Mobius: Eyes above the Clouds- Chapter 3
The first few crates began to come down from the craft in the following half hour or so. A few of the others had gone off to survey around the position, to see where upon Mobius we had landed. I was pushing one crate down and across the lip of the rear hatch when I spotted Alice returning to our little growing encampment, some petite object in hand.
Daniels approached her to examine the item. I abandoned the job of moving the crate and pulled out my pad from my back pocket, hoping to take down the first proper observation of the journey. The captain glared at me sideways as I approached, pencil in hand.
In Alice’s palm laid a round structure of fluff and plant material. “Found it at a… ridge, I guess you could call it.” She noted. At the base was a pale white bird feather and bits of black and white scat.
“A nest?” Daniels plucked the plume up, turning it over in his fingers. I stood on my tiptoes to better get a view for my sketch. He then looked to the sky, likely for signs of other avian life.
“No inhabitants.” Alice shrugged.
“Interesting nonetheless.” Daniels flicked the feather back down into the nest. “Chase will be disappointed you haven’t brought him back any eggs, though.”
I felt a large presence behind me. I glanced back to see Joseph glancing over my shoulder at the find. “A birdie? You had to go an’ take its home?”
“Empty, Lomeli.” Daniels let out a fabricated laugh and turned to reach up and pat him on the shoulder. “Well, well, we’re almost unloaded. Sami, why don’t you two go around some as well? Just don’t get turned around.”
I nodded at Daniels, then turned my attention back up to Joseph. He already had his hand to his forehead to scan about, despite the sun being well below the… what I guess would be called the horizon, organic as it was. “Do you see any birds, Sam?”
I pursed my dry lips, looking out in the direction Alice had come from, as well as all around. “None, it seems. Maybe we’re a bit high up around this time.”
“Let’s look an see where Miss Alice came from.”
“Okay, then Joseph.” I took a few steps forward, looking at the mostly uniform outer skin of the creature below. Through all the work, the fact that we were still atop a gigantic airborne creature had slipped my mind, as unlikely as such a thing seems. The skin was reminiscent of what I would imagine an Elephants to be, albeit with a much darker tone. Being exposed to the sun most days, I would fathom to guess that the color was a result of weathering. I recalled that from below, despite the shadow it generated, it was slightly lighter, an ash gray one might say.
Looking back to the aircraft to regain my bearings, I realized that, despite the seemingly flat expanse, there was a sort of uneven curvature to the surface of the creature. Ahead, I was able to spot the shadow cast by what could have been the ridge Alice had described.
“Look there, Joseph.” I pointed out.
“Something you saw?” He perked up, looking in the direction of my finger.
“Just a landmark, it seems. Maybe if we get close enough to the edge, we can see over and down to the surface below.”
Joseph continued to tread after me. “Not safe,” he said, straightening his back as if to gain a better viewpoint.
The land was marked with a calloused hump, possibly with bone beneath, which dipped down into a shady crutch in the surface, partially covered in shadow. I hunched forward and placed my boot atop the hump to look for any signs of the nest or any other remnants of animal life.
Underneath my feet, a felt a sudden shifting, followed by the wind around me picking up, tearing through my hair. The ground seemed to pull me sideways, threatening to take me off my feet. Before I could land face-first into the divot, a rough hand grabbed at the hem of fur around my collar, fingers back along my neck. “Not a safe place, Sam.” Joseph assured, tugging me back up.
Joseph Lomeli had been a part of my family for as long as I could remember. From the time I could walk on my two feet and waddle out to the yard, I would see him laboring over something, whether it be touching up paint on one of our buildings, or trimming an old dead branch from a tree.
He caught me one time, staring, while he was watering a freshly planted bed of orchids. I had made my way out onto the lawn, my sight fixated on the stream. He playfully squirted me with the irrigation hose, nearly knocking my four year old self on the ground. I was told I reacted with as much frustration as my tiny self could handle, but I went back for more nonetheless. I can’t remember who my mother scolded first- myself or Joseph. I heard after her talking with my father when he returned from work that he wanted Joseph fired, but I ended up coming to his aid, with as many words as I could at the time muster. I believe also there was reasoning to keep him around as it seemed he would never be able to find work elsewhere.
Joseph ended up a sort of father figure, as my own was absent many long days at the factory. When I would eventually take my father’s place in dealing with Captain Daniels and the rest of the crew, Joseph was ordered to stay by my side. I didn’t fully understand why such a thing was necessary until one day our carriage took on a barrage of pebbles and stones from a group of school children. It turned out they were goaded by their very own teacher to do such a thing, as a sort of penance for doing what we were doing. When one of the rocks came through the window, it was Joseph who intercepted the shards of glass.
Joseph escaped with a little more than a few cuts, but when we came up to the factory to meet up with the crew for the day, Daniels expressed his gratitude for keeping me intact. It was obvious to him, he said, that neither I nor the team could allow Joseph not to come up with us.
I found my footing again atop a flat section. Joseph tapped his foot hard, scuffing his heels over the surface. I looked up at him, “Did you feel it move too?”
“Maybe we should head back.” I suggested. Joseph nodded his head as a simple response.
The dim sun had seemed to call everyone else around back to the air craft. Chase and Mary had begun to string up a lean-to shelter on either side of the craft’s long main body. The tarpaulin waved in the thin wind, straining against the stakes in the ground.
The sound of hollow footsteps against the metal insides of the fuselage called my eyes up. Samuel crept back out and nodded to Daniels, who was waiting at the bottom of the ramp. “Aye. Changed course.”
“Where to?” The captain said, his hands on hips.
“Well, maybe it won’t be so cold, then.” He returned with a sigh. “Well, folks, I can’t say we’ll be safe yet to make much more progress. Let’s see if we can’t get a fire started here, get some grub in us?”