Author : chesterchatfield
“So then, you know what he does? He falls to his knees. His knees, like in happiness. I mean can you imagine? Lived on an island for six years alone- hasn’t said a single word since they rescued him, then, gets off the helicopter and at the very sight of L.A. – polluted, disgustin’, stinkin’ Los Angeles- at his first sight of civilization he falls to knees and says one word. Just one word. You wanna know what it was? Hallelujah. Hallelujah! He was praisin’ God! Ain’t that ironic? Beautiful tropic island vs. L.A.” The old man shrugged his shoulders. “Always thought it was a weird story.”
I nodded at the man, lost in my own thoughts. He was just another independent, one of several I had run into in the last several months. A matted beard made it hard to distinguish age, but old enough that he wouldn’t last long out here, skirting cities.
By the next morning, he’d disappeared. Wandering— maybe he’d get caught. Maybe they would Change him and he would never have to sleep on the cold, hard, ground again.
Family gone, lost in the wilderness, I just walked, heading towards civilization with no goal at all. I wished I’d invited that man to come with me. Maybe we could have been happy together.
I kept on hiking.
That night I dreamed my father came home from work and he was Changed. He was wearing a clean new blazer and his curly hair was straightened, parted symmetrically down the middle. He gently explained that he was now perfect and we had to be too. My brothers refused and they all started fighting until they were just a heap of bodies on the floor. My mother and I buried them, and she stared calmly down at their graves. Then she finally looked up at me with glassy eyes and whispered, “Hallelujah.”
I awoke in a cold sweat, trying to hold onto the dream as it slipped away. I opened my eyes to the newly risen sun.
After another two days I finally got a glimpse of light. City lights, revealing the valley where my relatives used to live. I hoped they were down there somewhere, perfect and happy.
I stood at the base of the very last hill, then trekked up slowly, stopping to rest just before the top, drawing out the time before I had to look out over the other side. I tried to imagine some Changed guards watching, waiting to catch a glimpse of me and send in the cavalry. Maybe I would sneak past them and become a hero; rescue the thousands of perfect people living in the city. Ha. Or maybe they didn’t give a rat’s ass if I wandered into their shiny city or starved out here in the cold.
I walked the last few steps backwards, facing the mountains. Then I turned and just stood, taking it all in.
For miles, there was only row after row of cookie-cutter houses. They each had one sleek black car parked in the driveway. In the distance rows and rows of dark buildings sat like silent sentinels. Same height and distance apart from the others, lined with symmetrical windows.
I shivered as I stood on my hill, observing everything from an elevated view.
I thought of that nameless old man’s story and reached up a hand to touch my rough, sunburned face.