The Lady of Shalott Revisited

Using Tennyson’s Lady of Shalott as a template, Shalott is now a nuclear facility manned by a single lady. This is a poem of what happens as a result of long isolation and distraction.

Image Credits: Cyborg by Itluan on dA at http://ltluan.deviantart.com/art/Cyborg-266216981

Image Credits: Cyborg by Itluan on dA at http://ltluan.deviantart.com/art/Cyborg-266216981

 

On either side the river lie

Landscapes of barren life,
That smother the world and engulf the sky;
And through this outpost, a transit runs by
To the metropolis of Camelot
And up and down the bar-graphs go
Monitoring the radioactive sludge flow
Inside the far off island below
The reactor of Shalott. 
 
The reactor grumbles and gears quiver,
Legions of robots march together
Serving the energy needs forever
By this abandoned outpost near the river
Conveniently forgotten by Camelot. 
Multiple walls and metal-lined towers,
Overlook a space of nuclear power 
And the formidable technology embowers
The Lady of Shalott
 
By an early age, she was qualified
To lead a mission highly classified
Which ensured Camelot was fortified
Being the sole human who supervised
The Reactor of Shalott.
Only robots have seen her wave her hand
And watched her as she carefully planned
When the fuel of the reactor would expand.
The Lady of Shalott.
 
Only covert spies, sneaking in
Among the metal scrap within
Hear a beep that echoes clearly
Of a computer that operates yearly
Courtesy of Camelot.
And by the moon, the spy weary
Puts to rest a conspiracy theory
That a human operates someplace so dreary
Except the Lady of Shalott. 
 
There she works by night and day
A complex graph with colors gay
Her calculations stored in a large array
From which she cannot look away
To admire the lights of Camelot
She knows what the disaster might be
And so she monitors steadily
And little other care has she
The Lady of Shalott.
 
Moving through the glass door clear
That surrounds her all the year
Statistics of the world appear
There she sees the transit near
Winding down to Camelot.
There civilization passes by
Their sleek towers touch the sky
Powered by energy in a secure supply
That must transfer from Shalott. 
 
Sometimes lost tourists in a group
Usually an entertaining troupe
Would unintentionally snoop.
But nobody else would stoop
To visit the desolate Shalott.
Sometimes through the monitor screen 
Came news of heroes in a glorious scene
She has no hero, only a machine
The Lady of Shalott. 
 
But in her analysis she still delights
To project progress and future sights
For often through the silent nights
Our lady sits down and writes
Code that supports Camelot. 
Or when the moon was overhead
She’d contemplate her life instead
“I am half-sick of shadows,” said
The Lady of Shalott. 
 
A respected politician of noble rank
Of a smooth face and expression blank
Stepped off on the riverbank
Unflinching as decaying metal stank
His name tag said Sir Lancelot.
The most charming man in the administration
He himself chose this exploration
To discover exactly how the regulation
Of nuclear waste affected Shalott.
 
Without hesitation he announced his presence 
And what followed after several sessions
Of trying to understand the robots expressions
He would strive to garner her acquiescence
This Lady of Shalott. 
From his modest name tag hung
An image that betrayed him to be young
Over his shoulder, his authority was slung
Venturing into remote Shalott. 
 
All in the partially lit, computerized room
Was the stale air of suppressed gloom
Machines pausing only to resume
He did not dare to assume 
Any happiness in Shalott. 
As he initiated the awkward conversation
The Lady could not help but feel admiration
That she could hear his appreciation.
In the functioning of Shalott. 
 
His broad clear brow in reflection glowed
And between them the conversation easily flowed
They discussed machinery and optimized code
Human conversation was such a rare episode
For the Lady of Shalott. 
As he requested to see the stabilizer in action 
Our Lady was unable to resist his attraction
And with no regards to the following reaction
Accessed the thermal core of Shalott. 
 
She left the robots, he left the room
She left the pressure control pointed at doom
She did not hear the subdued boom
Until the klaxons began to fume
At the facility of Shalott.
Out flew superheated gas and floated wide
The screens cracked from side to side
“Initiate emergency protocol!” cried
The Lady of Shalott. 
 
In the stormy reactor core churning
Gases and temperatures were already burning
Automatons kept the dials turning
Equilibrium lost was not returning
At the Reactor of Shalott. 
The access chamber lay beyond reach
The robots could not secure the breach
Dangerous chemicals began to leach
Onto the soils of Shalott
 
And down the river’s dim expanse
Lay the victims of her mischance
To save herself from this circumstance
She promised that she would take a chance
To save the citizens of Camelot
And at the closing of the day
She pulled the lever and collapsed she lay
Suffocated and isolated, lifeless and gray
The brave Lady of Shalott. 
 
After her unfortunate demise
The remaining robots were able to surmise
That she was the only one who could authorize
A complete shutdown that would internalize
The explosion of Shalott. 
As the power lines went down 
Citizens could only frown
Ignorant of the sacrifice that had been made uptown
By the forgotten outpost of Shalott. 
 
Under grey tower and ancient balcony
By greasy walls and radioactive atrophy
A gleaming shape she was escorted by
Pale between the robots hoisting her high
Silent in Shalott. 
Quietly, the unfeeling machines paid their respects
to The human Lady who didn’t expect
Any, and so they disposed of her with no effects.
Down the river to Camelot.
 
Who is this? and what is here?
And in the lighted city near
Died the sound of urban cheer.
And they questioned themselves for fear. 
All the press and citizens of Camelot. 
But Lancelot mused a little space
He said, “She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott.”
 
King Arthur heard a report concise
From Sir Lancelot and asked his advice 
On whether such a disaster could happen twice.
Human lives were too high a price. 
Especially a citizen of Camelot. 
Lancelot made an interesting revelation
That the robots could function without human supervision
Why risk another soul trapped in perpetual isolation,
Stranded on Shalott?
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Merchant of Dreams

A creative post from co-author Gayathri Raj.

What lies beyond and within. Image credits: Lighthouse dreams by tohadryl at http://tohdaryl.deviantart.com/art/Lighthouse-Dreams-144935263

What lies beyond and within.
Image credits: Lighthouse dreams by tohadryl at http://tohdaryl.deviantart.com/art/Lighthouse-Dreams-144935263

Merchant of dreams, billowing screens,

This pallor of mine is lifted

When my mind is occupied

With your deeds full of happy deceit

Never have I been this pleased.

Merchant of dreams, whispering schemes,

Delusion is such sweet despair.

The melisma of existence, changing notes

Even as the rain pounds on the leaves,

Even as this day is darkened by pregnant clouds,

You still haunt my wet, sodden nights

(Or is it the day? I cannot quite tell)

I find myself wondrous and buoyant

(An existence rare in me)

Indeed merchant you sell

Your wares rather very well

Merchant of dreams, your sorrowful keen,

Nay, it is my sadness that intrudes.

Your happy mid-afternoon crooning,

That intervenes unapologetically,

Your call for my attention wretched, believe.

Wretched to be a distraction from my pity

On my own soul, so inflicted and vengeful.

You, tradesman, employ the cruelest of ploys.

But, merchant of dreams, you who please

The monsoon in my heart and so charmingly do,

Forever calling out the child in me,

With your colorful din and loud tableau,

Each alluring as a rainbow colored candy

Merchant of dreams, I do beg thee,

Stay here forever and fool me as you please

Never have I enjoyed

Such innocent, beguiling trickery

Stay, indeed, merchant of dreams

-Gayathri Raj, 7.20.2013