Stone found Shattered sleeping in the corner of the main room. Mar was sleeping in her bed. A steely man of some fifty-and-twelve, Stone had led many lives before coming to Park just two years before the calamity. It wasn’t called Park then, but Stone had never forgotten the name of the little town he had happened upon one summer’s day, hungover, tired and broke; Stone had been broke and broken in so many ways, pecuniary, physically, psychologically. He’d been traveling on foot since being dropped off by a trucker some twenty-five miles from his eventual destination, a destination he didn’t know would become his home. Feet that had swollen smelt of the crusty fungus grew in the old boots he’d owned for over a decade; Stone came to what was then called Forks of Salmon. He took the road traveled less, and found much more. A kind people, open and yet cautious of the outside, lived here. The original Northern California exclusion zone had by now been limited to primarily the Bay Area, and the rules of the state and Federal authorities receded like the rivers and lakes during The Big Drought. Not a cop or National Guard soldier had been seen in Forks for over a year, but the people remained calm; in fact, the locals seemed calmer than ever; they prospered by growing their own food and cannabis on the verdant hills, plateaus and mountains, and the Big Drought had ended the winter before Stone arrived; as he looked up at the warm summer sun through the dense pines, he thought he’d found Eden.
Trade to Forks during that time came primarily through the remaining sections of Interstate 5 or Highway 101, inland and on the coast, respectively; goods were deposited and traded for silver, gold, weed and fruit and vegetables at large markets set up inside old grocery stores, convention centers and hotels, in places with names like Etna, Weed and Eureka. Stone worked as a transporter, then, slowly over a year he was given the responsibility of helping build what would become Park; his carpentry skills put to good use, he felt a sense of purpose.
During his first year as a porter, the growers, the drivers and the merchants from the both Forks and the Bay Area negotiated agreements for the transport of goods; collectives were formed to protect against exploitation, and the area, once incredibly white, became more diverse. Working-class Black and Latinx families and individuals, the few left who had formerly lived in the subsidized areas of the Bay Area exclusion zone as essential workers were replaced with drones, self-driven cars and other gadgetry. They came up Highway 101 in electric cars, buses and on the high-speed railway that operated a daily service from Oakland to Eureka. Eventually, Humboldt and Siskiyou counties (integrated and renamed Twin Counties six months before the calamity), some of the whitest places in the former United States, had become, during the 2030s, one of the most diverse places on the West Coast of North America. Of course, this didn’t count the Southern Californian migrant-irregular worker and homeless enclosure zone. Yet, during the months leading up to the calamity little information traveled that far from this zone, so most of the world knew nothing of the conditions there; and very few people traveled north beyond the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountain ranges. Those who did found themselves shot by drones, soldiers and others to maintain a quarantine. A severe virus had spread through the former Los Angeles-Inland Empire area, and no one was allowed in or out.
Stone had come at the right time. He built his home, a cabin near a small creek, on land that was cooperatively held. The locals appreciated his craftsmanship, for Stone had been in construction since his teenage years. When the calamity came, all electrical devices ceased to work, and this greatly reduced trade and travel into and out of the area. One year before the calamity, Park had already been established near Forks; large areas of forest had been cleared for emergency housing, without the consent of the local population. Eventually, Park grew to number some fifty-thousand people, the largest town in the Twin Counties by far. Streets designed for bicycles, pedestrians and wheelchairs crisscrossed the land. Most of the older trees were left. The new buildings included The Large Forum, essentially a huge square warehouse; a separated third of the building had an enclosed space measuring some some ten-thousand square feet. Most of this part of The Large Forum was used as Federal hyper-modern local parliament, with seats aligned for seventy members, a voting space and computers. Buried deep beneath this giant Faraday box were incredibly powerful batteries, they would power the electronic intranet that would be used to track food, cargo and cannabis sales, votes in the Twin Counties parliament and other regional affairs. Several alcoves, serving as offices, were located on the east end of the parliament. The entire building, framed by wooden panels, with large glass windows held by steel-beams that jutted out at various angles deep into the dirt, had a massive double-door opening for the delivery of goods, while the sealed parliament had its own entrance on the north side. Park’s Parliament, as it would later be called, served as offices for Federal and local officials, and later as workspace for Park administrators.
By the end of the pre-calamity construction boom, some four-hundred houses featuring two and three bedrooms, gravity toilets and septic tanks, over one-thousand four room cabins with shared outhouses and outside gravity showers, thirty artisanal and forty deep ground wells and some fifty roads were built. The rest of population lived in informal cabins made before the Federal Response agency decided on this last minute manic project. The Federal government collapsed after the calamity within days, yet by then, accustomed to little reliance on DC, the people of Park took little notice. The Federal administrators integrated into daily life of the newly pre-electical society, and over the course of a decade the area from the Pacific Ocean to the old Interstate 5, namely from Eureka to Etna, became simply known as the Park region. Within a year of the calamity Park established a civilian defense force, and Stone assisted in training teenagers how to shoot rifles, build temporary shelters, and, in various ways, to fight.
“Shattered, wake up.”
Shattered looked up at Stone. He noticed his tan skin, his muscular slim torso (Stone rarely wore a shirt in the summertime), his bald head, his thick arms. Those were arms of a man who worked from dawn to dusk, and sometimes late into the night. Chopping wood. Fixing plumbing. Sealing roofs. Making, mending, this was Stone’s form of meditation. A body in motion. He slept about four to six hours a night. Shattered slept at least double that. Shattered’s light ashen body rose from the floor.
“Damn it, I was just dreaming of my first husband. He was a real good fuck, sexy as hell.” Mar shouted from her bed, from underneath several quilts.
“Stone’s here, we need to prepare for the meeting tonight.”
“Well, give me a minute Stone; I need to get…”
“Yes, Mar.” And Stone loaded Mar’s bong. He left.