There were no words to describe the fear inside when Jacques walked through the invisible wall protecting him from the outside. First, he was amazed he didn’t vanish into dust as so many officials claimed would happen. He realized it might be a slow, painful process instead. Forced to take this step, dread invaded. How much longer did he have to live?
Regardless, it now created fear to realize, through no fault of his own, he was a criminal. He made no protest when Spotted Eagle dragged him into the trees and foliage lining the huge river, then released his wrist. He could hear the sirens and knew the police were on their way. His cell, unmanned, would give them the address.
He looked at Spotted Eagle. “How old are you.”
Spotted Eagle’s wrinkles jiggled when he smiled. “Hundred years old today…”
“Are we going alone?” Jacques realized he was ill-equipped to handle the journey to the Pacific without Spotted Eagle. And it looked as though Spotted Eagle might just up and die on him at any time now. No one lived beyond a hundred in this world.
“No. Need crew.” Spotted Eagle swung his arm back and indicated the three others approaching.
“What is this…” Jacques noticed all three were dressed in the same fashion of animal skins, long hair and bare skin.
He looked down praising the jump-suit that covered every inch of his body with a substance guaranteed not to cause any disease from the surface. He hoped this wonderful suit worked here as well. Only his eyes were exposed. Soon, he may need glasses. Surely his eyes were beyond repair, being exposed like this.
“This is Flying Crow, Little Wolverine and this is Bob, my son. He gonna row too.”
“No – he won’t. He’s under age. The punishment is severe and it’s very clear – children must be twenty before they are allowed to work. It’s child abuse otherwise.” Jacques said in a shaky voice. “I will not participate in child abuse.”
All Spotted Eagle did was laugh. He clutched his sides, bending over. His wrinkles jiggled, his skin jiggled and it looked as though this might be his time. His breath came out in gasps. Jacques stepped back, very careful not to let Spotted Eagle touch him.
It was bad luck to touch a dying person. This idea was not promoted at all by the establishment. But as of now they hadn’t been able to prevent this silly superstition everyone felt. They were now experimenting with brain-washing. But Jacques fell under the ‘grandfather clause’ and wasn’t allowed to participate in the experiments.
“So, you ain’t gonna go see the big ocean then?” Finally Spotted Eagle straightened, still alive. “We need four to row boat. He gotta row.”
Such a disappointment and sadness swept over Jacques. It was both surprising, (having never felt that way previously), and terrifying to realize he would never see the much talked about, little known Pacific Ocean.
“I’ll row.” He blurted without thinking. He looked at his arms dangling down from his shoulders and he couldn’t recall a time he had used them other than lifting food to his mouth. Even his computer work was done by voice command. Would his arms work? Would Spotted Eagle give him the required three months to learn his job before being fired? Then what – would he have to let Bob row? What would happen if he did? Could the long arm of ‘They’ reach him here?
Now life was getting more complicated than he could handle. Confusion ran rampant throughout. Who could he ask? It certainly wasn’t Spotted Eagle – he would just suggest Jacques partake in child abuse.
He looked towards the city – the place where all decisions were made for him – those decisions that gave him such a comfortable, perfect life.
But his longing to see the ocean was strong. He walked to the river, murky and dark. Obviously they didn’t have clean water in the wilderness.
“I can’t go back, but I will need supplies. I need bottled water and I will need Purel too.”
“Purel,” Spotted Eagle looked puzzled.
“It’s disinfectant to keep my hands clean. I can’t go back. You must get it for me.”
“ Ain’t gonna happen,” Spotted Eagle was laughing and shaking his head.
The others remained silent, obviously unable to understand English.
Jacques firmed his voice up. It was his journey. He was in charge. “I need supplies or I’m not going.”
Then he looked at the tiny boat and all thoughts of supplies disappeared.
“Canoe…” Spotted Eagle was watching him with curiosity.
“Where are the seat-belts?”