Kitty and the sea: a steam-powered dream
Dreamed up in 2019 by Felix Pleșoianu.
Ported to the Ramus hypertext system version 2.4 (preview).
Kitty and the sea is free and open source under the Artistic License 2.0.
A waterfront road passes between the shore of the Glimmersea and a row of old industrial buildings. In front of an imposing warehouse with arched windows that burrow into red brick walls, a T-shaped jetty extends into the sea, wave after wave breaking noisily against it. Shrieking seagulls circle overhead, gliding on the breeze.
The warehouse's bay doors have a smaller, humanoid-sized door cut into them, which in turn has a cat door at the bottom. Above, on the wall, a banner proclaims: "Feline Industries Recycling Center".
Far to the north, beyond a barren expanse, pale light reveals a small town. The sign pointing that way says: "To Centaur Square". It looks like a short trip.
Pale sunlight filters in through ample windows, making the red brick walls seem even older than they are. Two rows of steel columns lead towards the counter sitting in front of a false wall covered in shelves. The sounds of the sea echo weakly through ample entrance doors.
Chains dangle from a bridge crane overhead, ready to pick up and move the sorting bins waiting their turn to be processed. Somewhere off to the side, a cast iron staircase spirals upwards into the rafters. #do _noise = Math.floor(Math.random() * 6) + 1; #test _noise === 1 #iftrue
You hear the cat door, but when you look that way nothing stirs. #test _noise === 2 #iftrue
Shiny eyes look at you from the dark. You blink and they're gone. #test _noise === 3 #iftrue
A feline shadow passes in front of a window, ghostly silent. #test _noise === 4 #iftrue
A long-tailed shadow darts through a patch of light on little scurrying feet. #test _noise === 5 #iftrue
The dangling chains clatter against each other.
The counter supports a gloriously intricate calculating machine.
The false wall turns out to conceal another doorway,
The sorting bins are full of discarded machine parts.
A rectangular patch of deep blue sky hangs above walls of solid red brick. Now and then the occasional cloud rolls in, softening the sunlight. Old machinery piles up in the corners, mostly against the walls of the building, which stares back with multi-faceted windows. Crushed stone on the ground creaks underfoot.
A small table sits in a corner, surrounded by comfy chairs and topped by an umbrella in the colors of summer. Off to a side, clothes that might fit a large housecat are hanged out to dry, not far from a worn-out couch under an awning, and there's a swing affixed to the lone tree in the middle of it all. #do _month = (new Date()).getMonth() + 1; #test _month === 3 || _month === 4 || _month === 5 #iftrue
It's spring. The tree is a magnificent bouquet of flowers, casting its fresh shadow over the courtyard while bees hum among the branches. #test _month === 6 || _month === 7 || _month === 8 #iftrue
It's summer. The tree's lush foliage casts its shimmering shadow over much of the backyard, making for a nice private shelter from the sun. #test _month === 9 || _month === 10 || _month === 11 #iftrue
It's autumn. The tree is shedding its crown of fire, littering the yard with flakes of red gold. #test _month === 12 || _month === 1 || _month === 2 #iftrue
It's winter. The tree is a dark skeleton half buried in snow, snapping wooden fingers at nobody in particular with each gust of wind.
High in the rafters of the warehouse hides a small room lit by a round window in the background. The furniture consists mainly of a coat rack and metallic shelves, as well as a large cardboard box padded with old clothes. Somewhere in the building's recesses, a fan spins quietly.
The coat rack is wonky. The shelves hold little. Dust is starting to gather over it all.
In a corner, a cast iron staircase descends in a dizzying spiral.
The shelves hold mostly just faded photos of sailors with a large white cat, and assorted mementos: a pipe in its box; a marine chronometer.
Wet rocks covered in algae line the jetty, seagulls marching up and down the line where sea meets land. Waves crash deafeningly against the far end, spraying salt water into the air, and the sun is shrouded in a perpetual haze. Back towards shore, the waterfront is a parade of jagged shapes against deep skies.
The pile of rocks that ends the jetty serves as the foundation for a lighthouse that shoots upwards forcefully, inviting a look.
A narrow strip of rock-strewn sand where algae come to die. Away from the jetty, it just goes on and on, curving outwards until sea blends with sky and the eye can't follow anymore. Under a rocky outcrop hides the unmistakable shape of a treasure chest.
Hungry gulls march up and down the shore, seldom getting lucky. Now and then, peripheral vision catches a glimpse of a large white cat.
The treasure chest has long since been opened and emptied.
A scrawny cat who used to be white looks at the world with sad eyes. His fur dirty and unkempt, missing whiskers, he walks with a barely noticeable limp, glancing around fearfully every now and then. He vanishes when seen straight on.
The lighthouse is an elegant latticework of brick and steel that pierces the sky, strong ribs alternating with tall, narrow windows in a spiral model. The tapering cylinder supports a room with many small glass panes for a wall, and a domed roof on top. On the near side, an offshoot of the wall forms a protective passageway around the door.
The narrow room at the base of the lighthouse somehow seems as tall as the entire building from outside. The walls are made of stone blocks, pierced by window slits at regular intervals. Stairs spiral upwards along the walls, while huge weights dangle from chains through an opening in the ceiling, like in a grandfather clock built by giants. Right beneath them, a wooden trapdoor is set in the middle of the floor. #include "noises"
A thick vertical shaft runs down the middle of the watch room, connected to a clockwork mechanism through oversized gears. Through an opening at the base, one can see that the shaft is actually hollow; a pipe runs upwards from a canister set inside. More such canisters are set against the far wall, and a small desk with chair sits under the only window, opposite the staircase that pauses briefly on its spiral path as it emerges from an opening in the floor and goes on to vanish into the ceiling.
On the desk, among log books and strange instruments, sits a large, ornate table clock. #include "noises"
Close examination reveals a table clock built in the shape of a colorful water mill surrounded by a lush garden and rustic fence. At least half a dozen cats are strewn around: on the roof, in a window, among the flowers. On closer inspection they are articulated, mechanical puppets that undoubtedly perform some sort of routine at the press of a hidden spring.
Indeed, the cats soon come to life in a concert of whirring noises and cheerful musical chimes. In the backyard, a kitten bounces around in circles, tail in the air; the one in the top floor window is licking her paws, while the tom on the roof swishes his tail, watching a bird. Next to him, the weather vane sways back and forth with a tick-tock noise, while on the side of the building the water wheel turns. The entire show lasts less than a minute, then it all winds down neatly. Silence descends over the watch room again.
The ground seems very far away as one can't help but look out the great circular window surrounding the top of the tower. In the center of the walkway sits the three meter tall Fresnel lens, distorting the view of the gas lamp inside. Above, the metal cupola of the roof is only pierced by a storm-proof ventilator at its apex; to one side, the floor opens onto an abrupt staircase. #include "noises"
From up here, one can see the land and sea to a great distance; too bad the permanent haze makes all details indistinct. A telescope is affixed to the rusty guard rail; it looks to be in poor shape. Halfway around the gallery, a door leads back inside. #do _noise = Math.floor(Math.random() * 4) + 1; #test _noise === 1 #iftrue
Twin plumes of smoke raise on the horizon. A steamer, perhaps? #test _noise === 2 #iftrue
A tiny dark shape straightlines across the sky, whirring faintly. #test _noise === 3 #iftrue
The wind splashes bright sea foam across the jetty.
Surprisingly enough the telescope still works, revealing an island some way off the shore: a jagged, broken peak darkening the horizon with its shadow.
A ring of pillars plunge down among the rocks beneath the jetty; the sea ebbs and flows between old stone walls, making reflected light dance along every surface, and every little sound echoes loudly. There's an exit at the far end, wide enough for a small boat; crooked, narrow steps lead to the wooden trapdoor in the ceiling.
A wave crashes deafeningly against the base of the tower. #test _noise === 2 #iftrue
Somewhere in the distance, seagulls cry mournfully. #test _noise === 3 #iftrue
A sudden gust of wind rattles the windows.
The opening is right on the water line, away from where the shore must be.
The small motorboat is moored to a steel beam, ready to go.
The boat comes unmoored easily, and slides out on the open water almost by itself. Then the motor starts; soon, the small craft is racing across the glistening mirror, leaving the shore behind.
It's peaceful out here, far from anything solid. Pistons beat steadily in counterpoint to the calm breath of wind and waves. Overhead, a blurry disc spreads meager light from behind dirty cotton wads. In one direction, a lighthouse beckons out of the turquoise expanse. Away from there leads into the unknown.
The boat gracefully allows itself to be steered. "Faster," it seems to say. "Faster!" But the throttle only goes so far. More time passes; the lighthouse grows slowly at first, then suddenly it's a towering mass straight ahead.
Among its rocky foundations, a little entrance draws the boat in like a tired animal returning to its nest.
The boat gracefully allows itself to be steered. "Faster," it seems to say. "Faster!" But the throttle only goes so far. More time passes, then a shadow begins to rise out of the waters: a jagged, broken peak, with bare rock covered here and there by patches of green.
The sea enters the mountainside through a jagged opening at water level, wide enough to accomodate a small ship. Further in, the water grows progressively still and clear.
Light from the surface seeps in through a jagged opening at the end of the cavern. A narrow ledge goes around the dark, still waters, leading from a small but sturdy dock to the beginning of a narrow railtrack. The latter makes a loop before disappearing into a dark tunnel; a few mine carts await their passengers.
The now-familiar motorboat is still here and still ready to go.
The mine cart gets moving almost by itself once the brake is released, and quickly picks up speed. Soon it's rolling thunderously down tunnel after tunnel, that twist and turn every which way. One slants downwards; another climbs gently; from a side passage ahead comes a faint glow. And more are leading into the unknown.
More tunnels go down promising avenues, only to circle back towards the same tangle of tracks.
It's a round chamber with walls made of grey stone blocks. A narrow railtrack comes out of a dark tunnel and makes a loop around the room before going back the same way; a few mine carts await their passengers. Dying arc lamps around the loop cast a ghostly light on the massive steel door at the opposite end.
A deep rumbling sound comes from behind one of the walls; the air is damp, and otherwise still.
The double doors yield with a pneumatic sigh, allowing you in.
Sculpted stone columns support the roof of an otherwise natural cavern. Trophy cases line the walls, each containing a piece of machinery illuminated by a single, fading arc lamp, and more machinery — pumps, tanks and pipes — are scattered among them. An unusually large trophy case is set against the back wall, partly masked by a column, and flanked by two bigger lamps. It is empty.
The air is stale, and dust reigns mostly everywhere. The floor vibrates with a deep rumbling noise, so faint it may be just an impression.
Whatever used to be in the trophy case, its contents are long gone, only a brass frame left in place to remind of it.
Here's a long cavern with a high, arched ceiling. Close to one end, next to a flight of stairs, flowing water sets in motion an oversided clockwork mechanism with no apparent purpose before entering a tangle of pipes bristling with valves and meters. Along the opposite wall, several workbenches huddle around a large machine with constantly moving pistons and flywheels. And right in the middle sits an armored sphere with thick cables going into it; from reinforced viewports escapes a bluish flicker.
Opposite from the stairs, a narrow rail track on which mine carts await their passengers makes a complete loop before vanishing inside a dark tunnel.
A narrow staircase dug into rock leads abruptly upwards.
Through thick glass panes filters the flickering blue light of impossibly distant celestial bodies floating in the black void within the machine.
A perch suitable for winged creatures hangs above a floor covered in a deep layer of feathers, straw and other soft materials. The walls are dark wood, the living heart of a tree, and the only light comes from a narrow opening, leading outside.
The rear wall has collapsed entirely into a tunnel leading down among tree roots, from which mechanical noises can be heard.
Beyond the opening lies not as much as a ledge; just a steep slope going down all the way to the foaming sea below. In the distance, a red-and-white matchstick pokes out of a dark stripe: the lighthouse, and the shoreline behind it.
A teardrop-shaped hull made of steel plates solidly welded together and painted bright yellow sports a pair of articulated fins about one third along the sides and a couple of small ones towards the stern, where a fishtail-like rudder guards a powerful propeller. The whole vehicle is maybe 10 meters long and 3 meters in diameter at the fins, which look longer than the hull itself; hard to tell with them folded. At the bow, a pair of armored windows make up the "eyes", and a hatch on the upper deck makes it look like the fish is wearing a funny hat.
Polished steel walls curve in on you as the bridge tapers towards the ship's bow. Right there, between the "eyes" of the fish, there is a panel bristling with brass wheels, levers and meters. At the opposite end, across a floor made of metal grating, a heavy bulkhead door leads further into the ship. And right in the middle of the ceiling a hatch leads outside. There are no chairs or benches, but a coffer and a massive roll of cable make for impromptu seating.
A tiny cabin is squeezed between bulkheads, no more than two and a half meters across. The port side is taken up by a bunk bed, while on the starboard side there is a tiny table with two benches. Small cabinets tucked in any free corner contain a a variety of useful items: hard tack, a first aid kit, simple tools, blankets.
The coat and cap of a steamboat captain hang next to the bunk bed, except they're sized for a large housecat. An identical coat, only humanoid-sized, serves as bed cover. It's worn-out and covered in cat hairs.
The room is conical in shape, tapering off towards the aft end of the Flying Fish. Halfway along there is a large steel ring of intricate design, in which a vortex of violet light spins perpetually, and with it a long axle protruding fore and aft. Gearboxes connect it to smaller shafts, presumably leading to the propeller and wings of the vehicle. Safely out of the way, a bulkhead door leads fore.