night watch on C deck and keep the whole thing quiet until I finish my investigation. Is this clear?"

The boy saluted and left hastily, perhaps afraid the anchormaster would change his mind. Punishments were not usually so lenient aboard this particular ship.

Anchormaster Lenn walked toward the foredecks, glaring at his timepiece. The ambassador was in one of her meetings for at least another hour. Plenty of time to check her quarters and make sure the boy hadn't interfered with anything important. He could even be back to his post before the Captain made her rounds. He headed into the lodging corridor, moving as quietly as he could. Too many people on this trip kept odd hours. He thought how glad he would be when this shipment was over, and of the spiced coffee he would drink when they made planetfall. It had been far too long since his last shore leave.

All his musings were cut short when he noticed the door to the ambassador's quarters hanging open. His mouth compressed in irritation and he mentally added two lashes to the boy's punishment for leaving the corridor unsecured.

Annoyed, he strode into the lodgings, less concerned now about the noise than about the potential security breach. The automatic lights shifted on, and a quick survey of the suite yielded no visible problems. He stood in the center room for a few moments, listening for any movement. When the silence remained, he headed into the receiving room, where the boy had claimed to see his latest impossibility. Two steps into the room, he froze.

There, in the port window, silhouetted against the infinitude of space, it was clear. A section of cobblestoned street, a wrought-iron streetlamp, and a man where no men should be, framed by the bulk of the planet looming over them all.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Kat challenged me with "I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw him standing under the street light..." and I challenged GUS with "Malachite and amber, mother of pearl and stars."