I’ve been thinking about the Bridgetown Trilogy lately, and also of one of my top five favorite scenes I wrote for it. This one in particular is the very last ‘shot’ of Book 2, The Persistence of Memories, in which our heroes are about to change their fates in the most quiet and peaceful of ways:
It was closing in on nine o’clock when Christine’s car pulled up to the front of Moulding Warehouse. They climbed out and stood in front of the main entrance, its door open and waiting. They looked within and saw bustling movement, last-minute preparations being made. There were many people here that he knew, if not by name or face then by spirit signature, all with a singular mission: to prevent a war from taking place.
Had it really come to this? A spiritual war to gain control of an artificial intelligence? Shirai wasn’t just the Tower AI but a technical construct that housed an actual Gharné soul. She was one of a kind, created by a Mendaihu and protected by a small band of jacker punks. And the Shenaihu wanted her badly.
Inside the warehouse, the floor was brightly lit and the air was warm, a stark contrast to the cold air and the darkness outside. About a hundred feet in he saw seven people standing patiently, waiting for them. He could sense them better than he could see them, but he knew who they were. Denni stood in the center, a big smile on her face and her spirit brimming with joy. She held Caren’s hand tightly.
“No turning back now,” Poe said, and turned to his left. Sheila stared at the doorway with the same steel intensity she’d always shown during investigations. She noticed his glance and turned to face him.
“I’m ready,” she said.
He nodded, and turned to his right. Nick still looked skeptical, but he’d already made his choice. He understood his role and its importance of what was to come, even if he had no idea what was going to happen. He felt an immense pride in helping the Mendaihu, the people who had saved him a number of times during his tenure as a BMPD officer. He felt at peace with his surroundings, despite its chaos. For him, the most important thing was that he felt at home.
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends,” he said. “Once more.”
Poe snorted out a laugh. The last thing he’d expected from Nick was for him to quote Shakespeare. It was a much needed dose of levity.
Christine, standing a few feet behind Poe, felt more nervous than scared. She’d faced many demons before, and had simply chosen to view this as yet another. She trusted Poe as her brother and her spiritual sibling, and was willing to go forth and witness it all, both good and bad, if that was to be her own fate. She did not need to say anything; Poe had sensed everything she was thinking and feeling at this moment. He felt that warmth in his heart, knowing she would be with him throughout it all.
Sheila and Nick looked at each other, nodded, and walked forward. Just as they approached the door, Nick stepped aside and let her walk through the door first, theatrically waving her through. She laughed at his ridiculousness and slapped him on the arm as she passed by. When he walked through, she took his arm, and together they continued towards the waiting crew.
Poe stood there for a few moments, waiting. Christine came up from behind him and stood to his left, still looking at the open door.
“Are you ready for this?” she asked.
“Was I ever?” he said. “I’ll have to be.”
“At least you’re honest,” she grinned. “Should I…?”
He offered his arm. “I’ll walk you to the door. I have to be the last one in.”
She offered him a weak smile.
“Don’t worry, it’s not like you and I are getting married.”
Christine let out a nervous laugh. “You ass! This is serious!”
“I know,” he said. “That’s why I said it. Shall we?”
She nodded. “Here we go.”
They walked slowly. All the movement within the warehouse had slowed to a stop, at least temporarily. He took a single nervous breath, trying to ignore the fact that five thousand or so Mendaihu, Shenaihu and cho-nyhndah were in that warehouse right now, had their eyes or their senses trained on that one door frame.
They came to the door, and he stopped. Wordlessly, Christine let go of his arm, leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, and nodded twice. Pride, he thought, as he sensed her emotions. She was proud of him, proud to have known him, proud to have been able to work with him for so many years. She walked through, and kept walking until she’d joined the others. She stood just apart from them, not officially part of this circle, but an observer and a participant. They were all waiting for this moment.
He felt a small prick of cold touch him on the back of the neck, just as he was about to walk through. He felt it again almost immediately, and he looked up. A light snow shower had just arrived, creating a ghostly cone underneath the spotlight. One flake hit him on his eyelash and he lifted his hand to brush it away.
Snow, he thought with a smile. The Rain of Light blesses me tonight.
“Here lies fate,” he said, took a deep breath, and walked through the door.
I use the door metaphor at the end of all three books, each one with Alec Poe being the one to walk through. Why him, and not Denni or Caren? At the time I wrote A Division of Souls I chose him because it felt right. He’s the character of true balance, both emotionally and spiritually. He’s not perfect by a long shot — the scene just before his exit in ADoS is a bitter argument with Caren where he meant well but said exactly the wrong thing — but that’s the whole point of his character. He’s good and bad, perfect and imperfect, strong and vulnerable, intelligent and deeply confused. Many people’s fate rests on his shoulders, whether he likes it or not.
In The Persistence of Memories, he’s the last to enter the warehouse. Technically he didn’t have to be, but it was his own choice: he knew everyone depended on his protection and safety, and it felt right to have everyone in the same place where they had his full attention. I felt the snowfall was a nice touch as well, as it was another metaphor that threads through the trilogy: the flow of ‘rain’ that signifies changes they cannot avoid. Besides, that was one of my favorite things as a kid: looking up at the snow falling at night, illuminated as it entered the light of street lamps. Snowfall mutes all sorts of extraneous noise, giving the area a startlingly peaceful moment in time, and that was Poe’s moment of peace in that story, right at the very end.
I suppose this is one of the reasons I enjoy the winter season, even though I am extremely glad I don’t have to shovel or drive in the white stuff anymore, now that I live in San Francisco. It’s that moment of quiet Zen in an otherwise chaotic world, where I can allow myself some time in contemplation, whether of the day’s events or the year’s. Or of my life to date.
Utilizing that time structure of year’s end to take stock before moving forward once more, with a clearer mind and a stronger heart.