The photos and photographers of The Towers of Whitehall

The photographers of Unsplash.com provided me with a great collection of photos for Jim Hamilton’s “The Towers of Whitehall,” 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 Verticality

This photo represents the glittering towers of Whitehall. Photo by Possessed Photography.

The photographer who simply goes by “Possessed Photography” on unsplash.com captured this beautiful image of glass towers that they titled “Blue Verticality,” which is a great title. I shared this photo with Jim before he wrote “The Towers of Whitehall.” I’m sure it helped inspire his idea that Whitehallers generate their city’s electric power from “transparent, photo-voltaic cells” in their glass towers.

Possessed Photography’s images of robots, vehicles, technology, art, architecture, and Japan can be found at unsplash.com/@possessedphotography. Possessed Photography lives in Japan and is available for hire.

View from Above

View from a tower to a wide concrete veranda and water beyond
Photo by Mirza Babic.

When I chose this photo, I was thinking of Leonardo, “who stood at the railing of the observation deck, high atop Central Tower. . . . As the sun rose higher, Leonardo watched as a barge arrived from upstream and pulled up to the quay. Right on time, he said to himself, and left his perch to go meet the barge. Its arrival made him feel marginally better, but he was still worried.”

This image, shot by Mirza Babic of New York City, New York in the United States, may not be shot from an angle as high as the top of Whitehall’s Central Tower, but I think it does a nice job of giving us the feeling of Leonardo’s gaze down on Lake Avon from the towers of Whitehall.

The photo itself is a bit of a mystery. Mirza did not disclose where the photo was shot or reveal any other details. And the photo is titled “Sanity.” I do find the photo quite soothing. I love the wide, curving expanse of concrete. I like the stone edifice to the left with mildly arched entrances. And I love the dark-but-shining water beyond. I can see the view soothing Leonardo’s frayed nerves.

But I am intrigued by why Mirza titled it “Sanity.” Was that a reference to the lone individual captured below, the soothing combination of stone and water, or to a view from a window that meant “home”? Perhaps we’ll never know.

Mirza’s photography can be found at unsplash.com/@mirzababic and mirzababic.com.

Breakfast Stim

A mug and pot of "stim" and a handheld, electronic device
She played with her handheld game and sipped her stim. Photo by Ceyda Ciftci.

In Jim’s story, he wrote that Stephano’s mother, Lucetta, drank stim and played her handheld game during the breakfast hour. I loved that detail and wanted to include some futuristic version of a drink called “stim.” When I ran across this photo by Ceyda Ciftci, I loved it immediately. I don’t know if it truly looks futuristic or otherworldly, but it certainly looks elegant and different than the tea and coffee setups I see in offices and homes.

Ceyda shot this in Istanbul, Turkey. She titled the photo “Rinascimento,” which is apparently Italian for “Renaissance.” And that is very fitting for our stories set on The Globe, a planet whose residents are clearly very influenced by Shakespeare, his work, and Elizabethan England.

You can find more photos by Ceyda at unsplash.com/@ceydaciftci.

Cranes

Cranes working near a waterfront
Cranes over the waterfront. Photo by Elias.

This photo represented this scene: “Leonardo stood well back on the dock, watching as the crane unloaded the first of the two, giant, bell-shaped castings. Each of them was made from cast iron and took up nearly half of the drone barge that had ferried them down from the hills.”

It was tricky to find a combination of waterfront, futuristic buildings and something that might look like a Sci Fi crane. I settled for two out of three, as it turns out cranes look very similar the world over.

The photographer who simply goes by Elias on unsplash.com captured this scene of HafenCity in Hamburg, Germany. It’s a good photo, but I found by cropping carefully I could include the futuristic building in the center, the cranes and the water.

You can learn more about Elias’s photography at unsplash.com/@eelias.

Slider Park

Slider Park in Whitehall
“Dozens of young people were riding their hoverboards up and down, over and under, and all around the contoured course.” Photo by Mika Baumeister.

Mika Baumeister shot this overhead view of the skate park Peitruss in Luxembourg from a nearby bridge. It’s a great geometric photo, and you can see the fascinating geometric shapes created by the park’s designers and builders.

Mika hails from Bonn, Germany and is available for hire. Mika is building a German Unsplash community and shows interest in interacting on the front page. You can see more of Mika’s work at unsplash.com/@mbaumi.

Graffito

Kid at the skate park. Photo by @cbyoung.

Clark Young shot this amazing graffito at a skate park. He titled the photo “Kid at the Skate Park,” which I love for its simplicity. Clark does not share any more information, so I don’t even know what country it’s shot in.

I already had one great photo to represent the slider park in Whitehall where Portia and Stephano secretly meet to plan their escape. But when I saw this beautiful, golden “Globe” graffito, I could not resist. So, to the tag artist “Globe,” I love this throwie. I salute you and I thank you.

See more of Clark’s landscape and architecture photos at unsplash/@cbyoung.

Jetty

They met at the jetty. Photo by Casey Horner.

I love this beautiful night shot of a lighted dock by Casey Horner. I could look at it for hours. Technically, it fits the definition of jetty, which is where Stephano and Portia meet to stow away on the drone barge. I’m not sure if this is the type of jetty Jim imagined, but I’m a sucker for a starry sky.

Casey titled this photo “Long Walk Off a Short Pier.” It was shot in Waimea in the United States. Casey hails from Manteca, California in the United States. You can view more of Casey’s work at unsplash.com/@mischievous_penguins.

Night of the Rocket–Whitehall

The Globe

The Globe Folio: Tales from the Five Cities

[EDITORS NOTE: Below is the third 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 Whitehall

Whitehall, the First City, rises in glittering, crystalline towers from the shores of Lake Avon. It’s brown-eyed scientists and engineers build wonders and, in their great minds, they believe they rule all of The Globe.

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

The Towers of Whitehall

by Jim Hamilton

Sunrise in Whitehall was always special. Especially on the days, like today, when the bright blue sky was cloudless and the full rays of the morning sun played out over the glittering glass towers. Both the reflection and refraction of its essence washed shimmering rainbows across the city that changed from moment to moment.

The glory of all of this was lost on Leonardo, who stood at the railing of the observation deck, high atop Central Tower. From his vantage point, he could see the entire city spread out below him, from the residential spires on the north side to the industrial section on the south. Beyond the perimeter walls, he could see the Elizabeth, which originated in the distant mountains and ran its natural course to the sea. As the sun rose higher, Leonardo watched as a barge arrived from upstream and pulled up to the quay. Right on time, he said to himself, and left his perch to go meet the barge. Its arrival made him feel marginally better, but he was still worried.

Photo by Mirza Babic.

Lucetta called out, “Stephano! Hurry up, or you’re going to be late for school!”

“I’m coming, Ma,” said her teenage son, as he came down the hallway from the bedrooms. He grabbed a bowl and poured some cereal into it before filling a glass with some juice from the dispenser. Grabbing a spoon, he carried them to the table where his mother sat, sipping her stim.

“Why are you wearing that horrible shirt?” She glanced down. “And those silly pants?”

“It’s what everyone else is wearing!” protested Stephano.

She played with her handheld game and sipped her stim. Photo by Ceyda Ciftci.

“Well, you’re not leaving the house looking like that.” She held up her finger to halt his protest. “You can wear that nice new outfit I bought for you yesterday.”

He sighed loudly and rolled his eyes before turning his attention to his cereal. His mother had no idea what school was like. As he ate, he glanced at her from time to time as she played with her handheld game and sipped her stim, occasionally tucking her short brown hair back over an ear.

He didn’t fault her for her strict ideals, as every generation up until now had simply followed the rituals of the previous generation. In his own case, it was twenty-two generations ago when they had landed on this planet and creatively named it “The Globe.” And, after twenty-two generations of the same silly rules and laws, Stephano, along with almost everyone else his age, felt the same way.

It was time for a change.

He finished his cereal and downed the last of his juice before finally breaking the silence. “I’m done, Ma. Can I get you a refill?” He stood and picked up his bowl and glass.

She glanced into her crystalline cup before swigging the last of her stim and handing it to her son. “A refill would be quite nice. Thanks!” He took it from her and set his bowl and glass in the sink. Filling her cup from the dispenser, he carried it back to the table and set it next to her.

“Here you go, Ma. I’m going to go change into my new outfit, and then I’m off to school!”

“Thank you, Stephano. You’re such a good son.” She smiled at him. “I’m lucky to have someone like you.”

He leaned down and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “I’m lucky to have you, too, Ma.”

Something on her handheld flashed and her attention turned back to her game again. Stephano shook his head and went to his room to change. When he returned, he had on baggy brown pants with an off-white long-sleeved shirt that buttoned down the front and had a bit of lace on the cuffs. On his feet, he still wore his sandals, but he was counting on his mother not noticing. He shouldered his backpack and headed for the door, calling out over his shoulder, “I’m leaving now!”

Without looking up from her game, she waved at him. “Have a good day at school!”

“Yes, Ma.” He closed the door to their home and took the lift down to the tube station in the basement of their tower. He headed straight for the public fresher and, a few minutes later, emerged wearing his sparkly sleeveless pullover and his ripped and faded durum flares. As he made his way to the tube platform, he saw two of his classmates in similar attire and ran to catch up with them.


Leonardo stood well back on the dock, watching as the crane unloaded the first of the two, giant, bell-shaped castings. Each of them was made from cast iron and took up nearly half of the drone barge that had ferried them down from the hills. The whine of the hover pallet increased slightly as the first one was gently lowered onto it. Then the pallet began its slow journey down the ramp that led into the bowels of Whitehall. He waited until the second one was transferred and then slowly followed it down the ramp.

The high towers of the city were mostly made from transparent, photo-voltaic cells. These provided a source of electricity during the day while spinning up three, giant, cast-iron flywheels that provided electricity during the night. Two weeks ago, a crack had opened up in the casing for one of them, and the engineers had struggled to get by with the other two.

Photo by Elias.

Leonardo wouldn’t be able to rest until they had repaired the third flywheel and had it up and running again. After ensuring that the castings reached their destination safely, he left their installation up to Tomasso, his best foreman, and took the lift up to the administration level.

Tapping on the doorframe to one of the offices, he said, “Do you have a moment, Iago?”

From behind his large desk, Iago looked up from his work. “Ah, Leonardo! Come right on in.” He stood and reached out to shake hands. “Thanks for coming by. I assume that you have an update on our power problem?”

“I do, sir.” Leonardo took a seat. “The new castings have arrived and I saw to it personally that they’re intact and cleared them to be installed. Tomasso and his crew should have everything completed before evening.”

“Well, that’s a relief.” Iago shook his head. “I don’t need to remind you what happened the last time.”

Leonardo shook his head as well. “No, sir. No need for that.” He hesitated before continuing. “As you know, since we’ve exhausted our supply of pollium, we can’t make any more photo-voltaic glass. The current ones that are still functioning are barely providing enough power as it is.”

He shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

“You need to tell everyone, sir. If we start conserving our energy now, we can easily last a few more years.”

My son, Stephano, says that we need to learn how to live more simply.

“And then what?” asked Iago. He turned in his chair and gestured out the window that overlooked the city. “Whitehall only consumes a small amount of the power we generate. The power we beam to Belmont keeps their air-handlers running and their cauldrons bubbling.” He pointed again. “Likewise, the vast smelters in Westminster, the farming machinery in Finsbury, and the ships at sea out of Newlondon.”

He asked again, “And then what?”

“I don’t know, sir.” He laughed. “My son, Stephano, says that we need to learn how to live more simply. To quit consuming for the sole purpose of keeping people busy making things.” He smiled, wryly. “Maybe he’s right.”

Iago sighed. “I don’t understand today’s generation of teenagers. You and I just did as our parents told us to do, and they should be doing the same thing.” He drummed his fingers on his desktop. “Once they’re older, I’m sure that they’ll come to their senses.” He looked at Leonardo. “Anything else?”

Leonardo shook his head. “No, sir.” Standing up, he said, “I’m going back to the power room. I can’t rest until the flywheel’s back online.”

“I understand. Let me know if anything changes.”

“Will do, sir,” said Leonardo, and he turned and left the office.


“We’re spoiled rotten,” said Portia.

“I know,” replied Stephano. “Compared to everyone outside of Whitehall, we’ve got it easy.”

They were sitting side by side on one of the benches that ringed the slider park. It was a popular after-school hangout, and dozens of young people were riding their hoverboards up and down, over and under, and all around the contoured course. It was also one of the few places that they could be together without being teased by their classmates.

Photo by Mika Baumeister.

“We supply the other cities with radiated power and, in exchange, they supply us with the things we need that we can’t make for ourselves,” she replied. “But they’ve got the short end of the stick! Why can’t our parents understand that?”

Stephano snorted. “Because they’re old and stubborn and set in their ways.” He put his arm around her. “Are you sure that you want to go through with this?” She nodded. “Okay, then. I’ll buzz you when I’m leaving my tower and meet you at the jetty.”

“Okay,” she promised. Portia put her lips near his ear and whispered, “I love you, Stephano!”

He smiled and whispered back into her own ear, “I love you, too!”

When it was time to leave, Stephano walked with her to her own tower, where he stole a quick kiss before heading home with a slight spring in his step.

Photo by Clark Young.

Leonardo was reading in his study when a tap came at the door. He looked up to see his son standing in the doorway. “Come on in, Stephano.”

“I’m sorry to bother you, Da, but I’m headed to bed and I wanted to tell you goodnight.”

Leonardo was a bit surprised by this, but he didn’t let it show. “Well, thank you, son. That’s very thoughtful of you.” He smiled. “Was there something else that you wanted to tell me?”

Stephano nodded. “I know how disappointed you are that I never wanted to follow in your footsteps, and I wanted to tell you that I’m sorry that I didn’t turn out as you and Ma wanted.”

Leonardo frowned. “Well, yes, I would have liked to have had you by my side as I worked on my projects, but disappointed? Never.” He smiled warmly. “Your mother and I have only wanted your happiness. You know that.”

“I know, Da.” Stephano hung his head. “I just think that there’s more to life than keeping the lights on. That’s all.” He looked back up. “Anyway, I love you and I’m sorry and I’m going to bed now.” He turned and left.

“Goodnight, Stephano,” called out Leonardo, but he wasn’t sure if his son heard him. I wonder what that was all about? he asked himself.


Stephano’s alarm woke him in the wee hours of the morning. He quietly got up and quickly got dressed—favorite shirt and durums, of course—before pulling the blanket off of his bed. Spreading it out in the middle of his bedroom floor, he began placing the inventory of items he was taking on top of it. Tying it up made a neat, if somewhat heavy, bundle.

He left his note on his bed, where it would be easily found, and eased his way to the outer door. Both of his parents were heavy sleepers and sneaking out had always been easy. Before he entered the lift, he alerted Portia. The drone barge left at dawn, and they had plenty of time to stow away on it.

They met at the jetty. Photo by Casey Horner.

As planned, they met at the jetty and he gave her a heartfelt hug. “Are you sure that you still want to go through with this?”

“Of course, Stephano. If we stay here, we can never be together.”

She kissed him deeply.

Their moment of passion was interrupted by a loud noise overhead. Looking up, they saw a bright, purple flash in the sky that was reflected everywhere by the crystalline towers of Whitehall.


If you enjoyed Jim’s story, please share some kind comments below.

Make sure to check back this coming Friday for the next flash-fiction story set on The Globe, “The Beast Below” by Shanel Wilson and Frasier Armitage. Set in the city of Newlondon, it’s filled with love, betrayal, and a suicidal quest aboard a “death ship.”

You can view the beautiful, original photos used to illustrate “Towers of Whitehall,” learn about the photographers, and follow links to their other work.

Finally, you can also enjoy the first two tales in the Globe Folio:

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

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.