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         Chess stumbled wearily along the road.  The pavement out here was in disrepair, with weeds growing through at the edges, but it was still a road, a clear route that he could follow... to somewhere.
          In his panic, he had run, fast and far from the village, losing himself in the woods.  It was not just horror that had sent him away, though: it was the abject despair that he felt after watching the village get burned to the ground, watching so many people be dispossessed -- and being an integral part of that action.  Yes, he could have found his way back: his compass and map were still in his pocket.  But he could not go back to that situation.  And so, with a voice in his head telling him how pathetic he was, he had run.  And when he tired, he had wandered.  And now, he was barely managing to stay on his feet.
          Chess groaned and shook his head, tripping over a patch of broken pavement as he did so.  He landed on hands and knees, staring down at dirt.  He swallowed against the dryness of his swelling throat and decided, finally, not to get up.      
         A while later, Chess heard the sound of a motor in the distance.  It grew louder, approaching down the road.  Chess sat on the road, legs tucked close to his body, his head down.  The roar of the engine grew deafening as the vehicle, whatever it was, pulled up before him and stopped.
          “What the hell is this?” Chess heard a male voice growl.
          Slowly, he raised his head and stared, blinking, at a large truck, remarkably similar to a humvee, but without any military markings on it.  With his last bit of strength, Chess rose to meet the large non-uniformed man who jumped down from the truck.
          “Are you military?” Chess groaned, confused.  In response, the guy pointed a large black pistol at him.  Behind him, a few other men poked their heads out of the truck, staring curiously.
          Chess swayed unsteadily, unafraid in his delirium.  But, vaguely, in some distant part of his brain, he wondered how the guy could possibly feel threatened enough by him to hold him at gunpoint.  And then he remembered, blearily, that he was still wearing his military uniform… and something connected in his foggy brain.
          “Are you guys… dissidents?”
           The guy with the gun squinted at him and smiled, while some of his companions appeared to laugh.  “Yeah,” he answered.  “Yeah, that’s right: we’re dissidents.”
             “Fighting for our independence against the totalitarian state,” one of the guys hanging out of the truck chimed in.
          Chess stared at them for a moment.  Chaotic images flashed through his memory: the village burning… people screaming… the girl and the small child….  He straightened and took a deep breath.
          “I want to join you,” he said firmly.
         Before long, Chess was inside the truck, holding on wearily as it bumped along the ragged highway.  Somehow, during the rough, noisy ride, he fell asleep or passed out and, when he awoke, the group was disembarking in the middle of a sunlit courtyard area of grass, which was surrounded by multi-storied buildings of brick and stone.
          From the doorway of one of the buildings, a man emerged: muscular and towering, he looked like a giant to Chess, who squinted at him through the glare of sun.  The guy who had earlier pointed the gun at Chess walked over and greeted this new stranger.  They seemed to exchange a few words, and then the big man strode over to Chess.
          “So,” he said in a booming voice, “former military… very recently.”  He smirked at Chess’s disheveled uniform.  “And now you want to be a dissident!  Well, my friend, we already have everything we need here.”  He spread his arms grandly, indicating the green space and the buildings around him.  “So just tell me: what can you do for us?”
          Chess opened his mouth to reply, and the world suddenly tilted and grew dark.            

Continued next page...

Can you light your water on fire?

Tagline from GasLand (2010)

         Of all the fossil fuels, natural gas is used to heat the greatest percentage of homes in the United States.  I heat with natural gas, and I can attest that it’s conveniently piped right into the house, clean enough that I don’t worry about buildup in the chimney, and at a relatively low price for at least the past five years or so.  In my area, I can easily buy electricity from renewable sources but I have not found any way to buy heat from renewable sources – excepting the option of heating with electricity, which, I admit, I would rather not do.  I have been happy using natural gas.
            Unfortunately, there are problems with using natural gas – more than just burning and releasing it into the atmosphere, which is bad enough.  The process of retrieving the gas from underground, called “fracking” (hydraulic fracturing), is believed to be extremely dangerous.  It involves injecting fluid (tons of water and some strong chemicals) into the ground at a high pressure in order to release the natural gas that is trapped in the rock.  The chemicals stay in the ground and get into underground water.  Even if movies like Gasland are inflammatory (pun intended) in their claims, what happens to all those chemicals, some of which are considered toxic or at least potential carcinogens?  How will they affect people who live where there is a high concentration of them in the ground?
          As intelligent and concerned individuals, we limit salt and high-fructose corn syrup in our diet, worry about BPA in Tupperware and nitrates in our lunchmeat – how can ever-increasing concentrations of such chemicals in groundwater not be a concern?

   …just some flesh caught in this big broken machine
- Happiness In Slavery, Broken by Nine Inch Nails



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