When I walked down the street with the sign people mocked me.I carried it for years from one major city to the next, enduring the laughing and crude language stoically.
It’s a hard thing to make people aware of what’s happening in the world and a harder thing to stick to one’s own beliefs when they stand alone. I don’t remember now if I had a vision or if it was calculated guess based upon world affairs. Or climate change. It doesn’t really matter now. Does it?
I was right.
As I stocked my underground bunker over the years, I tried to think of ways to get the word out. I was a solitary sentinel sent (by who?) to break the news. But people didn’t see me as a messenger. They saw a tired old man with a limp who should probably be committed to a nice safe asylum.Everyone was moving so fast back then. Cities looked like ant colonies with people flooding the streets in steady steams of humanity that flowed in and out of buildings that stretched on for miles.I lost count of how many cities I traveled to after sixty-six. If I’d had the means I would have traveled around the world with the sign.But I didn’t. I had to use what money I could drum up over the years to build my bunker in a national forest.It was the safest place I could create.I just want you to know I tried my best to share the message, but I was limited physically and financially.
When the end finally came the earth around me convulsedfor days. Somehow my bunker survived the mighty tremors, but Idiscovered the escape hatchwas blocked. My bunker became my coffin. I’d accumulated enough supplies to last at least ten years. I’m writing this to explain what happened to me if my tomb is discovered by (future?) generations. I’ll assume someone is going to read this someday and their going to wonder why those supplies I mentioned are still here. Turns out my air intake system isn’t working (no surprise) and I’m living on the last of the oxygen in this forty-foot by twenty-foot bunker.
A thick sea fog crawled up onto the shore and billowed out along the ragged coast like a creature from native folklore. Confused seagulls called out to one another as the rain increased in intensity. A lone figure blindly staggered through the slushy sand on the coast.
He was the only survivor from the “Wild Countess” a pirate ship that was shattered asunder by a terrible storm at sea two days prior. His clothes hung in rags off of his frail body as he limbed along the beach trying to find his way inland and possible shelter. The gods were angry at Sir William Treacher, who was once a respected member of the English Court before turning to piracy as a profession. If it wasn’t for the damn storm he’s still be sailing the high seas in search of easy prey.
Sir William was not a religious man, despite feigning to be one for most of his life. So he had no supreme being to pray to. He cursed his fate and kept walking through the driving rain.
The island that Sir William walked on was New Guinea but he didn’t know that. All he knew was that he hoped the inhabitants -if there were any – were friendly.
The village chief, Loo Kaupa, patiently listened to the eager young messenger Vihaan Tali, tell his tale. The excited young man was reporting that he saw a stranger on the beach and he was a white man. This was big news. It had been a long time since white men visited their island. Chief Loo Kaupa had to strain his memory to recall when the last time it happened. His chief advisor, and oldest man in the tribe, Ewanga-Goiba Ani, said it was a special event – just like the last time many moons ago when five sailors had washed up upon their bountiful shores.
Other elders in the thatched hut buzzed like bees remembering encounters with the white men and their wisdom. Some talked about the white man’s ability to navigate by the stars and to read the heavens for their position. Some pointed out other amazing technologies they shared, like the mangled telescope which stood in a place of honor in the chief’s hut. Alongside of it were two pairs of spectacles whose power of magnification awed the simple natives. A map of the world was proudly displayed upside down on another wall. No doubt about it, the tribe had benefited from the visitors and treated them like valued guests.
Sir William cursed when he stumbled again. His legs felt like leaden weights and he was hopelessly disorientated. He was hungry and thirsty. Finally he sat down on a boulder. The rain stopped as suddenly as it started. Steam rose from the ground as he looked around in disgust.
“Damn me eyes if this isn’t a poor turn of events,” he grumbled out loud as he emptied sand from his shoe. Nearby at the tree line that Sir William hadn’t discovered yet, two natives watched him with wide-eyed curiosity as the fog slowly dissipated under the sun’s warm embrace. They were instructed to observe him and not reveal themselves.
After an hour Sir William worked up the energy to walk to the tree line that was revealed between wisps of stringy fog that doggedly clung to the ground. When he found a running stream he collapsed beside it and greedily drank the fresh cool water until he involuntarily vomited. As he lay recovering on the river’s bank he saw a wild pig dash through the underbrush. The sight heartened him. There was at least one meat source on the island. He suspected that he’d find eatable tubers and berries to supplement his diet. His spirits raised as he relaxed by the stream and listened to the calls of exotic birds overhead.
Sir William’s first instinct was to run when he saw the heavily tattooed chief Loo Kaupa emerge from the dense undergrowth to greet him. The chief’s face was painted in a fierce grimace but he was smiling and holding up one hand as he approached. Even more reassuring, the chief was speaking in broken English.
“Ahoy, Englishman!” he called out merrily.
With a sigh of immense relief Sir William hailed the chief and smiled broadly. His luck had finally returned.
On the way to the village other natives joined them. Some had dead wild pigs on wooden slings, while others had baskets of red and black berries. It was a festive group that hummed native tunes as they traveled further inland. Sir William’s thoughts turned to how he could exploit the naïve natives as he followed them into an enclosed compound.
Chief Loo Kaupa proudly ushered Sir William into his spacious hut and called for drink and food to be laid out on a long wooden table in the center. Naked and nubile young women brought in baskets bearing various eatables, from reptiles to mystery mushes whose smell made ones eyes water.
When two brawny naked young warriors brought in a whole roasted pig everyone enthusiastically clapped. Especially Sir William whose mouth was watering at the sight. It was a memorable night where everyone got drunk on the villagers favorite fermented coconut concoction.
A week later chief Loo Kaupa announced that Sir William would have the honor of taking messages to the villagers loved ones. It seemed a bit odd that the villagers themselves couldn’t visit their loved ones but Sir Will’s mind was fogged with the excesses he was indulging in.
Beautiful young women were selected to sexually please Sir Will for six straight days. On the seventh day chief Loo Kaupa informed him that he was a “long pig.”
“What’s a long pig?” Sir William hesitantly asked.
“They’re special offerings to please the gods,” the chief beamed happily.
Sir William’s heart quickened and he dropped the wooden gourd he was drinking from as several strong warriors edged closer to him while the chief was speaking.
“The Great Spirit Father is honoring you tonight above all others. As a long pig, your sacred flesh will be consumed by everyone in the village this night, allowing you to carry messages to their beloved ancestors.”
Sir Will’s scream of horror rose to the heavens as the warriors closed in around him with long knives.
It’s been fun surfing on monster waves in Hawaii in weather so beautiful it was post card perfect. Those two beach bunnies were a nice touch. Literally. Heh! heh! Everyone was real nice to me, and smoking pakalolo with those two Philippine fishermen was a cool experience, but I want to wake up now.
There must be rules.
Nothing is wrong with me. I’m healthy and happy. Just sleeping. So why can’t I get up? Shakespeare wrote,
“Are you sure
That we are awake?
It seems to me
That yet we sleep,
In The Midsummer Night’s Dream.
This quote haunts me because I’m sure I’m awake, yet somehow dreaming at the same time. It stirs instincts from other lives that were hidden from my consciousness and are now scampering about like free rabbits in the wild.
What am I doing wrong?
Is it possible to forget how to wake up? Is that little piece of information in code somewhere in my unconscious? Did it grow tired of waiting for me to open my eyes and shrivel up? Way too many questions here. I have to pull back and not panic. I appear to be stuck in a nightmare. As soon as I get the right neurons to move from my cerebellum to the cerebral cortex it will go away.
Maybe I’m having the mother of all daydreams. Daydreams. That’s it. I’m having the most intense daydream ever experienced by a human. I don’t know why I was singled out for this dubious honor, but I’m over it. Time to move on. I have a life to live. Is anyone out there listening?
Clint’s apartment offered a panoramic 10th story view of Portland which could be enhanced if one desired by looking through the telescope on the deck.
The telescope was a Gskyer 70 mm with lots of interesting attachments. He could watch ants climbing up a lime tree in someone’s backyard five miles away if he felt like it. His favorite attachment was a 5×24 Finderscope and mounting bracket with cross hair lines that helped locate objects and subjects. He spent many pleasant hours looking at the world unfold outside as he sipped 18 year-old James Buchanan’s Special Reserve Blended Scotch Whiskey.
He was single and a successful day trader who worked from home. He didn’t like being around other people. Crowds made him uneasy. He didn’t mind one-on-one conversations with friends or strangers however. He was well-educated and graduated top of the class at Webster University, a national top ten business college. His soft spoken voice could calm people in distress and hold people’s interest when he told a story.
His rugged good looks turned more than one female’s head in admiration. Yet Clint never had a girlfriend, or a boyfriend. Never. His adopted parents never pressured him to date and often went out of their way to help him avoid large gatherings… like school. His adopted mother was a special education teacher who home schooled him when she came home from work. He absorbed knowledge like a sponge, but seldom showed emotion. Joy, or anger. Grief, or elation. Happiness, or sorrow. It was his poker face that made some people a little uneasy when around him. That, and his pale blue eyes, which seemed to sparkle with an unknown energy that suggested an icy presence lurking inside.
Money was no problem for Clint. He was very successful at investing his money in the market, and had over a million dollars in savings. His problem was entertaining himself. The television and the internet provided entertainment up to a point, but the day came when it wasn’t enough.
Clint adopted the persona of a deliveryman. He would bring surprise packages to houses, apartments, motel and hotel rooms, and businesses. He purchased numerous deliveryman outfits with different company names on the back and his front pocket. He wore fake glasses. The contents of the packages varied; some were bombs, some were piles of cash, some were just pranks using jack-in-the-boxes. He always felt calm about his deliveries regardless of their contents. It was a strange feeling for someone who experienced very little human traits.
One day while peering through his telescope, Clint watched a little drama going on a few miles away and near one of the many bridges below. One of his talents was lip reading. Despite turning their heads away from him at times, Clint pieced together what they were fighting about in minutes. It was enough to inspire him to deliver a special package to the house later that day.
He pulled up to the house in his General Delivery van and brought his package to the front porch of the house. It was where he saw them arguing. He calmly drove back to his apartment and went outside to his telescope. After lighting up a joint he inhaled deeply, savoring his favorite strain of cannabis, Grand Daddy Purp. Grinning in anticipation, he peered through the 400mm lens he had substituted for the 70mm and settled in for a long wait.
Two hours later the occupant of the house, a woman, stepped out onto the front porch. She peered around as if looking for someone, but the street was deserted in the growing dusk. Then she looked down and saw the package. It was the size of a shoebox and was wrapped in brown paper with a yellow ribbon and bow. There was no card. Her name wasn’t on it. She looked around again, straining her eyes against the withering light. Eyes back down. A step towards it. Clint imagined how hard her heart must be pounding as she neared the package. She hovered for a moment over it then bent down. Fear and curiosity crawled across her brow as she contemplated the package.
Finally she reached out and pulled the ribbon…
This was the part Clint enjoyed. Life, or death? What would it be? He knew she was risking everything. If the package killed her she’d never come up with the ransom money for her only child, a daughter. Still, in her desperation she hoped the package contained good news.
Clint watched, squinting in the growing gray sky, as she opened the top and pulled out the wads of money. Twenty-five thousand dollars in cash! Enough to get her daughter back.
When the man came for the ransom she had it. A moment later her daughter was freed from a car parked nearby. The man left without a word. As he got into the passenger seat of the car Clint took several photos with his wireless camera attachment to his Gskyer telescope. It would help him find the man so he could send him a package too. One without money in it.