The way things were (fiction)

I can barely remember when the long black strips of roads were filled with cars and trucks. They are all gone now, and the roads — were they called interstates? — sit empty. But if you go out there on a quiet day, you can still hear the trucks going past.

They are cracked now, with the grass and the sage pushing their way through and across them. When the wind is right, blowing away from the village, I can still hear the whooshing the trucks made as they lumbered past the cars.

It’s time to leave now, they say. Everyone is packing up and moving on. The long-journey ships are loading up, taking everyone into space. It’s time to let the planet recover, they say. A few people get to stay, tribes that belong to the land. I don’t belong to one of those tribes. My family leaves for the embarkation point this morning.

But me, I’m not moving on. I’m never gonna leave this place, not if it kills me. I’m gonna die here someday. Maybe it will be today, ’cause I never am gonna leave my place.

“Grandma! It’s time to go!” I can hear them calling me now. The wind shifted. I push myself up off the hot black road with my cane and cross it. The sage is above my head, and I struggle past the huge bushes. I’m careful not to fall on my way down the embankment to the creek — I don’t really want to die today.

Under the spreading juniper tree, I crawl carefully into the cave under its roots, where the creek undercut years ago. They’ll never find me here. I can hear them searching for me, coming closer and closer, calling me. My daughter’s voice is shrill — she always has needed me near her. Well, she’ll have to do without me for once. My son and my daughter’s husband are the closest. I can hear them clearly.

“Look, here’s footprints.”

“Lower your voice, man. If she’s gone off, it means she really doesn’t want to go with us. I’m not gonna make her.”

“She’s in her right mind?”

“Mama’s never been out of her mind a day in her whole life. If she says a thing, she means it. Didn’t you hear her at dinner last night?”

“Well, yeah. But I didn’t believe her. Anna didn’t either.”

“Come on. It’s time to go. We’re gonna tell Anna we couldn’t find her, and you’re gonna make sure she doesn’t either.”

“You sure about this?”

“Yeah. Now come on.”

Their footsteps and voices recede into the distance. I can hear Anna crying. But I breathe a sigh of relief. Alone at last and I’m gonna stay. I should have known I could count on Lars. He always was my obedient child.

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  1. (A thousand years passed)
    I asked Master Zonder, the head of the village metal shop, where I was apprenticed, where the overseers laws came from, and he gave me a story:

    Generations ago, people filled the Earth. They built towers to the sky. They flattened fields. They built wide roads. Their clamor went into the sky and the overseers heard. The overseers said: “We will wipe humans off the face of the Earth.” The humans said, “No, give us another chance.” The overseers replied, “Then there will be rules.” and so the rules came to be.

  1. The next day ( #fiction ) | Lizbeth's Garden

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