Fade To Tranquility
By Roy Farrell
Our story opens in a home retreated into the hills of Vermont, where the hero of the Great Purge is living quietly with his cat, Omni, far from the madding crowds...
Eric Pender slouched comfortably on the couch, watching the game, and stroking the cat laying by his side. "I'm finally living the way I've always wanted to. Undisturbed." His thoughts wandered from the vidscreen, across the living room, taking in the pine walls, and out of the great windows onto a field across the valley. Tiny specks flitted about on the hill, whose classification was known only to those who had seen them before. The herd of deer wandered slowly across the hill, feeding, cavorting, fitting in as part of the landscape which was becoming rare in many places. "All in the way of progress!" proclaimed the mighty developers as they quickly enveloped more and more. Eric disagreed with their actions, but he was too tired to fight. He had fought more than anyone would ever understand. He prevented his thoughts from wandering back to his ordeal with PTMC and Dravis. Too many ugly memories, too many things he had seen which screamed of human greed and its devastating effect.
His eyes once again wandered across the room, to the opposite side, where the dirt path winding into the woods served as his driveway. It was rarely used, except on Sundays, when he traveled into Waterbury to gather groceries and drop off his trash and recyclables. Through the mixed forest, where the leaves were just beginning to take a hint of browns, reds, and golds, he could see the stream at the edge of his property. Birch, beech, and the occasional hemlock or oak dotted the woods. Although he felt slightly lonely, he knew he could not return to society just yet. He flicked off the vidscreen, and walked out to his back porch, sliding the door shut behind him. Omni stretched and padded over the the door, and scratched at the glass. "Alright, c'mon out, ya fuzzball." Eric opened the door a crack, and an orange and white ball scooted out onto the pinewood floor, over a small carpet, and out the kitty door. Eric gave a light, muted laugh, and picked up his vest. It was a little cool for late September, but nothing drastic.
He opened the door, and stepped out into the golden afternoon sun. Like anyone would, he basked a moment, taking in the shadows of the tall oaks in his backyard. A small canoe lay by the tallest one, a recent purchase. He did not spend his massive wealth on trifles, but on things he enjoyed, and used with relish. For a moment, he wondered whether or not to carry it to the pond and go for a short paddle, and maybe cast a few flies. He decided against it, as he still had some wood to cut from a recently downed tree. The storm which had felled it was a strong one, bearing lightning, hail, winds, and heavy rains. The stream had been swollen for days, and in it, while sifting through the clutter, Eric had discovered a piece of anaboridium, a remnant of Shiva. He now kept it on his mantel, above his wood stove. He left the shady yard and delved into the woods, where he kept a shed of tools. An axe, a sledgehammer, a splitter, and a pair of gloves waited at his disposal. He layed them into a wheelbarrow, and pulled it out of the shed. A light kick knocked the door closed, and latched it.
He headed deep into the forest, and came across the tree. He had discovered it while traversing one of the deer paths after the storm. It had been a mighty oak, but in the end, its size had been its downfall. Eric had discovered a family of raccoons that had perished in the tree's fall, and had buried them nearby, marking the site with a simple gravestone of shale upright in the ground.
The foresection of the tree lay split, and he set to work on it first. Much of the tree lay in a gentle bed of hemlocks, undamaged from the resiliency and bounce of the young trees. Eric put on his gloves, and taking the axe in hand, began to rythmically chop at the oak. The whok of the axe bounced quietly throughout the woods, gently interrupting the natural sounds, and wholly belonging.
A sizable pile had formed by the time he was complete with his chopping. He loaded the proper sized pieces into the wheelbarrow, and taking the axe, notched a cut into each oversized log. He then jammed the splitter into the notch. He picked up the sledgehammer, and brought the steel head down on the splitter. A soft donth sound emanated from the point of contact, muffled by the wood. Two strikes often was sufficient to split the log, and before long, he was finished. He stacked the wood into the wheelbarrow, and with a last glance at the fallen giant, now slightly depleted, he set back toward the house. He rolled the wheelbarrow to the side of the house, and began to unload the wood onto a pile from another downed tree.
He stacked, rythmically, but without beat, absorbed in his work to the point of obliteration to everything else, except for the light whistle of air in the trees, and the clump of the wood contacting other wood. The last piece of wood was layed upon the stack, and he wheeled his way to the shed, and unloaded his tools. He latched the shed behind him, and whistled lightly for Omni as he walked quietly back to the house, taking in and not disturbing the quiet fall afternoon. Once again, he experienced a feeling that, finally, he had been able to experience in the last month and a half. Like many feelings, it was hard to define, a mix of many. At long last, he felt inner peace, a quiet satisfaction, accomplishment, and happiness, which, for so long a time, he had been unable to attain. His past was a conglomeration of experiencing other's hatred, other's greed, other's love, other's confusion. His present, a most beautiful and wonderful escape. His future, uncertain.
Others believed his time in his house on the hill was a waste of time, but they didn't know. They thought his days of reclusion were spent doing nothing, and they said that he should live life to the fullest, now that he had the chance to. He replied that he was, and they walked away confused. Eric knew he could be rafting the Colorado, but instead, he preferred a quiet paddle around his pond. He found more enjoyment in the seclusion of his pond, observing a tiny world in a universe of so many. He had also learned as a child, that all good things come to an end, and hence, he spent his days teaching himself to draw, a secret, lifelong dream, or reading, all of the wonderful things one could enjoy when seeking a full life. He finally had no one to judge him, no peers to impress, no social code to conform to. Real freedom had been rediscovered by the man no one could ever top, who was, to many, the man who could do anything. He had, after all, saved humanity. For this hero to go away and quietly hide to draw and read, paddle and fish, he must be crazy, many thought. Why do things lowly men used to do, when you can do anything, many questioned. He never replied, never revealed. He wanted to stay undisturbed with his cat in the mountains and leave the public eye. His greatest allies were his closest friends, who had sworn to secrecy never to reveal where he lived. Eric Pender, who was viewed as faultless to many for having pulled humanity from the brink of total extinction, in fact, like all people, was faultful. He was still human, no more a god than any person on the street. Those who were about to meet him had fanciful ideas of a great, strong, cool, calm, collected man. Contrary to popular belief, he was a funny, sarcastic, modest man who simply wanted some peace and quiet. And finally, he got that peace and quiet, on a far hill, surrounded by the Green Mountains, in a world of deer, of trees, of natural beauty, an oasis in the great mechanical society of Post-Purge Earth, which was an amazing, unlimited place, but wholly synthetic. Eric Pender no longer belonged to that world. He had his own.
Eric Pender © Roy Farrell 1999, 2004