The Port of Going #flashfiction #scifi @lauralibricz
The air hung thick with humidity, strangely conductive after the last few days of cold. Caroline pulled the heavy wrap off her shoulders as she walked to work. She passed the neglected dance hall on the pier by the Port of Coming and ducked away from a group of women who’d just arrived in the village. Caroline wondered why each new wave of settlers heated the water vapor in the air. The transports must disrupt some fine balance there when they entered the port.
They called the village ‘Coming and Going’ after the two ports. The village had historically been a crossroads, a meeting point, a stop-off place where people came to be picked up, rescued or to find themselves a new fate. A haven, a port of souls if you want to call it that. There were airways and seaways and a lawlessness that came with this sort of to-ing and fro-ing. Caroline had come to the village six months ago, looking for passage away. Too scared to go on, she got stuck in a job at the Port of Going overseeing the main gate.
There was a time when noble buildings made this a desirable place to begin a show-off journey. Back then, the gaming attracted a better sort, nicely-dressed folk out to raise the stakes of an expensive evening. Now, the gaming brought nothing but fortune hunters, organized crime, and plenty willing to sell themselves for another go with lady luck. As Coming and Going went to seed, the well-dressed, better sorts moved on to build a new port, leaving the village to decay. Those desperate for passage, like Caroline, were sent here.
The Port of Going hummed with early-morning traveller-seekers. Caroline unlocked the gate, fearing the humidity would irritate them. A siren blared three short shots. Overhead, the lights flickered. It happened at least once an hour, sometimes more. The humidity also seemed to mess with the way the sun’s energy was stored in the batteries. Then the lights went out, complete darkness. It would last five seconds. Five seconds of darkness brought thieves out of the cracks like cockroaches. They had the gift of Dark Sight, they were born with it, an undesirable gift. They meandered in and out of the traveller-seekers, the goers. After five seconds, the lights would come back on. Those who were thrown to the ground would shake themselves and look around, searching for their belongings.
“This is terrible,” the first traveller said. “Why is this port so dangerous? The Port of Coming is heavily guarded, controlled to the hilt, not like this dump.”
The traveller was right, of course. All comers to the village were closely guarded, whereas goers could go. People escaping were happily transported away, someone else’s problem. Caroline watched the motley goers line up: a girl holding hands with a child; a man with a dream; three children chained together, to be transported and sold into slavery; a girl with a look on her face that said she was going to pay back every asshole who ‘dun her wrong.’ A teenage boy stood behind her, dressed as a soldier.
“This is the Port of Going,” the man with the dream said. “Nobody cares who goes. All are allowed to leave.”
Behind him in the line, a young woman appeared. She was heavy with child, visibly unwell. She waddled up to Caroline and waved her papers in Caroline’s face.
“I don’t want your papers,” Caroline said. “I need to scan your chip.”
The young woman flapped the papers. The edge just missed Caroline’s eye. The woman pounded her fist on the papers. She wanted to go and she needed her papers stamped to pass to the Nether Region, at least that was what her application said.
“Don’t you understand me?” Caroline said. “Your chip.”
The young woman lifted her braids to show she had no visible ears. Caroline had never seen this new breed, those with no hearing organs. They were supposedly better beings because they were compliant and could be remotely commanded by some other sensory perception. If that was true, how did she manage to escape to this port?
The lights went off again. Caroline saw the young woman go down. The lights came back on after five seconds. Those who were thrown to the ground stood back up. They shook themselves and looked around. In five seconds, the thieves had moved soundlessly through the goers and collected the spoils. The young woman had trouble getting to her feet. The line bottlenecked and people were visibly angry. The young woman must now stand or be trampled.
The lights flickered and went off again. Caroline saw the young woman go down again, swallowed in the angry crowd. Caroline was afraid of the violence the crowd could produce. The next angry traveller stepped over the young woman, saying nasty things and giving her a little shove with his foot. Caroline scanned him and let him pass. The next traveller was not as patient and shoved the young woman to the side. As the young woman came to her feet, the next traveller kneed her in the thigh and she went down again.
Caroline shut her gate, stoppering the bottleneck. “I will turn out the lights forever!”
The lights flickered and went out. Caroline also had the gift of Dark Sight. She watched the thieves hush like spirits between the traveller-seekers and strip them of their valuables. The travellers never saw them coming. Caroline grabbed the young woman, pulled her under the gate and towards the docking area. She would leave now on the next transport away from this horrible place.
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Laura Libricz’s Media Kit: Pictures, Book Covers, Links, Bios, Book Blurbs:
Laura Libricz was born and raised in Bethlehem PA and moved to Upstate New York when she was 22. After working a few years building Steinberger guitars, she received a scholarship to go to college. She tried to ‘do the right thing’ and study something useful, but spent all her time reading German literature.
She earned a BA in German at The College of New Paltz, NY in 1991 and moved to Germany, where she resides today. When she isn’t writing she can be found sifting through city archives, picking through castle ruins or aiding the steady flood of musical instruments into the world market.
Her first novel, The Master and the Maid, is the first book of the Heaven’s Pond Trilogy. The Soldier’s Return and Ash and Rubble are the second and third books in the series.
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