Art by Melissa Mead
Fall of the City
by Daniel Ausema
As Hevsen tied the new ladder together outside the workshop, his knot slipped on one rung, sliding over a tiny bulge in the wood. No big deal. No one who'd grown up in that city of ladders and clock towers would ever fall because of a loose rung. He finished the rest and secured it to the workshop doorway with a solid modified double hitch that wouldn't slip in a hundred years. Then he climbed down to his waiting spider, fired up the engine, and drove down the city's webs to enjoy the evening.
Six months later, his uncle Shaln was climbing with a box of bolts and gears and other hardware balanced in his arms. When the rung slipped, he lost control of the box, only righting it after a single nut had slid out the box's handle and fallen into the city below. Shaln himself had been in no danger. He quickly forgot the episode as he brought the hardware inside and set to work on his latest commission, a palm-sized butterfly that beat its wings in time to the ticking of the second hand in its tiny clock.
The nut dropped into the engine of a spider. There it rested for days. The driver, one Beeshenai, followed his usual commute from his home out on the outer edges of the city to his work in the center, where the webs converged into a knot of spider traffic. When Beeshenai was rushing to work one day and stuck on a slow-moving web, he chose to make a jolting jump across a wide gap to another web. Mid-leap, the nut slipped down into the leg gears, and one leg, which should have lightly grabbed the new web, instead tore forcefully through several strands before catching. Beezhanai noticed the jerky landing, but didn't realize its cause. He sped away toward the next jump.