Sprung up Overnight
Like many of the things people don’t think about, putting cranes up was not that easy. It actually required other cranes to do it, as a rule, which could serve as some pithy metaphor for co-dependency but was in fact just the stark and simple reality of getting something so large built.
So imagine the delight and surprise of many when, unbidden and uncalled for, cranes began to burst forth from the bosom of the earth itself. Building sites across the country were amazed to see them appear and deeply gratified at the savings.
Not that they grew fully formed, of course; what with the arm extended. That would have been silly, not to mention impractical. Rather, they came out as ‘stalks’, the long arm and attendant hook/cable assembly furled up. As the dawn sun rose in the sky a freshly grown crane would gradually, magnificently, unroll its arm. Many remarked on the calming, soothing effect of watching this process, after which the crane was complete and ready to use.
Some went so far as to declare this a golden age. This was seen as needlessly hyperbolic by most, but the slightly more specific claim that it was a golden age of constructing buildings using large cranes was harder to refute. Certainly, it was by no stretch a golden age to be in the crane-hiring business and many such enterprises collapsed, unable to compete with what nature was apparently now choosing to provide for free. Dynasties built on the ancient bedroom of renting out large cranes to building sites for a fee crumbled and society quaked at the prospect of such a power vacuum.
On the plus side there were a lot of new high-rise buildings for people to gawk at. On the downside, the intense winds generated by so many tall structures blew many of the smaller members of society (dogs, cats, children) away but this lasted only until the new fashion of weighted boots arrived, with many of the now-disgraced crane families leading the charge. Equilibrium of a sort seemed to be being reached. Buildings were big and winds were high, but people weren’t blowing away and anymore and there were a lot of nice cranes to look at. No-one could really find a bad word to say about the state of things.
Unfortunately, such bliss could not last.
The cranes, previously believed to be benevolent or at least benign in the way most heavy machinery is found to be, demonstrated an increasingly common penchant for petty larceny and mischief. Pedestrians passing by building sites would find their pockets being picked by opportunistic construction equipment while often pairs of the things could be seen fighting one another for dominance when they should have been working. Supplication and gentle bribery with oil and bowls of nuts and bolts only got so far. The problem persisted.
Worse, they were now appearing in places they had no reason to be in. People would often wake up of a morning to find a crane outside their bedroom window, even when there was nothing that needed lifting. Occupying residential streets and commercial districts they made nuisances of themselves by moving parked cars to bamboozle motorists and stealing shopping bags when their owners weren’t looking. There was an outcry, and many cranes were felled. But for every one that was dismantled it seemed another two sprung up to take its place.
A planned uprising of heavy goods vehicles – which had gained sentience not long after the cranes first appeared – was halted almost as soon as it started as petulant cranes acted quickly to stymie any other piece of machinery that might try to muscle in on their territory. By now there was nowhere on land beyond their reach, and the prospects for humanity seemed bleak, at least as far as the cranes could see.
They in turn were blindsided by the sudden and miraculous appearance of a vast fleet of loving, gentle hot-air balloons which whisked the cowering humans skywards to a newer, safer life among the clouds. The cranes felt very sheepish that they hadn’t planned for this contingency, and ruled in gloom over an empty earth.