1 More Inconvenient Than You Think Jay Bland http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/regional_editions/globe_west/west/pile%20of%20garbage.jpg 2 Introduction Many things inspired me to write this short story. The first reason, and the most important to me, is my care about the environment. Most people do care, a little, but at this point, a little is not enough. I’m hoping that through this story people see the dire need for change. I wanted to write something that would be entertaining for the masses, but still convey a message. So without further ado, I would like to show you my story, More Inconvenient Than You Think. 3 More Inconvenient Than You Think It was dark, as it always was. Ever since the sun faded behind years and years of my ancestors waste. I remember the world before. With fructuous fields of green, and life all around. Now there is only decay. I am lucky if I can find some actual meat. However, when I do find something alive, I am sure to make it count. I have a bow and I am an expert with it. I can bring down small birds from a distance of almost 50 yards, larger game from almost 80. That is how I’ve stayed alive for all these years. I am a hunter. I will survive. I’ve wandered the wastes for years, searching for a place to start rebuilding. As of now I have never found anyone, but I have a feeling that that is all about to change. I sat gazing at where at least I thought the sun was, though I am never sure. My goggles were covered with dust, I could barely see through them. Not the best way to stay alive. Suddenly I became aware of a presence. I whipped out my razor sharp machete and prepared to be attacked. I saw a body moving towards me and was about to strike it when it said, “Wait! Don’t hurt me I just 4 want to help!” I lowered my blade a slight bit and asked, “Who are you? What’s your business sneaking up on me like that?” “I, I just couldn’t tell if you were alive, and uh um well. I just wanted to know if you were alive.” I could tell that the man, he was actually more of a boy, was telling the truth. I put away my machete and asked him. “Where did you come from? Are there other people around?” “Don’t you know? There’s a town just about a half mile that direction. I can take you there if you want.” “Yeah, that would nice.” So, we started walking west. It was quiet. I didn’t like it; I had been away from humanity, well at least decent humanity, for so long. I wanted to talk to this boy, find out some things. I asked him, “What’s your name kid?” “My name? Oh it’s uh, Bjorn I guess. I never really have had a name that’s just what my mother calls me. Everyone else just calls me Boy” 5 “So, who’s in this town you live in?” “Well, my mother and I found it when I was very small. She told me she gave birth to me after the, um, well you know.” “Yes, I know, but I’m wondering if you do. Do you know why the destruction of our world happened?” “Well, no, not really, just stories from my Mom, but I know they are not all true.” “How do you know that?” “Well my mom, well she’s not exactly normal.” “What do you mean?” “Well maybe five or six years after I was born A while after that happened we found Metropolis.” “Wait, what’s Metropolis?” “Oh, it’s the town. You know the place I’m taking you to.” “I see, well, go on you were talking about your mother’s stories.” 6 “Okay, well once we reached Metropolis, she seemed to just start dying. She stayed in her bed all day, going on about how the world must be saved. She talks about how the world got this way. She says that the people before all of this destroyed their world. They caused all of this, but I know that’s not true I mean nobody would be that stupid do destroy where they live… would they?” “I’m afraid your mother is correct. I was around before the apocalyptic cycle started and caused all of this. I know what happened and I can tell you if you want to know.” “Please tell me! Why did this happen? Why did the people before us do this? Why?” “If you would just shut up I will tell you.” Bjorn closed his mouth immediately. “Now, this is quite a long story are you sure you are up for it?” “Yes! I’ve wondered all of my life what the heck happened to cause all of this, please,” 7 “Once again, be quiet!” Bjorn stopped talking for the second time. “One thing before I begin, no questions until the end, if I have to remind you more than once I won’t tell you the story, understood?” “Yes sir, now please tell me!” “Alright then, so Bjorn, in order for you to really understand the drastic changes the world has had let me describe the world before. I lived in a place called Brevard, North Carolina.” “Wait, where’s Brevard?” “I said, be quiet!” “Sorry! I’m just curious you know? I’ve never had a chance to learn what happened, so now, I guess I want to know every last detail.” “It’s okay, this time, but don’t let it happen again. So, where was I? Oh right, Brevard. Now Brevard was a small town, at least in comparison to some cities, and we mostly kept to ourselves. We were right in the middle of tourist country, but somehow we managed to keep to ourselves. Now, it is at this point 8 that you may be wondering how any of this has to do with how the world became the way it was. Don’t worry, there is a point to this, just wait. So, the way the world is cannot be attributed to any one person or group. No, it was everyone in the world, well, almost everyone. The people in my country were the biggest contributors of all. You see, the reason why the world is the way it is, is not because of war, or a plague. It can be mainly blamed on simple waste. Yes, that’s it, waste. Everyone took what they had for granted. Used and used, without thinking of the consequences. Back in the old world, we would burn a substance called oil, for energy. When we did this carbon dioxide, a gas, was released into our air. This destroyed our ozone layer, that” “What the sam hill’s an ozone layer?” “Look, I understand that this may be a little bit above you, but that gives you no right to interrupt me. Now, please, shut, up. So, the ozone layer was getting destroyed. This ozone layer was a, how should I say, a force field. It protected us from the harmful effects of the Sun. It has recovered a small 9 amount, enough to protect us from the worst. Still there’s more. People threw away things that you would treasure. But that wasn’t all, yes it gets worse. The things we often threw away, didn’t really go away. They went to massive heaps of garbage. These heaps eventually started to cover the globe. Oh, but there’s more. The leaders of our world agreed the trash needed to go somewhere. They thought they could just make it go away… they were wrong. They tried burning it; it polluted our air and killed almost all of the plants. Then they tried burying it, it polluted our water. All of the fish died. This was when things really started to go downhill. People were starving, and the people that weren’t starving were dying from disease. It was horrible, just horrible. I used to have a family…” I paused for just a moment; a tear glistened in my eye as I remembered Abigail. She used to always smile, no matter the situation, until our son got sick. He began to die slowly and painfully. It was too much for Abigail and me to bear. He eventually died. My wife fell into depression. A month later she killed herself. I think of them every day. “I used to have a family… but they’re gone now. So where was I?” 10 “You were saying how everyone was dying.” “Oh, right. Well, everyone was dying. Our government was trying to keep order, but our society soon fell into anarchy. I had to do things, things I am not proud of to stay alive. Things I hope you never have to do. It did not take long for our world to go quiet. From then on I’ve been wandering, looking for any pocket of humanity I can find.” “I don’t believe you.” “Fine, I didn’t say you had to. But remember one thing. I was there, you were not.” Bjorn was quiet. I was used to the quiet, but I could tell he was not. He was deep in thought, and itching to say something. Finally, he said, “It’s just too crazy! That people would destroy their own world purposefully, and with full knowledge of what they are doing. I mean the people in Metropolis aren’t perfect, but…” Bjorn trailed off, I knew what he was talking about. I have had the same experiences as him. I said, “It’s not all bad though, we are still here and we can rebuild. The world has not been totally destroyed; it just needs a little help getting 11 back up on its feet is all. Trust me, as I have walked over the years I’ve started to witness subtle changes in our environment. Animals are starting to be more abundant, the summers and winters are not as harsh, and the air, that is the biggest change, it’s becoming more, how should I say, appealing.” “Wait, you’re telling me that after all that has happened we can go back to the way the world was?” “Yes, I am, but your going to have to wait a little bit. It’s going to take more than two people to heal this broken world.” “Well, there are plenty of people in Metropolis!” “Speaking of that, when are we ever going to reach it?” “It’s not much farther; in fact before we get there, there are a few things you should know. One, the man who started Metropolis is named Sloan. He was alive before it all, too. I think that it would be unwise for you to make enemies with him if you want to save this world. Two, Metropolis consists of a very unruly 12 crowd; they are all prone to taking what they want, so don’t leave anything unattended. In fact, if you have anything of value, I’d keep it hidden.” “That’s it?” “Um, yeah I guess so.” To this I laughed so hard that it brought tears to my eyes. “Listen kid, the world before really wasn’t that different. You had to fight for what you want, just like you have to do now.” “Oh, well I guess you’ll do fine.” “Bjorn, I think that I will do better than you expect.” “I hope so, for your sake. Anyway, Metropolis is just over the next hill.” As we neared the crest of the hill Metropolis came into view. I gasped, I had not seen a populated city in so long, yet what I saw in front of me did not impress me. It reminded me of one of the old Western films when the hero walks into a deserted town. There was only one main road, with broken down buildings lining either side. However, this town was not deserted. There were people shuffling about, without seeming to have a purpose. But what caught my attention the 13 most was the building at the end of the road. It was the largest building by far and seemed to have the most activity in and around it. It was two stories tall, rectangular, with a rounded roof. There was a huge window on the second story, I have no idea how it had stayed intact all of these years, but it had. The window was too blurry to really see anything inside of it, but for a brief moment I thought I saw a face, and in an instant it was gone. I decided to inquire about the building, so I asked, “What is that huge building at the end of town?” “Oh that? That’s just, well, that’s a lot of things.” “Such as?” “Well, its official title is the inn, but since no travelers ever come through here it’s used for other things.” “Go on.” “Well, a lot of the men go there to drink, and spend time with the ladies. It’s also owned and operated by Sloan, and his, “boys.” My mother tells me to 14 stay away from there that it is an evil place, and that all who willfully spend their time in there are, what she calls, damned.” “Well, it sounds like an awful place and if this inn is like I think it might be, your mother is very wise to tell you to stay away from it.” “I mean I was going to take you to it, but now that you put it like that, I’m sure my mother would be happy to have you at our house.” “That sounds much better, I’m not sure I’m ready to meet the town. In fact, could we take a discreet route? I don’t exactly want to be noticed right now.” “Um, I mean I guess we could. I don’t see why not.” “Great, I really appreciate this. I don’t want to get in over my head on my first day back with humanity.” “Whatever, anyway you’re lucky my house is on the outskirts of town or we would have time trying to smuggle you in.” Bjorn led me to what would be a trailer in my time, and introduced it as his home. He walked up to the door, flung it open, and screamed, “Ma! Ma I’m back 15 and I’ve brought a guest!” He turned to me and said, “My mother’s a little hard of hearing, so you’re going to have to speak up!” As soon as he had finished saying that, I heard a voice from somewhere inside, “What was that Bjorn, you know your mother can’t hear. You come and talk to me to my face!” “Coming Mother! Come on inside.” He led me indoors. The inside was about as impressive as the outside. There was dirt everywhere, broken glass, and scraps of food on the ground. I saw nothing of value, only a few books lying around. He led me through the debris to a room towards the back. I saw the edge of a futon, then a pair of feet, some legs, a woman’s chest, and finally a face. It was the face that intrigued me the most. It was old and worn, dry and cracked, it was also extremely pale. The kind of pale that suggested she had not seen the sun for years. Not like my skin, I was fairly tan; my skin was leathery, but not cooked. This woman looked like she had spent her entire life in the sun, but then suddenly became reclusive. She opened her eyes upon our entrance. I jumped 16 when I saw them. They were an extremely glossy blue almost closer to white. They swiveled towards us and she asked, “Who is your friend, son?” “I found him out in the wilderness. He says he hasn’t seen anyone since the fall. He also says he’s from the world before.” “Where is he from?” “The world before Mother. He was alive before the world was destroyed. He was alive when you were.” His mother started to laugh, but then it turned into a violent cough, after it subsided she said, “For the last twenty four years I’ve been wandering, looking, and more recently, waiting for someone else from my past to talk to. You can bring this world back I can see it in your eyes.” I had no idea how she was doing this because it looked like she wasn’t even looking at me. I figured that I should say something, so I said, “Thank you ma’am, for your kind words, and your hospitality.” “You’re most welcome. What’s your name son?” “James, ma’am. James Gilligan is my name, and I am at your service.” 17 “Thank you, James. Now, Bjorn, your mother needs her rest and it’s getting late. Take our guest into your room and give him your bed.” “Yes, mother. Come on, follow me.” He led me out of is mother’s room, back through the main entrance room and into another side room. The room was impossibly small; a bed couldn’t possibly fit inside of it. I asked myself, “Where is the bed?” Then I saw it, an old leather chair. I smiled. It was the first real “bed” I’d slept in, in a long time. Bjorn said, “Here, you take the chair I’ll be fine on the floor.” “I thank you.” “No problem.” Bjorn proceeded to pick up a book, sit down on the floor, and began to read. I could tell he didn’t want to talk, so I kept quiet. I saw a window behind my chair, so I walked toward it and looked outside. I was quite surprised. The trailer was situated on a hill overlooking the town. This was the first good opportunity for me to look at the town. The town was the same as I had last 18 seen it, boring, dirty, and painfully old fashioned. The people were the same, they didn’t really want to be anywhere. There wasn’t much else to see, and it was even dimmer than normal, so I assumed it was almost dark. I decided to try to get some sleep. I kicked off my boots, stretched my toes, and plopped down into the chair. I asked Bjorn, “How much longer do you think that you are going to read?” “Just a few more minutes. Once I’m done, I’ll pull the curtains over the window. Just close your eyes, and lean your head back. I promise you’ll be asleep in no time.” I woke up with a start. For a moment I panicked, where was I and why couldn’t I see the sky? Then I remembered, I breathed a sigh of relief, and looked out of the window, the complete darkness of night was fading, and being replaced with the faint glow of morning. Then I looked down on the floor. Bjorn was still sleeping peacefully, so I decided to wait in my bed until he woke up. Besides, I needed some time to think. I thought to myself, “Is this the place where 19 I should stay? Is this town going to be willing to accept me and rebuild? Would we even have the resources to rebuild?” I was pondering these questions for a good twenty minutes before I heard Bjorn stir. He looked up at me and said, “Morning.” “Morning yourself, are you getting up anytime soon? I’d say it’s almost seven o’clock!” “This is early for me! I usually don’t roll out of bed until around ten!” “Well, you better get used to getting up early, you know what they say, ‘Early to bed early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.’” “Who has ever said that?” “Forget it; it’s from before your time.” “Whatever, let’s go get some breakfast.” “Sounds good.” Bjorn led me back into the main room. Until this point in time I had thought that there was only the entrance room and the sitting room. I realized, now, that it was so much more. It was on top of the main entrance and 20 sitting room, a kitchen, and a bathroom. Even though I knew that the people in this town did not have the highest standard of living, it really did disgust me that where you prepare your food and where you get rid of it are in the same place. He went over to the kitchen area, opened a cabinet, reached in and tossed me a Twinkie. I laughed; the favorite food of my childhood was one of the only foods from before that was still edible. I asked him, “Where did you get this?” “There’s a huge building full of them near where I found you. That was where I was actually going when I found you. Don’t tell any of the townspeople though, it’s sort of my secret, and it’s how I’ve been keeping my Mother and I alive.” “Your secret’s safe with me. Though I find it amazing that you are able to live off Twinkies alone.” “Well, it’s not just Twinkies, when my mother and I were out in the wilderness she taught me how to catch animals. I can make snares, and I check 21 them most every day. Though, I have to say, I do prefer these.” I had wolfed down my Twinkie by then so I figured I’d ask, “Should we wake your mother up?” “No, she gets up by herself, but it’s not usually till around ten or ten thirty.” “I see. Well I think I’m willing to head into town now. Would you be willing to take me to whoever is in charge?” “Sure thing, I’ll take you to the building, but no farther. You can go inside and I will wait outside.” “Well, let’s get a move on then.” “I’m waiting on you.” I walked back into Bjorn’s room and picked up my bag. I stopped for a second. I figured that if I’m going where I think I’m going I might as well make sure that all of my gear is ready. I unzipped the top and reached in, and the first thing I pulled out was a shotgun. I made sure that it was unloaded and dry fired it. Everything seemed to be working, so I shoved seven shells into the breach. I put the shotgun on the chair and reached back into my bag. I pulled out two nine millimeters, took the clips out of both, and dry fired 22 each of them to make sure they were working. Each was, so I slid the clips back into them and cocked both of them. I placed them down next to the shotgun. The last thing that I took out was my machete and its sheath. I slid the machete out of the sheath and checked the blade. It was still razor sharp as always, so I slid it back into its sheath. I looked back into my bag. All that was left was my bedding and the remnants of one of my meals wrapped in some newspaper. I left those in my pack and repacked my weapons in the same way that they were before with one exception; the handle of my machete was sticking out of the top of my pack. The whole process took me less than a minute. I heard a voice call, “Are you coming or what?” “Yeah, be right there.” I slung the pack over my shoulders and walked back out of the room. Bjorn was leaning on the wall next to the door. When he saw me enter he opened the door and said, “After you.” We strode into town in the middle of the main road. The closer we got to the center, the more eyes I felt were examining me. I started to look around. I 23 noticed something quite horrifying. On top of almost all of the buildings there were men, and all of the men were armed with a weapon of some sort. I whispered to Bjorn, “Who’s on top of all of the buildings?” “Those are Sloan’s men. Don’t look at them. Just keep your gaze straight ahead.” I obeyed him and kept walking on. By the time we reached The Inn it felt as if the whole town was watching. Bjorn stopped. He said, “This is where I will wait for you. Remember you are looking for Sloan. He’s pretty old, and dark skinned. Try not to make a big deal of yourself.” “Got it.” “One more thing before you go in there.” “Yes?” “Just, good luck. You could be the person to save this world, so make a good first impression.” “Okay, I’ll see you later then.” I walked up the steps of the building, grasped the doorknob turned it sideways, and stepped inside. The first thing I 24 noticed was the smell. It was awful, the stench of stale whiskey mixed with the smell of vomit to create a putrid odor. I resisted the urge to gag and looked around. The room was full of people, but there was no sound. All of their eyes were focused on me. I calmly said, “Morning.” I strode over to the bar and called for the barkeep. A young woman came and greeted me with a slight edge of nervousness in her voice. I asked, “Could I please get some water.” “Water’s the most expensive thing we got. What do you got to trade?” I slung my sack onto the bar and reached inside. I found the remnants of my meal and showed it to her. “Fair enough.” She strode out of the room and suddenly conversation returned to the room. I sat down on a barstool and patiently waited. Suddenly, I heard a voice behind me. “What do you got in the sack old man?” I turned around to find a young man standing right behind me. The stench of alcohol was heavy on his breath. I calmly said, “Nothing important, Boy.” He scowled and growled, “Oh, really? Then you wouldn’t mind showing me the inside?” 25 “That’s not going to happen.” “I wasn’t asking.” “I’m a peaceful man, but, if you are looking for trouble, then you can keep ordering me around.” He laughed and said, “What are you going to do about it?” He reached out for my bag. With lightning speed I was on my feet. I grabbed his neck and slammed his head onto the bar. He fell to his knees, I kicked him square in the back and he fell on his face. Instantaneously, the whole room was on its feet and coming at me. I reached into my bag and pulled out my machete, and brought it up to deflect my first attacker. He fell on the floor clutching his stomach in a pool of blood. This stopped the crowd for a moment. They seemed to hesitate, but not for long. All at once, they rushed towards me. I tried to go for non-lethal blows, only ones that would put my opponents out of commission. However, some of them got too close, so I did what I had to. It barely lasted thirty seconds. I had dispatched all of my opponents except for three. They were all women. They looked at each other and sprinted toward me. I braced myself, 26 adjusted my grip on my machete, and prepared to take out the first one when, smash! I felt the world going dark. The last thing I remember was the barmaid standing over me with a broken bottle. I regained consciousness in a chair with my arms and legs bound to it. I was facing the large window on the top floor of The Inn. A man was looking out of it; I could tell he did not know that I was awake so I said, “Hello there.” He did not turn to face me but said, “Glad to see that you are awake. Do you feel alright? I’m sorry that Leslie hit you like that.” “I’m okay, but I do have a little bit of a headache.” “Well, I’m truly sorry about that. By the way my name is Sloan.” He turned to face me. He was olive skinned with black hair, and an old, dry, scarred face. I couldn’t help but think that except for the skin color, he resembled me. “My name is James; this is a very fine establishment you have here.” “Thank you. Now I hope that you don’t think this is rude, but I must ask who are you?” 27 “Nobody.” “No, no, no, no, no, those men you killed down in my bar were nobody. I want to know who you are.” “I’m just a humble traveler.” “I don’t believe you. What did you do before the fall?” “How do you know I was around before the fall?” He looked into my eyes and replied, “Let’s see, you are old, like me.” “Before the fall, I was a rich man who had a lot of free time. I spent that time mastering weapons.” “I could use a man like you. You see, we have to be able to fix this world. I think that this town is the beginning. We have the manpower and the resources, just the people here need a leader. I would be it, but I don’t have the strength anymore. You, on the other hand, have demonstrated that you do have the strength. Are you willing to help me?” 28 “Let me tell you something, I don’t work for anyone. I will however, be willing to be part of a partnership. What do you say?” Sloan smiled and said, “I think that we can work something out. Borat! Bruno! Get in here!” Two burly men strode in. Sloan turned to me and said, “Please stay in my inn tonight. The food and drink is on the house.” “That’s mighty kind of you, but I already have a place to stay.” “Oh no, I insist! You two, show our friend to our finest room.” I was about to refuse again, but then the two men gripped my shoulders and I realized it wasn’t a request. I figured I should say something, though, so I said, “Well thank you for your hospitality. I am in your debt.” He smiled and waved my captors and I away. “Here’s your room,” said one of the men. He opened the door and almost shoved me inside. The other man said, “There will be someone with food in a little while. If you need anything, one of us will be outside your door.” They shut the door behind me and locked it. I figured I had no choice but to stay the night, 29 so I decided to get accustomed to my new home. The room was fairly large, however there was not very much inside of it. There were only two pieces of furniture, the larger of them pleasantly surprised me. It was a bed. A real bed, not just a big chair, but a bed. Not the most comfortable bed in the world, but abed all the same. The second was a bedside table, with an unlit candle on top of it. There were two windows, one on the wall opposite of the door, and the other on the wall to the left of the door. For a moment I thought of escaping, but then I realized there were bars on the far side of the windows. I looked out of each only to find a desolate view of nothing. I concluded that I was on the back left corner of The Inn. I sighed and sat down on the bed, it was disappointingly stiff. To my horror I realized that I didn’t have my pack. I frantically searched around the room, but to no avail. My chest was tightening, I needed that pack. I walked to the door and was about to knock on it but then I heard the two men talking. “Did you see that pack he was carrying with him?” “No why?” 30 “It was filled with weapons. Those people in the bar are lucky that all he pulled out was that machete, otherwise we would have had a lot more dead people.” “Wow, were there any guns?” “Yeah three.” “He would have put up a fight if the boss had sent us in there.” “Did you also hear him when he was talking to the boss? Supposedly he’s some sort of expert with those weapons.” “Alright, now you’re just freaking me out. Where did the boss put the pack?” “He kept it in his room, I guess he wanted to keep an eye on it.” “Well, what do you think the boss is going to do with him?” “I don’t know, but it sounded like the boss wanted him to work for him. It also sounded like the other guy wasn’t eager to work for him, but would be willing to form a partnership or something.” 31 “Well, I sure as heck ain’t going to work for him! Some of those men in the bar were my friends.” “Well, what the boss says goes, and if he says I have to work for him so be it.” I had heard enough. I went back to the bed and sat down again. I was about to lie down and close my eyes, when I heard the door to my room start to open. I remained seated, but fixated my eyes on the door. It swung open, and in strode a young woman carrying a tray of food. I stood up suddenly and said, “Good evening.” She paused for a moment and just said, “Hi.” There was an awkward silence for a few moments. I was about to say something when she said, “This is our most lavish dinner, on the house.” “Why thank you, could you please set it down on that table beside the lamp.” She strode over and set it down on the table. She turned to me and said, “Will there be anything else?” “No, that’s good enough, thank you.” She hurried to the door opened it and walked out.” I went over to my food. I snorted, “King’s Dinner indeed.” I was 32 looking upon a spam sandwich, some black beans, and from the smell, hard whiskey. I ate the beans, but left both the spam and whiskey untouched. My belly’s hunger hardly suppressed, I hopped into bed and decided it was time to get some shut eye. I woke to the sound of banging on my door, and a voice that said, “Time to get up! Boss wants to see you.” I knew I didn’t have a choice so I crawled out of bed trudged to the door and opened it up. The same two men from the night before were standing in front of me. The larger of the two said, “Come on, let’s go.” They backed away from the door and let me pass in front of them. I started walking towards Sloan’s room and they followed behind me. I reached the door and turned to the two men but they simultaneously said, “Go inside.” I opened the door and walked inside, the room was the same as I had seen it last, and Sloan was looking out of his window again. He didn’t say anything as I entered, so I broke the silence with, “Good Morning.” 33 Sloan had decided to call a town meeting. He said he wanted to inform everyone that he had found a new partner, and that it was time to rebuild. I was watching the bar from the second floor of The Inn. Everyone was hurrying about, trying to get things done. The barmaid was desperately trying to prepare drinks, and many of Sloan’s henchmen were preparing tables for the townspeople to sit down on. There were also two more henchmen creating a makeshift podium of some sort, which I assumed would be where Sloan would make his announcement. Sloan himself was nowhere to be found. He had left me in his quarters saying that he had to go “freshen up.” I had no idea what this meant considering that there was not even a little soap to be found. I decided to stop worrying about Sloan and start worrying about how these people would take me. Would they accept a new person telling them what to do? Would they be willing to do what is necessary to save this world, whatever that may be? Would I be able to? My 34 thoughts were abruptly interrupted by a hand placed on my shoulder. I turned to face a smiling Sloan who said, “Are you ready?” “Ready as I’ll ever be, I suppose.” “Good, they are about done setting up and I can see that the townsfolk are starting to shuffle in.” “Should we make our way down there?” “That’s exactly what I was about to suggest we do.” He led me over to the stairs and we made our way down. By the time that we were behind the podium The Inn was almost full. I scanned the crowd. There was no sign of either Bjorn or his mother. I frowned. Even though his mother forbid him to come here, I felt sure that Bjorn would show up for an event like this. I had no more time to ponder this thought because Sloan started speaking. “Good people of Metropolis, I have an announcement to make. Yesterday morning, we were graced with the presence with a traveler. A traveler that has agreed to stay for a while. This traveler is like me. He is from before and, like me, 35 he would like to see this world get back to the way it was. He has agreed to become my partner so that this town can be the beginning of a new world. We can get this world back to the way it was, but it will not be easy. Only hard work, and intelligence can get us there. I want all of you to listen to him as he says a few words.” He stepped off of the podium and motioned for me to take it. I walked over and stood up behind it. The room was dead silent. Every single pair of eyes was fixed on me, unblinking. I cleared my throat and said, “Hello, everyone, my name is James. As Sloan has said, I am from the world before. I know that many of you are too young to remember that, but believe me when I say it is worth the work. The way we are all living right now is unacceptable. It is a crime to not try to improve your living conditions, when you have nothing to lose. We have nothing at all, and it’s time for change. Sloan and I have the knowledge, all of you have the skills we need. Now are all of you willing to help me?” 36 A man stood up in the back of the room and said, “Why should we follow you?” This sparked a chorus of agreements from many of the people in the crowd. I retaliated with, “Because my friend, I, and my friend Sloan, know how to lead all of us to a better world.” This seemed to satisfy most of the crowd, however, there were still a few grumblings coming from some of the townsfolk. Another man stood up and said, “How exactly are you planning on leading us to a better world?” I had been dreading this question and since I could come up with no satisfactory answer, I decided to go with the truth. “As of now, I do not know. Sloan and I have yet to sit down and really talk about it. I still don’t really know anything about this town, so until I learn everything there is to know, I don’t think that I will be able to formulate a plan. I can assure you that once we do know, we will be sure to notify everyone, and begin with whatever it is.” This answer caused a few outcries from the townsfolk, but I didn’t blame them. When you have a leader, you expect them to have all of the answers. I scanned the crowd once again and said, “I thank all of you for accepting me, with some hard work 37 and cooperation, we will be able to rebuild.” I stepped down from the podium and let Sloan, once again, take it. He stood behind it and said, “Well, thank you, James for that amazing introduction to yourself and those inspirational words. I hope that I speak for everyone when I say that we are ready to do what truly is necessary to get what we want. Now, thank you everyone for showing up today, now go home and get some rest. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day.” Sloan got off the pedestal and everyone started shuffling out of The Inn. Once everyone had left, Sloan went up into his room and it became eerily quiet. I decided to go up after him. I reached his door and knocked, “Who is it?” “James,” I replied. “Oh, well, come in, then.” I opened the door and strode in. Sloan was sitting behind his desk in his chair with his head in his hands. I asked, “How do you think they took it?” 38 “I’m not sure. All I know is that the ones who don’t accept you willingly will be forced to.” “Is that really necessary?” “Don’t you understand? We have to have everyone working together. If even one person starts to go against the flow of things, everything is disrupted.” “I’m sorry, Sloan, but it sounds like you want this to become an authoritarian government. The best thing about our world before, I think, was that we were a Democracy.” “Really, you believe that? You think that us being a Democracy was a good thing?” “With all my heart.” “You sir, could not be more wrong. It is because of our democracy that we are the way are today. If it weren’t for those idiots on Capitol Hill, the world would not have failed. They spent all of their time arguing. They never got anything done. No, what we needed was one strong leader, or party, or something that 39 would at least get something done. Don’t you understand? People don’t need to be represented, they need to be controlled. Do you think that I got this town to where it is today by letting other people have their say? No, I started this town, and I am its leader. My men are loyal to me, and those that aren’t are corrected swiftly and harshly. If you disagree with my ways, then by all means leave.” I thought for a long time, He does have a point, I thought. I mean it was our government’s fault that we failed. They never got anything accomplished. They didn’t really care about the public. All they cared about was who had the most power. However, it had its good points. Sometimes things did get done and the people were represented by whoever they thought was the best. I had never really thought about this and I had to admit that now that I did I was starting to lean in Sloan’s direction. But, that didn’t meant that I was giving up my principles. Finally, I responded, “Sloan I can see where you are coming from, and I understand your point of view. I agree partially with it and I am still willing to work 40 with you. However, if and when the recovery is completed, I would like to see a small change in our government.” “So be it.” “Now, I think that it is time to discuss how we are going to rebuild.” “I thought that I was going to have to bring it up. What do you think should be done?” “I think that the road to recovery starts with one thing, agriculture. We need to start planting food and farming. Where is the nearest water source?” “We have a well in the center of town, but I don’t think that that will be sufficient for farming. However, there is something else.” “What?” “About a mile to the north, at the base of those mountains,” he pointed out of the window at some looming mountains, “there is a cave. Inside that cave there is a spring. It is huge, and has more than enough water to sustain a few farms.” 41 “Okay, but how would we get the water from there to here?” “Ah, now that is the problem. Do you know anything about the Romans?” “As much as any normal person would.” “Well are you familiar with the term aqua duct?” “No, would you care to explain it to me?” “Of course, so the Romans in their great city of Rome did not have enough water around them for the massive population of Rome. People were dying, so a solution was created. Many miles to the North there were great mountains, and in these mountains were many rivers and streams that contained abundant supplies of water. So the Romans came up with an elaborate way to get the water from there to Rome. They constructed these massive aqua ducts, which were man made stone channels high above the ground that only used the force of gravity to transport the water. We could apply the same techniques. Maybe not as grandly, but still the same idea.” 42 “So you are suggesting that we build a downward sloping channel from those mountains to here?” “Precisely.” “And then we would use the water to irrigate our crops?” “Yes, that’s the idea.” “That’s just crazy enough to work.” “It’s worked before. It’ll work again.” “Okay, so we have the problem of water nailed. What about our actual plants? Where are we going to get the seeds we need?” “I have yet another solution.” “Let’s hear it.” “Well, in my past life, I lived around here, and I was a scientist. I saw what was happening to the world, and I knew that someone needed to prepare for the worst. So that’s what I did. In those same mountains over there, in a different cave, I started to compile seeds. You see, deep inside that mountain it is cold 43 enough to preserve the seeds. I had collected hundreds of seeds from all sorts of plants such as, corn, wheat, tomatoes, apples, onions, and peaches.” “And you remember where this cave is?” “Of course.” “So, I have a question.” “Yes?” “If you had all of these resources, why haven’t you ever used them? Why have you not started to rebuild?” “I thought I had already explained that to you; I am getting old. Old, and weak. I no longer have the strength to oversee the construction, the farming and everything else. All I can do is plan. I would never trust what needs to happen to any of my men. They simply do not have the capacity to be a true leader. That’s where you come in. You are still young enough to be a strong leader, but you are smart enough to know what needs to be done.” 44 “I see what you mean. I have thought of something else that will present itself as a problem.” “What is that?” “Well, I’m no expert on plants, but don’t they need sunlight to survive?” “Yes, and?” “Well, I mean, look at the sky it’s so polluted, how could a plant survive off just the amount of sunlight that makes it through that?” “Oh, ye of little faith, you’d be surprised at how little sunlight plants need to survive. Besides, have you not noticed that the sky is clearing? It used to be so dense that we were engulfed in a continuous twilight. Now it is clear enough to know when it is morning, mid day, and dusk. It won’t be long now before it is clear again.” “Well, you are the scientist.” “Okay, so what are we going to do tomorrow to get started rebuilding?” 45 “Well, I think we should start the construction of two things, the farms themselves, and the aqua duct. For the farms we need to find some fairly level ground and clear it of other plant life, rocks, etc.” “Sounds good.” “After that we will need to till the ground. In order to do that we are going to need some basic gardening tools. We should get some of the townspeople to start on those.” “Right. What about the aqua duct?” “Well, first thing first. What are we going to use to build it?” “Hmm, what we could do is dismantle some of these buildings. We could use the actual wood to build it, and then we could use the shingles to waterproof it.” “That’s a good idea. Which buildings would we use?” “Well, we should start with the ones the least people live in, like the stores. The people that lose their homes can come live in The Inn.” 46 “Sounds like a plan, so now we know what we are doing. It’s time to inform the town.” “No, not yet, let’s wait until morning. I’ll call another town meeting.” “Alright, then. Well, Sloan, if you have nothing further to discuss with me I will see you tomorrow.” “So be it,” Sloan sighed. I considered going back to my room, but then I remembered Bjorn and his mother. Bjorn wasn’t at the meeting, so I knew that neither he nor his mother would have heard the news. I decided to go back to their trailer, and pay them a visit. I walked back out of Sloan’s room, and made my way to the large staircase leading down to the bar. I took the steps two at a time and proceeded to the door. I flung it open and walked onto the porch. I looked up at the sky, I smiled, it was surprisingly bright. I thought to myself, “Maybe we’ll be able to get plants to grow after all.” I walked through the center of town, and I could feel 47 multiple pairs of eyes trained upon me. I sped up my; pace, I didn’t want any trouble, just to go and speak with Bjorn and his mother. What seemed like an eternity later, I reached the end of the town, and I began to climb up the hill to Bjorn’s trailer. When I reached the top, I walked up to the door and knocked. A voice from inside called, “Who’s there?” “It’s me. James.” “Oh, okay, well the door’s unlocked, so just let yourself in.” I did so and walked through the doorway. Bjorn was sitting on a pile of garbage in his living room, reading a book. I said, “Hello Bjorn.” “Hey, I was worried about you, you never came back and I assumed the worst. What happened?” “It’s a long story.” I proceeded to tell him in detail what had come to pass over the past few days, and what was coming in the days to come. When I had finished with my tale, his reply was, “It’s actually going to happen isn’t it? We actually have a shot a rebuilding.” 48 “Miracles happen,” was all that I said. We were silent for a while, both of us were lost in thought. Finally, I exclaimed, “Well, I think I’m going to have to head out, I don’t want to impose. Remember, it starts tomorrow. Tell your mother for me.” “Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow.” I stood up and walked back out of the trailer, by my reckoning it was about time for lunch. I realized that I didn’t have any breakfast, and I was extremely hungry. I decided to hurry my way back to The Inn, and try to get some lunch. I made my way back to The Inn, and strode through the doors, straight to the bar. The same lady that was behind the bar the first time I walked in was there again. I went and sat down at one of the barstools and she strode up to me. She looked at me for a moment and spoke in a shrill voice, “Boss told me whatever you want is on the house.” I looked at her for a moment and asked, “Well, what do you have?” “Spam.” “Anything else?” 49 “A stinking Maine lobster. Of course we ain’t got nothing else, I can’t believe you coming in here and complaining about free spam.” “I’m terribly sorry Ma’am; I guess I’ll have the spam.” “That’s what I thought.” She stormed away, through a door behind the bar, and was lost from sight. Just a few moments later she was back out again, carrying two things. In her right hand she held an aged can of spam, and in her left, a fork. She strode back over to me, and proceeded to open up the can with the fork. She slid the can to me. I couldn’t stand the smell, but I was hungry, and I didn’t want to make this woman any madder, so I took the fork. I slid its tongs into the spam, the woman was still staring at me, waiting for my response. So, I brought my spoon to my mouth, and reluctantly put it in. I almost gagged, but I resisted the urge, and I tried to look as if I enjoyed it. The woman laughed, “Ha! You better get used to it gramps. Spam’s the only thing we got, and it’s the only thing you’ll get.” She walked away and sat down over behind the bar. 50 The moment she stopped looking towards me, I spat the spam back into its can. I walked over to a random person sitting at a table, plopped it down on their table, and said, “Here, on me. I don’t like spam.” The man barely had any idea what had just happened, and I was gone. I went back up to my room and shut the door. For the rest of the day I sat in there, thinking. I pondered what was going to happen over the next few days, and what I should do. By the end of the day, I came up with nothing. Nothing beside what Sloan and I had come up with. I figured that there was nothing wrong with ad-libbing the whole thing, so I decided to go to sleep. I was up early, and apparently so was everyone else. I got out of my bed feeling extremely groggy and hungry. I threw on my clothes and strode out of my bedroom. There was commotion everywhere, people were hustling and bustling all around. It seemed that I was the only person not doing something. I decided to go straight to Sloan’s room and figure out what the heck was going on. 51 I didn’t even bother to knock, I flung the doors open and walked inside. Sloan was sitting at his desk focused on a piece of paper. He was writing on it, drawing actually, but I couldn’t tell what. I asked, “What’s going on?” He looked up and replied, “Why, this is the beginning my friend.” “The beginning of what?” “Reconstruction.” “Well, why wasn’t I told about any of this?” “You were inside of your room yesterday afternoon, and I decided to call the town meeting then. Everyone knows what is happening, and are gladly participating.” “Well then. Well, what should I do?” “I was about to explain that to you. Do you see this piece of paper I’m drawing on?” “Yes.” 52 “Come closer, and tell me what it looks like.” I did as I was told and approached Sloan’s desk. I looked at the paper. In the center of it I saw a few buildings, and under those buildings was the name Metropolis. North of Metropolis some mountains were drawn, and in the mountains, a cave was drawn. I was surprised how detailed this map was, because the scale was, as far as I could tell, accurate. Finally, I said, “Well, it looks like a map.” “That’s right, it’s a map. A map, that as best I could, shows where the cave with the spring is. I need you to go to the spring, and make sure that it is still intact. I haven’t seen it for many years, and need to be sure it’s alright. Can you do that for me?” “I think that I could get it done. Are you done with the map?” “Yes, I was just putting some finishing touches on it, take it.” He folded the map up and gave it to me. I then put it in my pocket for safe keeping. I was about to leave when Sloan said, “Wait just a moment.” I turned back around and asked, “What?” 53 “I think, that you may end up needing this.” He reached down under his desk and pulled out my pack. He said, “Here, take it. Everything’s in there. I think that I can trust you. You never know what’s out there.” I took the pack from Sloan’s hand, and flung it on my shoulders. I graciously said, “Thank you, I’ll be back before nightfall.” “See you then.” I turned and walked back outside of the door, downstairs, and then out of The Inn. I was happy I was doing something to help. I looked around at all being done. Sloan had explained things well. The townspeople were, well, doing what needed to be done. Buildings were being dismantled, and the land behind some of the houses was being prepared to be farmed upon. Suddenly, I had a marvelous idea, so I decided to go up to Bjorn’s tralier yet again. Once I reached the top of the hill, Bjorn came out and greeted me. “Hey, do you want a Twinkie?” 54 “Yes, I’m dying for some food, all they have at The Inn is spam.” He tossed me a Twinkie, and I ravenously opened it and wolfed it down. “Thanks a lot.” “No problem. So what brings you up here today?” “Well, as I’m sure you can tell just from looking, we have started to rebuild. And Sloan has given me an extremely important task. He needs me to go to a spring in those mountains, and make sure that everything’s in tip top shape. I was wondering if you’d like to accompany me.” “That sounds incredible, I have never been to those mountains, and I want to do something to help.” “Great, well do you need to tell your mother where you are going?” “No she’s asleep, and she needs her rest, so let’s just go.” “Well, if you think that it will be okay, I don’t see why we are still standing here.” 55 “Then let’s go.” We both turned and faced the mountains and set off at a jaunty pace. We reached the mountains in just a few minutes and being close to them was quite intimidating. They were a clay red, and were made of sheer jagged cliffs. I shuddered. I was never a fan of heights, and just seeing how high and steep these were made me queasy. I decided to pull out the map. I took it out of my pocket, unfolded it, and spread it out on the ground. Bjorn came over and asked, “What’s that?” “This, is a map. This map will lead us to a cave, wherin dwells the spring.” “So, where are we?” I pointed to a spot on the map just below the mountains, and about a mile directly north of the town. “Here.” “And where’s the spring?” I pointed to the drawing of the cave, which by my guess, was about five miles west of where we were now, “Right here, I think we should just follow the base of these mountains till we find the cave.” 56 “Sounds good, let’s get going then.” We turned and started walking. I could hear birds around, however I could not see them. There were no other geographical features around, no trees, bushes, hills, nothing. Nothing except for the looming mountains, so I became bored. I should have realized that as we were walking it became extremely quiet, too quiet. I stopped, “Do you hear something?” I asked Bjorn. “No,” he replied, “Do you?” “No, I don’t hear anything, and that is never good. Keep your eyes and ears open.” I pulled out my machete and said, “Let’s keep going.” “If you say so.” We started to walk again, but this time only about half as fast. Then I heard it, a snorting, piggish sound. We were nearing a bend and I slowed down, I told Bjorn, “Get behind me, quickly!” He obeyed, and I inched closer, and closer to the bend on the mountain side. Once we reached it, I peered around it. There was a pack of wild boars, around five or six of them just around the corner. When I peered around the corner, the closest boar to me stopped and swiveled its head towards me. I stopped. Suddenly the boar let our 57 a blood curdling squeal and started bounding towards me. I held my ground, but came a little way from the mountainside, just to make sure that he didn’t trap me against it. As he got closer to me, I brought my machete up to defend myself. I told Bjorn, “Run!” He started sprinting away, but I stayed where I was. The boar was only two feet away from me, when I stepped quickly to the right, and gave it a vicious cut to the neck. The blood started spraying from the wound like a garden hose. I thought that that blow would have decimated him, but it seemed to only bring him into a more uncontrolled rage. The other boars had noticed what was happening by now and were starting to charge as well. I knew that I couldn’t defend myself with the machete, so I pulled out my two pistols. I emptied both clips into that first boar, but still it remained unfazed, so I pulled out my shotgun. Finally, a shot to the head brought it down. But in destroying my first opponent, I had forgotten about the rest. I spun around, but it was too late. One of the boar’s tusks caught me in the chest. I could feel the tusk penetrate my skin, and puncture my lung. I fell to my knees, and coughed up 58 some blood. I brought the shotgun to my shoulder and fired a shell into each of my foes. They scattered. I fell to the ground, the cold, hard, dusty ground. I knew that it was the end for me. I felt a pair of hands turning me over. I looked up into Bjorn’s eyes, I said, “I thought I told you to run, they’re going to come back soon.” “I couldn’t just leave you.” “I’m afraid you’ll have to. I won’t survive this. You need to get back to town and warn everyone, I’m sorry, Bjorn, that’s just the way it is.” “No” “Go now!” “Fine,” tears welled up in his eyes, “I’ll go. Thank you, for everything.” “Quickly now.” With that, Bjorn got up and started running homeward. I closed my eyes, this was the end. I thought about the last few days, how everything had changed, and how it was now coming to an end. 59 Epilogue Metropolis did end up surviving and rebuilding. Bjorn made it back to Metropolis, and warned everyone about the boars. However, when a war party of Sloan’s men was sent out, they never found the boars. They did find James’s body and they buried it. They built the aqueducts, and got the water from the spring to the newly made farms. They started to grow all sorts of plants, and started to live again. Sloan died a few years later, and Bjorn took control of Metropolis. However, he was a good, and fair leader, and truly led the people of Metropolis to new heights. One day the planet may be the same, however nobody is certain. 60 About the Author Jay Bland is a student at The Lovett School, in Atlanta, Georgia. He has been at The Lovett School since his Kindergarten year. “More Inconvenient Than You Think” is his first short story. When he isn’t writing or studying, Jay is an adamant tennis player, and swimmer. He would like to go the University of Virginia for college. In his free time, Jay enjoys reading, and sleeping.
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