“A failure?” I asked. Did he not know that this engine powered cloud ships? Had someone stolen his design?

“Ja,” he stated and I assumed that meant ‘yes.’ I moved closer to the engine as he moved closer to me. I ran my hand over a fitting, looking at the dust that was piled on it.

“Do you live here?” I asked.

“Ja, this is my laboratory,” he answered, “I’m an engineer.” I noticed a row of empty animal cages and cloudy tanks with disgusting water in them. They had bee behind the engine.

“I have no seen you in ze village. Where are you from exactly?” He asked and as I tried to recall I hadn’t seen him either. He was dressed similar to the other villagers but he lacked the ‘native-like’ quality. He actually seemed cultured, educated, and as if he belonged above the clouds just as I did.

“I’m from above the clouds,” he gave a slow nod as if he was trying to pretend to believe me. He suddenly moved and  grabbed me by the hand, he clamped something on my wrist and I gave a rather girly scream when the metal cuff he placed on my wrist cut into it. I thought for a moment it was going to cut my hand off and I struggled to remove it. Suddenly the cuff opened and dropped off my wrist, I looked down at the three lines, the three cuts in my flesh, just like Sam’s, just like Mocsk’s and just like Remy before he died.

I backed away from the crazy man cradled my wrist to my chest. He seemed to ignore me and  picked up the metal device that had fallen from my wrist. He touched it in places and suddenly a painting formed in the air out of nothing in front of him. I was more mesmerized than frightened. The painting moved and was dazzeling. He touched it and manipulated it with his fingers. I was looking at a living painting of myself, and then I gasped as the painting of myself  lost its skin, I had to look away.

“You’re human,” the man said with a surprise in his voice. I looked back at him.

“Of course I’m human, what else would I be?”

“You’d be a poor copy,” he responded which made no sense.

“A copy?”

“Yes, a copy. Lucky for you, you aren’t. It just seems odd that you’re not from Eryana. You’re lacking an enzyme that is in the genetic makeup of those on Eryana, but you seem to have some extra proteins that those on Eryana lack. You’re different, but also the same as that other fellow I found.”

“Remington,” I stated. I remembered the scream, the blood dripping from his fingers, and Mocsk killing him.

“Where are you from, exactly?” He walked to a shelf and pulled out a rolled map. I suddenly felt very much like Sam at the inn asking where Draco Island was from. He unrolled the map on a table and motioned me to come closer. I backed away instead. He lookd up at me. “I apologize, I needed a tissue sample. I won’t hurt you again.”

“You killed Remington.” He looked at me quizzically.

“I most certainly did not kill that other fellow. He left here alive and well. As a matter of fact I radioed Eryana to come down and dock to pick him up.” I had no idea what ‘radioed’ meant I assumed he was saying he was summoning the island. The mad man spoke the same language as I did, but he said some words I’d never heard of. As for not killing Remy, well then who did? Had Mocsk done it and I was just halluncinating that Remy had turned into a pink eel?

“Why should I believe you?” I asked.

“Because Eryana is docking, if you want back above the clouds, then you best stick with me, don’t wander from this building. The offspring will kill you, mostly likely what happened to that other fellow,” he explained then motioned me to come closer and he pointed to the map. “Where are you from?” I slowly approached and readied my fork in case he tried something again.

The map was nothing I’d seen before. It was several large land masses surrounded by space. I recognized the weird writing as the same in the weird village but I still couldn’t read it. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

“We’re here,” he said pointing to almost the center of the map. MISSOURI was above his finger. It was not the largest landmass on the map, other landmasses with names like AFRICA and ASIA were larger.

“This isn’t like any of the maps I’ve ever seen before,” I said to him. “Is this the entire surface?”

“You mean you’ve never seen the ground? Don’t you see down through holes in ze clouds?”

“No, the ships don’t go near the holes, or past the edge of the clouds, they fall,” I explained to him.

“What is ze name of your home town?” He asked.

“The Wondering Holm,” I replied. It was the name of the sky island I lived on. He looked at me a moment.

“Do you use latitude? Longitude?” He asked. I nodded.

“What are the coordinates of your hometown, I can find it that way.” I honestly didn’t want this man to find my home. He was like some sort of mad engineer who got his jollies off on seeing people without their skin. I gave him the coordinates of the tiny island that we’d destroyed what felt like a lifetime ago. The little house and its single tree, the one we’d used for target practice. The mad man nodded and began to check the coordinates of the map. His finger stopped somewhere over an empty space that was labeled ATLANTIC OCEAN.

“There isn’t a landmass there, are you sure of your coordinates?” He asked.

“Well the islands move around,” I stated and wondered why he didn’t understand this. Even his Eryana, which I assumed was Draco Island, obviously moved, our islands just didn’t have dragons chained to them.