"You seem more comfortable lately."
"Work is better and I'm writing regularly again," I say picking up a cupcake and peeling back the paper. There's a small jolt and a few chocolate crumbs drop to my shirt.
"Sector 7. Australian desert habitat," announces a mechanical sounding female voice.
I nod towards the glass dome. "So what's your fancy? Do you want to hang out down under?"
"Nah, let's keep going. I'm in the mood for a safari. Okay with you?"
He leans forward, looking at the hovercraft console then punches in some numbers into the keypad. There's gentle surge forward.
Mr. Gryphon and I are sitting in a large hovercraft having tea. There are no teacups or teapot, instead we brought along small thermoses of hot water and a selection of tea bags for each of us. We have the usual assortment of tea sandwiches and small cupcakes and we are sitting at a table built into the hovercraft, facing each other.
We are on the Ark, a massive spaceship which is part of a huge fleet. The Ark is a setting for one of my stories. I haven't finished it yet but Mr. Gryphon and I really like to come here and hang out.
The fleet houses every living human being, all in cryogenic sleep, while the Ark houses every earthly habitat and every species of animal. Each Sector is a different habitat which has been spatially shrunk down to fit inside massive domes. When you look inside the glass, they resemble snow globes, but when you go inside, each habitat is experienced as realspace and many are hundreds, sometimes thousands, of square miles. When I say "glass" I mean a transparent substance which is only a few atoms thick but is virtually indestructible.
The largest habitat is the ocean. All of it. The dome is so large that it sits at the very top of the Ark, the glass jutting out into space.
We are riding along one of the "boulevards," huge corridors for transport. Each corridor averages about a mile wide, are hundreds of miles long, and snake through the ship.
No one else is around. Everyone is still asleep. The ship's sensors don't detect our presence.
"Can't you write another story for this setting?" says Mr. Gryphon. He drinks some tea and picks up a cupcake.
"I suppose I could," I say, looking around. "I have grown fond of this place."
"The current story is such a downer, Miss Turtle."
"It's true," he says, waving his feathery hand. "All this is fascinating yet you tacked it on like an afterthought."
He puts his thermos down. There's a slight breeze of filtered air. "What's wrong? You're distracted." He is looking at me carefully, his ears twitching.
I'm getting a bit warmer, blushing. "Angels," I say.
"What about them?"
"They always appear, Mr. Gryphon. You are one yourself."
"And they always leave, Miss Turtle. Except me."
"That's true but I created you so you wouldn't leave."
"I'm not complaining."
"Sector 9. Black Forest," intones the mechanical voice. I look at the glass dome at the lush dark trees. Shafts of sunlight illuminate velvety green carpets of wild grasses and other underbrush.
I lean forward. The hovercraft picks up speed. We are on a long stretch between domes. "When I need someone and all seems dire and lost, an angel appears. It's the third time it's happened so far."
Mr. Gryphon blinks his great yellow eyes slowly at me. "Consider yourself lucky."
"And yet, I am doomed to never express my gratitude eloquently enough. I can never repay the favor. It doesn't seem fair."
"Maybe this is an exercise in accepting gifts."
"I always muck it up, Mr. Gryphon. I can never be elegant or restrained about it."
"That's because you always fall for your angels. Maybe not in a forever way but in a magical way."
"You know, all brilliant imagination and the like. You want them to catch a glimpse of your inner world."
"I just want to share a little."
"Will you immortalize this one too?"
"I don't know. There's a bunch of other things to write."
The hovercraft is moving smoothly along. Ahead of us the lights begin to dim. I nod at him. Mr. Gryphon turns around. I focus forward, waiting as the hovercraft moves closer to a fork in the boulevard head of us.
We take the fork to the right and a few moments later the ship seems to vanish, and it looks like we are out in space. The number of stars is dizzying. Above and below us is nothing but the shock of endless space. We can see a small planet to our left, far off in the distance.
This part always takes my breath away.
We are still on the boulevard but this section is all "glass" and was built as an observation "road." It will continue this way for at least 10 miles. When the people are around, this section is a very popular place for walking, running, riding bikes, and driving, of course. The only thing you really can't do is walk your dog on it or ride a horse. The animals freak out when they see vast expanse of space.
It takes some getting used to when walking or running on the road for the first few times. You can't see the road so it feels like you're running in mid-air. Instead, you have to get used to the focusing on the small, bright red signs placed at regular intervals. Sometimes people get disoriented and run into the glass walls. It's easier if others are there so you can follow each other.
"I think you're immortalizing him now, Miss Turtle."
"Yes," I say absently. "I suppose this post is for him."
"Do you think he'll like it?"
"I have no idea. I don't even know if he's going to read it but...it's here and that's good enough for me."
Mr. Gryphon sits back in his seat. The hovercraft continues forward. I ponder my own gratitude for the current situation and hope I don't muck it up too bad.
"It will be all right, Miss Turtle."
"I hope so."
There's a bright light appearing on the planet edge to our left. Dawn is coming and it will be a new day in that world. I relax, taking a sip of tea.