by Adella Chatelaine, Investigative Reports
7/8- Halfway through the long western leg of our airship journey to the Imperial Colonies, Doctor Trenum asks me if I have ever heard the theory of how the Newlands came into being. I tell her that I haven’t, and she smiles a little half smile. I expect her to regale me with a bit of history, or a creation myth of some sort. What I get instead is a taste of folk whimsy.
“They say it’s a shit the Man took when he laid down in the ocean to die.”
The answer takes me aback for a few seconds; most every story Doctor Trenum tells me does at first. She’s a fount of obscure references, tales, and cultural anecdotes. As usual, after the initial shock wears off, I laugh. Usually, this is where Doctor Trenum herself would join me, but she does not. She instead gives me an impatient, sideways glare. I stop laughing. She’s deadly serious.
As it turns out, that really is the grand mythic explanation that the colonists have for the place. That when the Man laid down, died, and formed the Old Continent, he defecated, forming the Newlands. I find it a bit crass, personally, but after having spent a week here, I can see the disillusion that might bear such cynicism.
We land in New Crowndon, and it is very much like what I’d imagine the ports of Old Crowndon must have looked like two hundred years ago, at the beginning of our own industrialization. Ramshackle buildings dot the harbor, thrown up in haste to serve a purpose. A few sit in a perpetual state of half renovation, the abandoned properties of shipping companies that tried to expand too quickly and ran out of money in the process.
Beyond the harbor are the city’s old quarters, the town that sprung up around the first settlers’ landing. The buildings were sturdy once, but fifty years of life along the coast without proper maintenance have taken their toll.
Most of the streets here are still mud. Gnats and mosquitoes buzz around putrid green puddles of stagnate water. You can see the shape of horse shoes along the edges of the main thoroughfare, indicative of the fact that most people here still ride horse back. Rare is the occasion that you see the unbroken track of a wheel, and when you do, that wheel was likely attached to a wagon, not an auto.
The people here are rustic, with hard eyes peering out of bagged, purple sockets. The men are almost uniformly unshaven, their hands thick fingered and calloused from working either in lumber mills or building yards. They smoke incessantly, a sweet smelling herb that grows in the forests nearby, I’m told.
The women are hardly different from the men. Many perform the same tasks of lumbering and building, but with the added burden of child rearing. Not that child rearing lasts very long in a place like this; most of the children I saw worked along side their parents.
My first impression, walking through the streets to our hotel, was that these men and women were without humor, but such isn’t the case. At night, when the sounds of falling hammers and saws cutting through timber die down, laughter and song fills the air, along with the smell of deer meat and pork smoked to perfection and spiced with local flavor. The disillusionment lifts, and I once again struggle with the idea of this place being a mythical deity’s dying feculence. Most laugh when I ask about it. A few just stare blankly at the dregs in their cups.
The revelry is short, and the people begin to retire at midnight. There is hard work in the morning, and the days are hot this time of year.