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  Viper Wire by Richard Kadrey
 

Pleasure Cruise

It was Spring, the time of the annual Wagner festival, so he found himself on the Ammon Ra, a gilt airship drifting luxuriously from Cairo towards Berlin. The seats in the First Class observation car were upholstered in the hides of pandas and Tasmanian tigers, and stuffed with dodo bird feathers. A group of laughing Americans—loud, nouveau riche corporate psychics—were shooting angels off the starboard side of the craft. Burning cherubim fell screaming along the banks of the Suez, all the way from El Giza to Port Said at the coast. It was all too clamorous and tiresome for him.

Arab pearl and memory merchants were clogging the club car, debating prices in obscure hand signs and offering him small fluted vials of swirling green and pink vapor. "The memories of Casanova. A great lover and poet. I make you a good price…" He shook his head, but the offers kept coming. Alexander the Great. Roy Rogers. Madonna. He mumbled Persian obscenities and wandered to the Dream car. Unfortunately, the only sleepers on the airship at that time of day were children and their dozing nannies. The dreams they presented were full of cartoonishly menacing stuffed animals or long lost loves. Walking back to his private cabin, he mused that travel used to be more interesting when it was restricted to a certain quality of person.

Reading a fashion magazine on his aluminum divan, he recalled that in his rush to catch the airship he had neglected to have his eyes done. Cataracts were all the rage in Europe that Spring. It was his good fortune that the ship's plastic surgeons had a cancellation in the afternoon.

He awoke after a long post-surgical nap just as the Ammon Ra was lowering itself to the ground at the Berlin Aerodrome. Refreshed and thrilled to finally be back in Germany, he was led off the ship by one of the attendants assigned just to the stylishly blind. He was part of a small group that included a couple of ex-astronauts and the deposed head of some Balkan state or other. They laughed and traded business stories. Blindness created a certain chumminess among its fashion victims, he observed. He found it charming in such a cosmopolitan city.

 

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Richard Kadrey is a journalist, essayist, editor, and fiction writer, among other accomplishments. He has written essays and memoirs extensively for the Web, and a search on his name on Google will prove rewarding.

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