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Return to lately 2016.
because it never existed
january 1, 2016
What do we think of as we fall asleep? That most private time, no longer showing our face to others, laying our nose down in shadows, sideways onto our white pillow?
I think of Rainbow.
A few years ago, I came up with an idea for a novel. It would be post-apocalyptic.
The first part of the novel, a group of survivors trying to eke by, living in rags, sleeping like feral dogs out under the gray skies amid car wreckage, jerking their heads up at any new noise, eating anything they can find to survive. At the end of this first section, they're rescued by a large group of more organized survivors, who are traveling back and forth across America, collecting as much technology as they can, to preserve it for future use as they try to rebuild society.
These organized survivors live in an absolutely safe stronghold on the west coast. It's an area of land about 5,000 square miles, completely surrounded by a circular mountain range, half of it fertile land, half of it ocean, one passable cleft on the land side (heavily fortified); one cleft on the sea side (ditto).
In the midst of all the gray and black horror in the world, it is a green and blue oasis.
There is an existing resort town the survivors have built up, adding more structures, to accommodate a larger population. Farms and ranches scattered across the land, chickens, cows, corn, squash, producing enough food (along with the abundance of food that can harvested from the ocean) to more than adequately support the current population of 750 people. The land can comfortably support 5,000 individuals.
The inhabitants have named this land, Rainbow.
Hot and cold running water from underground wells. Electricity in abundance from large solar cell farms the survivors have developed from their monthly forays outside, in the unfriendly world. Television, and telephones. Even an Intranet.
The novel's title was going to be, Lawsuits in Heaven.
One of the rescued survivors we meet in the first section was an attorney in the prior world. Once the first section is walked across, the remaining sections of the novel deal with different court cases he oversees over the course of his life living as a judge in the protected land of Rainbow. Lennington vs. Smithers, etc. Each chapter is a different civil suit, and in the background discussion of that specific lawsuit, we learn how Rainbow grows and prospers, and how our protagonist matures, over the course of his long life, from a selfish man into someone who becomes increasingly involved in his community, and truly wants to help people. This part of the novel has an 'All Creatures Great and Small' feel to it.
I came up with this idea because I thought it would be interesting to write an apocalyptic novel that was positive, rather than dour. Where we rise to the best within all of us, to create a better society than the one we left.
It's simultaneously a novel about the human race surviving, and a man coming to terms, over the course of decades, with what he needs to do to become a good person. And isn't that what we all want? Isn't that the goal we all stubbornly refuse to give up on?
Will I actually write it? I don't know.
But the premise is something I like to think about as I try to fall asleep. Like the traveler who knows where in the deep forest are located the peaceful villages, smoke rising from chimneys, fingers lifting eggs from straw, sometimes it's nice to live in one of your stories. The happier ones.
The citizens of Rainbow have a good life. Perhaps even better than before. All power comes from electricity rather than gasoline, so the skies are unpolluted. Blue, blue, blue. Because all the inhabitants have gone through such a horrible fire to arrive here, they are kinder, more courteous, towards each other. Social interaction has such an effect on each of us, and here we have a land where everyone has suffered so much, and lost so much, to get here, we are truly brothers and sisters. Part of the mandate of Rainbow is to teach the survivors how to do as much as possible, to preserve and pass on specialist skills, so you have a lot of people training to be dentists and also electricians, bakers and also code technicians, but at the same time, there are some skills and resources that have been lost, probably forever. Someone can fill a cavity in your tooth, but none of the survivors have the knowledge or skill to perform a colonoscopy. If you get cancer, you might have survived it in the much wider world pre-apocalypse, but in this green world, chances are you will die. The citizens eat the freshest fish, in cafeterias set up to feed a large populace, music playing from speakers above their heads, but blueberries do not exist, because blueberry plants are too far away, across the dangerous United States, to be brought back and developed. Future generations will recognize the word blueberry, like they recognize the word unicorn, but they will never, ever see, smell, taste one. That's just the way it is. Something as simple and small and round as a blueberry has fallen away from our fingers, forever. But that's what happens when the world almost ends, the buildings collapse, and our avenues whiten under billows of dust.
As I try to fall asleep, not too hard when Mary and I first turn off the lights, big TV shrinking to a small white dot, or as I try to fall back asleep after waking in the middle of the night, past midnight, much harder then to sink back into blackness and colorful, confusing dreams, I try to relax myself by thinking of Rainbow as a perfect land, sort of, but certainly better than what we have now, a modest land of small social and municipal improvements over the decades; a land where there are browned briskets smoking in the green park alongside the blue and sandy shoreline, survivors lined up for their barbeque sandwich, deferring to each other, laughing with each other; a land where we are perhaps a bit more tolerant towards others, and also towards ourselves; a safe and hopeful land, a consolation, that can never be taken away from me, as I finally slip under, because it never existed.