I picked someone out of the crowd at random – a gnarly looking guy (?) in wearing leather that looked like actual armor who had an actual sword (well not an actual-actual sword, it was made out of scrap) that I swear to you was no bigger than an eleven year old girl – and asked him what he thought we could do about the river poison situation. He had arrived with some other people as stick-thin and spindly as pre-teen girls in a boxy red machine that looked sort of like a moving truck. He looked back at them for support and then said a bunch of gibberish that I couldn’t understand.
One of the vulture people (who I didn’t even know were there until that moment) came forward to translate. I will ask again – how can these people understand my flawless unaccented mainstream American English without a hint of deviant Northern Cities Vowel Shift nonsense when they don’t speak it? I heard this about different dialects of Chinese, someone might be able to understand a couple different dialects but only speak one. Then again the guy that told me that was Laotian so who the hell knows? I’ll never be able to wrap my head around it. I should have paid more attention in linguistics class. Also I should have taken a linguistics class.
Anyway the gist of the babysitter club sword and leather guy’s statement was that the Bosstown assholes had the water filters and weren’t sharing and therefore were assholes. I guess I should have divined that was the case by the way the Bosstown people freaked out when he said his gibberish. After some small amount of violence and childish name calling, I was able to get control of things again. It’s a tough row to hoe when you have to rely on an interpreter to tell you what’s going on seventy percent of the time but as my grandmother always said “could be the way it was sown”.
The good news is that I have both a silver tongue and a commanding voice. My agent used to say that I had such a knack for convincing people to believe me or do things for me that he thought I was subliminally controlling people with modulation and pitch of my voice. Not only that though, I also have an aura of natural authority, a sort of royal dignity and majesty that makes people stand in awe even if they don’t fully understand what I’m saying. It’s like a magnetic attraction. Plus I’m pretty, so, so pretty. Everyone used to say so.
After some additional violence and childish name calling (is three people dying during a meeting good or is that too many? I never really had a real job in an office so I’m new at this) it was established that most of the villages have cisterns (which is different from a well somehow) that will last them a while but something needs to be done. It took a lot of convincing, and I’m great at convincing, but eventually everyone agreed that if Bosstown has any filters left from the last time this happened (they maintain that they don’t) it’s not enough for everyone. At that point they all agreed the best thing to do was for everyone to attack everyone else in an orgy of violence and destruction and whoever was still alive at the end (if anyone) would use the filters.
I suggested in the alternative that they could work together. They looked at me like I just gave birth to a cocker spaniel puppy with the head of Tom Brokaw. To get the ball rolling, I asked them where the filters came from in the first place. They said that they had come from an underground building from the olden times. When the river was poisoned once before and I quote “The strongest fighting men had gone up the river to the poisoned hills, had fought the things of shadows and fire and found the house of the ancients wherein lay the key to separate the good water from the bad” Sometimes these primitive screwheads talk like they’re in the Fellowship of the Ring. Martialla was going to be one of the ringwraiths in that movie but they said her boobs were too big. Can you believe that? True story.
The solution seemed pretty simple to me, go back there and get some more filters. They said that was impossible because of the balrog. They didn’t actually say that, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying. Other than that it is one hundred percent impossible to go get more filters because of the dangerous danger. I took a break from my mediation duties to sit in J-Lo and drink some filthy water and eat one of the last of our hundred year old energy bars. Martialla was toying with a small crossbow she had gotten from a guy that kinda looked like a samurai with a 1950’s woman’s haircut and three goiters the size of dill pickles.
“You know what they’re talking about, don’t you?”
“I have no idea. At one point I thought they were saying there were lavamen or something like that.” I looked at the crumbly stale energy bar in my hand sourly “I would burn someone alive for just a bite of a Monte Cristo right now.”
“They’re talking about robots.”
I snorted “What? Like those big arms that make cars in Detroit? Why would anyone get scared of that? I mean they are stupid, but they can’t be that dumb can they? I suppose it would make sense that there would be a bunch of filters in a car manufacturing plant. Cars have filters in them right?”
“Yeah, but that’s not what I mean. I mean like Terminator killer robots.”
I laughed “Get the fuck out of there, there’s no such thing.”
“I’ve been listening very carefully, and more importantly I’ve been watching the way these people act. They’re talking about robots. I keep trying to tell you just because we went into the deep freeze in oh two, that doesn’t mean that’s when everything stopped. Maybe some bad shit was going down on the West Coast but maybe in other places technology marched on. Maybe in twenty fifty they unleashed an army of killer robots and that’s part of the reason why everything is like this.”
I tossed the energy bar wrapper out the window – one good thing about the apocalypse, no need to be tidy “You’re crazy.”
“Think about the Roman Empire.”
“Do I have to?”
“People ask what caused the fall of the Roman Empire right? But the question makes no sense. Empires don’t fall overnight, they disintegrate slowly over generations. Maybe the Goths invading was the nail in the coffin that broke the camel’s back but that doesn’t make it the cause any more than disease or climate change or inbreeding or whatever else was weakening them for however long.”
I shook my head “What does this have to do with anything?”
“What I’m saying is that while the Roman Empire was in decline, they were still also coming up with new stuff. It’s not a one way street. Some Roman dude probably invented a new kind of concrete or something while the empire was crumbling. The same thing could have happened while we were in those tubes. Maybe during the first thirty years we were asleep, parts of the world kept going just fine. In fact, maybe the crisis accelerated the pace of technological advancement because people were trying to save their lives. Oh man, I just thought of this, what if a bunch of people working on space travel got off the planet and are living in a space station or on Mars?!”
“You’ve lost your mind, woman. Killer robots? Space stations? This isn’t a sci-fi adventure.”
“I’m just saying that . . .
I waved away her concerns “Yeah, yeah, whatever, it doesn’t matter because we’re going to find out soon enough.”
“Of course we are. Just like you said would happen, we’re going to have to go after those filters. None of these brain donors is going to do it.”