A Place of Snow Angels
by Matt Wallace
Joshua was seven when he saw the white city.
It was his first deep trek across the Mojave tundra with Dedimus, hours spent listening to the snowreaver’s hover jets pulverize powder and ice, his tiny nostrils filled with the tonic ozone smell of its ionized plasma engines and he could barely move in the half-dozen layers of insulation Mida added to his parka., and somewhere under all of that Dedimus preaching, always preaching, about Joshua’s bond to the ever-growing winter, his future, his responsibility. By the time they reached the Santa Monica coastline, Joshua’s ears were ringing and he was hungry, and despite the arctic chill he found he was sweating.
They stood on the shore and looked west. At first there was just the ocean, slow moving and rough-hewn gray, like unfinished sheets of steel. The frost shifted in heavy curtains above them. Then morning broke and the tide changed. Twenty miles off the coast, the white city blazed as pure and broad as the horizon itself. There were walls rising higher than any structure Joshua had ever seen. There were parapets. There were stalactite spires that stabbed the frosty fog billows.
Joshua never saw anything like it, not in pictures or among the small holographic images Mida used to teach him.
“Who lives there?” he’d asked Dedimus.
“No one,” the old man told Joshua. “That is the fata morgana, an illusion created by the cold. Like any worthy opponent, winter tricks your eyes, draws you into falsehoods.”