Chapter Eight – Jacques, the Modern Explorer

Dolphins in The Pacific Ocean

The end of the Journey

The sun was shining.  The waters were blue. The waves were high. The whales were playing…

Jacques couldn’t believe it.  He was here at the Big Waters.  He was laughing with pleasure.  He took Little Flower’s hand (his girlfriend decided to come with him) and felt wonderful.  He took a deep breath of air – it wasn’t stale.  He looked to the skies and thanked God – aloud.

Then he looked at Spotted Eagle, who nodded his approval.  And he felt the anticipation and excitement for their journey back to the flat lands.  So this was what life was about?  He had conquered his doubts and fears – and his reward was the journey – Jacques was indeed a modern Explorer.

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Chapter Seven – Jacques, the Modern Explorer

snowboarding

Learning to play in the snow

By the time they were half-way through the mountains (so Spotted Eagle said – Jacques was beginning to believe they would go to the ends of a flat earth) they had to stop.  The rivers were frozen. Jacques was now wearing animal skins willingly in order not to freeze. The snow was so high, it was impossible to plow through it.

The village had a ‘medicine man’.  Jacques was beginning to appreciate this primitive practice.  It appeared as though these men could cure people – sometimes it seemed like just chanting did the trick.

For many days he stayed inside a tent.  All the others seemed to do was plow around in the snow, laughing, sliding and jumping.  No one appeared intimidated or afraid of the animals that occasionally roamed around.

“You live with the animals?” He was curious now, not censuring   Why were dangerous creatures like bears allowed to roam around people.  He decided to stay inside.

“No.  They just come around sometimes. They do not live with us.”

But the tents were smoke-filled and often his chest hurt.  Finally he dared venture outside and joined in the activities.  To his surprise he started gaining strength.  He could imagine joining those joggers that insisted on trotting along smooth paths every morning- inside. He could run, not trot slowly, he was sure to pass them all.  But not only was he banned from the inside –  he had no desire to return either.

By the time the snow started melting Jacques not only felt better but he had a girlfriend.

“You have wife and kids?”  Spotted Eagle looked on with disapproval.

“I can’t go back.  They won’t let me.”  Jacques was somewhat sad and somewhat relieved.  He was beginning to like this life better.  Sometimes he had to make decisions but it was a heady experience.  Sometimes he dreamed of going back and telling everyone, but that dream was lessening every day.

Spotted Eagle grunted, then put his hand of Jacques shoulder.  “You come a long way Jacques.  You can stay with us. – you know how to make bread – white bread?”

“No, but I can learn?”  Jacques said hesitantly, oddly feeling fine with that task.  He saw the kids, giggling and wet, sliding down a slope.  “I’m going up again – you coming?|

Spotted Eagle laughed but Jacques finally realized he wasn’t laughing at him – he was laughing with him.

Chapter Six – Jacques, the Modern Explorer

Falling from a cliff

Portaging the waterfalls.

Poor Jacques, just recovering from some awful illness, banned from his familiar  comfortable easy society and suffering such hardships just to see the Pacific Ocean or the Big Waters as Spotted Eagle said.  He was sure he’d hit rock-bottom. Nothing could get worse.


That is until he saw the actual rocks.  Folks, if you’re from flat lands, nothing can compare to the awe and fear you experience first seeing those colossal pile of rocks that tower above the clouds.  Jacques would have turned around, right then and there, if he’d had any place to go.  But he didn’t.

“We have to go through those?”  He could barely speak and his voice was shaky.

He would have felt like an ant might with a human foot moving beside him.  But he didn’t because he had never seen an ant. Ants had their designated place too and it wasn’t with humans.  For some reason or other, the lofty, superior government hadn’t figured out a way to train ants not to bite.

“Are there hospitals in there?”  He hoped they would get by these towering mountains he could see and then there would be valleys of flat plains again.

“Yeah, lots a villages and medicine men, scattered about in the valleys.”  Spotted Eagle was laughing again. “You scared little man?”

Jacques was very irritated. He started his ‘ohm’ to settle down as he’d been taught.   Inside civilization Spotted Eagle would be severely punished.  All he did was make fun of Jacques and was downright mean. Bullies were not tolerated inside.

“It’s okay, the rivers are flat.”  Spotted Eagle lowered his voice, sounding almost soothing.

“Until we gotta cross the waterfalls poppa,”  Little Bob piped up.  He was smiling but at least he wasn’t laughing.

“Waterfalls?  How do we do that?”  Jacques had visions of plunging down cliffs in raging waters. Or did water climb the mountains?

“Some of our more brave attempt the water-slides provided inside. Like that?” He had never had any desire to do that, yet some claimed it was fun.

“Yeah, something like that.”  But Jacques knew Spotted Eagle was making fun of him again.

Then he spotted an Eagle, soaring up and swooping down and everything was forgotten.  It was an amazing sight.

Chapter Five – Jacques, the Modern Explorer

Poor Jacques thought he might have survived if he hadn’t fallen into the river.  Once that happened even those bark stripped twigs didn’t help.

“What’s in these?” He flung his last one onto the shore, not even aware he was polluting.  Obviously out here there was no punishment.

“Aspirin,”  Spotted Eagle answered.  Then he knew.  Jacques laughed.  Aspirin was an antiquated pain-killer.  There were wondrous new pills that worked so much better.

Medicine ManThen he saw the fish and he forgot his pain.  Fish were a monitored species.  They were allowed only in lakes designated for food.  But there was no way humans could go into or use water for drinking when fish swam in it.  Sometimes Jacques wondered if fish were meat, just like animals, but he didn’t dare ask.  You did not question the authorities.  It made life less chaotic.  Now it didn’t matter. He was drinking water that fish swam in.

He leaned over, trying to get a better look at these creatures alive.  And that was when he fell in and discovered another fascinating discovery.  His government issued suit – did not work like they said it did.  Dirty river water flowed inside, touching his flesh.  The suit ballooned out and he sank like a rock.  He supposed he should thank Spotted Eagle for saving him but he was angry and so scared he thought he might die right on the spot.

The suit didn’t work!  Did they know?  He couldn’t recall anyone ever falling into the river.  The fences and signs of warning kept people back from the water.  Then it didn’t matter.  There was no one to help him.  He was downright sick, throwing up – most his insides, the mechanism only doctors understood –  that kept him alive.  He ached and could barely move.  His little strength was not available.  He just laid there like a limp rag.

But there was no room in the canoe.  Everyone kept shoving him away and he was bouncing like a ball, unable to stop them or sit up.  Finally, swearing a blue streak, Spotted Eagle pulled to the shore.

“Never gonna get to the Big Waters this way Jacques. We gotta strengthen you up some I see. You gotta get out of that silly suit and into some warm clothes.  Gotta get some exercise going and toughen you up too.”

There were times in the next few weeks Jacques wished he could just die.  But their Medicine Man, who turned out to be Little Wolverine, kept jumping, dancing and screeching around his bed.  And once he no longer felt like dying – Spotted Eagle’s harsh words and threats kept him running and climbing and jumping and lifting – until he felt a little strength inside.  When he refused to eat their poisonous food – they shoved it down his throat, squeezing his cheeks so he would swallow.  The confusion was astronomical.

How could he possibly still be alive?   It was then, his thoughts started wondering if everything he’d been taught to believe was true.

To be cont’d…  in a later blog.  

Chapter Four – Jacques, the Modern Explorer

TentAll they had was dried pieces of something.  He picked a piece up and recoiled in absolute horror.

“What is that horrible smell?”

“We smoke our meat.  It smell like smoke.”  Spotted Eagle explained patiently.

“Smoke?  Meat?”  Jacques nearly fainted.  “I need some vegetables – do you know what they are?”  Jacques turned to Spotted Eagle and shook his head.  “A hundred years old?  I doubt that.  It’s impossible.”

“Because text books always right huh?”  And Spotted Eagle was grinning.  He picked up the pack, stuffing that piece of meat back inside with his grimy, germ-infested hands.  “Okay, let’s go.  Probably have to spend winter in the mountains.  Won’t be much vegetables around then. Yes, we eat vegetables – in the summer, but they spoil fast once we pick them.”

“And meat doesn’t?”

“Naw, we salt it and it stays good.”  Spotted Eagle motioned to the other three to follow and started walking towards the canoe.  “Come on – or you wanna go back.  You gonna starve if you don’t eat meat.”

Salt, meat….  But Jacques scrambled along on his weak legs.  They were hurting – a completely unknown development.  “Do you have any pill I could take for the pain in my legs.”

“No pain, no gain.”  Spotted Eagle grunted.  “Here…”

Spotted Eagle broke off a branch of the willow trees lining the river.  Quickly and efficiently he sliced into it and stripped the bark off.  He handed it to Jacques.

“What do I do with it?”  Jacques’ legs hurt too badly to care anymore.  This was his new life.

“Suck on the sap.  It gonna stop pain.”

“What’s in it?”  Jacques did as he was told.  Was a tree a vegetable?  At least it wasn’t an animal.

“How I gonna know?”  Spotted Eagle snorted.  “I’m a scout, not a medicine man. But it works don’t it?”

Surprising Jacques to no end, it did.

He crawled into the boat and couldn’t stop the novel feeling of excitement inside.  He was afraid to tell Spotted Eagle about his feeling.  No one could understand such a feeling surely.  But he hoped he lived long enough to see the Pacific.

He felt guilty, watching little Bob rowing.  How quickly all that was right and good was forgotten as he anticipated seeing the Pacific.  He was nothing but selfish and mean.

Chapter Three – Jacques, the Modern Explorer.

Glowing Christmas Tree in Snow

A huge tree, decorated with gaudy ornaments and lights stood in the center of camp. What on earth was it?  Jacques had never seen anything like it.

“It’s our Christmas tree.  You gotta see it when it’s snowing and with the lights on.”  Bob spoke up.  His little black eyes were gleaming with excitement and anticipation.

“Christmas?”  It was Jacques’ turn to laugh.  “Give me a break.  Surely you don’t believe in something so pagan.  That was proved wrong so long ago it’s pathetic”

“Was it?”  Spotted Eagle shook his head.  “Who says?”

“It’s one of the first things we learn!”  Jacques couldn’t believe this.  “It says so in our text-books.”

“Okay. Text books gotta be right inside?”  Spotted Eagle put his hand on little Bob’s shoulders.  Bob looked devastated.  Jacques felt anger invade now.  It was so wrong encouraging little children and so cruel to teach such primitive beliefs. Those that Knew said so.

“Don’t worry, little Bob.  We don’t believe text books are right all the time. You know that old Crazy Dog don’t believe in Christ neither.  It’s the same thing. We just let him be don’t we?”

“You have people who don’t believe text books?  How on earth can you exist?  You don’t all believe the same thing.  That is the best way to chaos and disruption.  You have to all be the same to discover peace and contentment.”

Spotted Eagle just shrugged, “Yeah, sometimes  not believing the same does cause fights.  But not here in our community. Come let’s get supplies and let’s get going before the snows start falling.”

Jacques was eager to get started, hoping they wouldn’t talk about Christmas on the trip.  He really got a weird feeling inside when he thought about Christmas.  Christmas was never spoken  inside.  But there were rumors of hidden caves, beneath the cities.  The rumors were….  He blocked out his thoughts. Why did some have such difficulty believing what was right and what was wrong?

When he saw the supplies he forgot all about Christmas.  My how he wished he could go back.  But he knew, he would have to be put to sleep if he did so. Oddly, he did not want to be put back to sleep.  People were supposed to be happy – going back into the ground to nurture the soil.  He was ashamed of his cowardly thoughts.  He was a risk to everyone, having been outside. They couldn’t risk the good of all – for one person.  And he understood that.  He couldn’t go back. His exposure meant even fumigating wouldn’t help.

“What am I going to eat?”  Jacques was slowly resigning himself to the fact he would die of starvation soon anyway.

To be continued….

Chapter Two – Jacques, the Modern Explorer

Indian on horseback

And of course Spotted Eagle just laughed once again.  Jacques was thinking these heathens  were not human but some other species after all.  Surely, if people of the civilized world could create such an advanced society, these people, too should realize their safety was of the utmost importance. Living a safe life brought contentment and peace.

“Why not a seat-belt?  You realize they do save lives.  Who wouldn’t want that?”  Jacques was curious as to the answer – just as he was curious as to what would happen if he went without one. He quickly hid that thought, realizing it was such a ridiculous thing.

Was this what outside air did to a normal, sane person.  People inside the civilized area were not allowed to be crazy.  Such modern advancement in medication eliminated that quite nicely.

“Out here, falling outta your boat gonna be the last thing you gonna worry about.”  Spotted Eagle sobered.  “Come on get into boat and we gonna go to village and pick up some supplies.”

Breathing a sigh of relief. There surely they would have bottled water and Purel – those things absolutely essential to traveling.  Jacques climbed in the shaky little vessel. It was an odd feeling riding on the water.  Inside they did not allow anything, even animals or birds to pollute the water.

After rowing for a few minutes his arms would do no more.

“Get rowing, Jacques.  We need four guys.”  Spotted Eagle couldn’t keep the smirk from spreading through his wrinkles.

“I can’t.”  Jacques’ arms dangled at his side, tingling and numb simultaneously. “I’m nearly forty you know.”

     “And that means…”

     “We aren’t encouraged to use strength.  It’s horrible and barbaric.”

     “How you gonna stay healthy and fit.”  Spotted Eagle asked, looking at him like he were the odd creature.

     “Our technology in medicine ensures a long healthy….”

   “Boring…”  Spotted Eagle interrupted.

   “I was going to say happy life.”  Jacques wondered if he didn’t sound like a surly child.

This caused Spotted Eagle to smirk deeper.  Oh yes – he claimed to be a hundred.  Just like everything else, Jacques doubted anything coming out of his mouth was true.

 Little Bob looked very confused.

When his father nodded and Bob took the oars, Jacques was much too weary to protest. This air in the new world was causing him to want to sleep.

Then they rounded a bend in the river and everything but the sights before him left.  Now, he was truly in a foreign place, where nothing was familiar. He felt scared, very scared.

He’d read about horses – but never in all his dreams would he have expected to see a naked man (or were these people human?) on horseback.  Imagine the disease and germs crawling over his body.  Did he care? His body was bulging and looked grotesque with huge muscles, unlike anything he’d ever seen before.

The village was a bunch of pointed circle things scattered all over hell’s half-acre with total disregard as to how much land or space they were selfishly using.  Then he saw the weird tree in the center – which made the guy on horseback look almost normal.

“What on earth is that?”

Chapter One – Jacques, the Modern Explorer

Natives - the curse

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?”

Beginnings – Jacques, the Modern Explorer

The Ocean

There is always a possibility that ‘What if’ will maybe happen.        

 …Mary M. Forbes

Life was perfect for Jacques.  He had his great house module on floor 636. People were now required to preserve as much land as possible.  They were finally taking responsibility for the privilege of living on this earth.  Jacques had his ideal wife who had now used all her required cosmetic surgery vouchers, but looked wonderful. He had his quota of one and a half children according to Rule No. 579, Section III, Line 27.  With such an orderly  life it was nearly impossible to imagine the chaos and problems that often happened in the old days. The solution was simple – just follow the rules and life was perfect.

Although little Joey, his youngest son, did not like being the one without hands and legs – his unhappiness was not allowed to interfere with a collective perfect life.  There were copious amounts of hospitals and programs to help with little Joey.  And as his wife always pointed out – their older daughter was perfect.  Her marks in the school she attended were the best, in both social behavior and Rules and Regulations of a Perfect Society. These were the most important subjects and the idea that she was struggling in math didn’t matter. To share the burden of equality, it was only fair Joey would need help.

Jacques had a perfect technical job, with perfect pay also.  No one was above him.  No one was below.  Every night he could watch his own TV, play on his own computer or text his wife in the next room watching her own TV or on her own computer.  To preserve power all lights and electronics were shut down at 11:00.  By then you would be in bed. It was a good rule. Lights were not required.

In the summers the white painted streets, when he looked outside, were beautiful, reflecting the heat upwards to the skies.  In the winter, those same streets, painted black, held the heat to the ground.  To the east of this great city was his own patch of land, for his fresh vegetables. There were wind turbines spattered about, between and lining the little fields.  Fortunately, man-kind had figured out a way to eliminate that awful fossil fuel finally. The beloved government was now working on ways those turbines didn’t chase away wildlife and birds.  The piercing sounds created by the turbines, not heard by humans, seemed to disturb the wildlife.  They were nearing a break-through.  They said so and it was wrong to question them.  No one seemed to know the punishment because no one dared to question them.

Jacques, of course, didn’t work his own garden.  It was his duty to hire those unfortunate workers who couldn’t seem to grasp the idea that it required education to work in the technology world.  Were they people who questioned the government?  Was punishment digging in the dirty, germ infested ground?  Jacques, although he knew everyone was equal, secretly believed he was superior to those people.

Then he felt guilty for his thoughts and moved back to his required peaceful thoughts – of his perfect life.  And Jacques could have lived his whole guaranteed hundred years in peace and quiet if he hadn’t met Spotted Eagle.

He was sitting in the tiny organic cafe,  ‘Good Old Fashioned Eats’. It was on the outskirts of Winnipeg.  He was enjoying the cracked wheat, tofu and bean sprout sandwich with a wheat-germ smoothie. It was his one guilty pleasure – once a month.  Some scientists were in the process of determining that wheat was harmful.  It wasn’t just because growing it took up too much land headlines assured the public.  He had just read they were nearing a break-through.  He realized it was probably going to be illegal very soon.  Jacques loved wheat bread.

He was careful not to look towards the west.  Beyond the city limits of Winnipeg was uncharted territory.  No one could survive there.  It was what he had learned in school and therefore must be true.  Germs, danger and uncertainty abound unfettered out there.  Mankind had not yet gained the knowledge to tame the wild, Wild West.  So it would only stand to reason – IT WAS TABOO.  No one was allowed outside the city limits to the west and no one – if there was any such animal – was allowed from the outside – inside the city limits.Today was proof – there was life in those uncharted territories.

Today that rule was definitely broken.  He saw the man and he knew he should call the police.  It was obvious from the animal hide clothes and long, probably lice-infested hair,  this man did not belong in a perfect world.  His face was lined with wrinkles, a problem of the past and he was eating something – white bread – possibly meat. But horrors of horrors surely the white substance dripping out must be mayonnaise – fat.  Didn’t the man realize it would make him obese?  Jacques realized he would have to report his favorite restaurant too – they were serving illegal substances.

Jacques, like any good citizen would, reached into his pocket to pull out his cell-phone.  Once he dialed the number he was careful to leave it the required four inches away from his ear to prevent radiation. It was a known fact cell phones caused radiation and by following that rule he could possibly add on another year to his life. He believed the experts in these matters.  He listened to the first ring.

Suddenly the dirty man was standing right before him.  He knocked the phone to the floor.  Jacques was stunned.  He looked first at the intimidating man and then down at his poor phone.  He couldn’t touch it. Now it was probably covered with germs.  He looked back at the man.  He was lamenting the fact he would now be taken to the hospital and fumigated. There was nothing enjoyable in that process.

Before he knew what was happening, the man grabbed his wrist and pulled him out into the street.

“Hi, I’m Spotted Eagle… Wanna see the big waters?”

“Big waters…”  Jacques had to admit curiosity jumped into his mind.   And try as he might he couldn’t suppress it. This primitive, uneducated life-form could talk.  How curious was that?

“Yes, I would like to see the Pacific Ocean.”

He was no flat-earth believer.

And that was how Jacques became a modern explorer.

To be continued….