Miki on the Frictionless Rail

*The following is an excerpt from a work-in-progress novel “Statues in the Cloud”. 


When Miki arrived in Fukuoka from Nagasaki, she transferred to the frictionless rail.


On her way to her train, she’d stopped to watch some Fukuoka bizarro-pop (Bpop for short) troupes do their odd, eccentric renditions of 1990s pop-songs using synth recorders, body paint, and foot-pedal light displays.


Perhaps long ago she had heard Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy.” But the horror-stricken screams that punctuated every line by the man in blue made the hair on Miki’s arms stand up. The girl in pink weeping on the floor also lent to the horror of the rendition. On the wall behind them, she could see the play of light and shadow the produced something like a mushroom cloud.


When she boarded the frictionless train she felt on edge. It was more than the Bpop artists. It was also the knowledge that she was leaving home. That she might have made a terrible mistake.


The train departed and she was left to her own thoughts. Her compartment, which could accommodate three other people, was empty except for her.


In the underground frictionless rail there was nothing to see. No trees, no mountains. Just endless miles of tunnel. Even if they had been above ground there would have been little to see because they would have been going too fast.


The rail company had decided not too long ago to give passengers the illusion of being in an old-fashioned railway. If you paid extra for the window seat you could choose whatever landscape you liked. If you were lucky, like Miki, and got a compartment by yourself, you could also choose. You could take a trip through the old Japanese countryside. You could go to Edo Japan, or Japan of the 1960s, or even a trip through Europe before the nuclear accidents. But you had other choices, impressionist art, a trip through the cosmos.


Miki had lived so long with these comforts that she easily took them for granted.


She tried her hardest to take her mind off having just left her parents. At first, she chose things she thought would interest her — she did famous painters from the 20th century; she did a trip through Italy; she tried a trip through popular movie landscapes. But now, feeling a little anxious with thoughts of what her new life might be like, she was pressing the random button to see what scene she might discover.


Eventually, she saw some futuristic landscape, mechanistic in parts but also alive with green. Where was this from? she asked herself. She checked the source. It was from a novel published only 20 years ago. An SF novel of some sort, she thought.


There were lush valleys with small domed cities. Inside the cities, she could see small, slender androids moving and working. Outside the domes, wildlife of all kinds flourished, including gigantic winged creatures, not unlike butterflies, but with the long necks of giraffes.


Suddenly, she felt a kind of calm. Beautiful, she thought. This looked like something Aya would have drawn. And soon, before she knew it, she was drifting to sleep.



You can read another excerpt from “Statues in the Cloud” right here:



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