by HP

The whirl of the drone is tuned out like Fourth of July fireworks, or radio music blaring from the building behind with anecdotes chiming in and out of the cacophony that plays on through the night. A window is left open, as usual, to let the cool stream fill a small room with the vibrancy that open space affords. The bay breeze introduces its dampness to the bed sheets but despite the city’s various microclimates at varying altitudes, the outside air brings the same tinge of moisture everywhere. The drone circles over an open elevator shaft capped with a few pieces of splintered wood. Projecting off the soft, reflecting skin of the rooftop its precision can be heard by its high-pitched displacement of powerful wind currents rolling off the bay. A thick slab of fog drifts over the hillside erasing buildings higher than five stories. Houses speckled atop rectangular man-made supports receive far less sunlight and stronger winds than the lower, flatter portions of the city that are afflicted with poorer views. Wind gusts barrel down the triangular heart of the city: Market, Columbus, Van Ness and Montgomery, and the drone maneuvers like a dragonfly across the line that divides the temple from the cathedral. It has wandered intermittently though California and Stockton streets where the steady hum of electricity flowing through the third rail is suppressed by its propulsion. It lingers over an early Edwardian three-story corner building at the intersection at California and Stockton and drifts between its ledges in diagonal lines, touching at the intersecting corners of each of the four brick walls. The soft, reflective padding laid over the original roof is filled with footprints and bits of debris that have fluttered in and collect around the gently sloping recesses in the walls that rise to waist level. It avoids hovering over puddles left over from a storm system that passed three days ago. The isolated, barely considered bodies of water ripple in the accelerating blades of the drone’s duel-propeller and the trash kicks up and briefly forms into a weak cyclone, and unlike the drone itself it is not a full-bodied force but a causality that rests on so many physical forces.

The drone doesn’t know why it has chosen this location specifically. It doesn’t even know that it does not know what brought it to this building among others. In fact its roaming quadrant was programmed for the northern costal region and, in simple terms, it has no idea what it is looking for, much less what it is even looking at. The invisible thread between it and its Watcher has been severed and the drone, like an anamatronic ronin, is left to wander. A grided topographic simulation of the Presidio flashes through its circuitry and the drone, mechanically ambivalent to the stimuli, continues to touch down on the rooftop’s four corners at random. The pulsating blades on the other Aquarian models can be heard in the distance and the rhythmic beating of their propellers, like the electric current of the cable car lines, quickly becomes quelled by the solitary drone’s disassociate state. Clouds move steadily across the sky and hummingbirds dart in and out of a flowering tree’s canopy just outside the building’s southern-facing first-floor windows. Its occupants, like the rest of the building’s residents, have long phased out the drone’s presence and continue their thoughts with a limited degree of clarity. The drone does not notice or understand that the clouds are accelerating as they pass over the city and suggest a parallel between the movement of the traffic and their migration over the peninsula. More and more the clarity of the sky diminishes under the fleeting cloudscape and like the wandering drone’s penetrating sound, it maintains a constant, fluid motion