Friday, December 5, 2008

Chapter 8 - The Travelers

We achieved a semblance of peace, a self-sufficient little society.

Most were resigned to living out their days this way.

It was a classic feudal system, with our family serving as beneficent lords and masters. In any socio-political system; however, you will have dissidents. There was a small group that insisted on exploring, heading out to see if they could find other survivors, other breeders – for there was still some procreation going on.

Very limited, and impossibly indiscriminate, there was no rhyme or reason as to why some people were fertile and others were not.

The low birth numbers made for a class of pampered young like you wouldn’t believe. They were treated with such care and concern you’d have thought they were kings or gods, which, in a sense, they were.

They were our hope.

The numbers grew smaller and older, it was becoming obvious that we needed to listen to the dissidents and head further abroad to expand the gene pool.

One bold expedition discovered an outpost across the Rockies, a nomadic tribe living off feral cows and buffalo, much the same way Plains Indians did for hundreds of years several hundred years ago.

Our concept of time changed, the span of Old Era existence now looked brief.

Native people ceded to outside interlopers for what, 200 years, then western “civilization” and its industrialized way of life was gone. In the blink of an eye.

We were looking generations ahead whereas before we looked quarters, life in 3-month increments. It seems so myopic now, so, well, short-sighted.

These new natives, however, weren’t native at all. Their diet consisted almost entirely of animal flesh, as such they were violent and none-too-healthy. For awhile they were able to thrive because they still had ammunition and could easily outgun the competition.

Bullets didn’t make themselves, though, and lately their aim had been hit and miss at best.

Increasing numbers of carnivores and the stress of living hand-to-mouth was taking its toll. Attrition was high, off-spring few and at risk. They had young girls, though, and an arrangement was made to move the lot of them into our compound. They were more than ready for a change.

The addition of the Plains Folks augmented our breeding stock somewhat and they had acquired some hunting skills, which we honed and put to good use. So, they were very welcome, but it still wasn’t going to be enough.

Our Travelers would go out again. They had a similar experience during a southern expedition. In what was California, probably somewhere in Los Angeles or San Diego county, a group had survived along the coast.

The Boat Folk had found a sheltered area, well-protected by natural defenses, a cliff on one side, water on the other. They lived off the sea, mastering the construction and use of small boats from which they fished, and which also served as something of a religious icon.

Their old boats stood in rows along the beach like the heads on Easter Island.

Their culture, during the time in which it had to develop, in the time it took to devolve or evolve from what their recent ancestors called culture, was based on a worship of the sea as the provider of all life.

They weren’t very intelligent, the Boat Folk, or even very industrious, spending large portions of their free time surfing and lounging on the beach. Despite their love of the sea and sun, it wasn’t too hard to convince them of the benefits of moving to the Pacific Northwest and consolidating our tribes. There was extra motivation for us because their females were hot, that is to say, very attractive.

There was, by the way, nothing that said just because a woman couldn’t procreate she wouldn’t fornicate.

It was as the first New Era generation aged that we realized, that we surmised, we still did not have a sustainable gene pool.

Years of debate followed, interspersed with farming and copious amounts of golf on our two golf courses. We were like a retirement community from the era before, a bunch of old people playing golf in a gated compound. Some people called themselves the Decimation Angels, others referred to the compound as Aging Acres or the Final Farm – dark humor was a survival technique.

Discussions often turned to likely areas of continued human habitation, survival would require a temperate climate (or the means to survive the intemperate), readily available food sources, and safety from the animals.

The North American southeast seemed a likely spot for migration. We couldn’t count on agriculture still being practiced in the Midwest, the industrial farms that had been there weren’t exactly sustainable, and the Plains Folks seemed to think that was a dead end. Plus, after making the trek over the Cascades and the Rockies, no one wanted to do it again.

There were two camps within The Travelers.

One advocated heading south, returning to the Boat Folk encampment, replenishing supplies and then heading east to the Gulf of Mexico following the coast to Florida and then points up the eastern seaboard. We were skeptical about the possibility of large groups surviving the harsh northeast winters, yet the further north they could go the better chance they had to reach their ultimate destination.

There were those that believed if they could make camp for the winter say in New Jersey, wait for the spring, decamp, and get to Nova Scotia, they would be able to complete a trans-Atlantic voyage to Europe. The Vikings did it the other way around, and they weren’t even sure what the hell awaited them on the other side.

Some were growing increasingly desperate. We were talking about the survival of our species. Others, though, simply didn't care.

The second group was in agreement about the first leg, the path south to the Boat Folk camp. The absence of new arrivals from the north led all of us to believe Alaska was another dead end.

If there had been encampments in Asia and they contemplated a repeat voyage across the Bering Strait, they either deemed it too dangerous or died trying. Regardless, nobody was particularly interested in heading north of Puget Sound.

The second camp wanted to go further south, explore Central America, cross the isthmus of Panama, head down the east coast of South America and then encamp on the easternmost tip of Brazil to prepare for a trans-Atlantic crossing to Africa.

There was a certain primal logic to this idea, Africa being the cradle of all our ancestors. If we started there before maybe we could start there again.

As you might imagine these were momentous life or death decisions. We couldn’t make them overnight.

Plus, there was great golf to be played.

A guy who had worked for Jack Nicklaus had trained a new breed of greenskeepers capable of mastering links course management.

Traversing continents and oceans seemed a tad daunting compared to a peaceful loop around a beautiful golf course.

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