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We were sitting on wooden crates. They must have been sculling around in this old cargo hold for decades. Longer. It was an elephants’ graveyard of discarded technology, goods that had long since ceased being traded (at least in this corner of the universe). We pried open the lid on one, carefully. Inside, packed among musty, but still-dry, straw and shredded newspaper was a lamp. ‘Hey, this is solid brass,’ said Maya.
There were even some smaller crates inside. I opened one up. Inside were disintegrating pasteboard boxes.
‘Glory be,’ I breathed. ‘Lightbulbs!’
‘And? What’s so special about— Are those … incandescents?’
‘But we can’t sell any of this stuff,’ she said, patiently, but quietly. ‘It’s contraband.’
‘Sell? Who’s talking about selling? I’m saying – look.’ I got busy with some wires and connectors. A few adjustments. Didn’t want to overload the thing. I was breathing heavily – I never thought I’d live to see one of these again, or be able to get it working. I rummaged around in the box some more and settled the shade I lifted out onto the lamp. The bulb into the socket.
‘Here goes,’ I said.
A pool of soft, warm light lit up the cargo hold. I should have been looking at the lamp, but honestly? It was worth it just to see the look on Maya’s face. Maybe it was a trick of the light, but I thought I saw tears around her eyes. ‘It’s beautiful …’
Yes, it was …