1000 faded bills of lading

by uzwi

Kunene: tide-locked with its local sun so that one side froze and the other cooked, this medium-sized venue a few lights into the Bay offered a single habitable time-zone known as “the Magic Hour”. Rare earth oxides had kickstarted Kunene’s first phase of commerce, but it was the Magic Hour’s fixed and subtly graded bands of sunset action that brought in the investment partners: badlands, ghost towns and wreck-littered coastal benches seduced tourist and corporate image-maker alike, confirming Kunene as the Halo’s primo location for everything from amateur wedding holography through “existence porn” to the edgiest of brand initiatives. Everyone who enjoys a sunset wishes it would never end; on Kunene, the brochures promised, you could have that wish. Away from the lightmeter resorts and fuck safaris, towards the unmoving day where landscape began to dissolve in layers of violet and bony grey under the inhospitable glare of late afternoon, the old Kunene Economic Zone had shrunk to a line of semi-derelict processing plants running thirteen thousand miles north to south, coalescing here and there into poverty towns with names like Douglas or Skelton. Fifty years before, at the height of the lanthanides boom, many of these places had featured a rocket field all their own, and it was on one of these the assistant now found herself, the shuttle she came in on a rapidly-fading line of ionisation in clear teal skies. Adminstration was an eight-acre lot, thick with low-rise accomodation. Blue and white striped awnings creaked in the wind. Heavily blistered signs advertised commodities long past. All seemed deserted: but at reception in a single storey structure reprising the moderne suburban carport of 1959, the assistant found a short, skinny old man wearing golf cap, box-cut shirt and bronze polyester pleat-front trousers, idly throwing Entreflex dice on the polished wooden counter. A thousand faded bills of lading were pinned upon the wall. A switched-off sign read PERDIDOS E ACHADOS. “Hey,” the old guy said, “we’re closed.” [Empty Space, pp105/6.]