Saturday, March 12, 2016

An Unscheduled Stopover in Skulkovia

We were nine hours into the journey when the engines failed. Catastrophe was imminent; luckily, I had a window seat. The stars above were reflected in the dark, unforgiving Arctic Ocean. Based on our rate of descent, I anticipated burial at sea in about two minutes.

And yet I was strangely calm; there was nothing I could do to alter my fate, so I may as well die with dignity. I twiddled my thumbs and watched as the ocean loomed closer with each passing second.

But then the starlight reflected in the dark waters changed to the orange and yellow hues of civilization by night. There were cheers as the plane altered course to meet those lights, and the next thing I knew were were safe on the ground.

At first I thought we must have landed somewhere on the north shore of Alaska, but when we debarked I discovered that we were in fact the guests of Skulkovia, a small, densely populated island midway between Alaska and Siberia, in the Bering Strait. It was, of course, the most technologically advanced civilization on Earth, with a mixture of Russian and American culture reflected in the island's architecture, clothing, music and technology.

All of us passengers were warmly greeted by a small army of Skulkovians dressed in ornate uniforms of red and gold. We were welcomed into the airport mall and encouraged to use the communications kiosks to reach our loved ones. It was a world of gleaming chrome, glowing neon and shimmering vector graphics dancing across flexible datascreens that flowed along the walls.

Naturally I deployed my trusty SLR; it was a new model, but the technology was bulky and primitive compared to what the Skulkovians used. I was a little embarrassed to be photographing Skulkovian wonders with my third-class gear, but I wasn't going to miss capturing at least a couple of memories. To my surprise, I caught sight of my old colleague Avril, who I hadn't realized was on my flight; she was hefting an old camcorder on her shoulder, which made me feel a little better about my camera.

I was feeling pretty good about the whole affair until I saw a lineup of weary men and women trudging toward the opening to a dark corridor. There was no animation in their faces, and each wore a baggy, worn, grey coverall. I started to raise my camera in their direction, but then I turned away with a mental shrug and focused once again on the perfection of the mall and its beautiful citizens. As a special guest, I didn't want to embarrass my generous hosts. Hadn't they saved us all?

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