|Chapter 5: Museum of Dreams
Extract from J&K 4Ever
The inside of the warehouse was vast. Beyond comprehension. The roof so high it seemed to have its own weather. In complete contrast to the chaos of the yard, here everything was in perfect order. Straight lines of crates and huge objects stored in stacks so high no man could have put them there and no man could take down. Machines, crates, everything carefully labeled and catalogued. As far as the eye could see – it was if everything that had ever been made was stored here. He had never been so impressed in all his life. The Keeper smiled, taking in Kruge’s awed silence with approval. If a boy couldn’t be impressed by this, nothing would, ever.
Kruge stared at the vast crates of liquor in wonder. Thousands of bottles of whiskey, brandy, and more besides. No wonder the old man had a hangover and he was the only one with a key.
‘We’ve got fork lift trucks, bulldozers, jack hammers, washing machines, dryer, microwave ovens, squeezy mops by the thousands. We even got five thousand Barbie dolls.’
‘Barbie?’ Kruge asked, not sure he heard right.
‘Don’t ask. We got clothes, stockings, everything they ever made in China and Vietnam, computers, laptops, tablets, phones with gizmos, the entire contents of the county library… there isn’t one thing you could think of or even imagine we don’t have.’
‘It’s all prohibited.’
‘Absolutely all of it. It’s all destroyed. Everything you see here has been destroyed, certified disposed of by a trusted Minister.’
Kruge frowned. ‘But it isn’t destroyed.’
The Keeper grinned. ‘If a Minister says it’s destroyed, then it’s destroyed. You understand?’
Kruge was beginning to understand.
‘But if there’s all this whiskey, why was Jacob working on a still? I don’t understand that. He didn’t need to burn himself to death at all.’
‘Still? You think that boy was trying to make moonshine? When we possess at least 100,000 bottles of the finest liquor made by masters of the malt in far off Scotland seventy years ago?’
Kruge stopped in his tracks. He was staring at an aircraft for god’s sake. With wings and everything. Parked right in front of him.
The Keeper nodded, patting the fuselage, looking up at the propeller with pride.
‘This is what killed Jacob. Couldn’t leave it alone, could he. Got ten other aircraft in crates so big we don’t have anything or anyone big enough to even open them, let alone assemble them.’
‘He wanted to fly this?’ The idea excited Kruge.
The Keeper contemplated Kruge for a moment shaking his head. ‘You don’t get it, do you. Bet you don’t even know where we are? Ignorance is bliss. Ministers love saying that. What you don’t know can’t hurt you, right? Those bastards.’ He waved upwards and all around him.
‘Boy, you are standing in Service Hanger 5 on Devil’s Plain Air base. Once we housed the world’s biggest aircraft here. Five thousand men and women, working together in those days, serviced jets and little planes like these. That’s what we did. Kept the jets up in the air. Needed a lot of skills and training to service jet engines and even the little ones like this here. Need special skills, the right kind of tools. Bluette was thriving then. A good city to live in.’
‘This was you? You working on flying machines?’ Kruge was impressed.
‘Jets, boy. Call them by their names. Aircraft like the Dreamliners, 777s, Airbus, they all came here. Engines made by Rolls-Royce, Pratt and Whitney, or GE. I was working electrics back then. Young, thought I had a future. The biggest jets carried around 600 people at a time. Fly all the way from New York to Australia if they wanted, non-stop. I could strip down and rebuild pretty much anything. There was a lot of pressure on us mind to get it right first time. Check and re-checks. No room for error in aircraft. Lot of lives to lose if I made one single mistake. People died like that.’ He snapped his fingers. ‘Different world back then. Different place entirely.’
‘And this?’ Kruge asked, wishing he could get up into the cockpit.
‘What we have here is Cessna Corvalis TTX. Single Teledyne TSIO-550-C engine producing 310-horse power with a range of about 1200 Nautical Miles at 25,000 feet. Pretty fast at 235 ktas (that knots true air speed to you) with side-stick controls for precise, single-pivot-point control.’
Kruge smiled, realizing the old man’s memory was still sharp – for a drunk. He was a completely different man here in his ‘museum’.
‘Jacob was a fool. Thought he could fly this thing on automotive fuel. Takes about 100 gallons. He was siphoning it from anything he could find and then trying to clean it up. You put the wrong stuff into a plane like this and you risk vapor lock (air bubble in the fuel line) and the engine will stall. I told him he was wasting his time. The fuel he collected had deteriorated. We had Avgas here, but water got into the tanks and that was that. There was no way he’d ever get enough clean fuel to get him somewhere. Never mind the fuel. How was he going to fly it? He’d had no lessons. Wasn’t going to get any lessons. There was no guarantee it would ever fly after being here after sixty years. It was new back then and only flown ten hours but this is a museum. Things perish. Nothing you see here even exists.’
Kruge was looking at a row of electric cars further up the hanger. The Keeper followed his gaze.
‘Tesla's got a range of nearly three hundred miles, if you’re lucky, if you can charge the batteries. Then you got to take at least three solar panels with you somehow and every time you run out of charge you got to set up the panels just right – hope for a sunny day and wait about 48 hours to get another ten miles or so.’
Kruge heard the bitterness in his voice. It was suspiciously detailed.
The Keeper acknowledged his stare. ‘Yeah. That was me. Ten years ago. Had enough, went crazy for a while. Had to walk back. Took me damn near three weeks. Nearly starved to death. All-electric cars never really caught on.’
‘Look good though,’ Kruge mused, picturing himself and Jeyna in one.
‘You really want to escape?’
‘Then you need to walk over here…’ Kruge followed the man. The Keeper stopped in front of another crate, the front of it forced open. Inside there was a rack of bicycles.
‘If you can find a pair of bikes without perished tires, this is your best bet. Sure the Enforcers will be on horseback and faster, but you’re never going to run out of gas or batteries. Twenty miles a day or more on smooth highway if you can find one. Two weeks you’d be in the next state or close to the ocean.’
‘You never made it out?’ Kruge asked him, staring at the bicycles. Wondering if they were easy to ride.
‘They didn’t teach you history, I know. But sometimes you have to accept the devil you know.’
‘On Devil’s Plain.’ Kruge remarked with a smile.
‘Yeah. Come on. Grab yourself a bicycle. Get two. That girl of yours ain’t going to run behind you like one of the Minister’s wives.’
‘I don’t get it,’ Kruge said, as he began look at the tires. ‘How can a bicycle be evil?’ They looked OK to him, but then, what did he know?
The Keeper turned away saying, ‘Find yourself a couple of air pumps whilst you’re at it. You never know when you might need a spare.’
© Sam Hawksmoor - September 2020
Meeting the Keeper and Beast - more from J&K 4Ever
Published by Hammer & Tong
A powerful young love story set in the bleak badlands of a ruined USA. Escape from the City of Bluette seems impossible. Behind them come enforcers on horseback to hunt them down...
Read Chapter One here
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USA Edition / UK Edition / USA kindle