Shattered, shattered, awoke. He looked up the high ceiling. Flowers were painted over thick, white cornices. Red roses. Red flowers. The ceiling was a light blue. The walls had some sort of decorative design. He placed his hand on the wall. It felt smooth, almost paper-like, to the touch. Wallpaper. Considered a waste of paper in Park, he had never experienced it, although he had read about in architectural books. He had gone through a phase of wanting to be an architect, but gave up on that due to his incessant restlessness. And design was quite a simple matter in Park. Aside from The Long Road, most people preferred to design and build their own homes, a few architectural specialists, mostly older, people who came before the calamity, advised on the technical details. Other than that, a great creativity bloomed alongside pragmatism and resource constraints, leading to all sorts of habitats. Yurts, mound houses, many cabins with hand-woven land-art, blended into Park’s mostly forested oasis. An oasis it was, is – Shattered ruefully thought to himself, recalling that he’d been exiled to this awful, flat valley with strange smells.
“Why there is my soon to be son-in-law! How do you do?” A tall and slender man, of some sixty-or-seventy, stood over Shattered as he lay on a sofa. The man wore a strange hat, a bits of white hair stood out around his ears and neck. His suit, black with pinstripes seemed new, and he smoked a small wooden pipe. He spoke with an accent similar to Mar’s, yet it had a certain fluidity to it, a certain rhythm he hadn’t ever noticed when speaking to Mar. The man extended his hand. Without thinking, Shattered, still slightly weak, put out his hand. The forceful pull of the old man’s hand made him stand up.
“Come on, son. Let’s talk in the parlor.” He led Shattered out of the large room, a room with only one piece of furniture, the couch he had slept on; perhaps it was used as dancing hall given its spaciousness and hardwood floors. He took Shattered through a long corridor with paintings of people, large, detailed paintings in thick frames. It smelt funny. A curious blend of clean and dust. Of things old and also well kept. A place where precious things are held, dusted, polished, repaired. The spotless, shining parquet floorboards creaked gently under the weight of the two walkers. Shattered looked up, he saw angels painted on the ceiling, images of cherubs with trumpets, they almost looked sculptural, three-dimensional. He could tell they were painted, but they almost deceived his eyes. The man, stoic, held onto Shattered’s right arm. The man’s right hand, free of any child to carry, held his pipe. The smell of tobacco calmed Shattered; he wanted to ask if he had a cigarette, but he decided to stay quiet.
Inside the parlor, several couches sat around the edges of the rectangular room; two very pale, blonde young women, both around ten-and-five years of age, sat on the far end, near a large bay window, sewing. They wore simple white gowns. On the other end, several large hanging lights illuminated the corner where the man took Shattered. “I am John Goldwood. I am the Duke of Modesto. I did not think the title appropriate, but I can’t stop the people from what the people want, you hear, son?” The man had already sat on a small white sofa, large enough for two people, and he gestured for Shattered – who just now realized he was released from the man’s arm – to sit on the other identical sofa, which faced the old man. Shattered sat down slowly into the soft left cushion, directly across from his host and captor.
“You might be wondering why I had you come here. Well, I am one for frankness, and let me tell you — What your name again son?”
“Oh no, that won’t do. I’ll call you… Robert for now. What an awful name to give someone. Those parents at Park are a bunch of neo-hippy…”
“My parents gave me another name, but I chose Shattered.”
“You chose it? Why? What on… What’s your real name, the one your parents, who with their God given rights, gave you?”
“OK, Timothy, that’s better.”
“Please don’t call me that name; only my parents could utter it. Call me S for now. Or Mr Soulsby.”
“At least you have a proper last name; good Anglo-Saxon.”
“I suppose.” Shattered sighed in frustration. “Listen… John.”
The man hit Shattered across the face with a long cane. The cane, made of a dark hardwood, had a metal tip that could pierce through skin. The sides, although less deadly, when swung against one’s face, hurt incredibly. Shook, Shattered held the right side of his head. The man had swung with his left arm, and then gently the cane back to the side of the couch and lit his pipe. He looked at Shattered as if nothing had happened.
“Mr Goldwood, or Duke, only – you aren’t my son-in-law just yet, Mr Soulsby. We don’t go calling people we have not kin-relations with by their forenames. Understand?”
“Yes.” A bit of blood ran down his face. One of the young women came over, placed a linen napkin on his lap and left. The old man didn’t even look at her. He stared at Shattered.
“Clean yourself up. Now, as I was saying, you are needed here. We are having a genetic problem. We need someone from the outside. You see, there is a train-line that brings the coal here from our continental Confederacy of communities, but it does not transport men, or rather, it does but not men who are able to marry into my family. We have a small a corner of the New Confederacy, a good piece of paradise here. All of Modesto and about a hundred miles from the Great Mountains deep into the valley. All mine. And yet, we have certain problems. Many of us were already related. And when we came out here, we wanted to make sure we maintained racial purity. But it came with a cost. Some deformities, some accidental inbreeding, you see in the days after the sky wiped out the Beast, we lived in a state of movement and chaos. And families, good, white families, came here. But we could not be sure they were truly white, so we kept what we could, and stopped others. Some people ending up marrying their kin, unbeknownst to the couple, and this led to problems. Lately, since Marin has shut us off from trade – they traded those machines for tending our crops and some solar panels for food, until – well let’s say we have a different view about ethics. Anyway, the train line runs from Modesto to West Virginia, and it is perilous – maintained and protected by a loose coalition of good men, many of my own family, my son is the Deputy of the Railway. But lately raids by niggers, kikes, and just opportunists – race traitors too – have led to a decrease in my continental trade. And with it, the problem is, I am being squeezed from the west and the east. I can’t – during these financially difficult times – procure a potent man for my daughter. And she must produce. She is my first-born.”
“An heir, her sisters are barren. I am not leaving this Earth until I have an heir. And you will seed her, but you must be married first. You look a little sickly, but that’s just hippy living. With a little time here, you’ll be in fine shape. I want a grandson. Marin people, they have so much technology on genetics, but they won’t share it.” The old man shook his head. “Damn elite kikes and niggers!” He slammed his foot on the ground. The two women brought over a glass each; the large crystal glasses contained lemonade.
“Ah, just what I need.” The old man again did not recognize the existence of the two young women.
“We’ve had miscarriages and problems in the family. My son is… Let’s say he can’t have children. But the doctors all say my loving Farthing is fine to birth. We just needed new blood – good blood. And your administrator did a swap. We had two of our children, well a nephew of mine and that whore, run away. They tried to take some niggers with em’, but the men shot the animals down. I made sure that none of my kin were shot. I take that very seriously. So they made it to a Park outpost and request asylum! Wanted to leave on so-called grounds of conscience. Confused, they are confused. Well, I said I would not tolerate it. Then that Tallie of yours, he knew about my little problem; we’ve been trading at Etna for years, and he said he had a solution: you. So we let our kin go to get a grandson. We have a great doctor, you’ll see him to-morrow for a full examination, Dr Van der Sandt. A great man from a place that was once great, you heard of South Africa?”
“Yes.” Shattered uttered quietly. A severe terror flowed over and through his body, a body that felt violated, distended and almost alien.
Shattered had read a book, which contained graphic photographs, about the apartheid-era in South Africa, and he knew this ‘doctor’ was on the side of these people for reasons he could not bring himself to fully to think about. What exactly is this doctor doing here? Why that name? Why does that name bother me so much? Yes… The calamity, just before the calamity he was involved in experiments… The Hideous Belle, he was… I can’t remember the…
“You listening to me! Oh, I suppose you need a bit more rest. Mary, get this man to his bed, and make sure you don’t speak to him.” The young woman left her sewing, walked over and stood as stiff as a tree waiting.
“Why can’t she speak to me?”
“Because our women-folk don’t speak to outsiders, and you ain’t inside just yet.”
*featured image: Apartheid South Africa, Getty Images (C)