The Garden Club
Dedicated to those of us who are hoping to discover that perfect paradise.
BookRix GmbH & Co. KG
A New Earth
Hal was barely receptive to the muffled noises all about. With torso slumped forward and fingers hanging onto the bottom of the steering wheel, the eyelids begged to cede to the impulses that demanded sleep.
The consciousness too yielded its control and was shut off from the inevitable tragedy that was about to occur. But just as the car began to veer across the median and straight towards the oncoming traffic, a rapid succession of awkward bumps gently nudged awareness back to a semi-conscious state. Eyes opened just long enough to witness the course correction, but the reality of the danger was still muddled from the fatigue crying out for peaceful slumber.
Unexpectedly, Hal found himself standing before a tranquil lake. The body of water was nestled at the base of an unbroken ring of mighty mountains that kept the scene shielded from the dangers of the outside world. The mountainsides were covered with towering trees. The collective scent of the trees wafted about the air and filled the lungs with a piney aroma that transported the imagination back to a time gone by.
Eyes became mesmerized by the meadow of luscious grass and vibrant wild flowers that surrounded the lake. They added their own sweet aromas to the springtime air. Realizing he was standing in the midst of a paradise that was believed to have fallen to the needs of the world, Hal felt all the stress and burdens lifted by the serene setting.
A hypnotic wave of gentle ripples that were slight distortions created by the movement of a gaggle of geese wading through the crystal clear water moved the images of the mountains framed by the glossy surface of the lake. An overpowering sense made the lake alive. It was as if a mountain nymph was beckoning all the geese to come, rest, and to take refuge before continuing the flight to the north.
Ears detected the faint sounds of honking as the water’s edge called out to come closer. The honking grew louder. It sounded as if thousands upon thousands of the wild birds came gliding down on the wind and towards the surface. The tranquility of the scene was broken by the intensity. The voluminous clatter was too much to take.
“Oh no!” A foot slammed the brakes. The car skidded to a stop just inches away from the back of a truck that had come to a stop in the congested traffic. “Whew,” Hal sighed. "That was close."
Reality slammed back into his consciousness. A window was lowered allowing air to hit the face, awaken the senses, and revive the mind beset with an unrelenting need for sleep.
Droplets of dirty dew dropped on a bare arm as it stretched out into the morning air and irritated the skin. The air processors lining the highway towered high in the sky. They hummed a wheezing hum as they inhaled the tainted air and sent it flowing towards the Miramar Atmosphere Plant. After the scrubbed air was refreshed, the plant’s towering stacks constantly exhaled the finished product back into the sky.
Wondering what had caused the morning’s stand still of traffic, Hal turned on the news. A monotonous voice crackled over the radio advising drivers that a major accident had clogged traffic for miles along both sides leading to the 78/15 interchange. To make matters worse, it was reported that the dragged out process of the installation of a pumping station for the water reclamation line running along the 15 corridor had just added more frustration to the morning commute.
Surrounded by others who were also trapped in the mess, the car crept slowly up the highway. The wasted time led to thoughts about the day ahead. Just having to think about the trouble his friend had caused also added onto the already crushing misery that had fell upon him the night before.
Hal considered that it would be just a waste of time to continue on now, but logic was starting to wax strong. The pangs that had fed the desire to reverse directions and head back home were waning. The task at hand was the last task left to finish and one that would decide the fate of the park. But beyond that, he thought, if it weren’t for the reports, I would’ve been out of a job long ago.
Finally, Cloverdale Drive came into sight and also the opportunity to escape the madness of the morning rush hour. But one remnant of it still remained. Hal heard it in the tail end of a commercial that enthusiastically announced: At SciTech, chemistry is not just a science, but a way to improve the quality of your life too.
For years Hal cringed at such haughty claims even though he could understand to some extent the rationale behind such measures. He could never buy into the explanation that the earth’s natural cleansing cycle had been so badly damaged by the war ending all wars that such scientific and chemical methods had to be put into effect.
To further the doubts, the idea that every square inch of the synthetic landscape had to be utilized to maximize the needs of the world’s population. He could never buy into the effort of the corporate giants having to step in where governments failed. The belief was that they were the ones that had the means and abilituy that would efficiently trap the toxic waste spewing into the atmosphere. Then, by means of their corporate science and technology, had to rush in to rescue the Earth from the ecological catastrophe. Their means of renewing the air, howerver, were mainly by cleverly manufactured filters laced with chemicals that had been created in private labs and were highly toxic to the environment. The filters, they claimied, were engineered and manipulated to remove the carbon particulates and green house gasses emitted by the very machines they profited from while containing their dangerous chemicals through mechanical means.
Not only was the world’s population blinded to the reality of it all, they simply did not care as well. All anyone cared about besides ridding the waste to avert any ill health affects the dirty air, water, or food would cause, were abundant supplies of those commodities. The cost added to the purchases of their hearts’ desires did not matter.
Usually oblivious to the unnatural surrounding, Hal scanned the landscape and saw one fact that was never mentioned by the corporate media. The fact was apparent in how wild birds had been intentionally left out in the world. The birds that ventured to close to the processors' gaping mouths were also sucked in by the sucking force.
Hal took a moment to scan the waste of life. The rotting carcasses littered the back sides of the collectors and mingled in with those that were merely thrashed yet still breathing. They were left to flutter on the ground until cleanup crews came swarming in and shoveled them up like so many pieces of trash. The dead and dying birds, however, were not destiined as an alternative fuel source for incinerators at power producing plants. Their fate had been decided by the war to end all wars.
It was a war that began over dwindling natural resources. The ferocious fighting between nations left dead hundreds of millions. In its ugly aftermath, the war was a crying call to the citizens of the world that toppled governments and deferred to corporate intelligence to finally meet all basic needs and then some. Therefore, under the direction of the corporate rule, the dead and dying birds were recycled as materials for manufacturers and as food additives to bulk up the food supply.
Driving further up the deserted stretch of road, a great mass of green broke up the monotony of the brown ground and gray sky. The juxtaposition was once meant as a reminder to everyone of what had existed from the caring hearts of bureaucrats, but now was a reminder of how governments tried to deny all things they required by preserving what they had thought was in need of preserving.
The green lushness in view was safely contained within a fiber and glass structure covering nearly three square miles. The canopy was supported by a structure connected together with six sided hexagons and topped by sections rising to a height of 150 feet. To Hal, the structure represented the only true life around.
For twenty two years he had driven to the site. Years removed from college, a degree in Environmental Biology and fervent to tend to its needs, Hal saw the park as an oasis within a corporate desert. But for the past few years a hands-off policy at the park had been implemented by the Governor and there was nothing more to do than to act as an administrator. It took him out of the field to put together reports for the Governor each month. The reports were of the fiscal health of the last tract of rain forest left on the planet.
The phone rang.
Without looking at the number of the receiving call, Hal immediately wondered what Ron had done now. Tired of listening to the same old annoying voice on the other end whining about some insignificant event, he let the ring continue its electronic rant hoping the sycophant would just hang up, but it would not cease.
The familiar voice, cold and succinct, blared over the speaker. “The Governor wants to see you.”
“What’s…” a click over the speaker interrupted the thought, “…the problem?”
Hal slammed on the brakes. The tires screeched. The car skidded to a stop. A strong inhale sent air deeply into the lungs in an effort to calm a rapidly beating heart and to smother the infuriating frustration that consumed the mind, but it was no use. Anger smoldered inside.
The message was received and understood. Hal had long realized that whenever the Governor asked for a face to face meeting it meant that Ron had done something especially irking. Not that he minded defending his friend, he did not. It was facing the Governor’s harsh lectures that he hated the most.
Hal was only a few minutes away from the park and decided at that moment to go and pick up April’s revenue report to take along to Governor Hartson. Although the risk of further condemnation for not responding promptly to the order was imminent, at least further torment would be avoided by eliminating the appointed time set aside for such briefings.
But the report really did not matter to the Governor, he reasoned, for the Governor only appreciated the fact that it was one of only a few official functions that was under his control. It was an authoritative function that had been afforded him by the corporate leaders. But Hal knew the report would not be the point of contention.
“Did you do the same stupid thing Ron?”
While pondering that question, Hal felt the answer deep down in his heart. The answer, howerver, did not include assigning any blame or agree in any part to allegations of shocking acts committed by his friend. He knew that Ron was just trying to stir up some excitement by creating a sense of fun and adventure. And the truth be known, it was not the Governor who viewed such acts as vile indiscretions, but through the view of those with intentions to further their gains.
The car sped through the visitor’s parking lot and slid onto the road curving to the south side of the park. It came to a screeching halt in a marked space by the maintenance building. Impulses demanded to grab the door with both hands, anchor feet firmly to the asphalt, and slam it shut so hard as to cause the car to fall apart and crash to the ground, but a sense of restraint prevailed.
Hal collapsed onto the hood with hands clenched and listened to the whining and humming of the machine parts spinning within the electrical power plant. The sounds were of the machines filtering and pumping water back up to the waterfall, and from there up to a network of pipes and sprinklers attached to the support grids.
Hal turned towards the whining. The noise came from behind the door to the employee entrance.
“Damn it,” he whispered in response to the sight of a bunch of bananas not so cleverly hidden in the deep cover of a growth of wild weeds. He stopped in midstride and focused on the sights and sounds, but the squeaking door blared out an alarm and possibly alerted any nearby maintenance worker to flee the scene of the crime.
The attention turned to the thick boundary of overgrown ferns and seedlings lining the edge of a path. Hal searched out signs of someone lurking about, but the culprit was not detected—whoever it was knew not to be caught.
Hal reached down and picked out the bunch of bananas from the weeds and started hiking down the dirt pathway that had been invaded by the plants over the years.
The youthful enthusiasm and a body lean and fit once made the walk a literal stroll in the park for Hal, but such vigor had given way to a two hundred and fifty pound frame that huffed and puffed for the mile or so it took to reach the targeted destination. The destination was a punishing stairwell rising one hundred and fifty feet above woody shrubs, trees hosting a number of colorful epiphytes, and emerging to a perch high atop the canopy layer rich in flowers, fruits, and nuts.
Hal entered the observation nest and plopped down in the first chair that was available. Panting furiously, he scanned the nest. Ron was absent. So too was the report. Minutes passed. The heavy panting gave way to slow and steady breaths and clarity of thoughts.
A finger reached out and activated a radio. “Ron, is the final draft of the revenue report finished?”
A response was barely audible through the static of the rickety radio. “It’s by the printer.”
Hal looked to the printer and saw the papers perfectly aligned and smartly stapled together. Although he was unable to count the number of ways his friend found ways to make his life a living hell at times, he could always count on Ron’s technical skills to produce the park’s business data in a timely fashion. He smirked while realizing the only aspect of the business end of the park in which he were responsible was the job of meeting with the Governor—one that Ron detested but he managed to stomach.
Hal walked over to the computer desk. The bananas were tossed atop the clutter free surface. “They’re at it again.”
“Who’s at it again?”
“Someone from the maintenance crew is taking fruit again. I found a bunch of bananas by the entrance to the power plant.”
“Great!” the static voice responded. “You better make sure the Governor finds out about this.”
Hal reached out to the report and immediately the attention was drawn to the bottom line. Observing the positive numbers he wondered if Ron actually thought either he or the Governor was unaware of the clever accounting trick that spoke well of the park’s financial health.
“Well, look at this,” noted Hal, “the walk-up gate receipts have increased again this month.”
“The figures don’t lie you nutcase!”
“Oh for god’s sake will you calm down. I’m just making an observation is all.”
“Are you saying I made up those numbers?”
Hal could hear the anger in the tone of his friend’s voice as accusations, questions concerning the integrity of not only the numbers but of ethical behavior, sputtered out in rapid succession. He knew better not to let out suspicious statements concerning the numbers, yet the suspicions remained and eventually would have to be confronted by direct questioning that would lead to the truth.
In the meantime, Hal struggled to justify his friend’s angry mind and manipulative ways. He wanted to try to pinpoint the cause and the beginnings of such irrationality. All he knew is that such behavior had surfaced recently and was cleverly disguised, as with the accounting tricks. But Hal wanted to know why his friend felt the need to keep secret the source of anger—arguing just made it worse. But the reason why kept eating away at the conscious.
Hal reasoned the answer could lie in Ron’s self-perception of him being the key to the park’s vitality. In a way, Ron may have felt as if he were the last survivor of a mindset that had once believed that the earth needed pampering and protection for her precious and delicate resources being raped by the lusts of men. And Hal could empathize with what his friend must have been experiencing, but to a point. The sheer mental torture that had beset his mind with thoughts of fighting a lost battle, a crusade for which all had abandoned, left him alone in the struggle. As much as he too loved the park, neither he nor a united stand with his friend could defend its existence or assure its fate. The park was coming to an end. The corporate leadership saw it as wasted space.
Having heard enough of Ron’s chattering diatribe, Hal yelled out, “Okay. Just drop it already.”
“You’re the one that brought ….”
“Why do you sleep at the park?” Hal demanded to know.
“You don’t shop for food do you?”
“Are you accusing me of eating off the park?”
After a long pause, a reply to the question was heard over the static. “I’d never do that and you know it.”
Hal heard the sincerity, the quiet passion that quickly dismissed the notion that Ron could ever bring himself to commit such an act. Hal could blame Ron for a lot of misdirected intentions, but to angrily accuse him of stealing from the park was simply a callous and vicious attack born out of frustration. Stealing was not part of Ron’s character.
“Sorry Ron…I didn’t mean that.”
“By the way, what happened Friday?”
“Why do you care?”
“Governor Hartson wants to see me.”
“Moved up the monthly meeting did you? Can’t wait till they close the park down can you?”
The realities of the situation begged to be discussed, but Hal lacked the heart to start anew any volatility with his friend. “Come on already, just tell me what happened.”
“A monster attacked them as usual. Now get the hell out of here and tell the Governor of the attack.”
Hal refrained from responding to the hurtful statement, a statement he knew was derived by Ron’s personal demons speaking lies. He realized that anything that could be said to his friend would be twisted and turned and made into a point of argument. Hal flipped off the radio and placed the bunch of bananas and the report in a bag and decided to just walk away. He walked down the stairs to the path below.
Upon stepping on the dirt path, the sprinkler system sent the water sustaining the manmade ecosystem raining down. Hal looked up and realized he could not stop the violent storm that was about to destroy the park that had long ago reached an ecological balance in spite of all the attention given by Ron. Time was running out. The Board of Realtors had been putting insurmountable pressure on the Governor to hand over the park’s fertile land for yet another closed habitat for human occupation. The park’s fate was already decided.
Though he would not miss the park terribly, it would be a devastating loss nonetheless. Ron, however, was another matter. The park meant everything too him. If he was forced to leave he would not know what to do with himself. He would be lost and not know how to survive.
Such speculation would have to wait until the day the Governor made his decision concerning the park. Until that time, Hal decided to commit to the business end of the park by reporting to the Governor each month. More importantly, Hal defended his friend from the wrath of all those that demanded the park’s destruction.
The Garden's Future
As the caravan of cars rolled along towards downtown at a slow but steady pace, Hal now and then glanced down at the phone praying the Governor might demonstrate a little understanding for being late. The thought of eight-thirty creeping up to nine o’clock sent chills throughout the mind. All he could envision was confronting that stone face and cold stare of a man who lived by punctuality.
Hal believed the Governor to be a good man, but yet a man dealing with responsibilities that the corporate leaders had given him. Unfortunately for him, it seemed as if those responsibilities were being slowly taken away. Maybe, he wondered, if the Governor finally reached a point where he sensed his usefulness coming to an end? But then again, maybe he had been grappling with the idea that the need to retain any semblance of a government that ruled by their decisions and discretions, was just a demand from those who remembered and still looked to the past to manage the lives of its citizens.
For most, the fall of government, no matter what the philosophy and means of implementing the objectives to manage the lives of its citizens, was born out of the outright anger. The fury had been directed at the worldwide leaders’ willingness to do battle with one another over the natural resources needed to fulfill their agendas.
The war to end all wars, the war that was waged, and the war in which governments wielded their autonomous power against one another became a battlefront of epic proportions. It was a war in which every weapon that had been designed to maximize death and destruction was employed to wrestle away the victory from one another.
The weapons that had been unleashed in the name of progress, a progress that could only be propagated by rare earth minerals, were devastating. Most of the destructive weapons were launched by countries lacking the desired minerals. The unleashing of such only came when negotiating with the countries that held the minerals in abundance broke down. These countries held the minerals for ransom. The high price of the ransom were for political, social, religious, and economic gains these countries sought. The asking for such an unreasonable rasom backfired. What followed was so vile that the entirety of earth’s population came close to the verge of extinction. If it had not been for the outcry of both citizens and corporate leaders around the world, the governments would have proceeded unchecked. Their determination to bring to fruition their visions until all humanity had been destroyed would have been acomplished.
In response to the madness, governments worldwide were toppled. Military actions were momentarily halted in the absence of direction and stood idly by. Political leaders were taken into custody and thrown in makeshift prisons that offered nothing but miserable conditions. Worldwide throngs then sought ways to make each individual stand trial for the callous assault on all of humanity. If not for certain corporate leaders, men and women who had a vision that reflected the needs and wants of all, just not the select few, the trials would have commenced without any regard to those that may have been innocent of the charges.
If it were not for the actions of one particular corporate leader that stood up and placed herself in front of television cameras to issue a passionate plea to all those that watched, the madness might not have ended. It was a plea that ran contradictory to the philosophy of government that stated “first you do something for us, then we will do something for you.” And it was a plea that caught the attention of the entire world.
Her simple plea had not been rehearsed. Its simpleness was spontaneously uttered as reporters from around the world came at her and demanded accountability for those that helped hatch the governments destructive scheme while sitting secretly in boardrooms. The simple plea: “Please help us out so we can help you out so we can help each other.”
Hal remembered the speech as if it were yesterday. Like everyone he could see and those who could not be seen, uncertainty about the future plagued the minds of all. He vividly could see that image and hear that voice that went on to promise “that together, we could rid the political world in which people needlessly suffer and a world in which governments’ corruption reached out not to help us with our struggles, but to assure a profit for themselves and their select friends.”
Hal recollected that in that instance a sense of order was restored. Her words spoke of a hope never seen nor experienced in the history of mankind. She further pacified his heart and the hearts of humanity by speaking of a justice that would weed out the bad politicians from the good. A new system of justice that would make accountable those that had been so intoxicated by power as to bring the world staggering on the breach of total destruction, and find those politicians that had acted and spoke out with sober reasoning.
Her plan spoke of maintaining borders while creating employment opportunities for all so as to avoid a panic by which people scurried to any country that had once provided the means of a good life.
Promises of a paycheck for any willing worker to sign up for the building of a worldwide infrastructure, and for the housing by which every family and individual could afford to purchase a living unit supplied with electricity, gas, water, and indoor plumbing were made.
Beyond that, Hal remembered the uplifting of the hope in the promises of jobs emerging in every technology known to produce power as well as those that had been held back by government regulation in order to meet the false assurances that all in need would be taken care of.
She promised that manufacturing plants would sell the furniture and appliances, the entertainment systems, and any imaginable item for comfort and happiness would commence immediately. She spoke of a promise to provide the world with an abundant supply of affordable food and clothing as well. All of this and so much more would be possible only if everyone would just grasp onto the idea that in order to accomplish all of this, control and authority must voluntarily be handed over to the hands of corporations whose only goal would be to deliver all the promises.
Days after, the anger of the entire population had completely subsided. Corporations and businesses quickly met, planned, merged into giant conglomerations in order to carry out the promises. With a collective cooperation cheering the people on, a sheer vivacity never witnessed, the colossal expectations became reality. What was impossible by the control and direction of governments became possible by the men and women whose vision for the future was rooted in reality.
Hal glanced to the digital readout and noticed how time had lapsed. “Oh great, ten minutes late.”
The Governor was well aware that only a limited amount of privileged senior executives within the hierarchy of the corporate world had the use of private aircraft as personal transportation, yet the expectation was to be on time regardless of any circumstance.
Hal chuckled having thought that somehow the Governor expected the car to fly through the air with the power of thought alone. But regardless of that impossible maneuver, the thought of arriving late should have been the least of the worries. What he worried about was the same old explanation that may or may not pacify the Governor. The same old argument rang in the thoughts: He’s got to realize that Ron doesn’t mean any harm. It’s not like he’s orchestrating the events. Just show a little understanding.
Traffic was zipping along nearing the westbound onramp, and so too was Hal’s thoughts. Though the Governor may yet again understand the children’s reactions, Hal surmised that the good intentions in “why” Ron continued to take what the Governor called “dangerous risks” would be overlooked. But Hal realized that even if the Governor sided with him and showed mercy, the park’s closure was still inevitable.
The park’s fate all along had been at the discretion of the Governor. In a decision to pacify those that still screamed for a safety net as protection, the corporate leadership agreed to install quasi-politicians in all the nation states and countries that at least shared a common language and culture and heritage. This was based on easing the citizens into accepting the label of world citizens. Depending on the levels of bureaucracy in each nation, either one was appointed as a national figurehead, or in the Governor’s case, as the state’s lone representative.
Hal had always thought it rather remarkable that the only true power entrusted to the Governor was as a keeper of the public trust concerning the public lands that had yet to be consumed for the needs of the world. It was more odd than remarkable, he reasoned. After all, the corporations essentially owned everything.
In the beginning' the decision to cede power to the figureheads conjured up confusion. Whenever quasi-politicians made the decision as to which corporation would receive the available acreage requested, there were so many parcels still available that bickering over final decisions was unheard of. But now, with public land more scarce, the logic of such a decision came to light.
The park was the last of the vast tracts of land remaining that could be utilized for the expansion of any corporation's industrial plans. If left to their own devices, if they had not assigned the Governor the autonomy to act independently, then the corporations would find themselves literally fighting gory battles to seize such treasured land thereby unleashing the rage of the world citizens again. They knew such rage would fiercely destroy them as the corrupt governments had been destroyed.
Hal was aware that the Governor was facing immense pressure from all interested parties. The Board of Realtors was his biggest headache as they cried out for the space to house the swelling population. Housing was on the verge of becoming scarce. More and more families were forced to settle for small apartments and charged higher rent. But the Meat Council was also applying some pressure. It had been reported that food production was falling behind the growing needs. Prices were rising. Grumblings were vented amongst the citizens at the corporate food stores.
Turning onto a southbound off-ramp, Hal’s thoughts turned to the propaganda campaign. The campaign was likened to the ‘Manifest Destiny’ attitude that once swept expansion of the country. It was used by the corporate leaders shortly after the new world order was under way to rile up the citizens. Zoos, animal reserves, and protected lands were seen as things of a repressive world. Pets, along with wild animals of all kinds, were deemed useless eaters and slated for elimination. They were turned over to the slaughter houses and processing plants for the extraction of protein to be added to the food supply. And although every species of birds used for both hunting pleasure and to satisfy strange appetities had been eradicated, smaller birds and birds of prey proved too elusive and the efforts at their eradication had been cancelled.
The phone rang. “Oh gee,” he whispered, “wonder who that can be.”
“So sorry to bother you,” a sarcastic tone blared from the speaker, “but do you think you can find the time in your busy schedule to meet with the Governor?”
Hal rolled his eyes and inhaled deeply. “I’m four blocks away from the hotel. I’m stuck at a stoplight right now. Traffic has been congested as usual,” he calmly informed the Governor’s aide.
Hal scoffed at the ingenious traffic plans that had gone awry. The staggered work times proved useless in solving the daily congestion. Buses, the transport for those that carried out the lowly tasks of the corporate leadership, filled the streets. Cars, that had initially been reserved for those the corporate leaders thought it a necessity to efficiently carry out the daily tasks to handle the daily toils, had been allotted at the whim of any corporate executive. They all cluttered the highways.
Even the sidewalks were filled with workers. They consisted of those that had been placed in housing close to the manufacturing plants to make it easier to bustle off to their jobs. And though Hal was often annoyed with the Governor’s aide and his expedient yet irking nature, he had come to terms with it long ago.