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Date: 2047 Location: New Idria, California
The pit was dark – pitch black. Although Lana couldn’t see them, she knew that the walls in the circular hole were smooth, seamlessly finished by hand. Her hands had felt the smoothness as she had been lowered into the pitch black hole days ago. Lana also knew that Charles was in the pit with her, twelve feet away, on the opposite side of the tiny chasm.
“I know you’re still there,” she began.
“Where else would I be?” asked the teenage boy. “Although I really don’t know why I’m here.”
“Yes you do,” the woman countered.
“No, not really,” he replied stoically. “You’re the compass and Peter is the spotter. But me? I’m afraid I’ll just be a liability.”
The woman shook her head no, despite knowing full well her young companion couldn’t see the motion. “You’re the protector, Charles – and the dream keeper. You’re young but you’re talented.”
He thought about her reply for a moment. “I am good with a gun I suppose.”
“And you have the gift of future dreaming as well.”
“Sometimes…” he interrupted her.
“Okay, sometimes…you’re still growing into your gift, the way a puppy grows into its paws. I’m still growing too. Some compasses are able to point the way home any time they’re asked. I hope to eventually get there, but I still need the pit to be of real benefit to the clan.” They allowed the darkness to settle between them again. It sank low and heavy, like an empty dense fog. “The old gifts are coming back,” said Lana. “Now that we need them, all those buried abilities are breaking their way back into our minds, resurfacing against all odds.”
“Right - now that our machines are dead or dying. At least the ones here on the surface.”
“Yeah, yeah, you’re talking about the machines in the city again.” She sighed and decided to try and change the subject. “Do you think it is day or night up there?” They both looked up without thinking. If there had been any light, they would have seen the bottom of the limestone cap.
“I think it is night again,” said Charles.
“That would make three. They should coming for us soon.”
“Probably. At least we have food left – do you want some more beef jerky? We have enough for maybe two more meals.”
“See, that’s why you’re here – the protector – to remind me to eat. Sure, I’ll take some.” Lana heard Charles begin to shuffle against the dirt floor of the pit, but he stopped suddenly.
“Did you hear that?” he whispered.
“Hear what…” And then they both heard it, the grating sound of stone against stone as the pit’s cap was being pushed aside.
“Quick! Your blindfold!” whispered Charles.
She found it quickly, laying beside her within arm’s reach, and tied it around her head over her eyes. The sound of the pit being opened got louder, the scraping finally finishing with a swash as the cap fell over the edge.
“What can you see?” ask Lana.
“I can see the stars,” said Charles happily. Then there was the flap, flop of a rope ladder being dropped. When he was able to reach it, he led Lana to it, making certain she got on it and began climbing out. The crisp night air pushed its way down into the shaft. Over the last three days the pair’s body heat had made the temperature tolerable, but now the night’s cold air took her breath away as she got closer to the top of the pit. She felt a hand grab her wrist, beginning to pull her out. She smiled. Even with a mask on, she recognized Uncle Peter’s strong grip.
“Welcome back,” he whispered.
She placed her feet solidly on the frozen ground, although her knees wobbled a bit under the weight of her body. She heard Charles being pulled from the pit taking his place within the small group of humans standing beside the capstone.
“Your mind is clear now,” began the shaman woman who also stood in the clearing. She spoke slowly but distinctly, circling Lana, her voice almost hypnotic. “The Sun has come and gone three times, waiting for you to reach into your soul, into your spirit, and find your compass, your direction, your foundation." Lana felt hands on her shoulders now, turning her around once, and then twice. The shaman drew closer to her, as all others moved away. “Lana,” she whispered, “point the way to your home.”
Without hesitation the girl raised her left arm, let it cross in front of her body, and then shouted, “It is there. My homeland is that way.”
“The Spotter has taken note of the direction,” said Peter’s deep voice. Her uncle was a man in his late forties who was known for his quiet demeanor and perseverance under pressure. He had a closely-trimmed, white beard, and his skin was wrinkled from the effects of the icy wind on his face over the years.
“Then you will leave tomorrow,” announced Doug, the mayor to the clan, taking the blindfold from Lana’s face. The tribe began to quietly rejoice, certain that these three would soon be taking metals they had mined to the ice river, which would then glide to the coast to trade.
Lana looked up into the night sky, her green eyes staring at the moon, her auburn hair flowing halfway down her back. At twenty-three she was old not to have had children yet, but her first marriage had ended childless, and she hadn’t been pressed into taking on another husband. The front two-thirds of the moon was still solid and a soft eggshell white, but the rest of it trailed behind – like a thin pick veil. She and Charles had never known it any other way, but a few of the elders remembered different times, better times when people had run rampant over the face of the fruitful earth, taking whatever they wanted from the surface. The fragmenting of the moon had brought a stop to all that, ending worldwide communications and bringing on the era of frozen Earth. It had also separated civilization into two groups: the surface people who scavenged their life from the frozen ground; and the city people – who lived in comparative comfort in tunnels built during the before times.
She felt her uncle’s hand on her shoulder. “Lana and Charles, come and sleep in comfort tonight,” he told her. “For tomorrow we will all need our strength for the journey.”
The clear light of daybreak hurt Lana’s eyes and she squinted, reaching into her pack and pulling out a pair of tinted goggles. She hoped this trip would be uneventful, just a visit back to where she had been born and spent her childhood. With the crumbling of the moon, compasses now functioned only sporadically so Lana had been raised to the age of five beside the ice river, before being tested for gifts and then sent to live inland with her uncle.
Doug took the trio aside for a moment. “As is the custom, we’re sending you out with a gun apiece and three lighters. Keep these safe and on your person at all times, for they are almost impossible to acquire and they can definitely save your life out there.”
Charles took off his leather coat, and strapped the harness holster over his shirt, around his body, adjusting it to fit. He put the gun in the holster on his right side – because he was left handed. He then buttoned his coat back up. This would keep the gun handy and the metal from freezing. The other two did the same, but Peter and Lana placed their guns on the left.
“Pick up the ropes,” Peter said. “Let’s get this show on the road.”
Lana and Charles smiled, tying the ropes around their waists, ready to pull the packed sled around the hills, through the deep valleys, towards the ice river that led to the ocean. When Peter crested the first ridge he – the spotter – carefully noted the camp where they had come from, drew a mental line through his body, over the next valley, to a point on the next ridge. He seized every detail of the path he would follow, imprinting a map in his mind.
Lana and Charles pulled the sled through small passes around ridges as much as possible, or over the ice edges of what used to be streams. And so they progressed, valley by valley, ridge-top by ridge-top. As they went, Peter felled trees on the spotter’s points so they could find their way back when their sled was full of traded goods and food.
At night the three made camp, using the all important lighters to start their fire, artifacts from an easier time era. After eating frozen mixed vegetables that had been heated over the fire, they began to talk freely around the flames – in a way they really couldn’t in their main camp. They also drank hot tea, with the water coming from melted snow.
“I’ve heard the veil was brought about by scientists who wanted to cool down the world,” Charles said bluntly, “even if it threw the Earth into an unending ice age.”
“I disagree,” said Lana. "If it was planned at all, freezing us was only an accident. No one would have ever wanted to leave us this frozen world.”
Peter was the oldest and took a deep breath before answering. “I believe it was both: planned and an accident. I’ve heard that scientists set off charges on the moon hoping to blow small chunks of ice into orbit – to cool the Earth by producing a barrier to the Sun's rays. But there were caves on Luna filled with gas, caves that weakened the sphere and fragmented it into the veil we see now.”
“I still say those people didn’t care who they killed or what happened to those of us who survived.” Charles beat his fist into the palm of his other hand. “They built bunkers full of enough food to last a century – at least that’s what I heard.”
Lana looked at the two men. “It doesn’t really matter how it happened. There’s nothing we can do to change the past, so we have to live with our life as it stands.”
Charles shook his hands out and held them, palms first, towards the flames. “It matters because there are still those who only care about themselves, who don’t care if we ice-dwellers live or die. People who don’t even consider how we’re living up here on the surface.”
Peter could see the young man’s angst. “You’re talking about the tunnel people, again.”
“Yes! The tunnel people! Not all of them were scientists –some were just lucky enough to be living close to the subways so they didn’t freeze. They took stolen food with them as they burrowed into the underground. They’re still living well – even as we suffer.”
Lana looked over at Peter. “He’s right about that. The hyperloop trains are still running – ergo the ice river. From Lost Angeles to SanFran – they run under the ice on magnetized tracks that will operate forever.”
Peter smiled at the young pair. “And it’s a good thing the tracks run perpetually so that our sleds can ride the ice river to the ocean, where our goods can be traded with other surface dwellers. It may not be a perfect system, but it’s one we can live with.”
Charles was still seeping with anger, his rage searing into his gut. “One we can live with? Those who live below are waiting for us to die up here – slowly freezing to death until we’re extinct! Until we are dead like rats locked inside a freezer.”
Peter laughed a little. “And when have you ever seen a freezer, Charles – besides the one that surrounds us?”
“My dad saw one once – in the tunnels. He snuck down into a staircase he found, a hole in the ice. He only stumbled upon it because light was shining up from it at night. He went down, from one set of metal stairs to the next, down to where it was warmer and warmer. He hid behind a pole and saw people dress in bright clothes boarding a train. They sat on soft seats, looking out the windows. He saw packages of food inside a freezer and grabbed some, putting it inside his coats. A child saw my father in his raggedy leather and shouted to her father, who told a man who chased him back up the staircase. Charles stopped long enough to put his face in his hands. “They were warm, their bellies full, healthy. They didn’t care an ice-cycle about us, their brothers. They shall live on long after the last ice-dweller has died face down beneath the snow.”
Peter was thoughtful, breathing deeply. He slowly looked at Charles and Lana. “As long as any human survives – it is better than all of us becoming extinct. Tomorrow’s tomorrow may be worth living towards, but today we must to do everything we can to live through these difficult times.”
The three of them sat for a while, making certain the large log on the fire had caught and would burn through the night. Peter finally told the others that he would stay up for a while longer and they should try to get some sleep.
The trio had chosen to make camp on a ridge-top so they could see both valleys, coming and going. They had pulled the sled as far as they could up the face of the ridge. If there was anything moving out there they’d see it before it saw them – at least that was the plan. The sun would be up soon, as the tops of the peaks were already light, and Charles walked out of camp to look over the canyon they’d be walking into later. He stepped out onto a stone outcropping, dropping slowly to a kneeling position, keeping low to the ground.
The snow falling across the wide canyon blurred the landscape, but the frozen scene was still breath-taking. Through the crisp morning air he could hear a squirrel crying, probably in a rotten tree trunk in the valley. Suddenly he heard what he knew was the crunch of footsteps on frozen leaves on the next ridge. He gasped, taking a deep breath before hearing a sound that was unmistakable – the sound of a human turning towards him. He leaned forward, crouching, placing one hand on the rocky ground before him, straining forward to see or hear what was there in the underbrush trying to hide.
“What are you looking at?” Peter’s voice whispered from behind him.
Charles motioned for Peter to kneel down. “There, on the side of the hill – I think I heard a …”
Suddenly whatever creature was over there broke and ran. They could see something large moving under the trees, through the underbrush, rushing sideways down the cliff’s side, until it finally disappeared into a crevasse.
“The creatures we find nowadays are getting larger all the time,” said Peter, talking freely while rising to his feet. “Wildlife is returning to its natural state.”
“What do you think that was?” Charles wondered out loud.
“A deer perhaps. Maybe a wolf. As the prey gets larger the predators will get larger as well.”
“I think it was a human,” Charles told him bluntly. “When I took a breath it heard me and turned to face me. I could hear the sound of its feet shifting on the leaves.”
“Another person out this far? – With no village in sight? I doubt it,” said Peter. He then recanted, thinking about this young man’s role as protector. He put his hand Charles’ shoulder. “But just to be on the safe side, we’ll all need to keep an eye out for whatever…”
“– all right, or whoever may be out there watching us. Come back to camp and eat. Lana caught a rabbit and I dressed it out. It’s probably cooked by now.”
Sitting around the small campfire felt warm but ash was flying into the air, settling on the trio’s clothes and on their food as well. But the cooked meat still tasted delicious.
Lana glanced over at Charles between bites. “Why were you up so early morning? Couldn’t you sleep?”
“I slept just fine,” he answered slowly. “But I had a bad dream that woke me up.”
“A bad dream?” asked Peter alarmed. “You’re the dream-keeper – if you have a nightmare you need to tell us immediately. We may need to alter our route or our schedule."
“Sorry! It was so strange that I don’t think it means anything,” the teenager answered meekly.
“Let us be the judge of that,” said Lana. They had all stopped eating by now, as Peter and the woman sat waiting for Charles to tell his dream.
He took a deep breath before speaking. “I dreamed that I saw a house full of bodies that were dressed in elaborate clothes. I could see their empty eye sockets watching me. They rushed by so fast that it was as if they were riding on an avalanche. The noise was deafening like an avalanche – but there wasn’t any snow.”
“Dead people,” echoed Peter, “corpses riding an avalanche. Well, we need to be extra careful – maybe it’s a warning dream.”
“Was it day or night?” asked Lana.
“It’s hard to explain – because it was both. I could see the bodies clearly but they were surrounded by darkness.” Charles looked sheepishly at the other two. “I’ll tell you next time I dream.”
“Good!” said Peter, beginning to rise to his feet. “You’re learning your role in the group now. Your dream may tell us we can travel in safety by daylight – so we had better get going.”
“Agreed,” replied Lana. “Maybe if we walk for eight hours we can make it to my home by noon tomorrow.” She beat the ashes off her clothing, kicking the twigs to make certain the fire was out by scattering the embers.
Peter and Charles chopped down a few small trees along the top of the ridge, and the older man got his bearings. Lana and Charles tied up to the packed sled and began to pull it around the hill towards the next valley, hiking over the edge of a frozen stream. By the time there was full sunlight they had found a small ditch of clear, flowing water. They filled their canteens before drinking the precious flowing liquid directly from the gully.
As Peter stood up and was wiping water from his lips he stopped suddenly, appearing to be sniffing the air. “What is it?” whispered Charles, staying low.
“Do you smell that? I think it’s the smoke of a fire that was recently put out.”
Lana looked around as well. “How recently?”
“Maybe ten minutes but no more than twenty. Wait here for a couple of minutes and then start travelling upstream. I’m going to skirt around to the right and see if we can’t catch our wilderness companion.”
The trio acted as agreed, leaving the sled by the gully. It didn’t take long before Charles and Lana heard a surprised yelp.
“I got him!” shouted Peter.
The other two began running towards his voice. When Peter and the angry child came into sight, Charles couldn’t help but laugh. The six-foot-five Peter held the child in front of him, suspended a foot off the ground and desperately trying to wriggle free. The stranger wore a fur mouton sheared lamb coat, dark brown that was obviously twice again too big for him, over jeans and a ratty sweater.
The captured child was screaming now. “Put me down you numbskull! I’m not a freaking doll you know!”
“What are you going to do with him?” asked Charles.
“I don’t know,” answered Peter. “If I put him down he’ll just take off. His feet are already running in midair.”
Lana stepped closer and said in her most motherly voice: “We won’t hurt you. We just want to talk with you.”
For some reason that was probably instinctual, the child heard the woman’s voice and just went limp, offering no further resistance. Peter still held the boy, his huge hands under the boy’s armpits, but he put his feet on the ground.
“I’m Charles, what’s your name?” asked the teenager.
“Alexander,” came a small voice. All that could be seen of the child was his eyes peeking over the collar of the fur coat. The three of them had encircled the child now so Peter let go of him completely.
“What are you doing so far out here? Where are your people?”
“Over that way,” answered the four-foot boy, raising his right arm to point. “They’re sleeping.”
“Sleeping?” asked Peter. “I didn’t know there were any towns around here.”
“No towns – just the five of us,” answered the child. “Over there. Everyone else has been asleep for three days, so I came down here by the gully to start a fire and drink some water.”
Peter immediately understood what had probably happened.
“Well, Alexander, if you’ll stay here with Lana – we’ll go and check on your family. You can help Lana guard the sled.”
“Yes,” agreed Lana, “Alexander and I will guard the sled until you get back.” She began to lead the child towards the stream before nodding to the men that they could go.
When Lana and the boy were out of earshot, Charles began chuckling to himself. “That’s an awfully big coat for such a tiny, tiny kid.”
“That coat is probably why he’s still alive. He’s been living in it – the fur on the outside and the leather on the inside hold the heat of his body, while keeping him dry. He had good instincts too – finding a water source, not travelling too far from his home, starting a fire. He’s a smart kid.”
The two men crested the hilltop and saw a small lean-to built against the ridge. They approached slowly, guns drawn. “Hello in there!” shouted Peter. “We found your boy, so don’t be worried.” No response, no words, no movement.
Peter started forward to check out the structure, but Charles motioned for him to hang back, as he was the protector in the group. So Peter got in back of a tree, serving as look-out.
Charles went around the side. In less than a minute Peter could hear the sound of Charles letting the hammer ease off his gun. “Nothing’s moving inside,” he shouted, coming around the front of the hut.
Peter came forward quickly, eventually opening the door. Inside were four bodies, frozen, lying around a circle made of stones. Inside the circle were the remnants of a fire that had burnt itself out.
“The fire must have gone out while they were sleeping – and the kid was just lucky enough to have been curled up inside that huge coat.”
“Yeah – lucky,” Charles replied darkly. “His family’s dead. He’s left alone. Lucky.”
“Well, he’s lucky we came along,” said Peter. “Are these your bodies, Charles? – the ones from your dream?”
“Nope, not at all. My bodies had only muscles over their bones and empty eye sockets, but these frozen corpses are complete…almost...”
It was then that both men noticed that the hands on these bodies had been gnawed off. Peter got down having a closer look. “Maybe feral dogs got to them.” Peter looked closer, noting the bite marks may have been made by a human. He decided not to say anything to Charles – but to keep a close eye on the newest member of their group. “Maybe a mountain lion did this…if so, it may still be around. Let’s collect any food we can and get out of here. Check the ice room out back.”
Charles looked at four bodies again. “Yep, there’s nothing more that we can do here.”
When the two came back over the ridge they were glad to see Lana and the boy waiting patiently.
“Did you see them?” the boy shouted. “Did you wake them up?”
“No,” said Peter. “I couldn’t wake them up either.”
“Can I come with you people?” asked the boy.
Peter looked him over, as though assessing his skills. “How can you help out?”
“I can pick up sticks and branches for fires,” he offered.
“Okay. Your job will be to gather sticks,” said Peter. He turned to Lana, his niece. “We retrieved some dehydrated beans for supper later on.”
Charles held up a small box of frozen dog food. “And we got some Alpo too, with real meaty chunks."
They walked for a while, Charles and Lana pulling the sled while Alex walked behind. When Peter got to the top a ridge he would whistle sharply twice to be certain the group wasn’t wandering too far off track, waiting for Lana to whistle back.
That night they hungrily ate the peaches and some green beans, making camp inside a building on the side of a ridge that must once have been a hunting lodge. By now the tables, chairs and expensive bookcases had all been burned in the massive fireplace, so the room was basically bare apart from the stone island in the kitchen. Any metal on the furniture had probably been stripped off long ago, as the ashes inside the stone fireplace were smooth. As promised, Alex had selected dry sticks and branches along the way, throwing them onto the sled, and the party of four slept well in front of the hearth. The light of the flames flickered through their closed eyelids and the crackling sound of dried wood gently coaxed them into a deep sleep.
The popping of the fire brought Peter bitter sweet dreams of a woman he had once loved - the woman with white hair. He had spent a fortnight with her and her husband, each night laying before a wood stove. One night he had opened his eyes to find her staring back at him. Although she quickly averted her eyes, the secret was out, and their passion was greater than they could fight. She still filled his dreams sometimes, as she did tonight. He saw her now, a Madonna in a white robe, surrounded by the forest, standing barefoot in snow - with her arms open, waiting for him to come to her.
Charles on the other hand prayed for sweet dreams, but once again, his dreams were disturbing.
The morning sky was dark gray, a solid sheet of clouds. The snow had stopped but the wind outside the hillside cabin was howling through the canyon. Peter had placed two boxes of dog food beside the hearth the night before, so the processed meat had thawed and was warm and moist when the boxes were opened. He knew the group would need protein to complete the final leg of their trip.
While they were eating, Charles was asked what he dreamed and he hesitantly told them. “I dreamed again about the bodies riding an avalanche.”
“Tell us everything you can remember,” Lana coaxed.
“I’m standing in the pitch-black dark when I see a house approaching. There is a deafening roar. The light is so bright that I think it will burn my eyes. There is a wind that pushes against me. And then I see them: dozens of grey bodies, their skin pulled tight, their hair long, their fingernails look abnormally long as well. They are dressed in bright colors, shooting past me. I feel as if they are inviting me to join them…and then they are gone and I am alone in the dark again."
“Maybe it’s one of the sleds on the ice river,” Lana conjectured.
“But why would it be so dark – and then everything get so bright? And the sleds easily slide over the ice – there is no roar,” said Peter. “We’ll just need to wait and see, Charles. Sometimes the only way to reveal the future is to walk into it.”
Lana got up, beginning to put on her hiking leathers. “Let us walk into the future then. We should be in Gilroy by noon if we start now.”
Peter made certain the fire was completely out while Alex threw the remaining wood outside – leaving it inside would encourage vermin to move in.
When the Sun’s light finally reached the bottom of the valleys the group found a road bed that had obviously been recently used. The snow and ice was smooth from being well travelled with fresh snow providing enough traction to make walking and pulling the sled easier. By high noon the group was walking through the streets of Gilroy.
Lana was greeted with much hugging by her father Scott, her mother. Her cousins brought the four of them canteens of fresh water. The water had been warmed and they drank it with delight.
Lana’s father then took his brother, Peter, aside, inside a nearby shed. “What news from New Idria, brother? What are the mines producing this time?”
“We brought Benitonite gemstones, of course.”
“Of course,” echoed Scott. “And quicksilver as well, I hope.”
Peter nodded his head.
“Good, good. They’re making primitive batteries and thermometers in San Fran – so it’ll be highly sought after. I figured you might enjoy this,” he told Peter, handing him a dark jar filled with a clear liquid. “Trust me. Take a swig.”
Peter did as his younger brother insisted. “Vodka?”
“Exactly right! Life is slowly acquiring some normalcy. We had a large enough potato crop to whip up some vodka. I saved this bottle for you.”
“It’s been years since I ran across any alcohol, Scott. I’ll treasure it. Thanks!”
“No, thank you for taking such good care of my Lana as she travels back and forth on these trips. How many times have you done this so far?”
“With Lana? – six. With others? – fifteen trips in total.”
“You know the territory as well as anyone Peter.” Scott’s tone had turned serious. “They’re convening a Congress up the ice river about forty miles. Many were thinking they’d like to have you represent this area.”
“Wow. A government. I never thought I’d see that again.”
Lana's mother shouted at the pair. “They’re putting the sled onto the barge, if you want to come and see.” Peter smiled at his brother's wife as she stood not six feet from him, her white hair now pulled up into tight braids circling her face.
Scott took a watch out of his pocket. “We’ll be there shortly,” he answered. “We have about seven minutes before the hyperloop comes past. The sled going back is already prepared with tea, cloth, frozen food and supplies. And I wanted to give you this as well.” The man took a small orange out of a pocket and showed it to his brother.
“Wow! An orange – now I’ve seen everything!”
“Somewhere things are getting better, brother. The weather is turning the corner. A decade ago we couldn't stand here talking - we'd have been coughing, our lungs fighting against the temperature of the air, but now we're holding a conversation. In 100 years life will be good again. In 200 years it will be as it was.”
“Is that where we want to go? – back to the way it was, Scott?”
“That’s why we need you in the Congress. You’ve seen the good and the bad. You’ve got a good outlook on life. You could take the others back to New Idria and then use your tree-line markers to come back in three weeks – that’s when we’ll be going.”
“It’s a big decision, Scott.”
“Just promise me you’ll think about it. Those underground people may be surprised at how far we’ve come, when they finally crawl out of their holes. Sometimes I wonder how they’re doing under there, riding in their fine trains in comfort. But as long as they keep going, the friction of their train will keep the ice in place and we’ll keep piggy-backing the loop trains as they go past down to the ocean.”
Peter and his brother took another drink of vodka before walking over to the ice river to watch the metal barge being magnetized, lurching forward, and then being pulled along by the train underneath as it zoomed through a vacuum tunnel.
As the barge jerked off to a start, the people standing there had no way of knowing that 20 feet below them the hyperloop train had very quiet passengers riding: mummified bodies in colorful clothes who had set off from underground Los Angeles a decade ago, trying to escape the fast-acting plague that was killing everyone it touched. And now they rode, forever, in bright railroad cars in a hyperloop circle, at 700 mph, waiting to someday be discovered by their surface brothers.
micheledutcher - mark211 wrote: Goya This particular Urdu word conveys a contemplative 'as-if' that nonetheless feels like reality, and describes the suspension of disbelief that can occur, often through good storytelling. Maybe it's because we live in an overcrowded world (my part of it certainly is), but even in a dystopia there is something mesmerising about an empty planet and vast wastelands that really sparks up a light in the back of my brain somewhere. The story is very evocative not to mention timely given all the reports I've seen coming out of the US about the recent polar vortex. This is a really great piece of short fiction, and the ending is fantastic.
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