Martialla is excited because she found a functioning solar battery (among other things) in the traders’ junkpile but since we have nothing to plug into it and I doubt we’re going to come across a hair dryer or a CD player, I don’t see what the big deal is. Her priorities are out of whack.
We’ve come to an area where the ground has big furrows in it like there’s a colony of giant moles digging around under the earth. Martialla says that this is from the earthquake activity but that makes no sense. Earthquakes make cracks in the ground, not lines? Although now that I think about it, if two plates are pulling apart that means one of them has to be smooshing into a third one on the other side? I should have paid more attention in geology class. Also I should have taken a geology class.
At one point I saw some eyes peering out from about ten feet deep in a crevasse. All I could see was two tiny shining white pinpricks of reflected light but I got the sense they belonged to something much bigger than the eyes would suggest. I had the perverse desire to stop and get a closer look. Like a little fish blundering into one of those other fish with the light thing on their head. Good thing Martialla was driving. My wrist has been bothering lately and she’s better at handling this piece of crap buggy anyway.
When we did come to a stop it was because she said that she saw a landmine sticking out of one of the furrows. She was worried about possibly driving into a minefield based on the theory “why would there be just one landmine?” I’m not totally convinced that she knew what she was talking about because I thought landmines looked kind of like Frisbees and this thing looked more like a thermos to me. She spent a lot of time looking around with the binoculars and saying what we needed was some ground penetrating radar. Yeah, I’ll see what I can do about that.
I gestured at the sluggishly flowing greyish waters “You can’t put landmines in a river, can you? Maybe we should travel in the water for a while. It doesn’t look very deep.”
Martialla glanced at the gravy-esque ribbon besides us “You mean the river that’s full of poison?”
“I wasn’t suggesting that we drink the water while we do it. I’m just trying to offer alternatives. You’re the one who’s worried about a minefield in northern California. I say we just drive on.”
“Ela, I feel like I’ve told you a million times that anything could have happened while we were asleep. There’s some very real evidence that there was a Russian army invasion at some point, in which case it would make total sense for someone to be laying down mines.”
I scoffed “Why would Russia invade California?”
Martialla gestured helplessly “I have no god damn idea! That’s my point Ela, we don’t know. Think about all the shit that happened in the last hundred years before we were frozen. World War One, World War Two, Korea, Vietnam, half the countries that existed in nineteen oh two aren’t around anymore. Think of all the stuff that was invented! Cars, planes, radios, lasers, battery powered sexual devices, computers. People traveled to the moon Ela, the moon! A hundred years is a long time!”
“Huh, I suppose you’re right. My grandma was born in nineteen thirty, she must have seen a lot of stuff go down.”
For lack of a better idea, we tried the river. It was too deep for the buggy to drive in but the thing is so flimsy and it partially floats so we struggled upriver pushing/dragging/carrying the thing through the water for maybe two miles. (Martialla’s note – it was barely half a mile at best) It was a serious pain in the ass. Eventually we gave up and dragged the thing out of the water on the east side and hoped there were no mines over there. How big could a minefield be anyway? I feel like even burying one square mile of mines would take forever and majorly suck. I bet the people whose job it is to make minefields just toss down a couple, call it a day and go back to base to jerk each other off.
A few hours later (we didn’t get blown up by mines obviously) the ground flattened out and we saw fields. Actual cultivated fields with channels from the river for irrigation. Aside from the scale, which was small, it looked like something approaching modern agriculture. Although it looked like it belonged in the Midwest, not California. I have no idea what they were growing, corn and soybeans are about the extent of my ability to visually identify, but it looked like grain of some kind. Wheat maybe? Sorghum? Sorghum is a thing right?
We watched for quite a while because there had to be people somewhere and eventually we saw them. It’s hard to say without getting closer but they seemed especially short even for future people. They also had huge red bug eyes – and I mean literal bug eyes with all the little cells, not like Steve Buscemi. Other than that, they didn’t look very buggy. The guy at the bazaar that we saw looked more buggy than these people with chitin and such, also he was much larger.
“Is this it then? This doesn’t seem like the kind of place to get water filters.”
Martialla took the binoculars away from her face and gave me one of her patented “Look, you keep asking me things like I somehow have more information than you do. It’s really getting on my nerves. How the hell would I know if this is the place?”