This short story came out of the retro-future / 1930s Popular Mechanics vibe of VNV Nation’s album “Automatic”. If you fancy something appropriate to listen to while reading, here’s a YouTube link to one of the songs from the album: VNV Nation — Photon
I parked up on the northern shore of Long Island, just in time to catch the dawn. As the sun took its first tentative step into the sky, slivers of orange light flashed from horizon to horizon, lighting up the gleaming chrome of Boston’s railgun spires. The air hummed the song of stored electricity, punctuated by the pop-pop drum-beat as each one launched its precious Europe-bound cargo and the slow mechanical clanking of each one adjusting itself to changes in the wind high in the stratosphere.
The people of Europe would be at lunch already, eagerly awaiting the day’s American cargo so that business could carry on. Boston always started early. Then, as dusk gathered in Glasgow, La Rochelle and Lisbon, the postal guns of western Europe would clank and pop and hum into life, speeding their packages back towards Boston’s early afternoon.
The best times for the guns always seemed to be dawn and dusk, as if the whole network and the rotation of the Earth conspired to show off the blazing silver of each heavenward-pointing barrel.
I suppose it was pride, even narcissism, that brought me back to that place every morning. It was a thrill every time to see the pencil and paper of my designs translated into three dimensions, for while that paper had captured the power consumption, the launch velocities, the wind compensation; it could never have captured the beauty of the spires catching the dawn, and it could never have captured the elation of knowing that the future had become the present.
A sigh, and a half-hearted glance at my watch. The Central Post Office, itself a marble and glass cathedral to technology, awaited me. They told me that it had been a year already since the first railgun postal service began. Had I really sat and watched the dawn three hundred and sixty-five times? Spring had become Summer, Fall and Winter, and here we were again on another April day. I supposed that it must have been a year, though it seemed like a week and like a lifetime.
I felt as if I was one of the guns, then. So busy every day, yet standing tall as a monument to future generations; part of the fabric of the world, set apart from time.
A foot gingerly pressed onto the gas pedal lifted my car from where it had parked, and I swung it slowly around to face the city before putting my foot down more firmly. In a shower of dirt, then sand, then water, we shot out across the bay, toward the glass and chrome city that blazed in the morning light.