Shattered sat in the isolation yurt, looking up at the light coming through the circular glass covered opening in the center of the ceiling. After arriving at the Marin-Park trade zone, the group came to the large timber gate. They waited about an hour. Ordinarily, this type of wait, a relatively minor one for a major inter-regional border crossing, would not have made Shattered feel restless. But his sense of time, his pace in and of life, his inner clock ticked faster than the world he had left and now returned to. Only thirty days in Marin, and he had begun to feel the need for fast, frictionless, no-wait, no-delayed movement through the world; a restless movement that required every movement be devoted, or at least, to something, engaged in some way, some fashion he could not articulate or explain to himself. Shattered paced. The gate slid open a little, about two meters. Three Park civilian defense ministers, wearing masks, gloves and goggles, donning grey uniformed sports-wear with small, metallic white triangles on their right chests, indicating they were ministers of the medical containment unit, escorted the six to the other side.
“You will all, per Park regional regulations, need to be in containment and isolation for monitoring for a period of at least fourteen-days. This can be expanded based on your health presentation, and can last up to a year, but must be renewed by the administator every twenty-and-eight days.” They had to say this. Even though Marin citizens were healthier, and it was Marin that actually supplied Park with vaccines and medicines that didn’t require refrigeration, every person, no matter from where, had to be quarantined for a period of fourteen-days. Special isolation yurts were set up at various checkpoints, from this major hub on the coast to inland posts at Willow Creek, Etna, to the northernmost outposts along the Smith and Klamath Rivers; various peaks were equipped with monitoring stations, mostly for wildfire alerts, but occasionally for spotting the few people who managed to make the journey over the steep mountains that straddled the former California-Oregon border. Park’s region came near the former border, but never formally entered into the erstwhile state of Oregon. While Park’s formal boundaries were clear, and much smaller, for the last decade, since most of the northern region became less inhabited, Park had claimed the area from Applegate-Manizanita Lake to where the Smith River flowed into the Pacific Ocean as part of its region-of-influence.
Regular expeditions, led by Park civilian defense forces alongside plant life researchers, geologists – taught at the one thing left that could be called a university, Park Biology and Forestry Association – and miners, were allowed to venture up into the southwestern tip of old Oregon. The people of this region were dangerous for the first five years after the calamity. Almost always armed and often prejudiced against what they saw as an overpopulated – mixed -, arrogant and too centrally organized invasion, they several times attacked Park denizens and outposts. As the civilian defense forces built up a series of outposts, timber walls, booby-traps, trip wires and armed its northern forces with various types of guns and rifles, the attacks from their racist, fearful and disorganized northern neighbors slowed and then stopped. A decade after the calamity, after waves of disease hit these unorganized regions, the land emptied of most of its former inhabitants, and the civilian forces of Park moved from defensive positions to research and exploration.
Shattered knew all this. He knew that quarantine procedures were essential. Morph Zed had revealed to him a classified secret: His parents had died of a type of viral hemorrhagic fever after encountering a group of very ill people; they were on an early expedition, but to where? Even Marin’s Intelligence Agency could not determine this, and Park’s administrators had stonewalled all but the medical examinations; officially, the couple had been interested in cartography, and mapping the outer parts of Park and beyond. Yet, they seemed to have been ordered to leave abruptly, and, more strangely, leave their one-year old child in the care of Park’s nascent government. Who placed the order? – Where were they heading? – unknown. The report read dryly:
Near Applegate Lake, the Soulsby couple found a group of some fifty people, in various stages of illness, apparently with some type of hemorrhagic fever. They took precautions to avoid contact, but had been infected, and by the time they reached the nearest Park outpost, blood poured out of their orifices. They did not ask for admission, and they died painfully, although together in the forest at Park Outpost 18 [41°55’47.6″N 123°11’00.3″W], on seventh day of the month of February, 2032 [temperature 12.C, time 23:55). Before the couple died, the Park authorities authorized the use of a drone to collect blood and tissue samples. Virus identified, sequenced and vaccination created on the twelfth day of the month of May, 2032 in laboratory 12, Marin Central Nexus. Noted: covert post-retrieval aerial surveillance of the region indicated a bright blue sphere appearing for 1.203 seconds.
What’s in a calamity? – all of this. Although he read this Marin IA classified report, along with notes that had been passed from the crew at the crow’s nest – the elevated outpost on top of a large wooden fence – documenting the two days his parents sat outside, how they had water and some food delivered to them by a rope in large flasks and bags, Shattered had never actually seen this type of suffering until his first visit to Morph Zed.
It was three days after his initial visit with Shattered that the Premier decided to release the text. He called for Shattered, let him read the report but barred him from viewing the footage of his parents from the medical drone. “For whatever reason, the blue sphere phenomena occurred at their exact location. Park classified all of these documents. Mar knew of the incident and she immediately left – for you, I presume. Of course, those at the outpost saw the blue sphere, but they were prohibited from speaking about it, and since it was a violation of our inter-regional agreement that we had maintained high-altitude surveillance, a practice we’ve only done on three occasions in Park’s regions, we did not feel the need to inform them.”
Living in Park, Shattered had felt safe, and he had, in fact, been quite safe considering the current state of most of his fellow species. He was treated to the best inoculations Marin could make. He had excellent food, fresh air and could amble around the forests, hills and rivers all he liked. Yet, ten years ago, when he heard of the place Marianians call fifty-two north, he felt an upsurge, a kind of carnal desire, to go their.
Is that where his parents were headed? – no one would answer him because he did not pose the question, expect privately to himself. He had, his entire adult life researched the libraries tirelessly, talked endlessly at parties, gatherings and even at the Forum about 53°25’05.5″N 132°20’33.5″W. He eventually became known as an obsessive. Park had many obsessives. Men who collected old bits of metal in wheel-barrels for hours on end. Will I end up one of them? – he couldn’t tell. Or was he taking after his parents, who seemingly had the same wanderlust? Ruminating on the entirety of the last thirty-days, the massive shifts in his consciousness, the fact that quarantine was more for his mind than his body – for he needed to slow down – Shattered fell asleep in the yurt after the light dimmed.
Awaking around 22:00 he noted a small slip of paper under the door:
“Dinner is in a tiffin box just outside. The yellow line leads to the outhouse. Please use the alcohol sanitizer, shower twice a day, and try to enjoy your time here. Books and magazines are available on request, please state the title or genre on the back of this paper, place it with the used tiffin and we will attempt to deliver the appropriate books or magazines.”
Opening the wooden door, Shattered noted the tiffin, opened it and ate his rice, broccoli, boiled beans and onions watching the night sky. Finally, I can see the stars. It is good to be back. His kerosene lamp illuminated a bare room; after dinner he turned it off, looked out the window and noted that another yurt, some twenty-and-five meters away, had its light still on. He was not told, and did not know – after they were placed into the isolation zone they had been separated – which of the other five inhabited that yurt. He thought maybe it was Knowledge. He wanted it to be Knowledge. He found himself wanting to be close to Knowledge. Stony silence. Pine, Redwood and ocean smells.
He fell into a deep sleep.