We were in the thick of 2018. KFC had just conquered the state of Nebraska and the iPhone had constructed an eighth dimension. Electric scooters had breeched the southern gate and had us pinned down in the courtyard. China had decided it would hang a second moon. I looked at Trevor, the space between us thick with cellophane advertisements, and I could tell he was thinking exactly what I was thinking.
Time to get out.
He’d heard lore about a place beyond the wall where trees still grew. I figured it was nonsense, but better to know for sure than live forever in the shadow of the AMC 247-plex. We sent up a flare and waited to see if there were other weary fools out there who might feel the need, also, to get out.
It was impossible to know what we might need in that world out there that Trevor called “nature,” if indeed it did exist, but our textured miscellany seemed sufficient to get us through crises both imaginable and not.
I haven’t time to recount here every wretched and heartbreaking event that transpired, but find the wall we did indeed, and over it we crossed into what surely must be the last stronghold of forested refuge.
Some noxious chemical had besieged the trees, and though they must’ve been dead they were a most spectacular color. The sunlight filtering through the forest was monochromatically yellow in spots, as though we were huddled under a translucent yellow acid-rain-proof tarpaulin.
The eyes can hardly adjust quickly enough, accustomed though they are to the 500 shades of gray we know too well. I’ve heard of a thing called the nature/nurture debate that took place back in the 20th century, and while the details of that debate are unknown to me, it’s clear that those words refer to the same thing.
Then an unbelievable event occurred—it became dark! Totally dark. One could not move about without stumbling. There was absolutely no ambient light and not even one chopper overhead to sweep its spotlight across the rocky, uneven landscape. We found a place to deploy our inflatable sleep pods for the night and it was our good fortune that one among us knew that fallen trees would catch fire. The smoke from this fire didn’t even make one nauseous.
On the morning that followed, we left our supplies behind and set out on an exploratory mission.
We located a relic or which we could make little sense. It seems that trains once ran here, trains of a sort that were powered by water and rocks, and that clocked a speed lower than 400 miles per hour. Why such slugs were used and for what was beyond our comprehension. However, it was clear that the tunnel itself had been sealed after numerous accidents, and was a kind of graveyard for both man and machine. What would it be like to die out here where one’s body wouldn’t immediately be fed to the orphans?
The trail became steep, and breathing unpolluted air with so high an oxygen content was difficult. This gave us ample time to look around. Ample time was not enough.
For the first time in our lives we were in a quiet place, and we discovered that noise leaves an echo in the ear much like a neon hologram burns into the retinas for a time after one looks away. It was only after many hours that I heard the flapping of the birds’ wings that had surely been there before, just hidden behind the ghostly reverberations of a lifetime of car horns, gasbag solicitations, flatulent delivery drones, and droning oxygen generators.
Sounds, really, are just the tip of the iceberg (an antiquated metaphor I don’t understand). The silence, the stillness, the variations in temperature, the appearance of animals—it is difficult to get accustomed to these pleasures, and to recognize them as such.
Logistics, unfortunately, demanded that we return to the urbolopolis, but with us we took stories and a few memories, something very intensely our own to cherish and to be changed by.