Mar made her way back to her cabin. The evening did not bring any substantial relief from the heat. Unusual for these parts. Normally cools off at night, but it’s one of them rare Northern California nights. Damn, I feel like a cat underneath a hot tin roof. Would be nice to move out of this dump. Meant to be temporary. Temporary turned into years, years turned into decades. Supposin’ my new celebrity might let me get out of here? Get a new place? Then my boy could have a nice place to return to. He’s is always sleeping in the woods anyways, but I ought to make an effort. Depression. I have been depressed. Feeling so good today made me realized how awful I have felt for… years. Mar laid on her bed, wearing only a light, thin, almost transparent, beige gown on. She thought. And thought. She remembered Sullivan’s Island. What a place. Why, I was so happy when Hugo hit, tore that shitty bourgeois white Confederate place up. My parents! The look on their faces when that damn bridge got so mangled. Twisted up and down like a Richard Serra sculpture. Forty-percent of the slaves, some four in ten of the four-hundred thousand souls sent to the colonies went through there, that little damn island. And it’s celebrated. It was. A so-called good neighborhood. White, upper-middle class, delusional. I am glad it’s underwater now. Toni Morrison was right, there needed to be a memorial. Did eventually have one. Too small. Should have moved the whole lot of people out of there, turned it into a historical museum. The whole island. We literally lived in a former concentration camp. They used the place for quarantining slaves.
Mar felt anger well-up inside of her chest. Tears, ever so small droplets, the tears of small child perhaps, manifested just around the lower part of her eyes. How am I going to explain all of that to Kenya. Her father, of course, he knew. He was a man of DC. Towards the end, near the end – when we confirmed the Carrington Event – he was given the post here. He requested it. He said… What was it? “It’s the best place for my wife and family.” I thought this absurd. He wanted a family. The models predicted total collapse: governments, economies, over five to six billion dead within two years of the event, and here was this man so full of hope. A real public servant. The last administration held firmly to science. They reorganized the government. The Congress passed sensible laws. All at the end. We were so arrogant. We thought the biggest danger, ha! The real risk was ourselves. Some nuclear war, even something at least terrestrial like a virus, we had our share of those in the 20s’, but in the end it was the Sun. Just a mass solar ejection, and over two-hundred years of so-called technological development and advancement, population increase, whoosh, wiped out. Jamal wanted to raise a family in a place with fresh air. Remote but organized. He was dispatched to set up this place, and there were five others. According to Marin, none of the other places succeeded. Last time I was there. I visited a couple years after the event. Just for a short time… Why? I can’t remember. I got a briefing, came back… Oh, to report to Jamal. The restrictions on electrical tech prevented us from knowing about the others. And the tech we had didn’t survive too well. And…
Mar awoke. The sun. Morning. She put wood in the stove. Damn it’s hot but I want some coffee. She made some in her old stainless steal Italian stove-top espresso maker. The water boiled through the beans, upwards. The old steal, stained to a near hazel color, sizzled. She poured the coffee into a cup, then put a bit of water in with it. A knock.
“Comin'” Dear lord. Peace. Mar opened the rickety door Stone had recently installed.
Autumn Spring’s preternaturally beautiful face – slender, white, flawless, lit by the bright mid-morning sky, sent a bit of a shock through Mar’s body. For a moment she thought Autumn Spring looked like her sister, some many decades ago. Awakening to her visitor’s actual presence, she said, “Come in.”
“Autumn, have a seat. Listen, Stone will vote for the measure, motion, whatever, if you aren’t the one to bring it up.”
“That’s fine. How did you get him to do it?”
“He’ll do it.” Mar didn’t like Autumn Spring’s smugness. She wore a light, tight Marin purple summer dress. Mar didn’t like the type of hierarchy that the Spring family represented. They reminded her too much of her own family. Although they were entirely different. Autumn Spring’s father and mother had inherited a lot of land here after her father’s father died. Her father had been in the diplomatic corps, eventually rising to the status of ambassador. He came from Northern California. Grew up in Forks of Salmon. Her mother grew up in New York City. They met at Columbia. As Thomas Spring moved up government ladder, Patricia Spring made a lateral move to her father’s brokerage firm on Wall Street. Elites. Yes. But not snobs. Almost, Mar tried to recall the term, bourgeois bohemians. Or the late 20s’ term, eco-oligarchs. Although, Mar didn’t feel that fair because they weren’t oligarchs, nothing like the Zed or Foo families. They were just upper-middle class, wealthy, and they wanted out. She could relate.
Even before the possibility of the calamity became known, Autumn Spring’s parents sensed they needed to move somewhere to be self-sufficient. Or safer. The pandemics raged. The nation fractured. The militias were out. Jamal Cohen Senior knew they had land here. A deal was made. They became the organizers of the commerce side of things, and Jamal handled the politics. Eventually, with the development of Park by the Federal government, then with the influx of people, then the closing of Park’s regional borders, then the Prime Amendments, the family had organized nearly all of the merchants into cooperatives, and Patricia had secured the only charter for an independent bank in Park, with the ability to transfer currency between Marin and any other post-C2 resettlements, as they were called, that might have survived. And yet, they demurred from running anything directly, and left most of the places to be run on their own. Autumn Spring’s parents didn’t want power. They wanted safety, comfort and respect. They had it.
Unlike her parents, Autumn Spring wanted power. Mar felt it. Mar admired it as much as she despised it. It reminded her of herself at that age. Idealistic, hungry for change. But wait, Mar thought, as she sat in silence with Autumn Spring. Looking at her. Mar was a scientist, an explorer; she never sought to change the course of history, and perhaps for that reason she had.
“Well, I am just glad he’s agreed.” Autumn Spring broke the silence. It wasn’t an awkward silence, but she felt a shift in Mar’s comportment. A more assured, even forceful, being appeared before her. She had never felt Mar to be assured or forceful. Just an old woman whiling away her days in a corner of the world, smoking cannabis and taking mushrooms. She was ignorant of Mar’s history, although not entirely without knowledge of some it. She knew she had been a scientist or something. But she never had the curiosity enough to care to ask, inquire or research this. She didn’t realize she sat across from a giant. Autumn Spring felt herself to be the size of a Mount Shasta, yet she was actually a rolling hill. The real Mountain sat next to her. The old woman. The woman she liked, not admired but liked, well-enough to use.
Mar sat erect in her chair. Sipped her coffee. She stared at Autumn Spring.
“Autumn, dear, tell me, why did you give Stone the contract to build all the equipment necessary to transport the Marin team and S to the north, beyond Park’s regional area of influence?”
Taken aback by the clarity, and the accent – one that didn’t sound like the ill-educated woman from South Carolina – of Mar’s voice, Autumn Spring, unusually, demurred for a moment.
“Well, uh, I thought he’d be the best person for the job.”
“A bribe. You can’t bribe a man like Stone. He told me the amount you are paying him. Far beyond cost.”
“It’s an exceptional project, Mar. Politically charged…”
*featured image: (Courtesy Walks of Italy)