Gaiastan, Chapter 14

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Chapter 14

Indigo and D’naia met again and again after that morning at the bazaar. For him, she was a prize bound by a knot of silk ribbon. She was something to be unwound… opened. His desire for her was irrepressible. As time passed, the days away from her became a punishment. He walked from kibbutz to kibbutz, utterly disinterested in his assigned but meaningless tasks, his mind consumed only with her. Even the nausea, brought about by his variants of ungreenness, failed to cure him of his longing. It seemed to merely harmonize with and amplify his love sickness.

When his route finally pointed toward her kibbutz, he found himself racing along. His pulse quickened as he approached her hovel. If she wasn’t home, he would go on to the next stop and then double back later that day. He could not bear to miss seeing her.

The two of them started to sneak off into the woods together, to be away from everyone. They talked and talked about deeply romantic things like sub-light space travel, caste struggle[1] and virtual immortality.

One autumn getaway, he in his tunic and cape and she in her summer dress wrapped in an overcoat, they found their way to their favorite, secluded place. They were alone, hidden by evergreens and the soft, mossy boulders. Their whispers were veiled by the songs of finches. The sun poured through the tree tops and warmed them. And when the words ran out, they embraced each other, and kissed. His hands moved gently down along her curves. She sighed, encouragingly. They moved under her dress, against her warm skin. They pulled off their clothes and they fell into each other in that hidden place under the brilliant autumn sun. But although he had been with her, she remained swathed in mystery.

They met again and again this way, flaunting the codex and risking discovery. They went further and further into the woods until, on one rendezvous, bad weather blew in and they were forced to take refuge for several hours in an abandoned cabin. Their disappearances were raising suspicions and that cabin became their permanent home once D’naia became pregnant.

She was not licensed for child bearing or rearing which meant that her legal options were to end the pregnancy or surrender the infant to the authorities who would take it away to be raised in a crèche. D’naia informed Indigo that she was going to the cabin to raise the child. The green response for Indigo would have been for him to encourage her to do so, then snitch her out to the nearest codex enforcer or junior warden. But, to his astonishment, he did not choose that course. Instead, an instinct reared up inside him— an instinct that overpowered the bout of nausea that nearly doubled him over with heaves. He did not try to dissuade her or reason with her. Instead, he decided to go with her, to help her, to care for her and their little proto-human that shared their DNA.

Perhaps the hardest part for Indigo was that D’naia demanded that they leave behind their immortality lockets. The locket was the conduit for his consciousness. Without it, his mind could not be backed up. What D’naia was asking him to do was risking his immortality. This, more than anything, was the most difficult thing for him to give up for her. But, on the morning of their departure, he went to the JPGoldmanChaseRothschild bank, withdrew 95% of his account balance to use for the purchase of rations and a burro, purchased a security deposit box, and left his locket locked inside. He decided that he would still visit it once per month and download his consciousness at the bank’s kiosk whenever he converted his pension deposits into scrip.

There was something unrighteous about separating oneself from ones conduit to the afterlife. He imagined that he felt like some pre-revolutionary heathen, mocking Gaia and taunting fate. There was no God and no ethereal heaven in Indigo’s Humanist understanding, but he felt that being separated from his conduit to post-mortem Virtuality was still somehow a sin.

Life away from the grid and government rations was more difficult than Indigo had envisioned. He found his late autumn days filled with the drudgery of splitting wood and fetching water and hunting and butchering game and gathering mushrooms and wild herbs and the last of the berries that the deer hadn’t plucked. The wood-splitting was definitely the worst of it. The days grew cooler and cooler as the sun rose lower and lower. The nights were cold and quiet, save for the wolves. Then the dusting of nightly frost ceased melting off in the afternoons and the cabin’s hearth burned all night and all day.

Filling the stove’s relentless hunger for wood consumed the greater portion of Indigo’s dwindling daylight hours. Pine was not as efficient as the compressed cubes of serf-grade coal issued by the officials. Indigo had to feed three double armfuls of wood splits into the stove each day. He carried them from his pile in stacks from waist to chin. And his pile, once so impressive, was dwindling rapidly. They would not have enough to make it through the winter.

 

 

He set out one late morning to chop up a fallen tree that had succumbed to beetles. He had made trips out to it for three straight days. Indigo moved through the woods towards his dead tree with his burro in tow and axe in hand. The axe was his only weapon in the event he stumbled across wolves or a bear not yet down for hibernation. Death by mauling, sans locket, meant a choppy transition into the virtual afterlife. It has been said that gaps in memory between download and death can be disorienting to the resurrected.

Indigo had only ever been afraid of an imperfect transition into afterlife when he was on the Astarte. It was too far away from Earth to transmit with the required level of accuracy, so brain dumps were stored in the onboard databanks. The space can still had to be recovered in order to resurrect those that died on the journey.

Man and burro passed through a strand of ancient aspen trees, thick and tall, with leafless branches stretching upwards and blotting out the gray skies above. The thin blanket of snow on the ground crunched faintly as they walked. A cold breeze swirled above and around them. The only birds were the ravens with their gargoyle beaks blurting out their growling squawks.

Once up and over a stony mound, they came to the edge of the forest where it opened up to a high mountain lake which was only partially frozen. On the banks lay Indigo’s giant fallen tree, part of it hacked away by him in the previous days. Adjacent to it, on the opposite side of an inlet, sat a bear, thrusting his paws into the water. Indigo clutched his axe. He was far enough away that the bear would probably not give chase but close enough to trigger a surge of adrenaline in his veins. But then he realized that it was not a bear but instead a man clad in bear’s hide, washing in the frigid water. Before Indigo could quietly back up into the woods and disappear, the man bear spotted him. Indigo froze and said nothing.

“Ahoy, there!” shouted the man bear.

Indigo backed away.

“Don’t leave! Wait! I know who you are,” it shouted. “It won’t do you any good to flee, anyway.”

“You don’t know me,” Indigo shouted back.

“Yes I do,” replied the man bear.

“Who am I, then?”

“You’re the spaceman.”

Indigo’s heart sank with the revelation of his discovery. “No! You’re mistaken,” he shouted back.

“I’m not mistaken. You live in the cabin at the other end of the lake, back in the woods where no one can see it. You live there with a woman.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You are Indigo and she is D’naia. Don’t be afraid. I am a friend.”

“Those are not our names. That woman shares that kibbutz with me. We were just assigned here by the District Manager.”

“Oh, give it up. I’ve been watching you for a while, now. There’s no place for you to hide, and I can beat you back to your cabin. You’ll starve to death in a month or so without my help. Come closer so I don’t have to shout any more. The trees have ears, you know.”

It was no use for Indigo to lie. He was outed. He had no idea who this man bear was but he approached him. He was a raggedy, hairy man with a beard that fell nearly to his waist. He wore a full brown bear hide, including the bear’s head which covered his own like a hood. The hide was bound to him with twine at the various joints. He wore no shoes and his feet were black. He was a tall, strong, and broad shouldered man but very lean. As Indigo neared, the man bear picked up his staff and approached, wading through the frozen water. He was smiling.

“Hello,” he greeted in a hushed voice.

“What’s your name?” Indigo asked.

“No good will come to you for knowing it.”

“You know mine, so tell me yours.”

“All right, then. I am Joe Hannan.”

Indigo studied him. The name was familiar but he couldn’t place him. “What do you want with me?”

“I’m the messenger. I’ve come to bring you good news… very good news… news of hope.”

Where had he met this savage before? He was definitely way out of convention to be a Sunstein Agent. Agents could never work in such a filthy, hairy disguise and manner. Indigo suspected that the authorities were probably looking for him but this would not be how they would conduct their search. Why bother with such an elaborate disguise? No, Gaian agents, if they were on to him, would simply show up at his doorstep wearing their embroidered suits. They’d knock on the door and he would open it and they would let him know, directly, what was expected of him and what the consequences would be if he failed to correct his ungreenness.

“Tell me then, what is the good news?” Indigo asked.

“An Overman, a very high-ranking Overman named Mr. Lever is looking for you. He is very persistent and very experienced and very good at what he does. He will find you any day, now. But not today and not tomorrow.”

“That’s good news? What does he want from me?”

“You know that answer. They want their hero back. The Gaians are displeased that their asset has moved off the reservation. They can’t find you so easily now without your locket.” Joe Hannan paused to pull back his hood revealing a helmet covered in a bowl of tinfoil. He removed it from his head and dipped it into the water which he was still standing in.

“Tell me how this is good news?”

Joe Hannan lifted the helmet to his lips and drank. The water ran down his beard and spilled in rivulets down the hide covering his chest. When finished, he placed the tinfoil helmet back on his head and covered it with his bear’s head hood.

“It’s good news because your coming was foretold. Now, the arrival of the Sunstein Agent fulfills the prophecy. It is the sign. It is time for you to come with us.”

“What do you mean? Who’s ‘us’?”

Joe Hannan smiled under his heavy carpet of mossy beard. “You’ll have another visitor soon. And when he comes, he’ll tell you everything. Then you’ll know. And soon, everyone else will know. He who comes after me is the chosen one.”

“Who is going to visit me? Who’ll tell me everything?”

“I’m just the messenger. I pave the way for Him. I’ve paved the way for thirty years and now, finally, He is come. He is come and my work on this earth is nearly accomplished. But we will meet again, soon, before I am taken away.”

Then Joe Hannan left.

As he disappeared into the woods, Indigo remembered him as the devil chased away by that first evening by the taxidermist.

 

[1] caste struggle: class struggle

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