- It never ended.
- were opened three times a day
- indistinguishable from the rustling of a tree
- Limping up to the altar
- graveyards for machines
The floodgates were opened three times a day, to manage the pressure. Beatitude manifested spontaneously in the cold stone building. It never ended. And if it wasn’t bled off on a regular schedule, the strain would become too much for the ornate stained-glass windows to handle.
No one could go inside, of course. Too intense. Just being within a two-block radius at any of the thrice-daily ventings of surplus divine grace tended to overload most people’s sensibilities. No one lived that close to the cathedral anymore. Respectable businesses couldn’t operate in the hot zone, so the textile district had shifted north, abandoning the old work floors to be graveyards for machines.
I camped under a disused loom in one of the old mills, just yards from one of the huge double doorways that served as relief valves. After two days I felt accustomed to the bizarre climate of the zone, like a mountaineer adjusting to thinner air. But already my skin was raw and my mind was growing brittle. I had to make my move.
I knew the floodgate schedule well, so I was ready when the doors gave forth their gust of rose-scented golden light. I was off to one side, and dashed inside the building after the radiance had diminished, seconds before the doors boomed shut again.
The bird roosted on the pulpit. I couldn’t look directly at it, the glow from its plumage was too dazzling. The pressure was building fast, but I knew that right now it was as low as it ever got. Limping up to the altar, I shut my eyes and groped toward the shining creature. I only needed one feather.
The bird spread its huge wings with a sound indistinguishable from the rustling of a tree. I kept my eyes closed tight and leaned forward until I feared I would lose my balance. I strained to reach the shimmering avian beast.
I only needed one feather.
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