Island – thousand word story

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The Island was long, but they were wise in how they settled it.

island4

They put most of the cities and villages to the south along the long stretch of land they called the Lumbo. The grassy plains to the north they left alone, unhampered by the burdens of civilization. There the animals roamed free, just like they had when the people first came here.

They been careful, these wayfaring People, these new-world-creating People, to make sure that the animals they brought with them didn’t invade or take over the habitats of the aboriginal animals. They learned a lot from the mistakes others had made before them, in other lands and other times. This was their plan,

to live
with
the natural world
rather than
in spite of it.

They’d tried to tell the others about the dangers. They’d tried to convince them of the avalanche of waste, of poisons, of the dangers of neglect or of over-use. They’d tried and failed. They continued, the others, in their thoughtless, mindless ways, living as if there was no tomorrow.

The People left, knowing if they didn’t, there wouldn’t be a tomorrow. Their water would be undrinkable, their food would be their poison, their air fouled with smokestacks and acid. They left the “experts”, the doctors, the academics, the politicians, the priests. They left them, seeing the train that was coming was going to run them over, all of them.

This Island was their last hope. Others had left for the stars, hoping to colonize other planets that were as Earth-like as possible. They’d never written back. The citizens of Earth never knew if they’d gotten lost or died along the way, or worse, gotten there and flourished. Perhaps in their zeal to keep what they had, their new secret Terra Firma, they never wrote back, for fear that others would follow and ruin the joy, the unspoiled wilderness.

Too many colonists spoil the planet, you know.

The People had come here to the Island, some too poor to make the first trip, some too scared to box themselves up coffin-like in the space ships. It was 23 years after the first and only ship left that they’d scraped up enough money and interest to make the voyage.

The Island was their home for good now. They’d taken apart the big ships, used the wood to build their first settlements.

It was best this way really, living to the south. The people on the west side of the island had a perfect view of the deep, dark, waters of the MaLungo Sea, while the people to the east not only enjoyed the morning sunrise but also the shallower waters of the Bay of BahrimBa. There was good snorkeling there, and dolphins.

The dolphins told them everything they knew about this Island’s waters and even further out into “the Great Deep,” as the dolphins called it. Few of them went there. That was the realm of the whales, the royalty of the ocean.

The People of the Island enjoyed visiting with each other but the waters weren’t amenable to sailing close into shore. They were choppy and many a ship was lost before the people learned to understand the language of the dolphins. Together they tracked out the sea lanes, the invisible highways that stretched over the ocean, areas of calm where ships may safely sail. This made it possible to establish farming villages in the north as well. No roads could be constructed to transport the produce, so small ships were essential lifelines to the southern towns.

island3

They made a wide berth around the island to the west. It had sprung up some 200 years ago amidst much rumbling and plumes of steam. One day it wasn’t there and then one bright morning, heralded by cracks and booms, the island was born over the course of six weeks.

No one lived there. Not even animals.

They called it “Turtle Island” because it looked like the shell of a great turtle, not because any of those noble animals lived there. They remembered a story from many generations back of a turtle holding up the world on her shell. That turtle was bigger than dreams and stronger than fear. She held up the world, swimming through space like it was a sea of stars. She held the world up on her back, high enough for light and air for it, while underwater she navigated the waters of time, carrying them to their unknown destiny. Her life was a life underneath, a life of service.

The people then never really knew how much she did for them.

They told her story to their children to remind them that all they see isn’t all that is, and that there is a great force that is carrying them safely and with great sacrifice. That was all they knew, and it was all they needed to know.

The story served them well then.

Years of science disproved this story, turned it into a myth. The people shifted away from superstition and ritual, but lost some of their hope when they abandoned the turtle as their benefactor.

These people carried that story, like a small ember from a fire, to their new home. Turtle island’s birth served as proof to them that their faith was warranted – the great turtle was still carrying them.

People would visit but they were not allowed to spend the night. Birds would land here to rest, but would not make nests. Even they knew this was a holy place. The brave among the teenagers would make their rafts or borrow the community rowboats and scull out to this little land

on a dare
or to stake their claim
or to run away
from restrictive parents
and their
even more
restrictive rules.

The island was still settling and still growing. They didn’t ever need the authorities to tell them to leave. They left of their own accord quickly enough, frightened by the rumblings in the land.

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Picture-story part four – introduction

I’m sorry – I guess I should introduce myself. I’m Torii Jane. My friends call me Jane. I can’t tell you when America adopted the family name first practice like the Japanese do. Somewhen with all the computer files and doctor’s offices it seemed more sensible. We were sorted by family name first anyway. Somebody decided it would just be easier to make it all the same.

Torii? Yeah. That sounds Japanese too. It is. My family name means gate, but it isn’t like a gate anybody uses anymore. It’s a gate without a lock. It’s a simple thing really. It doesn’t keep anybody out. It just lets people know they’ve arrived.

Turns out the Inuit had something similar, in their inuksuit. They made stone structures to point the way. My name’s kind of like that. My family was full of people like that, people who knew where the line was between “here” and “there,” and how to get “there” in a really good way.

I sure miss them.

I started selling survival kits door to door to try to find people who saw things like me, but I didn’t know it at the time. I didn’t know that was why I felt so different. I didn’t know that was why I’d fallen out with so many friends. I was becoming invisible.

Maybe this is why they’ve not sent a search party for me. I’m not missed. I’ve spent so long moving away from them and their drama and their parties that they don’t even notice I’m gone.

Maybe here I can find a new home for myself.

What am I thinking? I’ve got an apartment back home. I’ve got bills to pay. I’ve got a Book of the Month club membership. I can’t just give all of that up. How will I survive?

All right. Get a hold of yourself, Jane. You’ve survived this long without those things. You sell survival gear, remember? You’ve lived on your own for what, twenty years?

Good Lord. Now I’m talking to myself.

Picture-story part three – gold

I’ve finally met some people. They tell me they call this planet Graille. I didn’t see them at first because nobody sees them at first. They’ve become invisible. Well, not really invisible, but nobody notices them.

They came here because they could actually see each other. The closer you get to being awake, the more visible you become to each other, and the more invisible you become to everybody else.

Everyone else is so busy watching reality TV that they have stopped noticing what reality even looks like anymore. They are so used to artificial colors and flavors that they don’t know what real food looks like or tastes like anymore either. No wonder the real people have become invisible.

That field of stars I saw? That’s gold. It isn’t a field of stars at all. It’s a compost pile of sorts.

There was a hoarding of it around the turn of the century, a century ago. Every street corner and every abandoned building became a place to buy up gold. “Cash for gold”, they said. “Best prices!”

Some of these invisible people set up these shops, alongside the end-of-the-world doom mongers. They did it to collect more gold. They knew that money wouldn’t do them any good where they were going, but gold would.

It wasn’t for a profit. It was for the planet. This planet.

The gold feeds the soil. They use it with their compost, their kitchen scraps. The gold cancels out the acidic soil here, makes it come alive again.

They discovered that digging up all the gold was why the Earth’s soils stopped producing food, why they had to start 3D printing it out of plastics and polymers. That food fills you up, same as eating Styrofoam. It just leaves you hungry for more because you never got filled up with food in the first place.

The soil needed the gold under it all along. That’s why the Creator put it down there in the first place. Funny people, digging up the wrong thing. They thought if they dug up more gold, they could buy more food. Turns out if you leave it where it is, you get more of what you were looking for.

(After a long amount of wrestling with this, I’ve decided that if the words come without the picture, to let them. And if they are not 1000 words a section, that is OK. Rules cannot get in the way of the goal.)

Thousand-word story, part two

story2

I have wandered further on this isolated planet. It has been three weeks now and there’s not been any sign of a rescue party. I might as well see if there’s something else to this planet other than the wild forest and the crashing waves. I think I’ve wandered along the beach enough. There has to be something more.

The more time I spend away from the sea, the more I think the strange dark skies aren’t the norm here. The further I get, the brighter it gets. Maybe there’s something to the violence of the waves that makes the skies there seem so dark. Or maybe it was just a season. Maybe the sunlight was less over there and brighter over here. Maybe it is just like winter in the northern parts of Canada back home. Sunlight there isn’t as long as elsewhere. I just didn’t think I’d walked far enough to see a difference.

Maybe this planet is smaller. Maybe it is further from the Sun. Maybe I should have paid attention back in Mx. Griggsby’s science class. I sure didn’t think I’d need that information now. Not like I really need it. Knowing what size the planet is isn’t going to save me. Knowing how to find food and water, and maybe other people, will do the trick nicely now.

Good thing I was a Girl Scout. That, I paid attention to. I know how to set up a tent and set a broken bone. I know how to open a can with a knife and how to start a fire without a lighter. Maybe soon I’ll need to use those skills.

Mx. Griggsby told me to always pay attention, but Grams told me what I wanted to pay attention to. I guess I should call Grams Mx. Grams, out of respect, but it doesn’t seem sensical.

I’m glad that a few years ago somebody came up with the gender-neutral term Mx. to show respect. When you become an adult, it is nice to have something to add to your name so everybody knows it. Sometimes you need the prefix so you know yourself.

None of that matters now. I’ve not found anybody else, adult or child, to exchange names with at all, much less polite prefixes. But up here, on this ridge, I can see signs that humans have been here. Down in the valley I see lines in the red soil. Looks like somebody has been farming. I wonder what they can grow in this iron-rich soil. It sure looks like Mars down there. I wonder if all the soil is like that.

The mountains in the distance look inviting, but I can hear from here the calls of the animals. Fortunately it isn’t that loud from this far away. I wonder why they live in the forest and not anywhere else? Is the soil too dry for them? Too acidic? I’ve not tested it yet to see how different it is from Earth’s. I’m glad I brought my kit with me. I’m not sure what I’ll do with the information, but information is power, right?

The purple rocks and waves below are interesting. The rock I’m standing on is the same purple. It seems sturdy enough. That looks like a tidal pool down there too. So strange to have a pool right next to a barren plain, but there I go assuming this place is like Earth. Every place is different in some ways, and the same in others. Kinda like how England is almost the same as America. Or is it the other way around? I forget.

Are those stars in those rocks? That can’t be. Stars, down there? Why aren’t they up in the sky like they should be? Maybe that’s just the glint of some mineral. I’ll have to go down and check tomorrow.

As for now, I’m tired. It’s taken me two days to get up this rock to see this view. I’m glad I went to the gym all those years. I sure didn’t think I’d need the exercise like this. Most people scoffed at me for actually exercising my own body. They take pills for that, or hire surrogates to do their heavy lifting for them. One person too many said “Hey, why don’t you exercise for me!” and darned if somebody didn’t figure out a way to do it.

Nobody here would have surrogates working for them. Anybody who lived here would have to do it all themselves. They’d have to figure out how to make their own tools too. Nobody is supposed to live here, but it sure looks like somebody does. Or at least did. The only way that somebody could get here was accidentally on purpose. That’s the way to do anything off the books and out of the way. You just happen to end up having an accident. You kind of plan it, but you can’t look like you’ve planned it. So you sure can’t take any big tools with you. They’d be noticed. Then you’d be challenged, and challenged is the last thing you’d want if you were planning on defecting to some off-the-charts planet.

Now I’m starting to think about this. Do I really want to meet people here? Would that be safe? Would they be sane or scary? Would they be like squatters in abandoned houses or hippies from two centuries ago? Sometimes people drop out of society because they never fit in. Sometimes they reject society, sometimes society rejects them. They might not take kindly to somebody dropping in unannounced.

Fortunately Grams taught me how to “Hello the house”. Back in the mountains of Appalachia when her own Grams was a girl, she learned to yell out “Hello” to a house she was approaching. This prevented unfortunate encounters in the days before telephones were common to announce you were a’visiting. Unfortunate encounters like having your head blown clear off.

I sure hope that any people left here are friendly.

Waves. (A picture is worth a thousand words)

waves

It’s early morning. 3 a.m. probably. The waves keep coming. The storm was bigger than usual last night. The waves are slowly wearing down to their normal ferocity. They are never calm, not here.

Here, on this unnamed planet, forgotten, alone, the waves are never calm. Nothing is. The days are better than the nights, with the weird calls from the jungle behind me. The shrieks are indescribably loud and strange. Perhaps it is the sound of a monkey’s yowls crossed with a lion’s roar? But the volume is unbelievable. How is it possible that the animals can sleep with all that racket?

I’m thankful for the waves for this alone. Their roars are enough to drown out the worst of the unearthly racket. And unearthly they are indeed.

It’s been fourteen days that I’ve been marooned here. My ship was headed on a routine trip to Beta Four. I’ve done this so often I didn’t even try to fly the scooter-pod this time. It knew the way, so I let it. But there’s something to be said for having semi-intelligent ships. Sometimes having a mind of one’s own means that they get distracted. That’s exactly what happened this time. Some flying thing – a bird? A mistake from a genetics lab? A dinosaur wanna-be? Something flew within half a click of my pod and off it went, like a big dumb puppy, dragging me along for the ride.

‘Cept this time I wasn’t walking my dog in a park. This time I was in a ship, going to visit a client. And this time, instead of just falling down and skinning my knee something fierce, I’ve fallen out of the sky and onto this Spirit-forsaken place.

Maybe they’ve noticed I’m missing. Maybe they’ve sent a rescue mission. I’ve seen some strange lights in the sky. They could be ships looking for me. They sure haven’t found me yet.

So I’m making do here. I don’t really want to go into that jungle. It’s too dark, and too loud. Those animals sound big. Nothing small could make a noise that loud, and it sounds like there are lots of them.

Fortunately there’s a bit of shelter to be had by this rock. The overhang is enough to protect me from the sun, for whatever it counts. The sun isn’t very strong here, not like on Earth. I didn’t make time to learn the name of it when I booked the scooter. It didn’t seem to matter. I certainly wasn’t going to need to know it.

The waves are huge here. The moons are larger than on Earth, and closer. There are three that brighten the night, and that helps. They are the best night-light that an inter-system door-to-door saleswoman could want. The light from them keeps me company.

Well, its’ three, and the sun is coming up just over my rock that I call home. Another murky day awaits. No wonder nobody settled here. The days are dark and thick, like a gumbo left for too long on a burner. Kind of smells like that too – but that could be all the sea-life that has washed up.

I’ve not had to want for food, at least. The seafood is amazing here, and I don’t have to go fishing for it. It just flings itself up onto the shore, gasping and flopping, and I pick it up like a child collects seashells. Thanks to my samples in my sales kit I’ve got all the supplies I could ever want to survive for quite a while here. I can clean a fish and cook it in no time flat with what I’ve got stowed away in my briefcase.

You see, I sell kits to “survivalists.” Preppers. You know, those end-of-the-Universe people. I don’t care what they fear or why, a girl’s got to make a living. Ovens in a can. Oxygen generators that look like necklaces. Water purification tablets by the bag. I’ve got them, and more.

I felt a little guilty about it to start off with. You know, there’s something about not feeding an addiction that my Grams taught me. But then, even she knew how to make do with almost nothing. These people have been pampered so long they’ve forgotten how to open a can without a can opener that isn’t electric. They’ve had everything done for them that they’ve become flabby, and I don’t just mean in their behinds.

So maybe this survivalist stuff will be a good kick in their blobby butts to get them going. Maybe they’ll think twice about the food they get from their vendors. I doubt they’ll grow it themselves – it’s kind of hard to grow anything in the silver sand of Beta Four. But maybe, just maybe, they’ll start taking everything seriously and paying attention for a change.

Meanwhile, I’m glad my Grams taught me something about how to make do with nothing, because nothing is all I’ve got right now. Well, nothing, and an unending supply of fish and a way to cook it. That’s something to be grateful for.

I just wish I could explore further. I know that nobody else lives here. This is one of the planets that Crom had written off as “unworthy of human habitation.” That doesn’t mean that nobody has snuck here and set up camp. Living out of the way has been the way of life for a small handful of people since people started making rules. The moment you say “you can’t do that” there’s always going to be somebody who says “you can’t tell me what to do” and they do it, quick as you please, just to show them they are wrong.

It isn’t so bad here. Maybe I’ll wander today. Maybe I’ll go along the beach instead of into the jungle. I’m sure to get lost if I go in there. If I get lost, there’s no chance of rescue. Maybe I’ll find something that will make me stay.