A decade, Clem thought. That’s how long the skeleton of a building he was about (perhaps) to buy had been abandoned.
Only the roof’s ribs remained, no evidence of its former covering. Discolored and torn plastic sheets hanging from a few standards seemed improvised, temporary. A few long sheets of ribbed metal laying on the ground were the walls’ more likely remnants.
The interior was a bric-a-brac of weeds rising above disheveled piles of cinderblock and palettes. Near the absent front door, a mountain bike, incongruous except for its disrepair.
“Gone in two weeks,” Clem said, deciding on the purchase.
The major cities had grown in size while shrinking in number, each its own benevolent dictatorship. Outside the cities civilization had stalled, like a car out of gasoline.
Those wanting to live outside of authoritarian rule went to the towns, where resource rationing was necessary. Liberty required sacrifice.
Technology not requiring electricity was rejuvenated. Bicycles, watermills, typewriters, spinning wheels, smithies, spring-driven clocks, agricultural use of domesticated animals. Humanity needed a generation to re-learn how to use technologies it had ignored for centuries, but the knowledge and skills returned.
Some saw it as social regression. Others as humanity’s return to sanity.
Aldainian researchers debated the purpose of Christmas Trucks for months.
Scholars hadn’t even agreed on the tradition of installing and decorating a dead tree, a custom more prevalent in the planet’s northern hemisphere. The trees somehow functioned to increase both religious observance and non-essential spending.
Unlike those curious trees, the plants delivered by Christmas Trucks were alive. They were generally unadorned, and served no observable ritual or commercial purpose.
Penance for the tree’s death? Inspiration for purchasing activity? Agreement proved impossible.
The debate raged until Aldanian scholarship turned attention to the role of chicken eggs in northern hemisphere spring rituals.
“What are you feeling?” she asked, raising her voice over the fall of cascading waters.
He blinked. The hike had been his idea, as the helicopter tour wasn’t appealing. His feet now tingled with exhaustion, but he knew he’d made the right choice.
The waterfalls were arrayed along two levels, a dozen or so at the top of the cliff feeding a thin pool that flowed into three at the second level. Water flowed constantly, landing forcefully and creating a mist he felt on his face several hundred safe meters away.
“I feel small, insignificant,” he replied. “And content.”
The tree was doomed. City building codes prohibited any natural or man-made obstruction within three feet of a fire escape ladder. Annual trimming had kept branches a safe distance away, but the tree had grown unmanageably large, requiring monthly maintenance.
The city notified apartment management, and residents received flyers in their mailboxes. A 20-year tenant organized a meeting against the city’s decision.
“We need green spaces,” he wrote in his flyer. “The city needs a different solution for this code violation.”
He expected a dozen at the meeting, but close to 50 came – a promising start to the campaign.