“What global warming?” they asked “It’s freezing cold here! And if we have a bit of sunshine up here, hey, am not going to get in panic!” I recalled my parents’ frenzied tone the last time when I saw snow. I was a child then, and now when I noticed my first white hair, it’s snowing again. Mother and father are not with us anymore, and I can’t look at the chilly flakes as a sort of evidence the same way they did. Something has changed, call it climate or anything, the clouds sitting on the edge of the horizon, the butterflies I used to see, the heat our fish can't bear...
Now, I see hope in the snow. Perhaps this year, unlike in the last twenty-some, fewer insects will feast on the crops. Maybe we can store some snow in our cistern.
Too much blessing would ruin the village entirely though, let’s hope the spring flood won’t destroy the valley.
Billions of snowflakes - none of them identical, as my teacher said before they exiled the teachers off the valley - fell softly onto the corpses of homes. Few of us, the “True People” made it so far, and I wasn’t truly grateful to be one of them.
My glance wandered towards the desk where the Book laid. Funny enough, my parents have purchased this copy via the word wide web, not that I know much about that. Electricity fell victim to the illusion of self-reliance.
“Bestseller of 2023” the print caught my eyes before the faded title: Our ancestors path to the future.
I didn’t need to open it to know what’s written on the yellowish pages, but I did, like I did every so often.
“Knowledge is a mount of falsehood, they say you must climb, but where do you get, after all the youth-consuming efforts? Onto the bottom of another mount of questions and dilemmas. You’ll never have a reassuring answer.”
My mother read this aloud, day after day, to cure my depression after they had shut the school. They shut the shop too, and the post office. We didn’t have a surgery since the last doctor died, so it was easy. And we flourished, in a rather limited and specific way. People came here from the cities to follow the Path, leaving their gadgets, addictions, ambitions and delusions behind. For the latter, I guess they’d replaced it.
The author of the Book visited us once, with an armada of cameramen and other staff, the entire village soaked in home-made wine and smelled of scent candles. My father vacillated between a worn mundane and a primitively woven shirt, and my mother braided some wild flower into our hair. We didn't look very well I would say now, however that was a happy day with my parents and drums and treats and so on. But I can’t remember the guy, the writer, regardless of the fact this visit became a milestone in our community’s life.
This was before the great landslip, of course. Hell, that was a dividing line. Thousands of tons of mud slid downhill, cutting the valley off the main road, or any road for that matter. Mother hid me into the pit, fearing the helicopters would have taken us kids back to the tyrannical world. The adults fought the aid, protecting our lifestyle, and the rescue team backed off at the end. That was the last chance to leave the valley, as many of the urban brethren have realised it too late.
The helicopters have never come back.
Sometimes, someone tried to get out, especially after poor harvests. We buried them when the river washed their bodies on shore, or the guards shot an arrow into their back if they got tempted by the easier way through the rocks.
Tommy shared his weird hypothesis with me. He said we caused the landslip cutting the trees off the mount. I said it was bollocks, those trees were sick already. Because of climate change, he said then. I slapped him in the face and I ran away, but I kept the secret of his heresy. He died of an infection a couple of years later.
I sat beside his death-bed, orphaned by then, my brother ran away with the helicopter. I opened the Book to seek guidance.
“Do not cheat yourself and do not let the world to cheat you. Weakness is weakness and strength is strength. If we take weakness as strength, if we adore failures as success while we mistake potency with abuse; we betray our forefathers and offsprings alike. Moderation is the chasing of mercifulness.”
Shit. At that point, more than ever, I was confident it was shit. I could have found a comforting explanation in the text, but Tommy was dead and I didn’t cheat myself anymore.
Yet, I stayed for many years as a pillar of the community, reciting monotone necrologies and caring for the living, not to mention the hard work we based our life on.
I used to search under the floorboard of the abandoned houses, and I found books of all kinds of genre. I most appreciated those about medicine when I willfully betrayed the Book, saving the weak. However, I enjoyed comics and adventure too, maybe because I understood them.
The youngsters of my people haven’t seen snow before. I couldn’t but join them, and the joy was so overwhelming it sat on my chest as sadness. I felt sorry for them; I saw the slide while we were on the top.
When the much needed tea-time came and the girls served a boiling water with dried berries, I instructed the kids to offer a drink to the elders who were reluctant to leave their homes. I asked to look after their fireplaces too. By the time they came back, the boys were back as well, with blankets and belongings ready to the fun I promised.
I knew it was risky, yet I tried. I stepped on the ice first. If I can do it, the kids can as well. The surface of the river shrieked underneath my foot, then it turned into a solid rocking pavement. The kids followed me.
They’ll have a choice. Tommy had not.