From the Editor: Your Junk Pile, My Space Fortress
Morning had barely happened and a mist drifted around the bases of the pine trees. In the slim light the forest seemed to press down on us slightly but there were three of us and that amplified our bravery.
Jake had an alarm clock and we'd set it for five in the morning. That in itself was an element which added a certain mystique to our small expedition. When you're seven years old, you don't have very many peers who own alarm clocks. Watches, certainly, but alarm clocks belonged to a different world where things happened of such immense import that special devices had been developed to ensure that they happened on time. We grasped these technical devices as part of a parallel universe with more dangerous undercurrents than our own but we hadn't yet conjured the real reason our parents needed alarm clocks... they could depend on no one but themselves to wake up. We'd gathered around the clock, debating the time to set, and Jake worked the buttons like an amateur bomb-maker, pressing and turning each knob with uncertain seriousness while we tried to talk him through the procedure. Once set, it sat there as we slept, waiting to explode us into wakefulness. But it's real mission had already been accomplished, rendering our expedition vital with the simple addition of a time constraint.
The expedition itself was direct in its aim. We would set out from Jake's house (a log cabin, actually) and walk into the woods. We'd done this before, of course, but this time our plan was to go farther than we'd ever gone before. That was it. Go farther. How many expeditions contain this simple objective at their core? All of them, really. They get gussied up, but going farther is the essence of every important human endeavor that I can think of. Some folks go for speed, but even going faster is simply a variant of going farther.
And so we set out into the morning with its strange, cold light, and we walked through the woods with a silent, but giddy, cheer that diminished as we approached the terminus of our experience. Nothing marked the spot, not even a distinguished physical feature and certainly no flag or brass marker. But we knew the place and slowed as we approached it. We crossed the line without speaking and for some reason our walk, which had been widely spaced and side-by-side, became close and single file. We pressed into the woods bluntly, but soon our feet snapped fewer twigs and we passed through the strange forest like a slow arrow. Gentle ridge after gentle ridge passed beneath us and I began to worry about finding our way home. Then we made our giant discovery.
Cresting a small hill, we walked upon a clearing in the trees and found the wreckage of an alien spacecraft... or SpaceLab (and we without our helmets). The clearing held a swath of metal components. White enameled steel poked up from tall weeds. Grey boxes festooned with red and green wires snaked along the ground. Rust covered bare metal and we approached with the extreme caution such a burial ground of foreign technology demanded.
We sat and watched until it was clear nothing lurked. We approached slowly, two-fingered flinging open of hatches. Jake kicked a box filled with wires and nothing dire came of it. Our caution became curiosity and our curiosity turned to excitement over our discovery. Soon we had laid claim. We pushed the metal boxes into new formations, our shoes carving tracks in the dirt while we pushed with our backs. Our space fortress was coming together. How would we announce our discovery at school? Our alien/Aztec/dinosaur-bone-filled clearing of pure adventure had to be declared. And so we spent that day and many more. Then someone asked the question: "How many more of these might be out there?" And of course, you know what that led to.
We set out in search of more illegal appliance dumping grounds, the kind that rural patches the world over contain. The type of thing universally decried in the adult world, we sought them out as if they were important archeological treasures, which they were.
The point? Well, it's simple. What you think is terrible might actually be grand. What seems a step backward could be a step forward if you approach it with the right kind of head. That dusty bike hanging in your garage just might make a space fortress out of your commute. And once you start, who's to say how many more might be out there?