January 9, 2011 – Another exercise in creative writing.
By The Cerebral Aesthetic Vagabond
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so cold in my life as right now. Despite my layers of furs, the brilliant morning sunshine and the small fire beside me, I’m freezing and what I need most right now is something to eat. After several days without food, I’m monitoring my improvised fishing tackle like a hawk, its bone hook concealed under the ice, hoping for the slightest twitch in the line that might signal an awaiting meal. It suddenly strikes me as ironic how I’ve always insisted I had no great will to live, and yet here I am, squatting beside a mountain creek, freezing half to death, starving, but fighting for life. Even more ironic is how the rest of humanity, ostensibly committed to the notion of surviving, or at least maintaining its “way of life” at all cost, allowed itself to effectively commit suicide, blithely going out with a whimper. At least that’s what I’ve assumed has happened during the past couple of years since I abandoned “civilization.”
Even in my present desperate state I can recall the flurry of illegitimate, unbelievably oppressive legislation hurriedly heaped on the masses in those eerily tranquil days before all hell broke loose. The masses, turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to any and all prognosticators of the approaching dangers, actually embraced many of the measures, eager to believe the dissembling claims of their rulers that the measures were “for their own good.” Of course, the inevitable happened, as it has so many times before under tyrannical regimes: the economy collapsed, the nation became despotic, top to bottom and the long-simmering world war finally flowered. At first the masses didn’t feel the consequences of the war; they continued to drive their behemoth vehicles, merely incensed by the high cost of gasoline, but nevertheless unwilling to let it restrict their “freedom”; they continued to eat their junk food and drink their poisoned water, which the powers-that-be rapidly spiked with more and more chemicals, “for their own good”; they continued to vote in rigged elections, patting themselves on the back for their civic mindedness, willfully blind to the reality of the nation’s political system; they continued to believe in the nation’s currency and that a “recovery” was underway, even as their own standard of living plummeted downward.
Watching the masses ignore reality and embrace propaganda was surreal. Although there was never any love lost between me and “civilization” and I had often imagined myself abandoning it, I never consciously established a “line in the sand” that, once crossed, would be my signal to depart. But it turned out that my surreal observations of the masses proved to be that very line in the sand; that’s when I concluded that humanity was doomed. Until that point I bore hope that humanity would awaken from its stupor and take constructive action, but eventually I realized my hope was futile and that I no longer wanted to live within a “civilization” comprised of people like these. What was the point? I found myself not enjoying life today, but constantly looking forward to a better future, all the time growing more and more depressed by the dearth of intellect, truth and spirit around me. Nor did it help that it slowly dawned on me that everything I ever believed in turned out to be a lie.
At times like now, of course, and there have been several such close encounters with death in the last couple of years, I question the wisdom of being up here, alone, just me and the animals and the wilderness. But once each of my little crises passes I always feel gratitude for having made such a tough decision to be here. Even now, though starving, I have no regrets about being here and only wish I had made this move sooner. Abandoning my property was perhaps the most difficult of all – I guess even I’m materialistic. I literally walked away from my house and everything inside; from my money in the bank; from my automobiles; I left nearly everything behind, taking only a backpack filled with camping gear, clothes, tools, guns, food and enough money to get me here. Looking back, I wish I had brought more tools, especially a saw and a large ax, and left the guns behind. I’m out of ammunition for the guns now anyway, so they’re useless now. By contrast, my little hatchet and knives have been invaluable. Oh, and more matches would have been nice as well. Oh well, coulda, shoulda, woulda. Despite the adversity and poor planning, I have managed to eke out an existence up here and have no desire to return to where I came from. Besides, what would I return to? All my property is gone. And my family? I don’t know what’s become of them either. For all I know they have been sent to internment camps by now, if not killed.
Before I fled, some warned of an inevitable nuclear exchange that would obliterate much of the world, but that awful nightmare never materialized. Perhaps even in their madness, a tiny residue of sanity made the powers-that-be realize that to resort to nuclear weapons would mean the end for all. Perhaps they harbored hope that after the latest world war ended, they would somehow emerge on top once again, if only they exercised a little restraint and avoided blowing up the planet. At least no nuclear weapons had been used by the time I departed. Who knows, by now perhaps they have blown themselves up, although I’ve never observed any telltale mushroom clouds on the distant horizon.
Although at first the people didn’t suffer too badly the deprivations imposed by the wars, by the time I decided to leave, the suffering began to become palpable. Break-ins, even in my little town, became commonplace – once I even had to chase off at gunpoint a young fellow trying to break into my house while I slept. Thefts of gasoline, including that siphoned from cars; thefts of food from freezers and refrigerators in garages; stolen electricity and home heating fuels; muggings on city streets for money or food; violent squabbles erupting regularly between neighbors and even occupants of individual dwellings, sometimes rooted in the most trivial of causes, peoples’ short fuses betraying their attempts to conceal their anxiety and stress; shortages of goods in the stores; all these became common, daily trials, and still the people were incapable of recognizing the cause. The government responded to the public clamor for order as governments always do: with brute force. Well-armed soldiers became a common sight on street corners; checkpoints, manned by soldiers, became a common obstacle on highways, large and small (these checkpoints proved no small challenge to me as I hitchhiked across the country); and zero tolerance for everything became routine, transgressions often punished with swift execution by zealous law enforcement people immune to prosecution. By the time I left, the first “domestic extremists” were being rounded up and sent to the internment camps that had been prepared years earlier, supposedly in order to deal with illegal immigrants. I can only imagine how bad things have become since I left. The “civilized” world as I last saw it was one surely poised to rip itself apart.
My rumination is perturbed by a vigorous stirring of the fishing line. Could it be? An actual fish? Carefully pulling the line up through the hole in the ice, I find a small fish wriggling from the hook, desperately seeking to escape, but certainly worth eating, especially in my starved condition. With a swiftness that surprises even me and as if watching myself performing in slow motion, I quickly pin the fish to the ice and sliced off its head with my knife. Within what seems like mere seconds more I gut the fish and skewer it on a stick I had already sharpened in hopeful anticipation of this very success, suspending my fish above the fire. Instinctively, I drop my fishing tackle back in the water, hoping to catch another bit of food.
As I impatiently watch my fish cook, I recall the events leading up to my near starvation. Besides the awful weather, today being the first blizzard-free day in what seems like weeks, I haven’t managed to accumulate any stored food, although I have tried. My efforts to prepare dried food have been marginally successful; the one time I succeeded in catching an abundance of fish and drying it, something – a bear, perhaps – tore open my hut and stole it! For the last two years I’ve been living as a hunter-gatherer, which has worked out fairly well so far, at least keeping me alive and providing me with furs with which to keep warm, but fails me sometimes, like the present. Using my hatchet, I have managed to build what might generously be called a hut, a far cry from the log cabin I envisioned building prior to coming up here. I’ve toyed with the idea of returning to “civilization” for the sole purpose of acquiring an ax and a saw, although how I would pay for such tools, I have no idea. Besides, I would never seriously consider returning. I’ve always lived an unconventional life and when the time comes, I might as well die up here unconventionally too. If I can find some suitable stone, I will attempt to make an ax from it. Of course, I’ve been thinking about doing that for two years, but the daily demands of survival seem to keep getting in the way of my modest plans. How bizarre is it that I find myself living back in the stone age? I wonder if the rest of humanity has fared any better.
“This is so damned good!”, I think to myself as I eat my meager, but tasty morsel of fish. I glance expectantly at the fishing line, but it dangles lifelessly. Folding my arms across my chest, I cozy up to the fire and optimistically wait for another fish. Being up here has had some benefits, such as that I’m in the best shape of my life. I’ve been eating nothing but completely natural foods and drinking pure mountain water, so I’m not only healthy, but my weight is the lowest it’s been in thirty years; I don’t think I have an ounce of fat left on my body. I can run for miles without tiring, which came in real handy a few months ago when a bear chased me for miles. He eventually got tired; I didn’t. Even the air is fresher because I’m so far from any cities that they don’t bother spraying chemtrails up here. But living is a daily struggle and as I already observed, I find it bizarre that I’m willing to put up with the struggle. Maybe somehow, living in the natural world, away from the poisonous environment of “civilization,” my will to live has been reinvigorated.
Standing up, I kick some snow over my fire to smother it and carefully pull up and coil my fishing tackle. The days are pretty short this time of year and I need to search for some more food and collect some firewood by this afternoon. It looks like another weather front is moving in from the north.