Thursday, March 05, 2009

85 The years are long

Uninterrupted wilderness with nary a mark of human history upon it

 I can remember when all this was city. I sometimes hear taxis, traffic, roar of music from rushing cars,  windows rolled up, air conditioning blasting arctic air making the glass sweat against the deep heat of summer. I don’t even know why I bother writing this down. My kids have never even seen a moving car, let alone heard a taxi, or an ambulance, or a fire truck. Let alone a police siren. Sometimes our police, those old enough to remember, make half-hearted woooooOOOOooooo noises under their breath when they walk their beats. At least we have police, some of the communities we hear about from travelling traders have nothing. Civilization is hanging on a thread in any case, is it any wonder after all the changes that in some places, it’s snapped?

“What you up to Swain?” His name is Arnold, he’s a nosy butthead and my only real friend.

“Nothing Arnie, wasting time like always.”

“Life is short, eh?”

“And the years are long” As I look up from my notes I smile at the familiar refrain despite myself. I don’t have the heart to call what I’m doing a journal. I used to be a printer once so I have paper. Lots of paper. I hid most of my supplies during the crazy times after the change, when the machines stopped working and electricity stopped flowing and there was a new ideology each week, each ideologue demanding paper for his so-called ‘revolutionary’ pamphlets. Hardly anybody alive today remembers those times. I knew it was all horsecrap. Not a very strong word but I try not to swear around my kids, even on paper I would like some words to get unpopular again, I save them up, it's amazing what we've lost but for me, what's more amazing is what's persisted, It's so prevalent these days I wonder if it can be called swearing anymore.

Regardless, I chose to save them up. For what? I don’t know. I save them anyway. For a rainy day, only we never have merely ‘rainy’ days anymore, just sunny days and days so dark with inundation that time is lost and we don’t know what day of the week it is anymore. Last year there was a Thursday night that lasted 5 days by my estimation. Using the growth of mushrooms to make my measurements is not terribly accurate but all the usual ways we used to measure things went with the sun. 

Now there is only a bright ball in the sky and another one, slightly dimmer at night. I suspect it’s the same ball. Little things give the nature of the disaster away. Last week the sun rose in the west for a whole week and nobody noticed, it's a common enough reversal.

Little things like that tell us that everything that could possibly have gone wrong has gone wrong. We have no idea what will happen. We wait and raise our kids, what kids we have, work the land, eat, love, and check ourselves. Male sterility is high, there is a fearful symmetry here, I myself ask whether it’s time to move on again.

My stash of supplies is many hundreds of kilometres away, I have never been back to the city of my birth, long buried in the tall grass. I’m wary of meeting others like me, those who’ve escaped accident and suicide during these long dirty centuries.

I am 800 years old in September. Arnie is my only friend because one day I heard him say ‘Jesus’ under his breath and I knew he was one of the old timers. Those who’ve managed to survive since the change, since time itself changed.

Nobody in this community has ever heard of Jesus Christ, the last bible I ever saw is buried in my secret stash. Isn’t it amazing what can be lost in 800 years? Sometimes I wonder at what we had lost back when the sun was still the sun, and antiquity did not refer to the time when electricity was more than a myth to frighten children.

I told Arnie what I was, it felt good. Such a long time since I could speak my own language! With Idiom and metaphor and reference! Why are so few of us left? Why has so much changed? Why does nothing make sense anymore? Questions we had no answers for. The world had remained, but the laws had changed. Neither Arnie nor I were ever the intellectual types to figure out such details.

A day had come, the world had changed, death had stopped.

I spent a few hundred years living mad as an animal in the hills, it came and went. A lot can happen in 800 years.

We knew to keep our secrets, despite the apparent order of our community, superstition ruled as it had not ruled since the 12th century of our shared and secret history.

It was the year 801 AE (After the Event) and the time effect applied to everyone equally.

And we were hunted.

The children born just after the event, merely 600 years old, were our tormentors. They laboured under the delusion that we were the ones responsible for their troubles. They hunted us and killed us. They were the true inheritors of this world. After all, they were born here.

I know this is not my Earth. It’s a cruel parody of the place I knew, but we go on pretending.

I realized that my notes had led me to a decision: It is time to move on, I will tell my wife in the morning, a good woman, only 300 years old but good looking and great with our kids.

Hopefully Arnie and his wife would join us, whatever this world might be, it was certainly depopulated, chaos, war, plague and famine had left their mark, there would be somewhere to go, somewhere like where we were now had been a few short decades ago: the frontier. This community had been founded by Arnie 80 years before I’d turned up, but it was too established now, too comfortable, too big, too conspicuous.

Arnie and I had not discovered another person of our generation in a generation.

The hunters called themselves Angles. This is what remains of our vaunted geometry.

I felt the contours of the decision in my mind. The decision was good. Time to move.

Time to seed civilization afresh. Time to live. No time to die.

For if we fail, after the rain comes the deluge.

There’s a darkness in the hearts of these arrogant children who hunt us.

I forgive them, they blame us.

But this is not our world, I only hope we can keep the light alive until the dawn of the proper sun.

I realized my notes had become maudlin. I put them away and turned to go home. The ball in the night sky was rising, I missed the craters.

I looked up out of habit and even after 800 years I drew a sharp breath and stared in wonder at the blank dark canvas above me and asked myself:

Where were the stars? Where have we fallen?

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