An unusual little piece set on a world that rotates so quickly the nights and days last only four hours each. There are cities called Dreamlands, orange sands and silver waterways with twin moons constantly racing low overhead. And there's the Diamond Rain...
From fifty miles distant the night time approached. It would touch Dreamland 7 in a little under five minutes and the fast, deep blue night would come, soaking up the sand streets and the silent houses. With it chased the two moons in a race with this some awake, some sleeping, wildly spinning world. Over the valley it soared, across the Trancer Plain and onto the orange sands of the Dust Sea. Like the shadow of a huge cloud, the night ate up the land while the twin moons steamed through the local heaven at a dizzying speed.
Watching below, at the edge of town, lay Reece Grey and Kay Black. A boy and girl embarking on their twenties, they stared with six years of wonder behind them at the night overhead now enveloping them. Wide-eyed and silent the two dreamers lay with their backs to the ground and their arms in the air. Everywhere turned deep violet. It looked like someone had dreamt what was happening and then projected that glowing dream onto the town.
"Dissolved." Kay said, her eyes closing.
Reece sat up and looked back at the night cloud touching land to the east soaring towards the unescaping horizon. He let her think the things she normally thought for a few moments and then he spoke, "We've got four hours. Let's go!" He tugged at Kay's arm. She opened her eyes and smiled.
They jumped up and ran towards the hills.
They reached the nearest of the hills and looked back at Dreamland 7. They saw a waterless ocean embracing fifty placid homes and a silvery slim waterway running through the streets and out to the mountains.
Kay looked to the sky - her face starlit, her hair dark water falling onto a golden breeze. She took Reece's hand and told him tonight was magic.
Reece, also star-dusted, turned to Kay, "Diamonds or violet?"
"Diamonds," she whispered.
They walked over the hills towards the dust sea talking of the velvet hours of night in their world of precious darkness. These nights only lasted four hours and most slept through not knowing. There was something to do with being young that intensified the night experience and the blue trips to the hills and beyond. Although with these two it was a little more than just their years.
Kay was gifted.
Most nights there was a rain over the mountains out beyond the valley of Dreamland 8. A rain usually violet and soft for about an hour of the night. But occasionally there was a diamond rain. A glittering ice-wine rain that looked like falling diamonds. And Kay knew tonight above the mountains that imaginary diamonds would fall.
"Diamonds!" Reece cried. He broke into a run pulling Kay behind him. "Diamond rain!"
He squeezed Kay's hand. They ran and shouted until they had run out of hills.
Kay and Reece touched the edge of the dust sea. They kicked the sunset sands into the air and it sailed down slowly to the ground leaving a trailing stream of glitter eyes. The mountains still lay distant and Dreamland 8 stood silent at the edge of the sea.
Ahead of them over the horizon appeared a faint light which slowly became two lights. "The moons are back!" shouted Reece, still running. The moons had clearly outrun the advancing night and were making their second orbit of the evening.
"Let's get to Eight before they do!" Kay ran ahead of Reece kicking up the amber sand.
After another five minutes of pounding feet and racing hearts they reached the other side of the barren sea. Dreamland 8 was here.
The building on the outskirts was Josh Brown's - he had a giant water tower outside and tonight, thought Kay, it would be full of diamonds. But they were going to old Isaac Green's place - he had a rocket outside his house, a rocket to help the weather.
They walked along the star-bathed street past the flat homes of the people of Dreamland 8. Running down the centre of the road, as in Dreamland 7, ran a narrow canal that was part of the network of manmade rivers that brought water from the mountains to the blue people of the local towns. They didn't know they were blue but Kay and Reece presumed they would be as everything was touched by the stars at night.
"I wonder if Isaac will let us watch the rain from his glass room," Kay said, looking up to the two moons about to fly over the town.
"You know he stays up all night," Replied Reece, "And the rocket will have told him of the diamonds." The street grew brighter as the two sugar lantern moons stampeded across the star-flooded sky over the town towards their homes. They ploughed the sky, cratered and plateaued like marble statues of worlds rolling through a museum of all the nights ever.
They reached Isaac Green's place. Looking at each other Reece said, "I always think there should be a lot of noise when the moons go over, like a rumbling thunder or something."
Kay paused, "There probably is - we just can't hear it down here."
Isaac was outside his house tending to his weather rocket. He turned his head at the approaching footsteps. "Reece! Kay!" He grinned at them and whispered, "Diamonds."
"Diamonds." Kay smiled back. Reece went up to the rocket.
"Isaac, can we watch with you tonight?"
"Sure. but I've just got to finish this," He waved what looked like a glass spanner. "Tonight I'm sending the rocket to capture some of the rain in mid-air before it hits the ground and melts. This," He pointed at a flashing yellow beacon in the nose, "will keep it at the right temperature." Kay and Reece watched as Isaac Green finished tinkering. "There," he closed the nose of the rocket up. "Let's go inside."
The house was dark and warm with a soft breeze breathing through the air. Artifacts and antiques, presumably from home, were scattered about the furniture. At the brown dark centre was a spiral staircase leading to the glass room on the roof.
"Come on," Isaac led them up the stairs.
Reece stared around as they climbed. "Where did you get all these things, Isaac?" Isaac mumbled above him, "Oh, they're from home, they're from a long time ago." Reece knew he would never get much from the old man concerning his collection of relics. He knew they were important to him and that some of the objects here were obviously part of his younger years.
They stepped up into the glass room - a domed framework of black and white metal forming a hundred small, rectangular windows. Through them could be seen the Iron River Plain behind Dreamland 8 and the tall mountains to the north. Above, the night sky was a big cat. It loomed and waited, the stars its eyes and reflections of eyes.
"Oh, Isaac," Kay looked out, eyes wide, "everything looks so different from here." They sat on a long seat which stretched and curved around the dome like a pleated cloak that had been dropped and frozen in mid - air.
"I spend most nights up here watching the stars and mountains." Isaac's eyes drifted across the heavens and touched the mountain spires with familiar affection. Kay and Reece followed his gaze."When the moons pass straight over the mountains, just for a moment they are lit by the ruby light of moon one.
"I've seen it. So beautiful." Kay nodded. She sat down between Reece and Isaac. "Are we going to launch the rocket?"
Isaac paused and then grinned, "We can launch it from right here."
"What's this?" Reece had walked behind the seat and was looking at a figurine stood on a tiny shelf below the sole light in the room.
"That," pointed Isaac, "is the Perception of Aquiel," Reece stared at it. There was a classic goddess streamed figure entwined in what looked like vines which reached up and separated to envelope two spheres, one pearlesque, the other ruby red. Isaac continued, "Her body is blue - it is the world at night, the vine captured spheres the two moons held forever. "Kay got up to look. They both stared at the figure, not moving.
Isaac stood up and looked out of the window. "You two are probably too young to remember when we were all settled here, to live on Luthia. To make our home in the abandoned cities."
Kay looked down and said, "It was because of the war."
"The Proxima Campaign." Isaac continued to look out beyond Dreamland 7, into the night sky. "As you know, anyone incapable of joining the fleet, of serving with the forces, was brought here until it was safe and they returned to get us." Isaac joined his hands together behind his back. "Well we're still waiting."
Reece looked like he might cry. This was unexpected from Isaac. In the years they had known him he had never brought up the reason they were here. No one did.
"My daughter was the captain of a ship in the second fleet." Isaac turned round. They noticed he used the word 'was'.
"She gave me the figurine before she left me here."
There were shocked eyes. And there was silence.
"Sorry kids. I should have known better." Isaac shook his head as if he was angry with himself and sat down.
Kay put the little statue back on its shelf below the light.
"Hey!" Reece made them jump. "Let's launch the rocket!" He shrugged away the reverie, bravely, Key thought, and grinned with contagious enthusiasm.
Ten minutes had passed since Reece flicked the switch that sent up the rocket, it now flew with the moons through the sky. The three watchers looked at the night-engulfed mountains in the distance, everywhere was completely still - frozen but warm, wild but placid. Isaac took from his pocket a small music box, wound it up and placed it on the seat. What came out was quite unexpected. A stream of chimes and clicks and the whirring of miniature machinery produced a melody. Kay was about to ask Isaac about it but decided against it. She preferred it to be a mystery anyway.
The tinkling sounds of the little box began to slow gradually. Kay shot to her feet and pointed outside.
Out over the mountains a sheet of emerald wine fell from the sky: the diamond rain. It cascaded very slowly, a stream through a dream of night meadows. There were shouts of "Look!" and "Wow!" as the two moons, on their third orbit of the night, seemed to rip through the curtain of diamonds on their relentless journey toward morning. Pillars of precious glass fruit formed over the highest of the ancient mountains and a steam drifted over the plains at the foot of the range. Reece turned to Kay and stared at her. In her eyes shone two tiny versions of the crystal drama outside, reflected yet slowed down ever so slightly.
After half an hour of rain, and ten lifetimes in diamonds, the silent deluge stopped. The three transfixed onlookers stared out of the room. For ten minutes they gazed at the mountains, the music box exhausted and the morning very close.
Kay and Reece followed Isaac out to the rocket which waited obediently a little way from the house. Opening the secret compartment old Isaac pulled out a small case. It contained some of the diamond rain. He raced into the house with it, Kay close behind, and put it in a small freezer.
"Did it work?" Kay asked Isaac.
"It worked." He smiled.
They both sat down among the sepia secrets of Isaac's house and talked until well into morning while Reece pottered around with the rocket outside. It had been an evening of dust runs, moon races and kaleidoscope skies.
* * *
“Kay, are you coming in?” Reece stood at the door of the cabin. Kay was sat looking over the evening flatlands at the distant shimmering lights of Dreamland 8.
A year had passed since that night of diamonds over at Isaac’s and Kay and Reece had come to live here in a cabin in the mountains. The mountains where the rains fell. Things hadn’t changed much, they still slept in the day and ran the dust at night, chasing the moons through the meadows and the valleys. Not much was seen of Isaac. Although they saw a figure running towards the mountains when the rain last fell and they spotted the lights of his weather rocket swimming through the diamond night.
Tonight they would stay at the cabin, drink wine and watch the bronze world with the marble moons rolling above them and the stars in the dark and dry purple atmosphere. The view from here was pure fiction. It was the clockwork motion of all things night. And this was deep, deep night.
“ I think I’ll stay out here for a while,” Kay replied to Reece who had been standing in the doorway for some time.
“I’ll bring out your drink,” He walked into the cabin and shouted back, “That wine’s about ready to try.”
In the distance Kay thought she saw a figure on the plains toward Dreamland 8. She stared, uncertain until Reece brought out the wine he had made and they talked about the rain, Isaac and the future. The future was a long, dark way off. For this summer, at least, they would enjoy the mountains and the nights again.
An hour after going inside to eat, there was a knock on the door startling Kay and Reece to their feet. They hadn’t had a single visitor in the months they had lived here. Reece ran to answer.
“Isaac! Isaac! Come in! Come in!”
Kay lit up and ran over to hug Isaac. He was beaming ecstatically, clutching a bag which he placed by the door. “This is a quick visit so I’ll have a quick drink,” He flashed a toothy grin at Reece, “Some of that wine, eh, Reece?”
Kay removed his sand-blasted coat and pushed him over to the table by the window. “So, Isaac,” She sat him down. “How have you been?” Old Isaac looked out of the window to the mountainside, purple-embronzed and night-immersed. “Well,” he smiled at Kay, “I’ve cut my finger twice, tripped down my porch steps and scalded my hand four times on that damn stove!”
Kay let out a s laugh as Reece placed a tall glass of peach wine in front of Isaac’s big thankful eyes. He picked it up and stared at the bubbles and the ripe glow. Taking a cautious sip he closed his eyes. “Quite possibly the best peach wine I have ever tasted, ” He took another sip and added, “- in the mountains at night.” He smirked at Reece. Drinking more of the wine he was quiet for a few moments, pondering and wondering how to say things. He fetched the bag he had brought with him and opened it. Kay and Reece stared. “I will be going away soon.” He walked around in circles, up and down the room.
“Where to?” Kay asked.
He paused. “Oh, to Dreamland 1...” More silence. A hand went into his bag. “Kay, these are for you,” He placed on the table a figurine, a box, and a necklace. The figurine wasThePerception of Aquielwith its self-entwined curves and meanings from upstairs at Isaac’s. She picked up the box. It was the music box, also from Isaac’s house. “Play this when I’ve gone.” He pointed at it. Kay put her hand on Isaac's arm.
Next was the necklace. On it was a silver locket. She opened it and inside was a tiny gleaming bead. Isaac leaned towards her, ”It’s a preserved drop of diamond rain. From that night at my place when we sent up the rocket.”
Kay said nothing. She just stared, open-mouthed at the extraordinary gift.
“For you, Reece,” Isaac handed him a key. “The key to my old garage. Inside is the rocket. It’s yours.”
“The rocket? Mine?”
“Don’t say anything, either of you. I want both of you to accept these gifts without comment. Or I’ll be deeply offended.”
So as not to offend Isaac, Reece offered him no more wine. Kay kissed Isaac on his cheek, reddened by the long walk up here. He left before they knew what to say or do.
A long or short moment later Kay and Reece went outside. Isaac walked down the long pathway to the foot of the mountains. “Goodbye, Isaac!” they each shouted. "Goodbye!" A waving hand replied.
It was an unexpected visit and some wine and gifts later he was gone, probably not to be seen again. He was an enigma anyway, but this was Isaac at his oddest. They knew not to be worried or confused because Isaac was Isaac. He had to do what he had to do.
The moons rolled overhead and they went inside. Sitting at the table they sipped the peach wine and looked out of the window at the night, half gone. Within an hour the diamond rain fell against their window and on their roof and over the mountains. They clinked glasses and Reece turned out the light. The diamonds fell heavier and a sound began to emerge within the sound of falling rain. It was like vague music or like thousands of watery clicks of the diamond drops running in to each other on their way down from the sky. Kay and Reece looked at each other and both realized what it was they were hearing.
It was the music from Isaac's music box that night of the rain and the rocket. And now it was here. Kay opened it and wound it up. The tiny machinery chimed and clicked.
Inside their house amongst the mountains came the music again of the downpour, wrapping them in the sound of rain and the chimes of diamonds.