Caged Within Clouds: “Nobody knows how the pieces work”

By Jessica Morgan

I should have known that I was not safe when the journalist never returned. I should have taken more caution and only provided her with a drawing of my piece of the landing mechanism.

Word must have gotten out about the wanted advertisement that was to appear in the paper that morning, despite The Pulp’s limited readership. The oligarchy has supporters everywhere.

Now I’m stuck in a cell and rendered completely useless. Just as useless as my glass left eye. Imprisoned within this prison in the sky.

I am the only engineer in this damned city that understands how to land this cage within the clouds. Oh, how I would love to see the ground and set foot on the land that I have heard so much about from my teachers, from engineers before me and from the manuscripts of instructions they left behind.

I know exactly where the pieces go. How they function. The way they must be turned in the correct order to bring the ship to land, instead of the entire vessel exploding. I know the exact order and the places to put the pieces. It would allow the citizens to look up at the sky for the first time, instead of being trapped within it.

What I don’t know is how anyone thought this ship was a good idea in the first place. That sticking a bunch of criminals on an island and floating it up in the sky was a worthy solution to a problem. All of Avarium’s ancestors had committed some type of crime before getting shot up here. Well, a “crime.” Even on the island, the term seems to be used rather loosely.

Do we even want to return to the land below? After all, maybe the government there is even more corrupt than the one here. I shuddered at the thought and played with the ends of my long blonde hair. There is nothing to do in this cell but to fidget anxiously.

My father, also an engineer, taught me the use of those three pieces with the symbols: the fragments that would allow us to land. Mine was passed down for generations in our family. The two others? Missing within the city. Unless, of course, the oligarchy has located them since I was imprisoned.

When Avarium’s original designated engineer built this place and sent our massive ship skyward, he was responsible for keeping safe the mechanisms that would help it to land. However, the corrupt governing system within Avarium quickly tried to take the fragments into their possession so as to keep the ship from landing.

For some ridiculous reason, they still want to stay suspended here to “protect” the land below from all of the “criminals” that remain, generations away from the “criminals” here before. Frustrated, I threw a bone, a remnant of last night’s pathetic meal, against the wall.

The oligarchy took two of the pieces, too unaware and unintelligent to realize that there are three pieces necessary for landing Avarium. The original engineer must have been clever. Fooled them. Without the knowledge passed down through generations of my family, they don’t even know how the blasted machine works!

My family. As though there were still members left. The oligarchy took my parents and my brother the same day that they took my left eye. Must they now take the rest of my life away, too?

Now, in a cell, there is no chance that I will ever see real land. That I will ever see the place my ancestors lived before we were sent here. The plentiful land in which we could obtain the resources we need to survive.

My hope was that the journalist’s advertisement would help us gather the remaining pieces so that I could stop this madness. Now they may be lost forever, including the piece I kept safe, the piece I should have been more cautious with. The city may be in the sky for eternity, or at least until the prison can no longer sustain itself, and everything perishes.

Unless someone has a change of heart — someone within the oligarchy, perhaps — we will all perish here. The citizens of Avarium will starve. And I will die within a gray, dreary room that I cannot even stand at full height in, knowing that I was the only one with the knowledge to stop it.

Burying my head into my knees, I start to cry through my one functional eye.