The New World: Chapter 4
By The Holland Times Wed. 6 June 2012
The ancient Maya were right. Not about the end of the world, but about the dawn of a new way of life. In the year 1, electricity is a thing of the past and anarchy reigns. Struggling to survive and build a safe future, the fate of civilisation is left in the hands of a remaining few.
Patience gets a lesson on power in ADAM WARNER's Chapter 4: Potatoes.
Patience looked down at the first electric lights she had seen a long time. Below in the moonlight she could make out a single road leading into the town, curling round the hill she stood upon like a tail. She picked her way down, stumbling over rocks and through scree. Reaching the bottom she started down the road towards the town, drawn by the light. Stopping to glance behind, she was unable to tell by silhouette whether she was looking at the hill from the same side she remembered when she was last conscious. She could not even be sure that it was the same town she approached, it looked so different. An illuminated town.
She stopped at a sign and silently mouthed the words, unsure how to pronounce it. The town was called Voedendal. Past the sign, the buildings and houses on the outskirts were dark and silent, only those buildings at the epicentre were lit. Half a ghost town, trapped between the light and the dark. Nerves rising in her throat, her breathing became ragged. She tried to stop the sound of her own breath filling her ears by clamping a hand over her mouth, trying to focus on the slight sounds of loose things tapping in the wind. There were no signs of life. The buildings were widely spaced, a town that was built without the constraints of space she was familiar with in the city she grew up in. She moved forward, weaving her way between the houses, keeping in cover. So far there was nothing to fear in this empty town, but the silence and lights made her uneasy. As she passed a ramshackle garage attached to a large white house with flaking paint, she stopped. From inside she could hear an low whirring buzz, the unmistakable sound of electricity.
She crept towards the garage through the long unkempt grass and pressed her ear against the door, it was rough against her skin and the loose hinges rocked the door at her touch. Inside she could hear more than just a buzz, there was a scraping and shuffling and by the time she realised it was becoming louder and closer the door opened, leaving Patience leaning against empty space. She fell sideways stumbling into the dark rust smelling room. She never hit the floor, but was caught by something and pushed back through the door before her eyes adjusted to the dark.
"Well well child, there you are." she was held in the arms of man with greying hair, he was old by Patience's standards but no older than 40, dressed in overalls and long, red stained rubberised gloves.
"We've been wondering where you got to". He smiled all crooked yellow teeth. He knew her somehow. Patience opened her mouth to speak, but it only flapped soundless. The man did not let go.
"Some people are going to be very happy to see you again child, come."
He loosened his grip, but kept a hand on her shoulder to guide her, leading her through the streets towards the centre of the town.
"How… how do you know me? Patience finally asked.
"Your friends brought you here child, carried into our little town asleep."
"Oh yes, they're around here somewhere, but where did you go child? We put you in a bed, and the next time we check on you, you've disappeared. Where did you get to?"
"I don't know, I woke up on the hill." Patience turned slightly against the firm grasp of the man and vaguely pointed in the direction of the hill, although she could see nothing in the dark.
"Ha!" he exclaimed. "Incredible." Patience thought he would say more but he only turned her back towards the direction they were heading, never relinquishing his hold.
As they walked through the town, Patience began to hear more, she could make out the faint sound of people talking. As they got closer to the centre of town people were coming out of houses, people she did not recognise, they stood on verandas to watch them pass. They said nothing nor made any further approach, but stood at the borders of their property and studied them. Now Patience was bathed in light, it radiated from the houses, it dripped off trees in wrapped fairy lights, it was everywhere and it was breathtaking. Patience, still guided by the man, closed her eyes as if basking in sunlight.
They took a sharp turn and Patience opened her eyes to stop becoming disorientated, they had turned into a cul-de-sac, all the houses were dark except one. "Here we are Patience. Oh, of course, where are my manners? My name is Aaron, a pleasure to meet you while you're awake Patience. Such a beautiful name." He smiled that yellow grin. They ascended the veranda, through an unlocked screen door and into the kitchen. Aaron sat Patience down in a chair at a table covered in wire and bits of metal and electrical equipment. For the first time since they had met he let go of her. She relaxed almost immediately.
"How?" she asked pointing at the lights.
"A good question child, a very good question. Well Patience, did you ever make a clock run from a potato?" Patience shook her head. "Most living things are powered by electro-chemical reactions, all animals, even you and me. Our brains, our synapses, our nervous systems all respond to minute electrical signals. Now what ever happened to the world we live in, did not effect you or I or our electro-chemical reactions, or those of cows and pigs or apples or potatoes. If you take a potato and some wire and wire everything up to a clock you can make that clock run just by those reactions. And that's what we do here".
"You run this whole town on potatoes?"
Aaron threw his head back and laughed. "Oh dear no child. We use bigger things than potatoes." Patience started at a sound outside and heard the screen door open.
"Aha, here's someone that will be glad to see you!" Patience turned to see a man standing in the doorway, the light shining out into the darkness obscured his face, but she recognised the silhouette immediately. It was Bébé.