“I want to stay! I want to stay! Please Doc give me another shot!” Alex sobbed. But the words no longer found utterance, trapped as he was in the useless shell that had once been his body, muscle and sinew slowly wasting away as he himself wasted inside, trapped!
Tears of frustration forced their way out seeping between prison bars into the old world he’d once known. A nurse noticed, retrieving a tissue to wipe them away.
“Poor sod.” She muttered. “He must be conscious somewhere inside.”
“Nonsense,” said the impassive doctor at the foot of his bed. “He’s practically brain dead. Not much hope there. ” The nurse slipped her hand into Alex’s, as the doctor strode away, leaning over to kiss his forehead before, with a sigh, she resumed her duties. The small touch of humanity made the pain even more poignant. Something broke inside. Like a torrent of water it gushed forth its pain and fear then suddenly, without the injection, without Doc, he was there…
Animal foot prints in the snow? Something had passed this way. He stood at the edge of a forest. Passing among the trees he glimpsed tiny faces peering out, curious, but strangely unafraid. Chipmunks and squirrels dashed through the trees as if intent on appraising their visitor. A deer raised its head in his direction but did not run away; rather, satisfied it returned to its grazing, impassive…
“I thought you’d make it here eventually!” Doc was walking through the trees towards him.
“Am…am I dead?”
“No,” Doc smiled. “You are very much alive Alex, perhaps more than you’ve ever been.”
“But then how… You didn’t give me a shot… at least I don’t think you did…”
“There never were any shots Alex.”
“I don’t understand…”
“No but you will.” He fell silent for a moment looking around.
“It was like this at the beginning,” he continued, “before they began to prey upon each other. That’s why the smaller, weaker ones flourish in such abundance now. There’s plenty of room for them to expand with the cities gone.”
“Cities? What cities? Where is this?”
“Not where, when!”
“So much was destroyed in those final years, now it is being replenished. These trees are young, a mere one or two hundred years. This was a city once, an urban area reduced to rubble. Now the sands of time have clothed it once more with beauty, and nature, once perverted by man, flourishes.”
“People moved away from the cities after a while to make a new start at life. They took what was useful and left. Hardly any knew anything of the new agrarian lifestyle most were to pursue. Few survived but those few were special. Most were happy to leave, in fact most already had left of their own accord for one reason or another- they couldn’t buy or sell. They’d been hunted, lost families and loved ones; these were the survivors. Like the animals they were few, but their needs were few also, content to be alive, to be free. Some had survival skills and helped others, all were ready to learn. From one day to the next farmers became the new elite, teaching businessmen and ex heads of state how to farm and care for the land.”
“How do you know all this? Who the hell are you anyway?”
Doc smiled. “You think I’m a figment of your imagination don’t you?”
“No you… you were…”
“I don’t know! Am I going crazy?” Doc stopped, taking Alex’ hand he looked deep into his eyes.
“You’re not dead and you’re not crazy Alex.”
“I brought you here for a purpose. You’ve always been a traveler, reveled in new cultures…”
“Yes, but never anything like this”
“No, not like this. I want you to talk about it, write a few more books. Use your celebrity status to pass on the message.”
“I’m hardly a celebrity.”
“Not yet, but you will be, if you accept the task.”