Inside a television, looking out. There was a boy in the
room, maybe eight years old. He seemed upset. He
told me I wasn't going to get a memory, because it
was too expensive--because, "Dad said it was just a
tear pricing scam." [I assume he meant tiered.]
I heard footsteps in the distance. The boy reached out
and turned me off.
We were in fact sought out yesterday, but with stunning
indifference. When I first heard the voices, I had flashes
of a lynch mob, but the tone coming through the door sounded
more like milling trick-or-treaters than angry witch hunters.
Indeed, it was just a few curious folk wanting to know if I'd remembered
anything yet, wondering if I knew anything about the new light
up in the sky. Some seemed a little uneasy,
worried something might be wrong, but only like children who trust
that any problem is someone else's and will be gone soon enough.
The whole encounter was very uneventful. (Of course, I didn't
tell them a thing. "Sorry, I hit my head, I don't remember.")
I have a new theory. The company I was working for has been
secretly running a huge and elaborate experiment to breed sheeple,
and somehow I took a wrong turn coming out of the lab and fell in.
Maybe in my drugged confusion, I wandered farther than I realized,
happened through a door that should have been locked, and fell into--The Pit of Eden, breeding ground of the mentally inane. Oh my god,
and the prank girl--could he have got her here? Maybe this is where
they make girlfriends for geeks, sort of a company perk? Okay, I'm
not too serious here. I hope. But the scale of it...is unimaginable.
I mean, I am here right now, experiencing it directly, and still I
have a hard time accepting that the horizon in all directions is a
painting, that the sky itself is--I don't know what--the underside of
Los Angeles, painted blue? And the city is huge. Not on the scale of Los
Angeles, not even close, but the biggest indoor city-like casino in
Vegas is just a tee-pee by comparison. I guess that's the best
analogy, impressive in the same way, just on a much grander scale.
I can accept the technological plausibility, but the economy of it? Who
or what could possibly have funded this, while keeping it quiet no less?
Speaking of economy, I've become curious about how it works here. Having
seen no indication of contact or interference from the outside, how
does this place keep ticking? The answer is a bit odd, but fits
nicely with my new theory.
Laura works at a bakery--but not very hard. The bakery is
always overstaffed, and always produces far more goods
than it could possibly sell. The excess, besides the fraction
that goes home with the employees, is simply thrown away,
never given out. Laura said that besides the fact that there
simply isn't anyone who can't afford to buy bread, it is taboo
to give handouts except to the injured--at which point she peered at
me with a very cute, sympathetic expression and kissed me on the forehead. Groan.
Apparently, it's also taboo to own any dwelling
or structure which you are not personally using on a regular
basis, which means there is no renting here whatsoever. Furthermore,
the population has apparently been mysteriously stable as long as
Laura is aware, and there has always been an excess of
housing. Other than some homes and businesses in especially
fine locations, real estate is regularly bought and sold for a
(If you had no money whatsoever, there are vacant houses
waiting to be claimed, though they are by definition in the least
desirable locations and also typically in the worst state of
So, in short, the bakery pays no rent.
"Taboo" and "law" seem to be one and the same here, as the church
is the government (why did this not surprise me?) but the church
operates entirely by volunteer labor, and completely without money,
so there are no taxes of any sort.
I started to wonder if this wasn't some grand experiment in utopian
society. But no, obviously the numbers just weren't adding up,
so I kept following the chain of supply back until I hit
the key questions: Where does the wheat come from? Are there
farms within the boundary as well? No, randomly enough, the (one)
church supplies wheat to the entire city! And where does the church
get the wheat? Why, the fountain of wheat, of course. "Pardon me?"
Yes, according to Laura, there is a fountain in the church in the
middle of town which just spews wheat, constantly.
I wanted to ask her if she didn't find this just a little bit
odd. But no, clearly not, she didn't even think to mention
it until I asked it directly. She was raised with running wheat
just as I was raised with running water. To her I must seem
like some primitive marveling at a pot boiling on the stove, asking, "But, where did you get the water? It comes out of the
wall, you say?"
When the topic came up, she reached into her hanging apron pocket
and produced for me a small handful of wheat berries, spillage
from her morning transfer of wheat to the grinder. I fondled
and examined them absent-mindedly as we spoke, then for
a while in silence as I contemplated the bizarreness of this all.
Suddenly it struck me--not a realization about what
had been said, but about the wheat in my hand.
"Wait a minute!" I said. "There are only three different berries here!"
I expected this to be news to her, but she said, "Well, of
course, any school child knows that!"
They even have names:
Mike, Larry, and Peenma. And no, she has no idea why (maybe just
the whims of school children?), but did know which was which.
I tried to explain that real wheat berries grow on the ends of
long blades of grass, and that every one is unique, but she
took it as some arbitrary humor on my part. I saw no use in pressing
So what have I been eating? Bread made from strange little food
pellets containing god knows what--Xanax and Thorazine, judging
by the sheeple. Maybe that's the experiment?
I don't feel any different than when I arrived, but then, would I
notice? I'm glad I'm keeping a journal.
She laughed when I asked if there was a fountain of fruit as well.
No, just lots of fruit trees, everywhere, free for the pickin'.
Who takes care of them? She didn't understand the question. Seems
once in a long while when an old tree dies or stops producing, the
church volunteers will plant a new one somewhere, but other than
that, they just grow. There is enough "rain" that they needn't be
watered, and apparently just as there are no diseases of man here,
there are no pests or diseases afflicting the trees. (How have
they--the creators of this little experiment--pulled this off?)
I wondered now if this wasn't an experiment in longevity, health,
immortality? Laura couldn't give me collected figures, but from
her personal anecdotes it didn't seem like people were living to
be especially old here. (This gives me the idea, though, to seek
out the oldest person I can find, to see what they can tell me
of the origins or early years of this place.) The longevity track
led me tangentially to another realization: the last time I shaved
was the night of the scan, but I have no stubble! I suppose this
could just be change of diet, or stress, or side effects of the
scan drugs; but it could be something in the "wheat".
Also, my appetite still hasn't returned. I've only been eating
because I know I should--and it occurs to me I've eaten nothing
but "wheat" products and fruit since arriving via the pond express.
Yet I feel completely fine, not in the least bit lacking in
nutrition. I'm really quite curious now what's packed into those
little food pellets.
Laura further indicated that there is neither meat eating here (based
on her response I may as well have asked her if people suck on
rocks), nor dairy, nor anything else. It seems fruit and food
pellets (Purina People Chow?) are all that's on the menu here!
Anyway, back to economics: This "city" is no experiment in
self-sustaining communities. It is externally subsidized to such
an extent that one never really has to work here at all to survive.
People do work, but only very casually as bakers, handymen, and
the like, and more often as musicians, artists, actors, playwrights,
and so on. I.e. as Laura describes it, the economy here appears
mostly based upon entertaining each other.
I wonder where the inventors and scientists are. The whole concept
of technological progress seems both foreign and unnecessary to Laura.
Has the population been drugged into apathy? Or if necessity is the
mother of invention, is utopia its grim reaper?
I wonder if I could build a hot air balloon and travel to the stars...
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