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3. JFWildWood

By Phillip Ghee (USA)

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 JFWildWood
 
Generations of a lost colony eventually revert back to an earlier period in the development of man with some surprising consequences.
 
 
 
The fact that Gramps decided to have it gift wrapped was really a nice touch. Much of his hardness was just a bluff. I don’t think that Gramps realized it was wrapping paper for a Quinceanero gift. Hell, there were no Mexicans around these parts when Gramps came up, so’s he probably wouldn’t have known even if they told him. He probably would have thought it was sumpt-in associated with video games or teenage phone/text lingo. But here I was, a full blooded Tennessee-American, Ha-ha!;15 years old ,unwrapping what could’ve only been a firearm or a damn little paddle for a short canoe but, Hell we don’t do short canoeing here in Tennessee.
 
 
          “Com’on boy, whatz taking you so long, hurry up will ya? Open it up, lets take  a picture and be done wit it. Hell, I need to get these Yankee teeth outta my head - they’s killing me.”  
Sure enough, there it was, a rifle of my own:
Virginia Arms SX2012 Blue Bolt: Tru-fire Series Rifle w/Scope, AccuTrigger, precision for low recoil, topped off with Sightron, Nitrogen filled scope that could be upgraded to accommodate laser trak and infrared lenses.
             Well, the clerk in the gift wrapping department  at Wal-Mart certainly didn’t give Grandpa a lot of customer service, Ola Senior but, who was ever in the Gun Department sure had a bead on the youth and what we think is cool. The barrel was what really stood out because of its non-traditional color, Cobalt electric blue. Get that!  Old school style was represented too! It had a Mahogany Stock. The rifle was an ammo store owner’s dream, due to its versatile load handling anything from a 22LR to a 300 win mag.
“I ain’t going to school tomorrow Gramps. It’s my birthday, it’s my birthday; gonna party like it’s my birthday.” I waved the gun over my head. “Can I get a whoop, whoop?”
“Suit yourself, Harmon. Harmon, git in here and take this picture, Damn Dentist”
Harmon is my little brother, Oh! I am Clyde Justin Smith. We can trace our family way back, back unto the Civil War. Grandpa is kinda raising us cause Daddy got into a little trouble. He tried making an honest living when times were good, logging-manual labor, Hillbilly mechanic and general fix-it up type stuff. But sometimes, times weren’t good. Daddy can’t compete with all these low-wage immigrants and, you know. Sometimes the convenience store down in the city is the best game in town, not for cashiering though, And I don’t think I want to say anymore about that.
       Me, Reilly and Titan Head all cut school the next day. I also brought Harmon along for a teaching experience. I was playing the father’s role and I hoped that Harmon would turn out a little better than me and a lot better than Daddy. I had already made one mistake by bringing Reilly and Titan Head along. I had let my ego to show off my new rifle overpower my judgment. Here I was trying to set a good example and I brought these two imbeciles along. Lucky for us, Reilly was much more interested in smoking and drinking than hunting. So’s I took their ammo and left them back at camp while Harmon and I set off in search of game. They were stoned off their ass boohooing about being left defenseless but they had their hunting knives, so I wasn’t too concerned. We traveled far into the woods, in fact further than I had ever been with Grandpa. For a while I even considered the possibility of getting lost so I started marking my tracks like real good.
 
 
     Trough a thicket of brambleberries and criss-crossed vines I could make out just a patch, something grey, moving around the otherwise green canopy. This was far too hilly and thick underbrush for a raccoon to call home so I figured we would be feasting on possum stew tonight. I slowly crept up on the beast but the rustling of the bushes must have alerted it. Suddenly I could see the rapid swaying and ejection of bush, branches and dirt. The agitated roar of some type of animal. Before I could wrap my mind around any of it something rocketed through the last network of bush, separating it from me. I managed to get off a shot. And then, thud! It hit me hard somewhere between the pelvis and lower belly. As I fell backwards, my eyes spotted something else, more distant in the bush. It was tall, taller than most animals in this neck of the woods. I guess it could have been a bear standing on its hinds or something? Or maybe the impact had me seeing creatures rather than stars.
 
     “What the Hell is that?” yelled Harmon. First he looked at me and thus concluding that I was alive he turned Grandpa’s old shotgun towards the downed beast. “You think I should shoot it again, Clyde?” intoned a nervous Harmon.  I could sense that the beast was letting out its very last whimpers. I had managed to prop myself up just a little and was busy trying to get reacquainted with my breath.

     “Naw!” I said hoarsely. My shot was a clean shot but I knew that if Harmon took a shot at it with the shotgun then I could forget about a trophy visit to the taxidermist. The beast resembled a pig but it was all mutated like one of those horror films. Neither Reilly nor Titan Head had seen anything like it before. We just knew we had encountered something bizarre and unknown. We’ll be famous, we all reckoned as we took turns dragging the corpse home on a homemade sling.
 
                     “Grandpa, look-it what we killed!” shouted an excited Harmon.” We got ourselves a monster” Grandpa took one look at the expired beast, slapped his knee and let loose with an obscene belly laugh.
 
                         “You boys done went and got yourself a wild boar”. We all looked bewildered.

      “Straight up wild pig…you numb nuts!” Grandpa continued to laugh, irking Titian Head in the process. Grandpa had never told me about wild boars and the likes.

                       “I guessed I must have blinked that day. There hasn’t been sighting in these parts in decades,” he mused later that night during a tasty but gamey pork dinner. He lectured the boys on the pedigree of the boar. Wild boars were not native to North America. The early Spanish explorers are said to have brought along a small population to the new continent. Eventually most of these wild boars died out, escaped into the wild or were mated to domesticated pigs unto the point where their line became absorbed and undetectable. Wild boars differ considerable from their non-threatening cousins. They are wooly, narrow and muscular in frame. They do not sport a curly tail and a playful snout. For defense, their elongated muzzles boast enormous, quite sharp and effective tusks. They furiously grow out like mutant canine incisors. In his own unique style, Grandpa informed the boys that enough of the wild board genes are intertwined with domestic pigs that if totally domesticated pigs were to escape into the wild, in just a few generations they would find themselves reverting back to their savagely wild cousins. This was not folklore but true. Although a recessive gene was ultimately dominant, it had to be kept in check by continued domestication. Most importantly, a wild boar is quite capable of killing a man.

           Well the mystery had been solved and the boys rested well on a full belly that night except for Clyde.

      Clyde failed to mention the other thing he thought he had seen. He feared he would become the subject of Big-Foot-sighting jokes and even taunting at school. So he kept that episode to himself. The fleeting image however had staying power. It did not go away. It haunted Clyde’s dreams for many nights thereafter and even followed him into adulthood.

         
                                    Crime and Punishment

             “Clyde a got a dozy for you. I only can trust a case like this to my best man.” Collins spoke with such a patronizing tone that Clyde wanted very much to show him what he could do to those pristine capped teeth. Who would have thought that Clyde Justin Smith would become one of the best Probation Officers in the entire State of Tennessee.? Clyde had with his client’s one of the best recidivisms rates in the State.

              “Yeah!” Clyde spoke unenthusiastic and not bothering to give Collins the courtesy of eye contact.

“Criminal, Crook or Crazy?” Clyde already had a good idea of which. Clyde, due to his fathers’ trysts, had sort of grown up in the penal system. He had been, shall we say, lucky enough to have avoided any State Condo time himself but the frequent visits to the courts and all the other stepping stones leading into and out of the big house, he had become familiar. He understood the criminal mind the way an expert tracker can read footprints and trail signs. But rather than condemn his prey, he usually set them off on a new path. Although he hid it well, he often had a bit of sympathy for the criminals and the environments and circumstances that led to the perfection, and most often imperfection, of their craft.
     
                He was able to put the fear of God into the white collar crooks and corrupt politicians. He was a little less tolerant with these types but his ferocity with them often panned out with credible results. 

                  Now dealing with the crazies was a different matter all together. Firstly most of them had never deserved to be in the penal system in the first place. The overburdened mental facilities were just overrun and poorly funded. What’s worse was that society’s safety net for the insane and feeble minded had holes in it as big as the Smokey Mountains. Social Services, Out Patient Resources and Community Mental Health clinics were usually reserved for the more functional and astute members of society. The rest sooner or later found their way into the morgues, jails and penitentiaries.
 
                   Crazies were hard to integrate back into society and keep on the straight and narrow. It was to keep a man down here on Earth when his luggage was still on Pluto -  which was one of those bits of wisdom that Grandpa had imparted to Clyde, before his passing.
 
                  Collins loved to give Clyde these sorts of cases because he knew that it would cut down on those impressive recidivism numbers Clyde had obtained. Collins had been raised in a sheltered upscale in Brentwood, TN to be a caring liberal. However, the true nature of the man was as elitist and un-empathic as they come. Career was his only motive and high political aspirations his only goal. His prestigious training in a private fancy-swanky college guaranteed that he would remain Clyde’s boss yet; he was still threatened by the man’s reputation. There were times when Clyde wanted to show his true nature and give the man an Appalachian beat down but that would have only put his relationship with his dad in closer and more even turf. He maintained his civil composure.
 
 
     
 
 
 
 
 

 

      Lucas Burroughs was obviously a disturbed individual who never should have been in the penal system in the first place. All the crimes on his extensive rap sheet had more to do with his illness than of any pursuit of illegal gains. Take for instance the time he broke into the aquarium. He maintained that he only wanted to set the captives free but a manipulating front man took advantage of his gullibility and managed to fetch a pretty penny for many of the rare and exotic fish stolen. Then there were the multiple shoplifting charges. How was a man supposed to eat and clothe himself when he lacked the aptitude to even garnish Food Stamps or General Relief? He was only on probation for one of these shoplifting charges when he was picked up down on Farm Road 117. He was butt naked, not a stitch on him except for the homemade Hobo satchel he was carrying. Inside the satchel was a menacing serrated Rambo-style hunting knife and some survival gear he had managed to lift from the Surplus Store a few days earlier. The major problem with Lucas’s case that because of the possession of the knife while on probation and contributing factors he would probably be treated the same as a three strike felon and be sent off to prison for a very long time. Not only would this have been cruel and unusual punishment in Clyde’s opinion, the taxpayer dollars used to house a felon for prolonged periods of time far outweighed, as much as tenfold, the cost of maintaining a mental patient.

 

           “Lucas, I don’t know if I can pull this off; it will be difficult,”. Clyde confessed as
       he maintained vigil over Lucas’s case file. “How would you feel like spending a
       few years at a good mental health facility that will take care of you and make you 
      better?” 

       Clyde raised himself up from the paper work and looked deeply into the man’s eyes. Lucas was busy watching the treetops sway back and forth through the windows. He was slow to acknowledge Clyde. Clyde saw the man’s appearance. Aside from disheveled, he looked emancipated and starved. Clyde ordered lunch for the man.

      The lunch arrived and the man tore into it. Between bites he finally spoke.

           “I ain’t crazy. You think I am crazy. I used to be. That’s until I met up
        with the freemen. They’s alright. You’re the ones who are crazy. You think
        you got something living in your plastic boxes. Always at war.
        Always destroying the Earth, Ya’ll the ones crazy.

               “Oh Hell,” thought Clyde. The Freemen. He remembered the name from long
ago. They were survivalists, an anti-government clan who died a martyr’s death in a shootout with the Feds. Every so often an up-start group would take up the name and mantle of the original Freemen. Clyde now speculated that a new up start group was preying on the feeble-minded to do their dirty work and homegrown terrorism.

                

 

 

What if the categorical divisions of intelligence sponsored by the Wechsler IQ test were circular rather than linear?

 Profound Idiocy, Severe Idiocy,Imbecility, Moron,Border LIne, Low Average,Average,Genius, Super Genius

          “Lucas you’re a special individual and these Freeman
          try to get you to do things, bad things, which might
          hurt you. But at the hospital they can’t get to you;
          they won’t be able to hurt you.”  Lucas seemed to take no account of what Clyde  
          was telling him because, between the bites and sips of his meal, he simply stared
          out the window.
 
         “Live free or die,” Lucas inadvertently blurted out. “At least time in the license plate factory they had taught him something,” Clyde mused to himself.
 
          “The Freeman won’t hurt me,” a now serene Lucas, spoke.
            “They always come to me. They come to me when I am
            In trouble. They visited me when I was in the pokey. They
            visit me at night…just like they do you.”
 
    Clyde knew that this was just the ramblings of a madman and could have, in no way, correlations to his own sometime night disturbances. Yet the hairs on the back of his neck stood as rigid as prickly swamp grass. Clyde had not had one of those night-time disturbances in over a year. And yet the Lucas comment caused him to recall the apparition yet as if it was yesterday.
 
 
            “Lucas, what makes you think the Freeman come to me?” he leaned embarrassingly close to the man, not wishing for any co-workers in adjacent cubicles to hear him. This line of engagement drifted far from his Probation/Parole Officer’s duties. He was not a psychoanalyst and entertaining a mentally ill client on this level could be more dangerous to the client than beneficial.
 
 
               “They told me another one of us would be there to help me once I got
                 out the pokey.”
 
                “And why do you think that I am another one of…us?”
 
                “Cause you see’em. They don’t just let anyone see’em.
 
                “How do they know that I have seen them?
 
                “They sent you a pig, didn’t they?”
 
        Lucas spilled some of the hot coffee he was holding. It scalded his hand. He escorted Lucas back to the waiting area. This phase of the interview had come to an abrupt halt. Lucas ventured into the restroom to relieve himself. He doused his face with copious amounts of cold water. He returned to his office and quickly and conclusively returned to the real business of a PO. Instead of inviting Lucas back into the office, Clyde advanced over to the waiting area. He gave Lucas an appointment two weeks before his trail date. He looked deep into Lucas’ eyes and once again implored him to, in lieu of jail, consider being admitted into the Mental Hospital. It would be hard for Clyde to even pull it off but, he had a few friends that owed him favors. He handed Lucas the card of a Social Worker who would help get him into a men’s shelter and attend to his needs in the meantime.
 
        Clyde was visited that night by the familiar shadow. This time Clyde was entreated to visions of other shadows. The setting was a lush forest he could identify trees and bushes, yet the figures themselves remained blurred and out of focus except for one. In the midst of the shadowy figures he could make out Lucas. In the dream Lucas held up what must have been a business card and torn it in two. Clyde awoke to discover that at sometime during the fitful sleep he had torn open his pajama top. He had rent the garment with such force that he found several of the severed buttons on his dressing bureau.
   
     Although he did not feel particularly stressed or overworked, Clyde viewed the dream as well as his nocturnal strip tease to be indicative of signs of stress. He made plans to take the next week off.
 
 
 


      Clyde needed closure from that early adolescent hunting experience. He had never gone back to that section of woods since the incident. And now, as a man, he seldom hunted at all; his outdoor recreation of choice was sports fishing with his city friends. He had long since parted with his snazzy Electric Cobalt Blue rifle but he still maintained a shotgun, mostly for home protection and several small arms. Yet upon planning his solo hunting expedition Clyde opted instead to rent a Hi-Power hunting bow from the local hunting supply store.
 
 
 
 
   Clyde had not been to the old rural neighborhood in many years, not since Grandpa’s passing. The rural communities had really been devastated. Much of the younger generation now had education enough to sustain them making a living in the cities.
Most of Clyde’s chums who had escaped the penal system ended up either out of State or in the various Tennessee cities.

 

    Even the most traveled paths of his youth had been overgrown and barely negotiable. Tangles of vines, branches and thickets surrounded him at every turn like a grotesque vegan spider web.  By the time he reached the innermost sanctums of the mountainous forest he was exhausted from all the hacking of brush and the tedious progress of navigating the treacherous and at times rocky slopes. It was not yet midday. Still, most of the brilliance of the summer sun was absorbed way up high in the canopy of the tall pines, sycamores, oaks and a bounty of  varied spruces. Occasionally Clyde would encounter a clearing. It was at one such clearing that he decided to make a short camp. He needed to revive himself and thought a quick catnap would do him well. The visitors at night had never made themselves visible during daylight hours - that is, until that day.
 
 
     This dream was unlike any other in another respect. Clyde seemed to have been taken on an aerial tour of the entire hidden city of the forest dwellers. He perceived what he thought to be children. The faces and exact physical details of the creatures were still very blurred and distorted. He believed that they were children due to their animated quick gestures and their assumed playfulness with each other. They ran joyfully and, unencumbered to and fro in the obstacle-laden forest as well as vertically, up and down it.
Larger beings gathered in distinct groups. One group was assembled by what Clyde could only liken to Mayan style calendar. The structure was inside one of the expansive clearings. It was circular and rose from the ground at least a foot or more. Its base structure was formed by intricate marks and crafted with yellowed mud bricks. Finer details of symbols, markings and such were made with shaved branches and pine cones. One small segment of the circle was incomplete. Although the first level of base brick had been laid, it lacked the other tier which would have brought it in height to an equal proportion to the rest of the circle. However it appeared that such a brick, due to its still earthen red color, was newly crafted and was set off to the side.
 
   He was shown another group. This party was inside a cave. Inside the cave were artifacts. There was what appeared to be garb and clothing still remarkably preserved from the Civil War. Both Union and Confederate artifacts were identifiable. There were busted up shackles and chains. He saw other relics from a long ago past chronicling different eras; turn of the century farming equipment, a typewriter of the early 20th Century, GI Helmets circa WWII. He also found more modern relics that seemed to have no historic importance, especially the bevy of rusted-out shopping carts, some perhaps dating to the 1950’s. The most modern were sleeping bags, moldy and no longer used.
 
 
  He saw a group of hunters using small and simple weapons, mostly knives and bows and arrows to approach large game that seem to be suffering from the “deer in the headlight syndrome“ as the being approached them and made quick and humane kills.
 
   With the exception of the beings themselves, most everything was seen in crystal clarity, including Lucas. Lucas was so vivid that Clyde believed he was still in his presence once he awoke. Then Lucas spoke. Clyde blinked and wiped his eyes several times but was unable to erase reality. Lucas was real and with a comic smile looking down upon him, almost face to face.
 
 
      “They sent me to bring you the rest of the way, Man! You’se having a tough time making it, aren’t you?” Lucas let fly an insane laugh and helped Clyde to his feet. Time for argument and questioning was over. Clyde assumed at this stage of the game, considering all that had transpired, it would be a moot point. He got up and followed the naked and now surprisingly agile Lucas. Following Lucas, surprisingly his only wish at the time was that Lucas had worn some pants.
 
       A group of the beings, a welcoming party, had assembled to greet the new arrivals. As he got closer to the group their features became clearer. They were tall. The adults were at least seven to eight feet tall. They were hairy. Some sported shaggy shoulder length manes, others dreadlocks and still others abundant afros. The need for clothing was obviously a hindrance for these forest-dwelling creatures, but unlike pasty pale Lucas they did have their own sort of modesty. An extensive hair growth did cloak and cover most of their bodies, both the males and females. This gave them the appearance, a potpourri of what Hollywood taught us, the Cave men, Neanderthals or even what Bigfoots and Yetis might resemble.
 
    As he came closer still, something remarkable happened. The entirely new image of the creatures he had just been treated to began to unravel with every step. Now he could only see more the essence of form than form itself.. These ethereal, free flowing and seamless beings advanced effortlessly towards him. Every point on their bodies pulsated with either electrical or light energy cumulating with their whole bodies being covered in a heavenly aura. They spoke to him without opening their mouths. Their words flowed directly into his mind.
 

            “It’s just a stage prop that we learned to use. Speaking of which, let’s get you
       and Lucas out of your clothes and stage props and into something a little more        comfortable.” He looked and pointed towards the last mud brick. “Our ride will
       be here soon.”
 
 
 
 
                                                                       End
                                                                         (of the age)
  
 
 
 
 
 
   

 

An Old Flame
 
Hundreds of years after an epic CME Coronal Mass Ejection from the sun, the remnants of planet earth seek to reinvent themselves
 
 
When the ejection is directed towards the Earth and reaches it as an interplanetary CME (ICME), the shock wave of the traveling mass of Solar Energetic Particles causes a geomagnetic storm that may disrupt the Earth's magnetosphere, compressing it on the day side and extending the night-side magnetic tail. When the magnetosphere reconnects on the nightside, it releases power on the order of terawatt scale, which is directed back toward the Earth's upper atmosphere.
 
Coronal mass ejections, along with solar flares of other origin, can disrupt radio transmissions and cause damage to satellites and electrical transmission line facilities, resulting in potentially massive and long-lasting power outages.[3]
Humans in space or at high altitudes, for example, in airplanes, risk exposure to intense radiation.
 
 
ONE LOVE (Bob Marley)                                  The Character Qfwf is in memory of
As it was in the beginning (One Love)                 Italo Calvino, One of the best minds of
So shall it be in the end (One Heart)                  the 20th Century.
 


                            

                               "It's not the heat, it's the humidity." Qfwf laughed heartedly at his own joke. A joke which no one else got. The cumulative effects of the Greenhouse effect combined with other dynamic changes to the Earth were still evident these many years later. Between belching and laughing he ejected a chunk of something foul from his throat. Ersa his favorite great-great x great granddaughter whom he liked to call Ersa , playfully yet attentively combed, whenever possible, and scrutinized the rest of Old Qfwf's waist length locks and dreads. She extracted with girlish joy plump bedbugs, saturated ticks, annoying fleas and on occasion a delightful edible treat such as a wayward pill bug.
 
                   The assembled children, as well as some malingering adults, who dreaded forging in the intensity of the sweltering midday sun, had assembled to hear some of Old Qfwf's tall tales. Qfwf had become the oral historian of the enclave. He brought theater to the recounting the old days. He was without a doubt the oldest man in the enclave of the forty or so family groups. He imagined himself to be at least 475 years old but, truth be told, he was closer to to about 363. He however had at least 50 to 60 years over the next eldest in line. Qfwf. although a little arthritic and slow in the step, was still in pretty good shape and didn't look a day over eighty. He was just a mere boy of twelve on that faithful day. It was a date that had been long foretold by ancient societies more in-tuned.  But the society of the day was mostly tuned into their I-Pods and Cell Phones and the warning were mostly ignored or humored by the general populace and the governing bodies. Yet when that day arrived the event took place as planned with all the precision and orchestration of the grand finale of a well budgeted firework show.  The sun let off a blast of plasma, the mass of which was the size of a couple of Earths. The Mass Corneal Ejection hit the Earth around five minutes later.  Even before it entered our atmosphere its damage was already detrimental. It fried nearly every Satellite: communications, weather, military etc. in its path. Those that were not directly in the path were still disabled by the massive magnetic and particle disruption that encompassed the entire sphere of the pretty blue world. Qfwf didn't know much about satellites and the likes so he picked up the story after the CME entered the atmosphere.
 
 
                             ”Oh! It was horrible and quite a bit of messiness." Qfwf continued.
                             " Airplanes were the first to go, falling out of the sky like
                              silver coconuts during the summer storms, striking the land
                              with all the power and fire of lighting bolts.”

Qfwf had long given up drawing his crude renditions of planes and the likes. No one could relate to a vehicle with the capabilities of a plane so he inserted objects and metaphors into his stories of things they knew about or were accustomed to.
 
                              "Phone service gone, Internet gone, Television and Radio gone." Qfwf stopped for dramatic pause. The assembled masses had no real conception of these things either. It was more the art of Qfwf's story telling skills that kept the audience glued on every word.
 
                              ”The Earth itself flipped-flopped." Qfwf made such a comical animated face to suggest bafflement that it elicited giggles and outbursts amongst the youngsters in attendance.
 
         Little did he realize it but Qfwf himself had become, for the enclave, the combination of the Internet, Television and Radio. If only he could fly, like little Elsroy was always attempting.  Then he would have been their airplane also. If you thought Qfwf's midday matinees were something you should have seen his night shows. Joshna, one of the adolescent boys who had developed iridescent and glowing hands, was thought to have been a result of his mother's insatiable appetite for fireflies during her pregnancy. Like a skilled stage hand, so accustomed to the dramatic nuisances in Qfwf’s tales that Joshna would supply just the right amount of hues/colors and dramatic lighting to bath the storyteller in, thus enhancing the tale.
 
 
           With the conclusion of Qfwf's tale of the day, most of the young ones were lulled off to sleep. The older ones either caught cat naps themselves or attended to their various foraging tools and devices. Qfwf dropped the pretense of the jolly old storyteller and took a long and thoughtful look out at the setting sun as it set in the deep orange sky. Already he could see the little diamond bright orbs streak across the sky, leaving in their wake luminescent trails. These meteors, as a group, had been striking closer and closer to the enclave in the past twenty years. Sure there was the occasional errant meteor strike but, much like lightning, this was something that struck the enclave only ever so often. Qfwf knew that it was time for action and a decisive decision would have to be made.

           It was a council of elders, most of whom were still in their mid one-hundreds that made most of the important or vital decisions, such as the principles governing community sharing, rites of passages and the allowances they entailed as well as Ceremonial Celebrations. Yet when faced with a difficult decision or task, they always deferred to Qfwf to seek out his wisdom and guidance. Sometimes the council was even called to task by Qfwf to address an issue of prime concern.

                    The evening sun had now nestled itself deep into the blankets of the adjacent swamplands. The activity level picked up all around the enclave. Foraging was a never-ending affair. It took a lot of insects and rodents and reptiles to provide protein and feed forty or so family groups. There were still large reptiles like gators and pythons and such but they made their home mostly in the swamplands and navigation of the swamplands and were extremely dangerous and set upon only to secure meals of the special ceremonies and celebrations. Every able bodied man, woman and child was called upon to do something in support of daily foraging. This daily ritual also had the effect of keeping the enclave mentally as well as physically engaged. However, tonight Qfwf requested that the members of the elder's council stay behind. Once they assembled, Qfwf assumed a totally new persona of command and leadership.
 

 

                         "Elders," Qfwf spoke deliberately and with purpose. “The safety of the enclave is about to end. We must either make plans to leave or perish”. The finality of his proclamation made some of the elders shudder while others could only stare in shock and disbelief, waiting for a punch line or one of Qfwf's famous anecdotal stories to issue from his lips. But, no such story came forth. Silence hovered around the group for several minutes. Yet in the thoughts of each member a whirlwind of visions, thoughts, fears and resolutions swirled through the mind. Leaving the enclave was something that even the most adventurous among them had never considered. The enclave was safe; it was known. And according to Qfwf himself there had been very few times and places in the history of the Earth. Sure life was strenuous in the enclave, but that was all that they knew and in comparison to the old world that Qfwf spoke of, this was Heaven; something also that Qfwf spoke about.
 
              The illness that once plagued mankind for many, many centuries had but all diminished, if not in scope then at least in severity. Diseases such as cancers, diabetes and disorders of the digestive and respiratory tract had vanished. Ailments associated with advanced age still occurred but at a much slower pace. Even common day maladies such as colds and flu's had vanished and were nothing more than kindle for Qfwf's tall tales.
 
               Lifespan had increased five-fold and were probably still on the rise given the remarkable resilience of the young ones. Fertility was not gratuitously bestowed upon women with the frequency of past eras. But, when blessed with birth, one was almost assured a full term and healthy delivery. The resilient children were also mutating or evolving, each developing special and mostly unexplained skills and attributes.
 
             The environment was also known and mostly safe. The swamplands held many dangers such as quick sand, man eaters and toxic reptiles. But the swampland stayed to itself. Now that little Ersa had developed some sort of telekinetic gift that made it possible for her to spook and corral snakes and other reptiles, even during the monsoons, rarely did such an intruder make its way into the enclave. They always rebuilt quickly from storms, lights or the occasional meteor hit. Now faced with the prospect of leaving they realized how ideal their life was.
 
          Qfwf remembered the movies of old and suggested that they did not have to do this in haste and that it would be beneficial to send out a scouting party. Unlike the movies, he opted to send out two of the youngsters. He suggested that they choose two, a male and female. In the event it became impossible for them to return to the enclave, hopefully in time they would be able to reproduce and carry on the species. One of the other elders suggested that they take into account the special gifts that most of the children now possessed and determine which skills would be best suited for such an expedition.
Qfwf agreed, already knowing that Ersa's powers would make her a prime candidate on everyone's list.

      Each council member drew a branch from a nearby bamboo and etched two names in the ground. It was no surprised that Ersa's name was picked. Even Qfwf had to withhold his emotions and vote responsibly. Joshna with his light bearing hands was picked because of said attribute. This would help them navigate at night and signal to each other if separated. Joshna was also already fourteen and was developing the strength of a young man and this would help them considerably in such a harsh and physical environment.
 
         The children were briefed on their mission. Their resilience and enhanced aptitude extended to learning as well.  Surely there would be some sadness for they would be asked to depart from friends and their family group, but both readily accepted their newly ordained responsibilities. The pairing of these two already netted a bonus. They already were having a friendly bond between them due to their respected roles at Qfwf's story time. The children were counseled by Qfwf and instructed by the council.  Sometimes they were taught together, sometimes separately. Since Ersa was still pre-adolescent she was extended much more time with the female members of the elder’s council. If she were to get lost and not return to the group, she would have to endure and understand the rites and rigors of womanhood on her own.

       Joshna already was a skilled forager but he had never spent time in the swamplands in the hunt for dangerous prey. Due to the dangers inherent to the swamplands, this responsibility was only assigned to the most skillful hunters. The elders assigned Joshna to the care of these practiced hunters in the enclave. New spears and arrows were fashioned especially for Joshna, accommodating his still adolescent frame.

       It was determined that, once Joshna had completed his first solo gator -kill, the training would end. The men spent at least a week out in the swamplands. The men returned triumphantly with snakes, lizards. Bringing up the rear was an elated Joshna dragging behind him a ten-foot gator. A special dinner celebration was held that very night and in the morning the whole enclave gathered to send the two explorers off.

        Unlike the two young explorers, the members of the enclave were not informed of the objectives of the mission. Most assumed it had something to do with more fertile foraging grounds or higher land to guard against flood waters.  Many of the enclave wanted to give the explorers lucky trinkets or their favorite tools or weapons but Qfwf forbade it. They had many miles to travel and Qfwf wanted them to travel as light as possible. Each had their own satchel. Joshna also proudly displayed the three new carved long spears and bow. He had to be watchful for not only predators and prey but legend had it that there were possibly other humans, just barely, …out there.  They were said to have over the centuries descended into savagery and were now more animal than human and possibly harboring cannibalistic tendencies.

       Ersa carried in her satchel most of the foraging tools used for agrarian pursuits. She also carried the short bow and a supply of arrows. For her own protection Ersa relied upon a secret weapon. When Qfwf was distracted with all the leaving festivities Ersa had quietly slipped into her satchel a very poisonous coral snake. The snake was, small almost toy like, non-threatening in appearance, yet extremely fatal. In the last few centuries the Coral Snake, now forced to ward off behemoth Pythons and Anacondas, deadly Nile Monitor Lizards and other non-indigenous species, the petite snake had evolved to become ten times more toxic than before. When no was around she would wear the snake around her neck, fancying it a pretty necklace. She felt safer with the snake than with the rest of their arsenal, combined. If she encountered any unwelcome guests she would hurl the snake at them with deadly accuracy. She had practiced.

       Qfwf pointed them in what he thought might be the best direction. He knew that to the east was the ocean and although the naive enclave would have relished the move and find great delight in experiencing such a vast expanse of water and space, not to mention, adding to their diet an abundance of fish and seafood, the now frequent tropical storms would have made life very difficult there. Qfwf instead pointed them in the direction of the mountainous rain forest. The two youngsters made their farewells and boldly set off into the unknown.

 

Week Six

      The couple had done well and had by now completely exercised their past-life survivor skills. The youths seem to have a resilience of mind as well as body. The journey thus far had been wondrously exhilarating. The couple had been entertained thoroughly. They had encountered hundreds of new sounds, sights, aroma and tastes. They had learned to apply expertly all of the tracking and tracing skills taught to them by the elders and by the experts within the enclave. They had learn to survey and gauge distances with proficient accuracy. Yet it was such a skill that caused the couple such a devastating blow that they barely recovered.

 

      They were camped out, feasting on a newly discovered treat, toasted tree frog, when the inky black sky was interrupted by a meteorite the size of a micro-moon. The blazing satellite raced to Earth like a silver swamp fly with an attitude. The entire southern sky ignited, glowing white as the projectile lit up the night sky. It landed with such a thud that the duo could feel dull ache from the concussion of the blast as it laid harvest to their young bodies. Although they were by now hundreds of miles away from the enclave, the accuracy of their skills and tested craft was undeniable. Neither spoke it, but both knew it. The enclave had been struck and more than likely had been destroyed.

 

        For days, Ersa sat vacant, wasting away, refusing to eat and crying most of the day and night. Occasionally she would spring forth from her catatonic state. Silently yet angrily she would retrieve her satchel and start off in the direction of the enclave only to be restrained by Joshna. If she would have reached that goal she would have found to her horror that they were correct. The enclave had been obliterated. What she may not have discovered was that Qfwf had the presence of mind to send out another exploration team just days before the calamity. This team consisted of almost all the children. Qfwf thought it strategically beneficial to send them off in a slightly different direction.  Therefore theirs and her paths may have never crossed.

            Joshna exhibited a newfound maturity in lieu of the tragedy. He concluded that Ersa needed closure.  He fashioned as best he could wear an elder-like Ceremonial Headdress and outfit. He caught and roasted the plumpest rodents he could find for a feast. That night he held a ‘Passing Over Ceremony.’

Instead of lamenting an individual, he held it in memoriam for the entire village. Remarkable he called out as many enclave members’ names as possible, only missing a few. He did not waiver from the character of an elder.  Much like the senior Holy man would do, he completed the ritual with prayers and innovations for the future of those remaining. It worked.

 

 

Week Eight

      
               From a vantage point on the cliffs that jutted out from the lush hillside, Joshna detected a strange light emanating from a dense patch of jungle in the valley below. The light sparked his curiosity because it did not appear to be the aftermath of a lighting or meteor strike. It also did not appear to be the yellowish, red-orange flames of a man-made fire. Joshna’s curiosity got the best of him. He convinced a leery Ersa that they should go down into the valley and have a better look.  They precariously made their way down the moss-covered slippery cliffs, succumbing to only a minimum of scrapes and falls.

 

Week Eight, Day Seven

 

              Joshna now stood less than a hundred yards away from the light. The lights moved as if it they had intelligence and purpose. Joshna, himself partially light, viewed the lights as two distinct life forms. He was not so flabbergasted by their presence. They appeared to him to be continuously intersecting and criss-crossing each other. One shimmered like gems, sparkling in hues of white, sliver and blue.  The other reminded him more of landscape colors, painted horizons, earth tones and delicious rainbows.  Ersa only saw a terrifying pillar of supernatural fire.

 

           Joshna advanced closer. Ersa hesitated and had to be drawn by a sturdy hand. He now stood directly before the towering lights. He could barely see beyond the lights be he could make out a landscape and, with seeing it clearly, he could sense the beauty of it. As brilliant as the lights were, there was no detectable heat emanating from them. “Could this be the deadly radiation that Old Qfwf occasionally spoke of?” Ersa cautioned Joshna. With deadly intent Ersa reached into her satchel and clutched her snake. 

       As he raised his hand towards the lights, Joshna’s hand tingled. He then noticed that his hand echoed like a chameleon by replicating the same pattern of light as the entities.
He took a deep breath and moved his hand into the light. Ersa gasped and covered her eyes. Once his hand had traversed the light, Joshna felt a profound sense of essence and being. He and the lights were as one.
 

        He withdrew his hand and looked towards Ersa with amazement. Now he raised both hands towards his face, deflecting some of the effect of the lights upon his eyes. He tried to peer into the landscape beyond. The images were fluid and not readily discernable. He could obtain that inside was not a thick and dense jungle. He either imagined or saw pleasant landscapes, crystal ponds of waters and animals, much larger than the rodents he was accustomed to. Some even larger than the biggest gators or pythons. He could stand it no longer. He attempted to walk through. The attempt was cut short. Although his hands, head and forearms passed freely through the guardian light when he attempted to tilt his torso into the lights, he was reprimanded with a series of sparks.
 
          Joshna stood confused for a second. Once again he placed his hands into the lights. No resistance. The clothing he reasoned - maybe it had something to do with the clothing.
He first removed his shirt and attempted the maneuver again. No only did it work, he saw clearly and with true perspective the luscious landscapes and exotic creatures therein.
He mind was expanded to regions for which there were no words. He spent less then a second emerged in the new world, yet it seemed to him hours had passed. He had even begun assigning names to some of the wonderful creatures. He returned back to his known lackluster world. Ersa merely stared at him, perplexed as to why he was removing all his clothes. He was now completely nude and unashamed. He beckoned Ersa to join him. To prove it safe he jumped, full body, in the lights and disappeared. Ersa started to cry. He retuned seconds later, having already found them a place to set up camp. He had also bonded with several of the animals as well as his new Host.
 
            Ersa was confused. She didn’t know what else to do. He looked happy and more vibrant than she had ever seen him, or anyone for that matter. She shyly disrobed. Being conscious of her unfounded shame, he maintained eyes forward towards the light. Only his hand extended behind him as he summoned Ersa to come. He heard the rustle of supplies and sensed that she was gathering up the satchels, tools and weapons. With a single gesture of the hand he waved them off. They would no longer be needed.
 
            Ersa, however, had managed, just a second earlier, to secure her reptilian. protective jewelry.  She clasped his outstretched hand and entered into her new world.
 
 
 
End
 

 

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