“Sariel spends every moment with that scientist,” Noah commented, shaking his head in wonder. “And I believe that she is absorbing everything he knows.”
Shrugging in agreement, Chess watched the couple, Sariel and the scientist, Marcello, as they walked together along the far side of the courtyard between Lodestar’s main buildings.
Chess figured they were going back down to the pond that was nearby, to gather more of the algae necessary for the water purification system. Ileana had told him, with excitement in her eyes, that the system was now almost complete, and they would have decent water for their garden in the spring.
Between that, and the other devices that the wizards had built for them, plus Noah’s windmill, and the seeds the wizards had brought, and the gardening knowledge… Chess sighed. Every once in a while, for a second or two, he dared to think that this might be a place where he could be happy. Where he might even be able to relocate his… He shook his head, banishing the thought. More likely, this was just a dream that he would suddenly wake from.
Chess re-focused on Sariel and Marcello. In his vision they were two silhouettes now, barely visible against the brightness of the sun. Perhaps, he figured, they were headed off to some quiet spot where they could be alone. He barely saw Sariel anymore, these days, and, certainly, she was never far from Marcello’s side. And she was always gazing at him in seeming adoration.
“There was a time when she seemed to think that I was useful, but never like that,” Chess chuckled. “I lost her to Ileana’s shining light… and it seems like Ileana has lost her to the great water wizard, who can heal the land.” He watched them disappear around the corner of the building. “I guess,” he sighed, “next, some god would have to come down to earth, promising world peace. And then, that mere wizard would be history.”
Noah laughed, and then began to cough hoarsely. He reached for the water bottle that was always at his side and took a sip. “Well, I don’t think you’ve outlived your usefulness yet,” he assured Chess. Then, more thoughtfully, he added, “The study of history and literature are also quite useful to the world, you know. Perhaps, if the scientists hadn’t come along, I might have qualified a bit, myself.”
Catching his meaning, Chess gaped at him in surprise.
“Oh,” Noah growled, seemingly irritated at Chess’s reaction, “I’m not so old that I can’t remember the feeling of holding a woman in my arms.” He sighed. “The thing is: I don’t remember getting old. It seems like one day I was a young man, full of energy. The next day, everyone was calling me ‘Grandfather.’ It wasn’t my choice.”
He moved to a patch of shade near the building and sank tiredly to the ground. “You’ll see,” he said, looking up at Chess. “One day, you’ll find yourself with many years behind you, too, and you’ll say, ‘That old bastard was right!’”
Chess grinned down at him. “I guess I’ll be lucky if I manage to get old. But,” he added teasingly, “I’m pretty sure that Sariel has never, ever called you ‘Grandfather.’ You could maybe take that as a hopeful sign.”
He started to say something about Sariel’s own grandfather, who had raised her and doted on her, but just then he looked up and saw Fogg hustling toward them across the courtyard. The guy’s long coat was waving out behind him and, as he got closer, Chess saw a worried expression on his face.
“I was watching the satellite views,” Fogg explained breathlessly. “They’re still a long way off. Probably won’t get here until tomorrow, maybe. I mean, there’s some debris in the road ahead of them, and some really bad patches, so they’re going to get slowed down. I mean…”
Fogg continued to babble frantically as Chess walked toward him. “It could be that they’ll pass us right by. But they might be tracking us, I don’t know… I shut down all our transmissions, but it might be too late. Uh, I noticed them when they stopped at a village we trade with, but then they pulled out after a few hours.” He took a gasping breath and added, “I think it might be them.”
Chess did not need to ask whom he meant. “We better get everyone together,” he said grimly.
Continued next page...
The world had backslid, lurching off on a slick, new, self-indulgent technological binge and getting promptly hooked on computerized, jet-fueled supply lines capable of keeping a global marketplace well-stocked. There were two possible outcomes of this trend. One was corporate feudalism, based on an entire Third World full of serfs hacking resources from the land until supplies were exhausted. Or, there were visions like that of Gaviotas, suggesting how technology might free people more than subjugate them, and how humanity might restore to the earth what it borrows.
- Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World by Alan Weisman
Alan Weisman, the same author who wrote The World Without Us, dealing with the subject of what the earth would be like if humans all disappeared, took a much more optimistic view of our future in his profile of the community of Gaviotas, which was founded in the early nineteen seventies.
As far back as the middle of the last century, people around the world had already realized the track that civilization was on. The sixties were the time when Rachel Carson wrote the game-changing book, Silent Spring, about the effect of pesticides on water quality. The growing awareness of environmental concerns in this period quickly led to the beginnings of Earth Day and the establishment of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency. In 1972 The Club of Rome, a global think tank of scientists, economists, business leaders and other influentials from around the world, commissioned a famous paper entitled “The Limits to Growth,” which predicted that, on its current course, humanity would overwhelm the resources of the the earth within a century. The concerns of that period also led the scientist Paolo Lugari to seek funding from the United Nations to start the village of Gaviotas in the wilds of Columbia. The community was created by a group of scientists and engineers, specifically for the purpose of being a real-life experiment in sustainable living, and I base the achievements of my “water wizards” on some of the stories from Weisman’s book.
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