11 Hope?

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Stephen Whiteside
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11 Hope?

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Tue Dec 27, 2011 7:54 am

11 Hope?

© Stephen Whiteside 27.12.2011

Pocus felt a little better now. At least he was not alone in the world any more. Somebody knew the risk he was facing, the trouble he was in. Even if that somebody was 0.07 of a light year away from him, and moving further away at 0.04 the speed of light. He started to think about the journey that lay ahead. They would follow the river to the edge of the escarpment. Then, as the river plunged a hundred metres through thin air, then continued its serpentine way eastwards across the plains to the coast, they would turn sharply south for the last 20 km dash to Copperbung. He knew it so well - from the river. He had walked the journey, too, but only a handful of times. The river was windy. Their path would be straight. Yet the river, apart from a few rapids, was flat. Their way would be up and down most of the way, and steep hills they were, too.

Pocus searched his mind for ways to beat the cold tonight. Should they keep moving? Visibility would be good. There would be a moon. But, no. He’d only drive them into the ground. They had another big day tomorrow, and without rest they simply wouldn’t make it. Where would they hole up? How would they keep warm? Was there some way that Hocus could help them?

His mind turned to the vegetation. Moss. Twigs. Grass. Branches. It all felt so pitiful. Pitiful against the great cold. The freeze that sucked the very life out of you, stealthily, silently, relentlessly. How many of them were there? 12 tourists. 13, including him. If they bunched up really close, maybe the few in the middle would have a chance - although they would probably get lost the next day, unless Pocus was also one of the survivors. Maybe they could rotate, keep people moving from the edges to the middle and back out again. That’s what birds did, wasn’t it, to get them through their long migrations - rotate the leaders, take it in turn to ride the slipstream. (Or so he’d read. The ersatz birds didn’t bother.) And this was just another migration, wasn’t it?

No. He couldn’t see it. They were facing forces deeper than that. More powerful than that. If they were forced to spend a night out in the open, they were going to die. It seemed crazy that his own people could not rescue them. Would not. They could send an air ambulance to them in twenty minutes. The technology was there. But rules were rules. This was one of the few battles that the Greens had won. They had had large Green Zones declared inside most national parks. And inside the Green Zones, machines were not allowed. Such was the desperate desire to keep certain places on planet Earth pristine. Of course, the hypocrisy of it all was not lost on Pocus. Never mind that all the wildlife was ersatz, you couldn’t bring a helispinner or rotajet in. Offence punishable by death. So their own people were doomed to let them die, with hands held tied behind backs. And the amazing thing was, the public bought it. It was a popular law, in spite of the occasional death. Of course, not all the deaths were reported, but that was another story.

So. There it was. They were going to die. Unless… Unless… Wasn’t there something about a matter transfer device? Was it possible? Could they all spend the night on Hocus' ship…?
Stephen Whiteside, Australian Poet and Writer

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