Hello everyone, this lovely Wednesday morning I wish to share with you Chapter IV of my historical fiction/sci fi short story, From Edge to Edge. You can read Chapter I here. Please do enjoy!
Chapter IV: Away and Over
Corinth was quite a fantastic view, of course, only seen from the first and third deck. After the boiler issue was fixed thanks to Joan, the total trip took only eighteen hours and fifteen minutes to the Corinth docs. Although due to the lack of better transportation, she stayed on board for another 40 pounds, traveling through the long, dangerous Corinth Canal and staying alongside Greece’s edge to reach Pireas, then following through by train to Athens.
At last, Joan Perk found herself in the stunning city of Jerusalem. Of course, it was hard to take this all in as the city was frantic – WWI had started a few days prior. The young woman barely took a notice of the war despite the fact you could not go a foot within any place without hearing rumors of terror. The thing is, miss Perk and Mr. Forkins had spent numerous years within WWI, repeating the same few moments over and over. Hence the reason she already knew Jerusalem would be invaded in 1917, five years to it happening.
The streets were dusty yet calm, merchants shouting prices in Hebrew, the scent of herbs and fish spread through the air like butter. Of course, it was not all perfect as so. As Joan walked, the sight became increasingly gloomy. A widow in the corner, begging for pennies; two men fighting over a loaf of bread; soldiers shoving children who followed beside them. Miss Perk bit her lip, knowing that most of the children would grow to be soldiers in WWII twenty-five years from then. Of course, there would be nothing more if Joan could not travel promptly to Mr. Forkins before 4:33 AM, September 1st, 1914.
“Balloons for sale, balloons for sale!” A Jewish man calls in English, a dark beard hanging to his neck. “Big, bright balloons hand crafted by yours truly!”
Upon hearing this words, Joan stepped slowly forward, inspecting the warped wooden stand. The jingling silver pounds weighed her down considerably as if called to the balloons.
“Cherry red ones on strings?” Joan asked the man, picturing the balloon she once had as a child. “Or animal balloons?”
“No, no, miss!” The man laughs, pointing behind him. “Giant balloons that scrape the sky – they carry people, these balloons. Although I might say they are indeed on a string.”
The young woman lifted her eyes to where the man had pointed. Giant, spherical balloon colored like the grains of sand in a never ending dessert – hot air balloons. Five beautifully crafted balloons with tightly woven wicker reed baskets.
Joan smiled at the Jewish man and glanced at her carpet bag in thought. “How far can those travel, sir?”
“Ah, call me Nemir!” The balloon maker said, “The smallest goes 100 miles before it must stop to refuel. The largest travels 500 miles. What is your destination, miss?”
“You see, I must travel around the world in 40 days, dear friend,” Joan said, fishing for pounds. “Did a tall man in a newsboy hat, waistcoat, and very long trench coat come by in a hurry?”
“Miss, there are many men as you describe! Look around, see that one over there? And that one? And that one? You shall never find this man! Although I can surely give you a balloon.”
Joan took a deep breath, pulling out thirty pounds. “Will this do for the smallest one? I must get to Chiang Mai precisely 5,295 miles east of here.”
“It shall never get you there,” Nemir stated, rubbing his beard. “Although I know of one that can go very far.”
“I can pay anything,” Joan said, showing Nemir her bag. “How much shall it cost?”
“Sixteen thousand pounds, miss. It is the quickest way to cross the distance – although the trip shall take eighteen days.”
Joan stared, mouth agape and dazzling blue eyes wide. “294.17 miles per hour? Even the Pacific Flyer never reached such a speed!”
“They say it was from long ago, Miss. Dr. Dreme is in possession of the balloon, and we must pay lots to get it,” Nemir says, frowning. “He never would sell his balloon, but sixteen thousand pounds shall be enough, I do believe.”
And with that, miss Joan Perk fished out not sixteen, but twenty thousand pounds to buy the hot air balloon from Dr. Dreme. She barely blinked an eye as the cash was exchanged, climbing into the skies within minutes later. She waved without spirit to Dr. Dreme and Nemir, her mind set on an issue – the time fold. Dr. Dreme must have invented the vessel prior to it, and somehow the powerful hot air balloon had yet to be destroyed. How was that so? Joan Perk pondered this single thought the whole eighteen days of travel to Siam, oblivious that she was now ahead of her trusted companion, Mr. Forkins.