Sepia tone. Back of a wooden train car. A wooden door with a porthole in the center of it.

When it came my time to work the sheet I yanked the boom to the other side. I had to change the course. But Fane had me pinioned in two seconds. With that kind of commitment from the others, there was no choice. The other sail was 200 yards away. We were drawing alongside. #mbnov

Sepia tone. Machinery and pipes. A wall of planks with an opening beneath. Brick walls on either side.

It was a ritual by now, how we took turns working the sail. Then Davies instructed us how we were going to swing the boom to match the other’s course. “I thought we were using this to get down?” I asked, frantic. “We have to go there,” he said, pointing to the other sail. #mbnov

Sepia tone. Wrought-iron entranceway. A window in the background. A single chain guards the way.

Four miles away. If I was to retain my sanity I could not look down. So I looked at Fane, notable for lantern jaw; Ainsforth, for green eyes (or one blue); and Davies, premature ruggedness but too young for this. I was on the job just five years myself. Three miles. Two. #mbnov

Sepia tone. A large, menacing locomotive seen from a low angle.

“Grond, they called it.” (2009)

The sail approached. Like I said before. Like you needed an update. But for one glorious moment in the sun and bracketing wind, our sail full and drawing — “Neverland” was printed on it too — it was joyous. One moment. Just one. #mbnov

The edge of the sail grazed my cheek; the cold and the wind made it a knife. All four of us wrestled with it as it snapped and groaned. We had it attached to the lines at least. After the spin of the red wheel the beacon shot up and there it was, all 20 feet of it: a mast. #mbnov

Ice glazed the railing. The wind was brittle. My God, why the roof? Ainsforth and Fane looked stricken. “We have to raise the beacon,” one said.

“We can do that inside.”

“No.” Davies opened a hatch I had never seen before. Inside was a red wheel. “Like this.” #mbnov

A sailboat festooned with pennants heading out of the harbor with a person leaning determinedly on the tiller.

The “Farewell”

I’ve been to the Grand Canyon. That titanic space is something felt in your chest more than seen with your eyes. But this — I repeat — with the sun on the clouds below and the dizzy bright — we stood on the roof with the wind not so great because we were traveling with it. #mbnov

Sepia tone. A man in 19th-century period dress, with hat and suit.

Westminster Hall, Baltimore, 2009

“Where are you going?” Up the clanging stairs, a spin of the wheel, the whoosh of air, and the sun. Well, this was novel, but I wasn’t budging. “The roof? With only that rail?” “The others know too,” Davies said. “They’re waiting.” #mbnov

White-and-orange inflatable SLS rocket with the Washington Monument in background, the same shape. White display tents on the side.

Inflatable SLS. (National Mall, Apollo 50th, July 20, 2019.)

Unfazed, Davies moved past me with a smile. “Don’t you tire of all this?” I asked.

“There’s not a moment to lose,” he said. “The others already know.”

“Know what?”

“That sail. It’s not moving toward us.” His feet clattered up the iron stairs. “We’re moving toward it.” #mbnov

Sepia tone. A young man and woman in 19th-century dress. Man wears a top hat. Woman holds digital camera. In the background a young man with punk-style mohawk lounges against a fence.

Time Travelers. (Westminster Hall, Baltimore, 2009. Edgar Allan Poe funeral re-enactment.)

All this sailcloth came out of a barrel stamped with that company name: Neverland. I was going to ask “What do we need that for?” but what came out was “You work for them.” Davies was gathering it all up in his arms. “Everyone works for them,” he said. “Except you.” #mbnov

I was furious. “The pipegyros. The steamcurloes. The semiirons. Lighting the beacon in the sunshine! You caused this. You think you own a franchise on the running of this station?” He was still holding the textile. “What is that?”

He grinned wildly. “Sailcloth!” #mbnov

Black and white. A blurred crowd of people in foreground. Top of Armstrong spacesuit in background on display, facing left. The words

Let’s go, Artemis. (July 20, 2019, National Air and Space Museum, Apollo 50th celebration. Neil Armstrong spacesuit in background.)

A spiral staircase leads to the main storage bin. That is where I found him, among verdigrised clockwork, aluminum congeries, Bakelite mannequins, and the mermaid. He was covered in textile, plain as burlap but stamped with that company name. “Did you hear me?” I asked. #mbnov

Was the Cheshire Cat Schrödinger’s cat before Schrödinger had a cat?

Sepia tone. A man holds the bars outside Westminster Hall as if in a cage.

Westminster Hall, Baltimore, 2009

Davies knew. Davies knew. I stormed through to look for him. Through some impossible how the Signal Station was floating thousands of feet in the air when it should be anchored to the ground like any other building. We can never leave. That wasn’t fog; it was clouds. #mbnov

My eyes had to adjust, but not from light. The concrete 30 feet below was shadowed in blue. Cola drinks had spilled to stain it. Planters had been arranged haphazardly. Then my arms locked in terror around the iron bar. Thousands of feet below were ocean, land, and trees. #mbnov