This is another small installment from my fiction project I’m tentatively titling So It Rises, a novel-length treatment of 26 hours centered around life in one place through the eyes of a dozen people. As I write, I’m posting fragments, warts and all.
6:29 AM – NORIKO
In the waxing light Noriko looked up at the stars. The eastern sky was turning from purple to blue as the sun prepared to rise. Every morning was the same no matter the time of year and no matter the weather. She rose at 5, dressed and brushed her teeth, and walked the loop around the perimeter path of the university farm out to Tower Road and back through the conservation woods to Little Hollow.
The cicadas and crickets had quieted. The day’s first bees and flies were tending to the flowers, lighting here and there on the purple asters lining the western edge of the native prairie behind her. In the woods, the first red maples and cherries were turning and dropping their leaves. Some of them gently pirouetted to the ground. Big red oaks the arborist said could be 200 years old held up the sky with hickories and eastern white pines at their sides. Just before the hill crested at her neighborhood’s edge, the old trees turned to a younger stand of birches. The sun was just peeking over Eagle Ridge to the east.
The gentle sounds here in the morning and the musty scent of early fall leaves put her at ease. Despite the unseasonably dry and hot weather, the air here seemed to hold humidity, or at least it smelled like it that in the leaf litter.
It was only as she came off the path into her yard that she became conscious of people. Lights turned on in her neighbor’s upstairs, the first garbage trucks were rolling down the street, a car door shut. Someone’s recycling bin clanked and thudded with the sounds of cans and bottles colliding in the plastic tub.
Before going inside, she stretched her arms into the sky and looked up. Two mornings ago she had stood her and gazed through binoculars to watch Leif I move across the sky. It had been a tiny shimmering ball hurtling through space, carrying Anders Sorensen. For the first time in history, a person was placed into an indefinite hypersleep in outer space, paving the way for deeper interstellar travel. Right now, if all was still well, he was still in that sleep bobbing in the wake of Hurricane Fay at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico. The last report she’d received from Mission Control was that all his vitals were good, the capsule was intact and they would pluck him from the ocean this afternoon.
Inside, she took off her sandals and hat, placing them neatly on the foyer shelves and walked to the kitchen to start her coffee. “Eve. Kitchen lights. Radio on,” she said. Seconds later a pleasant robotic female voice responded, “Lights. What station?” The kitchen light at the other end of the hallway came on.
“Classical two.” She started walking back to the kitchen. Her light footfalls on the hard wood filled the space.
“Classical two. One moment.” Seconds later, some pastoral music, strings and piano, came on.
She started her morning tea. “Eve. What is this music?” she asked the system.
“This music is Eclogue for Piano and Strings by Gerald Finzi,” the robot responded over the music. “Would you like to know more?”
“No thank you.” It matched the serene light out the window. She had programmed Eve well.