The photos and photographers of Shadow of the Dunes

The photographers of Unsplash.com provided me with a great collection of photos for Shanel Wilson’s “Shadow of the Dunes,” a Sci Fi story set on the planet called The Globe. (If you have not read the story, you’ll want to read it first, as this post contains some spoilers.)

Let’s start with the logo for The Globe stories. I had to crop it quite a bit, which should probably be a crime. I committed it in international space, so I think I’m safe. But I do apologize to the artist. Then I added the text. Here is the original, unaltered photo in all its glory.

Orbs of the Multiverse by Daniel Olah.

Breathtaking, right?

If I understand this correctly, Daniel created this beautiful image by mixing soap and oil. I’m sure it’s more complicated than that, but I’m no artist. This piece, Orbs of the Multiverse, is from his new Soap & Oil Planet series. To my eyes, it looks exactly like a planet floating in space, and I love his title for the piece. So I chose this image to represent the beautiful, blue planet of The Globe.

Daniel is a freelance photographer. You can find his nature and landscape images at unsplash.com/@danesduet. You can also find his work at www.behance.net/danielolah and instagram.com/danesduet.

Blue Dunes

This photo represents the desert surrounding the city of Westminster. Photo by Jeremy Bishop.

Jeremy Bishop captured this impossibly blue shot of dunes at Pismo Beach along the Central Coast of California in the United States. Here’s how Jeremy describes getting the shot:

“I caught last light just after sunset during the blue hour. [Only] during the right season or during a full moon does the whole place light up with a bluish and purple glow.”

Jeremy writes that he loves “supporting and inspiring creatives around the world.” So we thank him for supporting Shanel’s beautiful story with this image and supporting The Globe Folio series of Sci Fi stories by helping us represent the desert city of Westminster.

Jeremy also writes on his unsplash.com profile the following:

“My passion is the ocean and water photography, and I am striving to make an impact to save our Oceans and our Reefs!” You can support Jeremy financially at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/JeremyBishopPhoto and he is available for hire.

You can see more of Jeremy’s travel, adventure, and surf photos at unsplash.com/@jeremybishop and at jeremybishopphotography.com.

Kaleidoscope

Emilia lived comfortably amidst beautiful glassworks. Photo by Lydia Williams.

This photo represented Emilia’s room, which author Shanel Wilson described in this way: “Emilia moved through a kaleidoscope of colors; light refracting through each crystalline gem, flower and creature that decorated her bedroom.”

Photographer Lydia Williams captured this beautiful image of Dale Chihuly glasswork in Tacoma, Washington in the United States. The world-renowned glass artist Chihuly, who has glass art installations around the world, is a native of Tacoma. The Tacoma Art Museum has a permanent exhibit of Chihuly glass. I don’t know if Lydia shot this gorgeous, color-soaked photo at the museum or some other installation of Chihuly glass in Tacoma.

Lydia’s photos of urban, historic and “ghost” images can be found at unsplash.com/@ghostly_vancouver_tours.

Iris

A piece of home hidden away in her trunk. Photo by Pawel Czerwinski.

I chose this crisp photo of an iris to represent the glass Mary’s Iris that Emilia had made in memory of her mother. “It was the first complete piece she made on her own. She sourced the purple manganese herself and crafted each of its petals, replicating an iris from her mother’s simple, desert garden.”

In “Shadow of the Dunes,” the iris is formed from glass. It is based on the Mary’s iris, which grows in the deserts of Israel and Egypt. And, like Emilia’s eyes, the Mary’s iris is violet. However, I could not find an image of a glass iris, much less a glass Mary’s iris.

But Pawel Czerwinski certainly captures the beauty and elegance of the iris in this beautiful photo. Pawel writes that this photo was taken in honor of the remake of Dario Argento’s movie “Suspiria.” “I can’t wait. And if you’ve seen the movie, you know the reference,” Pawel writes.

Pawel’s images can be found at unsplash.com/@pawel_czerwinski, www.instagram.com/pmcze, and pmcze.redbubble.com.

Night Dunes

Darkness was hemming in around them . . . . Photo by Mike Yukhtenko.

Mike Yukhtenko shot this haunting dune ridge in the Arabian Desert in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Mike is a designer, researcher, and entrepreneur. You can learn more about Mike and his work at www.maicle.co.uk. You can also see more of his work at instagram.com/ya.maicle and at unsplash.com/@yamaicle.

Shooting star over dune

Photo by Massimiliano Morosinotto.

Massimiliano Morosinotto shot this great night sky with a shooting star over the Maspalomas Dunes on the south coast of the island of Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands. I just used it for a photo to add atmosphere, but if you want, you can imagine the shooting star is the “streaks of purple [that] blazed across the sky.”

You can find more of Massimiliano’s nature, travel, car, and bike images at instagram.com/therawhunter and unsplash.com/@therawhunter. He is also on Twitter @therawhunter.

Night of the Rocket–Westminster

The Globe

The Globe Folio: Tales from the Five Cities

[EDITORS NOTE: Below is the second of six stories set on a single planet but written by four authors. We will release one story each Friday. Please bear with this short introduction to the planet and the five cities. It will be worth it. I promise!]

On the planet simply known as The Globe, all the residents live along the Elizabeth River in or near one of the five nation cities. In the wilds in between live the beasts and the bandits, but under the protection of the five cities, the people prosper. Trade travels along the Elizabeth River. Except for the Seven Day War between Whitehall and Finsbury, there has always been peace. What more could one want?

Generations ago, their ancestors fled a war among the stars and settled The Globe. They dismantled their ships and built cities. Now, they only look to the stars to admire their cold, distant beauty.

So no one expected the descent of the rockets. Only those watching the night sky on that historic night saw the lurid, purple glare as the first rocket landed in a field near Whitehall. A night that would always be remembered as the “Night of the Rocket.”

The City of Westminster

To the west among the dunes lies the City of Westminster, the only city not built along the Elizabeth’s shores. The wealthy but rugged residents of this small city pull oil and glass from the sands to power Whitehall’s machines and build their towers. Across The Globe, Westminster brides with violet eyes are highly prized.

This story is set in Westminster on the Night of the Rocket …

Shadow of the Dunes

by Shanel Wilson

The sun’s warm rays gently peaked over the dunes that led to the Elizabeth, bathing the city of Westminster in a tangerine glow. Emilia moved through a kaleidoscope of colors; light refracting through each crystalline gem, flower and creature that decorated her bedroom. She leaned on her window’s ledge.

“Good morning,” Emilia murmured, watching the city come to life.

A tidy grid of streets lined with modest, plasterwork houses spread like a carpet below Emilia. Streetlights extinguished like a line of dominoes falling in succession as the sky brightened. The first trolley of the day whirled to its nearby stop. She watched as her fellow Westies boarded, heading to the Smith or the Wildcat Fields. She knew she would miss these tiny moments.

A loud rumble rattled her window. Her brothers’ hover cruiser roared out of the hover port below. They raced past the trolley toward the Smith.

“Disrespectful rampallians,” Emilia spat. But in truth, she was still jealous.

The Smith was the city’s imminent glass factory, run by her father, Eglamour. The Smith’s glass was renowned throughout The Globe. From the most delicate lens on a Newlondon lightship to the tallest tower in Whitehall, they were all made from the Smith’s glass. Her brothers each joined the Smith when they were old enough. Emilia grew restless, unable to join herself.

Emilia lived comfortably amidst beautiful glassworks. Photo by Lydia Williams.

As Eglamour’s daughter, Emilia lived comfortably amidst beautiful glassworks. When her mother died, Emilia took over the household, ensuring it was maintained. No matter how many times she pleaded to become a glassmith, nothing would sway him.

“But Father, I apprenticed at your hand before Mother died. You know that I have the skills. Surely, I could be allowed to join the Smith. The house will not suffer for it.”

“My answer has not changed, my flower. Can you not be contented to practice at our hot shop here at home?” Eglamour would reply gently, like many times before.

Emilia closed her eyes. The very reason why she had not been allowed to join her brothers. There were none in all of Westminster that rivaled the deep violet of Emilia’s eyes. They were the color of twilight over the dunes on a cool, spring night. No matter how hard Emilia tried to deny her destiny, it was true. Emilia was to be a Westminster Bride, for a Westminster Bride with Violet Eyes is Highly Prized. And today that journey would commence. 

Even while her heart still stung from being refused her true passion, she did find solace in being free from the plaster prison her home had become. She was the first of her family, aside from Eglamour on one of his trading trips, to leave Westminster and travel through the dunes.

That fancy cruiser won’t take you where I’m going, Emilia thought with a smirk.

She folded the last of her garments and placed them into her trunk. She gave one last lingering glance around her jewel-like room. Travel through the dunes was dangerous work, so only the essentials could be taken. Her eyes came to the glass Mary’s Iris she made as a girl. It was the first complete piece she made on her own. She sourced the purple manganese herself and crafted each of its petals, replicating an iris from her mother’s simple, desert garden.

A piece of home hidden away in her trunk. Photo by Pawel Czerwinski.

“Watch over me, Mother,” Emilia whispered into the petals.

She wrapped it carefully in her mother’s scarf, which Emilia had secretly taken after her mother’s death. A piece of home hidden away in her trunk.

“It is time, my flower,” Eglamour called from the lower level.

Emilia lowered the lid to the trunk. She strapped its tether around her wrist and engaged the gravitational lift. The tether glowed turquoise. She left her room for the last time, her trunk gliding behind her.


Eglamour arranged for the escort to take Emilia through the dunes. When they arrived at Trafalgar Gate, a lone cloaked figure stood in the shade of the wall. Turning to her father, Emilia wrapped him in a long embrace.

“Goodbye, Father. I will send a comm once I arrive in Whitehall.”

He nodded.

“I’m sorry I could not give you all that you dreamed for. I hope you can find new dreams to fill your heart,” he said, as he tucked a curl behind her ear.

His eyes betrayed his calm demeanor. The violet flecks in her father’s dark eyes always reminded Emilia of oil slicks shining in the sun. She placed a gentle hand on his cheek.

Eglamour gave a quick squeeze of her hand. Emilia turned to the stranger beneath the cloak.

“I am ready when you are, sir.”

It was like following a shadow floating through the sand.

The stranger nodded to Eglamour and strode away from the city and into the dunes. When Emilia realized there would be no further introduction, she darted to close the gap growing between them. Her trunk knocked into her heels as she scurried. Emilia strained to glimpse his face, but it was shadowed by his hood. He was slimmer than most men in Westminster and taller, too. She marveled at the blue of his cloak. It was as dark as a moonless midnight. It was like following a shadow floating through the sand.

“I assume you already know my name, but I do not know yours,” Emilia attempted.

The stranger shrugged off the comment, pressing forward.

“I would like to know who my travel companion is. Otherwise, I will simply call you Shadow.”

“Do as you must.”

Emilia barely heard the words escape the hood over the sound of their footfalls. But the Shadow spoke. The mystery of her companion was a challenge she was excited to solve.

Wisps of wind swirled sand around Emilia’s steps.

“Do you work in the Wildcat Fields? I’ve never seen anyone like you at the Smith when I would visit Father.”

Shadow’s fists tightened. The sun was sinking behind them as they continued toward the river. Wisps of wind swirled sand around Emilia’s steps. Shadow stopped suddenly atop a dune and scanned the horizon. Emilia tried to peer around Shadow’s shoulder to see into the hood.

“Have you traveled the dunes many times before, Shadow? I’ve heard such incredible stories, though my father has always returned safely home. Perhaps they were exaggerations.”

“Quiet!” Shadow hissed.

“I am simply trying to be friendly,” Emilia replied haughtily. “That’s something you could learn a thing or two about.”

Shadow wheeled around to face Emilia.

“This is not some walk in the park, Miss,” Shadow sneered. “If you aren’t careful, your prattling will attract all dune’s evils.”

Emilia hushed while her cheeks blazed from the scolding. She caught sight of the icy blue eyes beneath the hood, lit by the fading sunlight. They were pools of the coolest water one yearned to dive into on the hottest day. Emilia exhaled when she realized she had been holding her breath.

“Shall we?” Shadow turned with a frustrated flourish.

Emilia nodded and followed. She spoke no further but her mind raced with questions. Shadow’s voice was stern, but not nearly as gruff as the men she heard conversing with her father. And those blue eyes. No one in Westminster had eyes like those. In fact, there was no one in Westminster like Shadow. Was he a trader her father met in Whitehall? In all the stories she had heard, Whitehallers had very plain, brown eyes. None as dazzling as the blue ones that stared into her own violet eyes moments ago.


Darkness was hemming in around them . . . . Photo by Mike Yukhtenko.

Darkness was hemming in around them as they marched on. Emilia’s feet ached, but she dared not complain to Shadow. Shadow paused occasionally, checking the horizon, then he would resume his pace about a foot ahead of Emilia.

Suddenly, Emilia lurched. Her arm was pulled roughly behind her.

“Ow!” she exclaimed, the sound echoing off the sand around her.

Her trunk’s tether pulled taut. Her wrist burned where the tether was attached. The trunk sunk into the sand behind her, unmoving. The tether was still engaged, barely glowing against the darkness. Then she heard it. A deep, ragged, animal-like breath. Emilia’s hair stood up on end. A faint outline of a huge, bristly creature grew tall, standing on her trunk.

Something swooped past her toward the creature. The sound of metal rang in the air.

“Stay down!” Shadow shouted to Emilia.

Emilia dropped to the ground, gripping her tethered wrist with all her might. The sand shifted around her. She could hear muffled blows, growls and metallic zings clanging near her trunk. It lifted once as the beast was knocked off its perch. Breathing rapidly, Emilia inched her way back from the fight, tugging her trunk toward her. She got it close enough to grasp and draped her body over it. She closed her eyes as tightly. The sound of her breathing and her heartbeat filled her ears. She pictured Mother and her pale violet eyes to steady herself.

Something brushed Emilia’s shoulder, breaking her meditation. She recoiled and growled, trying to appear challenging to whatever was going to attack her.

“It’s OK now,” Shadow said calmly. “Are you alright?”

“Yes, I believe so,” Emilia said, loosening her grip on her trunk.

Emilia felt the warmth of Shadow kneeling close to her. Comforted, Emilia lifted her head toward his voice. When she looked, Shadow’s hood was lowered, revealing the most beautiful woman Emilia had ever seen. Soft brown curls cascaded around the shoulders of the dark-blue cloak. Her blue eyes sparkled even in the lowest light.

“Shadow?” Emilia gasped.

“It’s Valentine. I’ve run the beast off, but we shouldn’t waste too much time. Are you able to walk?”

Emilia simply blinked, unable to find her voice. Valentine sheathed her sword and offered her hand, helping Emilia to her feet.

“Yes. I can walk,” Emilia said, finally. “Thank you. You saved my life.”

Valentine kept Emilia’s hand as they started forward once again.

“I apologize for the pretense earlier. It is not common for women to lead journeys through the dunes. I’ve grown accustomed to letting my companions assume what they will until we reach the river.”

Emilia was mystified. She searched for which question to ask first, but the gentle comfort of Valentine’s hand in hers distracted her mind. Their grip’s warmth spread, tingling to all corners of her body.

“To answer your questions from earlier, I do not work in the Wildcat Fields. I am from Newlondon, in the south. And, yes, I have traveled through the dunes many times. It is a dangerous journey, as you now know first-hand, but I have learned the perils and how to defend against them.”

Emilia looked at Valentine. She smiled gently at Valentine’s remembrance of her questions. Emilia studied the lines of Valentine’s face. She was strong and graceful. Emilia knew in her heart she would walk wherever Valentine led.


They arrived at the Elizabeth River well before sunrise. The remainder of their journey had been calm, but Emilia’s heart began to race as they reached the water’s edge. Valentine led Emilia to a ship moored at the end of the dock.

“My ship will carry us to Whitehall,” Valentine said, helping Emilia into the ship.

“Right. To Whitehall.” Emilia said it distractedly.

Far across the river were the twinkling of lights of Whitehall. Her destiny awaited. Emilia shook off a chill that crept up her spine. She opened her trunk and retrieved the Mary’s Iris from its wrappings.

“Would this pay for passage to Newlondon, with you?”

“I committed to your father,” Valentine said cautiously.

“A new dream fills my heart; his wish for me at our parting. Would you deny me the chance of chasing it?” Emilia said, taking Valentine’s hand.

Valentine looked deeply into Emilia’s eyes.

“I could deny you no such thing.” She gently kissed Emilia’s cheek.

Valentine took the crystal iris and traced each petal with her finger. She held it up to the light from the dock post. The iris’s delicate colors refracted across their faces just as the ship violently shook on the water.

Valentine instinctively drew Emilia close as streaks of purple blazed across the sky overhead.


If you enjoyed Shanel’s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below.

Make sure to check back this coming Friday for the next flash-fiction story set on The Globe, “Towers of Whitehall” by Jim Hamilton. Set in the shining city of Whitehall, it’s filled with high-tech, a dire secret, and forbidden love.

Finally, you can also enjoy the first Globe Folio story: “Pillars of Smoke” by Frasier Armitage. It’s a great read!

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

The photos and photographers of Pillars of Smoke

The photographers of Unsplash.com provided me with a great collection of photos for Frasier Armitage’s “Pillars of Smoke,” a Sci Fi story set on the planet called The Globe.

Let’s start with the logo for The Globe stories. I had to crop it quite a bit, which should probably be a crime. I committed it in international space, so I think I’m safe. But I do apologize to the artist. Then I added the text. Here is the original, unaltered photo in all its glory.

Orbs of the Multiverse by Daniel Olah.

Breathtaking, right?

If I understand this correctly, Daniel created this beautiful image by mixing soap and oil. I’m sure it’s more complicated than that, but I’m no artist. This piece, Orbs of the Multiverse, is from his new Soap & Oil Planet series. To my eyes, it looks exactly like a planet floating in space, and I love his title for the piece. So I chose this image to represent the beautiful, blue planet of The Globe.

Daniel is a freelance photographer. You can find his nature and landscape images at unsplash.com/@danesduet. You can also find his work at www.behance.net/danielolah and instagram.com/danesduet.

Blue Mountain Folds

Mist rising between blue mountain ridges
This photo represents the mountains of Belmont, the northernmost city on The Globe. Photo by Sebastian Bjune.

Paul Gilmore took this dreamy photo of misty, blue mountains in the Brandenburg Alps in Austria. He titled it “Blue Mountain Folds,” showing he can take a great photo and also turn a phrase.

Paul is a visual designer by day and a content creator by night. A true Renaissance man, he creates photography, film, and music content. Paul was born and bred in Greece but lives in Austria.

Molten Lake

Bodies piled out, past the molten lake. Its liquid fire flowed from the Pillars of Belmont where a pneumatic kiln smelted ore in a river of purified iron. Photo by Ian Stauffer.

I chose this photo to represent the molten lake inside the mountain where Lorenzo and his family live. But this is actually a photo of a Hawaiian volcano taken by Ian Stauffer.

Here’s how Ian described the experience of capturing this photo in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park:

“After exploring much of the Big Island, visiting the volcano was the last thing on my bucket list. Even while we were still several miles away we began to see the glow of the volcano and when we reached the opening our minds were blown.”

Ian is an adventure photographer. You can follow him here: instagram.com/ianjamesstauffer.

Silhouette of Mountains

“There is more to the world than smoke and mist, father.” Photo by Thomas Tixtaaz.

Thomas Tixtaaz took this photo, which he titled “Silhouette of Mountains Covered by Fogs.” It perfectly represents the mix of natural fogs and smoke from Belmont’s coal and iron operations.

Thomas’s photos of animals, mountains and the outdoors can be found at unsplash.com/@tixtaaz and at redbubble.com/fr/people/tixtaaz.

Fiery Kiln

“The world is a kiln. It forges us in its flames.”
Photo by Viviane Okubo.

I could not find very many photographs of kilns, so I’m very grateful that Viviane Okubo, a Brazilian amateur photographer, captured this great, fiery shot of a kiln in Brumadinho, Brazil.

Viviane’s animal, mountain, and urban photos can be found at unsplash.com/@vivianeokubo. You can also learn more about her at vivianeokubo.com.

Misty Mountain Layers

Mist blanketed everything, yet his eyes had never been clearer. Photo by Jackson Hendry.

Jackson Hendry of Salt Lake City captured this great photo from the summit of the Pfeifferhorn in the United States. Here is how Jackson explains how he captured the shot:

“It had been a busy wildfire season and recent burns created a stunning view of mountain layers at the summit of the Pfeifferhorn. The hike includes scrambling the ridge seen in the lower right to gain the summit.”

This photo provided the perfect misty, smoky mountain-feel of Belmont. I also love Jackson’s work and this is the second time I’ve used one of his photos on this website. In fact, his photo of a starry sky over Lost Lake represented Lake Avon in my February Contest story “The Secret War.” It was the featured photo.

Jackson’s interests include beach images, outdoor photography, adventure, star images, and astronomy. His work can be found at unsplash.com/@actionjackson801.

Night of the Rocket–Belmont

The Globe

The Globe Folio: Tales from the Five Cities

[EDITORS NOTE: Below is the first of six stories set on a single planet but written by four authors. We will release one story each Friday. Please bear with this short introduction to the planet and the five cities. It will be worth it. I promise!]

On the planet simply known as The Globe, all the residents live along the Elizabeth River in or near one of the five nation cities. In the wilds in between live the beasts and the bandits, but under the protection of the five cities, the people prosper. Trade travels along the Elizabeth River. Except for the Seven Day War between Whitehall and Finsbury, there has always been peace. What more could one want?

Generations ago, their ancestors fled a war among the stars and settled The Globe. They dismantled their ships and built cities. Now, they only look to the stars to admire their cold, distant beauty.

So no one expected the descent of the rockets. Only those watching the night sky on that historic night saw the lurid, purple glare as the first rocket landed in a field near Whitehall. A night that would always be remembered as the “Night of the Rocket.”

The City of Belmont

Furthest north in the cold mountains lies the City of Belmont and its iron and coal mines. Eternal mists mix with billows of smoke to wreath the underground city in permanent clouds of smog. The mysterious Belmontians stick to their own, and some say they are so inbred they have red eyes.

This story is set in Belmont on the Night of the Rocket …

Pillars of Smoke

by Frasier Armitage

A horn blasted through Belmont, carried in the smog. In another hour, Thinveil would chime. Lorenzo deactivated his pickaxe and stumbled into the elevator, a shadow among shadows as smoke saturated the air, turning everything into a haze of itself.

Bodies piled out, past the molten lake. Its liquid fire flowed from the Pillars of Belmont where a pneumatic kiln smelted ore in a river of purified iron. Photo by Ian Stauffer.

The lift ascended through the mountain’s core, and the Great Kiln’s pounding rhythm guided droves of spent workers from the mine.

“Hab-level,” the elevator squawked.

Bodies piled out, past the Pillars of Belmont, two colossal monuments carved inside the mountain. Between the pillars, a molten lake flowed. Its liquid fire traced a path through the habitat as the ancient kiln smelted ore in a river of purified iron. The pillars towered over the shrouded city, chiseled into the mountain’s heart. A temple to the fire.

Lorenzo tottered through a swarm of masked workers, naked save for their tools. None needed the extra weight of fabric when mist preserved their modesty better than clothing, and the city’s heat blazed as the sun.

He found his hab-unit, and his fingers smothered the iron keypad. Vents sealed behind him, pumping the air clear, revealing smudges of coal across his sweat-drenched body. He unclasped his breathing mask and hung it with his goggles on the wall. Pulses of air washed over him, cleansing him of the mine’s stain. A chill rippled his skin, and he clothed himself before he stepped into the hab.

“Lorenzo’s back!” his mother called out. Sylvia and Roderigo scurried to him, hugging his legs. His mother pulled the twins from him.

“At the rate they’re growing, they’ll be knocking me down soon,” Lorenzo said.

“We have news. Thank the flame.”

“Never. Your legs are strong as the two pillars.” She smiled.

“My son,” his father entered from the study. “Today is a good day.” He stood opposite Lorenzo and pressed his hands on the young man’s shoulders, his red eyes beaming. “We have news. Thank the flame.”

“What news?”

“You’ve been matched, my son.”

Lorenzo’s head dropped. “Father, I—”

“Narissa is to be your mate.”

“You know my feelings, father. How can you rejoice?”

“Shouldn’t I be happy you’ll have prospects, security, a wife?”

“A cage.”

His father released his arms. “Roderigo, Sylvia, go and play in the other room.”

The children disappeared, shepherded to the playroom by their mother.

“There is more to the world than smoke and mist, father.” Photo by Thomas Tixtaaz.

“How many times have I told you, son? You shouldn’t speak ill of Belmont.”

“There is more to the world than smoke and mist, father.” Lorenzo’s shoulders stiffened. “This city chokes us.”

“The fire warms and feeds us. Smoke keeps us safe.”

“You’re wrong. It’s the others, the outsiders who—”

“Hush, Lorenzo. Do you want the children to hear?” His father glanced over his shoulder. “Never speak of the outsiders. You know the law.”

“The world is a kiln. It forges us in its flames.”
Photo by Viviane Okubo.

Lorenzo threw his hands up. “What would we eat if we didn’t trade our minerals for their food? What would we breathe if we didn’t recycle their air? We’re prisoners inside this mountain.”

“We’re protected.”

“You mean concealed.”

“Isn’t that the same thing?” His father pinched the bridge of his nose. “We hide in mist. We abide in safety. You know this.”

“What you call safety, I call a prison. We’re trapped here.”

“Trapped from what? What is freedom, son? What would you do with it?”

“I wouldn’t marry. Or stay in Belmont.”

“You want to leave? Leave the mountain which has cared for you. Abandon the mines that have welcomed and taught you? Are you so ungrateful?”

“Are you so blind? Would you rather I rot in this cage, father? This is not the only city in the world.”

His father rubbed his eyes. “What do you know of the world? The world is a kiln. It forges us in its flames. You can’t escape the fire.”

Lorenzo’s eyes glowed hot, burning red. Bloodflame seared hatred into his bones. “Look beyond the smoke, father. The outsiders could help us.”

“You know nothing of the outsiders, son.”

“You’re wrong. I’ve seen them.”

His father stilled, statuesque. “You’ve what?”

“From the mountaintop.”

“Since when have you been outside the mountain?”

Lorenzo puffed his chest. “I found an abandoned vent. The mist was thinner in the open. And at Thinveil, before our kiln pumps smog into the air, before the smoke thickens the mountain’s fog, I could see the lights.”

“There’s more beyond this mountain.”

“No, Lorenzo. I won’t hear it.”

“They were faint. But I saw them.”

His father shook the words out of his head. “You’re just a child, my son. You don’t know what you speak.”

“I know enough. There’s more beyond this mountain.”

“There is fire and family. And that is all.”

“Maybe for you, father. You can’t leave. You have the children, and mother. But I have no wife. No ties. Why shouldn’t I go?”

“Do you think me a slave, Lorenzo? That Roderigo and Sylvia imprison me? No. They’ve freed me. We’re all children of smoke. You’re free here. Belmont is free. Don’t you see that?”

“I see a tomb.”

His father paced the hab. “Maybe you’ll understand one day, when you and Narissa have children of your own. Come. Today is a good day. Accept your match and let’s eat.”

Lorenzo’s fists shook. Tears welled in his eyes, branding him in rage. “I won’t be buried in this mountain!” He turned to the airlock and snatched his breathing mask.

Mist blanketed everything, yet his eyes had never been clearer. Photo by Jackson Hendry.

“Lorenzo!” his father called after him. But it was too late. Smoke filled the hab, and Lorenzo vanished within it.

Through the city, he climbed. He scrambled to the derelict service hatch, and shimmied up the vent. Thinveil struck. The horn blared below as Lorenzo lifted himself onto the mountainside.

Mist blanketed everything, yet his eyes had never been clearer.

There is more, he thought. More beyond the smoke. More beyond Belmont. More waiting for me.

As if in answer, the sky erupted. A lurid purple spark, bright as molten ore, lit the mountaintop. Lorenzo shielded his eyes, but nothing could prevent the flame blazing across heaven, slicing through his sanctuary of smoke. As the light touched Lorenzo, it held no warmth. No comfort. And for the first time in his life, there was nowhere for him to hide.


If you enjoyed Frasier’s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below.

And make sure to check back this coming Friday for the next flash-fiction story set on The Globe, “Shadow of the Dunes” by Shanel Wilson. Set in the desert city of Westminster, it’s filled with action, intrigue, and swirling sands.

Finally, view the beautiful, original photos used to illustrate “Pillars of Smoke,” learn about the photographers, and follow links to their other work.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross