Kneeling at the foot of the run-down tower by the mess of crooked planks girding its foundation which were moist and rotted in places, Sem held the magnetron in her left hand and pointed it just below the window of the lower bedroom. Having propped her flashlight up on a nearby rock, leaving it on to illuminate the scaffolding intended to reinforce the eroding bottom layers of the tower, she hoped to direct a line of radiation through the thick boulders of the wall into the sleeping boy’s head. At times, her arm kept shivering, either from nervousness or the gusts of late evening. Sometimes she couldn’t keep the technology still and steadied herself by closing her eyes, breathing in and out, and listening to the faint whir of the microwaves traversing the waveguide until her arm relaxed again.
Enamored with the region, it had taken Sem forever to locate the tower. After landing in a grassy meadow she had wandered about, picking flowers, staring into the midday sun with her eyes closed, taking breaks to lie in the grass and sense the warm pull of the Earth which was so unfamiliar to her. Scaling a hill laced with gentle stones and lush greenery, she had stood at the top and soaked up the wind with her arms outstretched, opening her eyes to look at the thick forests to the East.
A girl was nearby, washing her hands in a small stream gushing down the hill. After Sem asked her for the direction of Shrewsbury she had at first giggled, looked to the side, and gave no response. After Sem had turned around and begun to leave, walking a few meters away from the stream, the girl had run up to Sem and jumped on her, embracing her shoulders and tugging on her gray jumpsuit. Sem kneeled down and placed the girl on the ground with care. The girl was panting, smiling, and still giggling, looking up at Sem, repeatedly telling her that she was glowing and that she was beautiful and Sem had simply responded with, "I know. I know.", and squinted to look at a distant road that the girl had begun to point at, the direction of the city.
After passing most of Shrewsbury, Sem had given up walking and got on a rickety bus transporting a group of construction workers who were hauling around bundles of large toolboxes and industrial pipes, all men, their bodies sturdy and gleaming in sweat as she sat looking away, absorbed by a window in the front. The windows were so glazed-over they were almost opaque, and the crystallized fog on the glass emanated a faint yellowish glow the same color as her wood-colored hair, which had flowed onto the seat and folded over itself a few times when she sat down. There had been a window on the ceiling of the bus which was completely clear, and Sem had seen the sun beaming in through it.
She had gotten off west of Shrewsbury, crossed the River Severn, and walked down an old cracked road until she identified its silhouette faintly across the plains. The first time she saw that silhouette, she had been back in her beamship, in the control room where a circular arrangement of seven cracked monitors surrounded a central hub like spokes around a wheel. Nobody had entered the room in ages, and the once-pristine glare of the screens and floor was covered in dust.
Tapping on a keyboard impatiently, twirling the watery hair that flowed down to her waist in her right hand, and adjusting the emerald circlet she wore sometimes above her forehead that tightened around her bangs, Sem had blinked at the LCD image in front of her. It had been aeons since there had last been a request to descend to the planet Earth. Her workstation had bangles of jewelry, a profusion of bracelets and necklaces of shimmering opalescent crystals strung from metal protrusions above her head, covering her view of the screen displaying the picture of the tower in front of her which she brushed to the side like a curtain.
In real life, it looked like a piece of a castle that had been severed and placed in the context of flat, uncultivated grounds and thick forests to the north. It was secluded, the nearest house was miles down the road. A stairwell led up to it, which was surrounded on two sides by much larger rocks in a similar steplike shape, like an alternate pathway for a forgotten species of giant. By the time she was done scouting the area it was already nearly late evening.
Sem shivered in the cold, using her right hand to stabilize herself against the window. She dreaded these nights, leaning against the tower with the magnetron, and if it were not her job she would have stayed home or confronted the boy physically.