The Pneumatic Steampunk Doorway – Yellow Days

At a spot in the middle of one of the most scorching deserts in America, where the Colorado River meets the Three State Lines, lies the area known as Cal-Nev-Ari. There—once lived a terrible monster—a behemoth coal-fired power plant. Officially designated the Southern Mojave Generating Station by the engineers who created the steel and molybdenum monstrosity, it was called SMOGS by everyone else. As if the infernal climate of heat and dust was not enough to make life miserable for those who lived there, at inexplicable times during the day the giant belched a great cloud of noxious gas from its deceptively cheerful candy striped smokestack. This cloud of sulfurous ash hovered in the upper layers above the sleeping town of Cow Rock, Arizona, a small resort just across the river from the gambling halls and casinos of Layton, Nevada. Steam and vapor rising from the cooling towers, along with the yellow ash from its exhaust, gave a fearful impression. To the untrained eye, it was a fire-breathing contraption—part living creature—snorting death and carnage from its every orifice.

Ned Bean was a machinist’s tool room attendant at SMOGS. Immersed in the lulling sights and sounds of the steam plant at night, despite frequent fits of yawn and torpor, the unassuming clerk tried his best to keep alert. Motivated by his muse, the never-ending night, Ned often experienced moments of lucid wakeful dreaming. These visions, coupled with the active imagination of a man driven by a surreal sense of reality, were preserved in a log kept as part of his work duties. The letters which you are about to read, along with the accompanying Pneumatic Steampunk Doorway are the result of the experiment in mental purgatory that was the life of the steam plant clerk.




Yellow Days


“I remember when the sunlight had a special kind of brightness…
yellow days, yellow days”

Alvaro Carillo and Alan Bernstein
©1965 1966 Ed B Marks Music Co



the steam plant
is nestled on the banks
of the Colorado River

on the alluvial slope
where the valley rises
to meet the mountains to the west
(another range flanks it to the east)

in rocky
desert terrain
dotted with scrub greasewood
the electric generating station
seems out-of-place
in the idyllic scenario
of the small resort town
that lies just across the river

it seems contrary
that in a landscape so picturesque
surrounded by rugged hills that slope
down into a lake of dazzling cobalt
topped by a sky so perennially blue
the clouds become cameo
lies this ever-present
mechanical skyscraper

a labyrinth of girders and platforms
a giant gray steel Erector Set
cradled in the bosom
of desert ecoloia

the spewing volcano
shrouds the basin
in a jaundiced cloud

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