Author: Thomas Desrochers
The sweaty politicians like to remind us that the EcoFasc League were monsters, especially before we do a round of flyovers. “Remember,” they scream at us, “remember the billions.”
We come in off the eastern seaboard. It’s lovely this time of year, stretching away, an infinite green carpet. Back home the trees are planted in rows. They’re big enough, but you’re always reminded that it’s an artificial thing. Here the trees fight and jostle, untamed.
Billions. Unbelievably large, except when you fly by the countless shattered wrecks of the cities. Just, enormous. Reminds me of home: crowded and gray. Every piece of land we can use, we do. Not many animals left.
Not like here. Here, plants and animals build up in the streets, on the floors and rooftops – the sheer weight of life bringing down steel and concrete. Untouched, though. In a hundred years we’ve seen people wandering these places a dozen times. Elderly, usually, on some final pilgrimage.
It’s beautiful, this endless forest broken up by quiet glades, teeming with wildlife. Don’t go down there. That’s the first thing they tell you in training. Don’t go down there – you’ll cook.
The people there don’t cook, for whatever reason. They live in small communities turned towards the sun, sheltered from the wind, surrounded by fields and gardens that my grandmother would envy and ponds teeming with so many fish my grandfather would cry. We get close enough to take a look. The other guys like to ignore them, but I wave. The kids always wave back. They look happy.
It was a fast affair, if you read between the lines. The books talk about the decades of build-up and turmoil, but it was the blink of an eye. One year the news teems with references to a grizzled man speaking at a pub rally, and the next Asia is coated in VX.
War for a week after we beat back their missiles, but then the League saved everyone the trouble: they cooked off all the New World’s nuclear piles. It was impressive, really (but don’t tell anyone that – you’ll regret it). Invade? Why bother? They paid special attention to their minerals, and the days of heartland grains were over. No more fish from the oceans either, unless you like them hot. My forefathers starved.
They’ve got technology still, though we’re not sure what or how. We’ve never figured out how they didn’t die out down there. Higher-ups worry: how many, and who? I say, who cares? They’re friendly enough for me.
Plains roll by, endless. I think the people here are obligated to feel free, but maybe they feel trapped. We cross over the continent in a day and it takes the riders and wagon trains half a week between settlements.
The mountains slide past. Before you know it you’ve hit the Pacific. Squalls roll under lingering clouds; it’s a rainforest down there, you’d better believe it. Our satellites watch as the forests grow back like hair on a ten year clear cancer patient – wild. The trees eats up our smog like candy.
I remember the billions. I shouldn’t be, it’s terrible that I am, but I’m grateful they’re gone and glad it happened. I love the flights. The doctors say flyover duty steals decades from us, but nobody’s ever quit.
We had an emergency put-down once – engine trouble. All I remember is the trees as big around as I am tall, wildflowers like scattered paint, and the choir of birds in time to the anxious whine of the geigers.
Paradise, I said. Who could disagree?