Before you read, here's what you need to know.
1) A "theriopolis" is a city on a colossus's back. In Greek, "thirio-" means "beast" and of course "-polis" means "city."
2) This snippet takes place very shortly after the paragraph from the previous blog post. Sean Bellamy - the main character of "Timeshare" but not of the whole novel - has developed and implemented a vacation plan so 27 residents of our wandering colossi can get away from it all on a camping trip. The destination is the OKO South Tower in the Moscow International Business Center in mid-July through early August, because life on the theriopolis gets a little claustrophobic or mundane.
3) Due to the very selective nature of which cultures and histories have survived in such a small population, Sean is more familiar with the Hawaiians' spin on cabin fever, which they call "island fever."
4) This story takes place 82 years after we left - or "ascended" from - the surface of the Earth.
Word escaped Triton’s city hall and buzz generated quickly. In a few months, half of the theriopolises and all their posh socialites had heard of the idea and were throwing riches at Triton and Proteus for the chance to be the first vacationers since the ascension. Amazingly, the faint-hearted gentlemen and dainty young ladies who won the bids for the trip underwent all the travel without a hitch. Over the next several months, these travelers spent considerable time working their way from the other leviathans – including Proteus, Galatea and Naiad – to Triton, where Sean had hired an assistant to provide them with their packs. Each pack held three weeks’ food, several gallons of water and a sleeping bag scavenged from the surface years before.
And today was the big day – August 3rd. Sean Bellamy waited shoulder-to-shoulder with Mayor Pulaski of Proteus to welcome the first post-ascension vacationers back from their trip. Sean figured there was more glory waiting for him in the pickup than the drop-off, so he trusted his assistant, a young Triton resident by the name of Alan Vaughn, to get the vacationers onto Moscow’s skyscraper by himself while Sean left for Proteus well in advance. Now, waiting at the docks for Proteus to lumber up to the Moscow International Business Center just 20 days after the tourists landed, Sean was brimming with excitement and pride in his work. He’d had a brilliant idea that not only helped save the theriopolises from another bout of Island Fever but could incorporate a whole new branch of their lifestyle.
From the lookout tower behind them, they heard a young boy shout “Moscow dead ahead!” The excitement grew to a fever pitch. Musicians banged on drums that sounded throughout the late morning sky. Children chased each other in games of Tag through the crowd. The cigarette vendors announced they were offering free pouches of herbs to the travelers upon their return. Mayor Pulaski laughed and patted Sean on the shoulder.My God I’m going to be rich, Sean thought.
The dock workers readied a 15-foot ballista to fire to the tower. They’d done it a hundred times before. Two workers cranked the handle near the seat at the back of the ballista, bringing the string back until the limb itself bowed backwards and clicked into its set position at the latch. A third man, already seated and waiting, was handed a long, arrow-shaped grappling hook trailing nearly a quarter-mile of rope behind it. He placed it under and between his legs, into the flight groove on top of the long barrel. The poorly-named “string” that ran from one end of the limb to the other – and would project the hook on its path to OKO South – was more of a thick belt of rope than it was a string, but the name had always stuck. All that remained, as they knew from experience, was to await the order. When the hook fired and caught on the tower, they simply reeled it in on the spool and let the travelers strap onto the ropeway and climb back across.
As they neared the cluster of towers, OKO South came closer and closer. Just as the harbormaster was ready to give the order to fire the ballista, something in the crowd changed. The onlookers at the front, who had surrounded and cramped the dock workers eagerly, got quieter. Their raised hands lowered and their faces fell. Each row of people stopped jumping, stopped shouting, stopped cheering one after another. The drummers stopped their music, stood and stared at the tower. Sean and Mayor Pulaski were the last to realize something was wrong. One drummer dropped his fat drumstick and it rolled noisily downhill, clanging and clattering towards the stage. An eerie silence enveloped the crowd, but eerier still was the sight that awaited their approach atop OKO South Tower.
Birds cawed and crowed. Why are there so many birds? Sean thought. The mayor charged up through the crowd, pushing people aside until he reached the balcony, its low railing chipped with dozens of marks from previous grappling hook attachments. He borrowed a pair of binoculars from a nearby gawker and glassed the rooftop.
27 bodies lay on the roof.