Dirigible

It’s hard to sleep when silence hangs heavy in the air. It’s even worse if there is stifling heat, but that’s not a major issue. We live in San Francisco and it doesn’t get hot enough here to seriously consider having air conditioning installed in our home. Still, there is that silence and the sound of sirens or maybe-gunshots that break it are few and far between.

We keep a fan running in the bedroom, a big one at least two feet in diameter. It sits on a stand high enough to blast air over the top of the bed. The breeze it produces feels like it comes in waves even though the fan blades spin at a constant rate. Either there is some science to explain it or it’s faulty perception on my part.

With our older fan, I used to pretend the sound it made was from a B-17 bomber and I was part of the crew bombing German cities flat because Hitler was a dick. I blogged about it here in case you’re interested.

Five years later, I don’t fantasize about being on a B-17 anymore even though the new fan sounds pretty much like the old one. These days I pretend I’m in a dirigible, zeppelin, rigid airship, whatever you want to call it. Not a blimp though. I have no desire to float around advertising Goodyear tires unless I get to kill a bunch of sports fans like Bruce Dern tried to do in Black Sunday.

I like the rigid airships because there’s space to crawl around inside the thing between the gas bags held in a lightweight frame. Just to be clear: The bags are filled with helium. You can save your “Oh the humanity” for someone else, thank you very much.

My dirigible fantasy is more speculative than historical. There is little charm doing the Kaiser’s bidding in WWI and even less serving on an airborne Das Love Boot with swastikas on the tail fins.

Instead, I wanted something less stressful than my daily life. On the airship, I wouldn’t be worrying about the effects of aging or how long it will be before I can give up my career (such as it is) and retire. I would be part of a green cargo service, offering package deliveries a little faster than a freighter and far more ecologically friendly than any jet airplane. I’m not sure what my job would be, hopefully something untaxing mentally and physically. The propellers would serve most as stabilizers as we headed toward our destination with prevailing winds.

Longer journeys could take a while, which was fine by me. What wasn’t fine was daytime travel. Since I would be lying in bed at night imagining the fan was a dirigible propeller, I wanted the sky to be as dark as the interior of the bedroom.

No matter, this was my world so I could make it anything I want. I decided to have some natural disaster slow the Earth’s rotation enough so the western hemisphere was always facing away from the sun. American goth kids loved it. The other billion-plus people affected were far less happy.

And that’s where it all went wrong. The whole idea of this fantasy was to require very little thinking so the transition from make-believe to slumber was effortless as possible. Now I had all this socioeconomic nonsense to deal with.

People in the western hemisphere would do everything they could to escape to sunnier climes. Those left behind would do whatever could to survive. If you were a farmer and grew anything other than mushrooms, your crops would die. So would most vegetation and an entire ecosystem that relied on it. The only way to make a living was to sell what you could for scrap and strip mine everything else.

Meanwhile, the eastern half of the planet would get a lot more crowded. Colonizers from the west would want land and resources. Those who did not comply with this new world order were sent off to one of the massive penal colonies cropping up all over the Americas. Some of those exiled were political prisoners. Others were actual criminals, including rapists and murderers. All were released locally after serving their sentences, which fueled the resentment of the surrounding communities.

So where did that leave me? In the here and now, I was lying sleepless on the bed, staring at the ceiling and working through the minutiae of the dystopia I created. On the dirigible, I was waiting for prisoners and supplies to be loaded on the summit of Mauna Kea. From there, we would cross the Pacific and make landfall under the cover of endless night. Flying too high for the sound of our engines to be heard, we would deliver our cargo on Mt. Whitney and be on our way. Whatever was going on thousands of feet below us was no concern of mine.

And with that, the other me could finally get to sleep.

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