Seattle Writing Prompts: The Capitol Hill Radio Antennas

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Oh, those blinking sentinels. I guess I could have written this about the towers on top of Queen Anne, but there's something about the way these three sisters are clustered together atop Capitol Hill, just off Madison, straddling 17th, two on the West, one to the East.

The three towers belong to: Q13 (or rather, it's parent company Tribune Broadcasting), KCTS, and a company called American Tower that specializes in radio and communication towers. They are, all three, about 410 feet tall, and the ground they sit on is some 560 feet above sea level, so next time you walk all the way up Madison from downtown, you can make sure your Fitbit is counting those stair flights correctly.

There's something so evocative about towers. One time, I drove across the University Bridge, southbound, on a nice Fall morning. I failed to look up at the electrical towers that stand next to the bridge, impossibly tall, because traffic was bad enough, or I was focused enough on my destination.

What I missed by looking up was a trans woman named Ara Tripp who had climbed one of those towers to the top, stripped topless, and spit fire into the morning air as a way to protest the fact that men could walk around topless but women couldn't.

Sadder stories have happened on these towers — suicides and accidents, but a tower always gives a promise. A promise of being able to climb and gain a vista, of a blinking light that might extinguish and cause a plane to immediately impale itself, of surging watts of transmission power, sending media wirelessly to radios and televisions that can receive it.

In Seattle, we have so many of these tall towers because our electronic transmissions need to penetrate the valleys and hills, to get signal to the highest amount of people. As anybody living on the base of Queen Anne or Capitol Hills knows, the landscape throws a shadow of ill reception to those at the bottom who must rely on cable or suffer with poor picture.

But let's think of these a bit more magically, yes? For today's prompts, lets try to unlock something bigger and more fantastical.

Today's prompts
  1. The pattern was unmistakable. The Earth people, with these three towers, were clearly signaling. It took a year of their time for the full cycle to emerge, and at first it seemed almost random. But after parking a ship disguised as one of the primitive Earth satellites to observe, they were quite sure there was no way this could be accidental. So now, finally, they were ready to deliver exactly what the Earth people had so clearly asked for, exactly as they asked for it. They only hoped Earth people truly understood their ask.

  2. It was on. The course was to circle each tower on Queen Anne, then over to Capitol Hill to circle all three, and back to land on the roof deck in Lake Union before anybody could track where the bladedrones were coming from. Fastest racer took the pot, and with twenty entrants, the pot was pretty damn big. It wasn't technically illegal to do this, but only because these specific types of drones hadn't been outlawed yet. They were pushing them to the limits of their range, but surely, nothing would go wrong, would it?

  3. The big house under the towers was always dark. She had blotted out the windows. She had stapled chicken wire to every surface, and grounded it to a pole she dug through the concrete foundation and earthed to pull the signals out of the air. But still, the signals came. She couldn't leave the house, not that she hadn't tried. And she couldn't blot out the signals. It wasn't until she started meditating, being still, and letting the painful signals course her body that she finally understood what they were trying to tell her.

  4. And so through the destroyed city the couple went, down to their last few cans of food. Watching for the rauben, the cloth wrapped reapers. It was the towers you wanted, so the friendlies had said. The towers had platforms built between them, and on those platforms were the traders. And if the traders liked you, and gave you work, you could live a decent life. Sometimes, they said, the towers vibrated like they were still full of signal. Sometimes, they said, it almost seemed like before the fall had begun.

  5. The blinking lights had always been so comforting to him. He'd hunker down, right up to the cold window in his little closet room, the chair under the door so maybe they couldn't come in. They'd be fighting in the other room, throwing words and smashing things, yelling and blaming and cursing, all drunk and high and whatever, and he would just watch the red light turn on, and off, and on, and off. How could anything be so steady in such an uncertain world? So it went until the one night that was more horrible than all the last, and he found himself floating up to those lights, sitting on top of one, the flashing beam painting his little legs. He had to be dead, right? He had to be a ghost. And now he had a ghost job, up there, to sit on the tower and make sure the world was okay. To stop the world from making more ghosts like him. Maybe he could save every child.