Rust in my heart (Ehm-Ahl-ee’s story)

My name is not important. I am one of the youngest Arrivals, and like the rest of us Enjun-kin my mind is not built for proper Knowing. One day I will meet one of our brethren who thinks straight and true, like the holy tracks that stretch out before our eyes. I have travelled those tracks for countless cycles meeting Enjun and have not found one of us with that true understanding. Our minds too often travel in circles, like the gears in our innards. Like our massive feet that tread the tracks, moving us along around the Island.

There are three mysteries that I have found. I will tell you them.

First, how do we Arrive? The Island is our home, and our prison. None of us can remember existence before its shores. Even the most staid and unimaginative of the Enjun-kin now admit that something must exist beyond the waves. We see the new Soft Ones arrive in their sea-crafts, from Vikkarston and behind. The old belief that they spontaneously emerge from the water, as natural as the waves and weed and sand, looks to be built on feet of fog and mire. Not that we can check for ourselves. We could no more walk or float upon the churning water than we could fly like the squawking gulls above. Our way is bounded by the holy tracks, and by those tracks alone. Not for us the unblessed earth. Our feet touch only the sanctified metal. Metal upon metal, that is our way, and it has been that way forever, and for a million tomorrows.

If we arrive upon the Island fully formed, how are we constructed? Why cannot we recall the act? Is it to do with the water, of even the Island itself? The mystery of Arrival defines the hollowness inside ourselves, that can only be filled by Usefulness.

The second mystery is of the Soft. Where do they come from, and what Use do they fulfil? We are made for purpose, you understand. We are designed with intent. Not like the Soft, the changing things. Their feet are not circular, and they do not roll. They skitter, bend their bodies into new shapes, twist their form with hidden articulation. Their nature is almost liquid. It hurts our gleaming lamps to see them move.

HehnRee, one of the kin, says they are created to venerate us. Our form reflects that of the Creator (it must, he says, although there is an unthought there; who is the Creator, and how can we perceive its Form?), and so creatures with ever-changing shapes see us as vessels of the Creator’s will. They build great halls for us, he says. And HehnRee speaks truth; the Resting Place by the place we call TideMouth is a fine cathedral. The Soft bend the surface of the world, giving us material to build tracks and sidings, stopping-places and signal boxes.

One of the bigger Enjun, the Thunderer, calls them vermin. Or worse, slavers. He says that Usefulness does not exist and that we have been forced to servitude. No one else can think like him. It hurts to bend our minds in such a manner.

What is the third mystery? It is that of the Ever-Branching Pathway. We do not know how we came to roll across this ground, who laid the holy rails that lift us up above the shunned earth. (There is an under-mystery here, of how we know the rails to be holy. I cannot follow that thought in my mind. It slips and slides, like tracks covered with the first snowy downs of winter.) So, who laid the first tracks? It could not be the Soft. They give us the materials, but they cannot Make. They assist in our veneration (if HehnRee is to be believed) but are lower beasts. We Enjun-kin are created and have a Creator, but do not have a creator myth, do not have purpose. Who determines the paths that we travel? Why do the tracks finish at Arlsdayil, and what lies beyond Vikkarston? Put another way; why does the line branch just so? Who determined it thus?

The other Enjun do not ask these questions. They continue roaming the Island on the predetermined tracks. We all perform our allotted tasks; some of us shunt trucks, others haul freight. We are all similar and yet so different. Some of us Arrive in red or green, others in brown or blue. We all have different roles to play. And yet, few pursue the mysteries.

One day, many from now as you travel down the hills and round the bends, you may find the oldest of us. Our cousins, the Squarenjins, say he dwells by Hela’s Bridge, but it has been many cycles since I have seen him with my own lamps. Look for he whose name is the thrumming of the rails and an exhalation of steam. T’om-Ss, alone amongst us, may Know.

I am amongst the youngest of the Enjun, and I pass this knowledge onto you. My name is the hum of the lamp, the exhalation of vapour, the whisper of the Island’s breath. I will travel here in circles until I am rust and the rails take me. May your feet never slip upon the sky’s waters, may your boiler’s heart never dim. Travel fast and true, and may you be always Useful.


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