Jun. 19th, 2011


Jun. 19th, 2011 10:41 pm
Dad approached the pit in the backyard. Milo was standing in the middle of a hole as big around as the rug in the front hall. He had no shirt on, showing how skinny he really was, and his pipestem legs looked comical sticking out from the legs of his billowing cargo shorts. The shovel in his hands looked enormous. Dad inspected the state of the digging.

"That's a lot of dirt you've moved," he said appreciatively. "When did you start, this morning?"

Milo shrugged, squinting up at Dad. "I sort of started scraping around yesterday, after dinner," he said. "Most of this was today." The heaps of dirt were an even mix of sand and clay, lying in haphazard piles around the hole.

"Looks like you're getting down to the hard-packed stuff," Dad observed. "How deep are you going to go?"

"I dunno." Milo grinned up at Dad. "I was kind of thinking I'd dig until I hit China."

"Well, all right!" Dad straightened up.

"Look," said Dad, "me and Carol are driving into town for a few hours. Are you going to be okay here until dinner?"

Milo looked around, then nodded. "Sure," he said. "I can get my own lunch and stuff."

"I'll keep my phone on," said Dad. "Don't dig so deep that the sides cave in on you, right?"

"No problem," said Milo solemnly. He watched his father leave. A minute later he heard the jeep engine gunning, and then the crunch of gravel on the drive. He turned to the piles of dirt.

"They're gone," he said. A mass of tiny crawling objects, the size and color of a new penny, crept out from under the sand and the fallen leaves, and streamed from holes in the trees and ground. There were millions of them, heaped upon one another, with currents and eddies in their collective mass constantly swirling them into new shapes and almost-patterns.

"We are ready to begin in earnest," said the voice of the Crinid mass, projected from a million tiny speakers in their bodies. Milo had built the first one when he was four. It built another dozen, and they built more, and so on and so on. The mass had reached a more-or-less steady population based on the amount of material available, not to mention the difficulty in hiding them all. Milo wasn't ashamed of the Crinid mass, but he wasn't ready to explain it to Dad. Not yet.

"I'm ready," said Milo. "How far to China?"

"Most efficient sector chord, or radial mapping?" the Crinid mass chirped.

"Radial," replied Milo. "I want to see the core."

"About eight thousand miles," said the Crinids. "Estimating five hours until Dad returns. We'll need to exceed Mach 4."

Milo nodded. "Let's do it," he said.

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