The air was bitterly cold and cut sharply into her lungs as Cedar continued to pedal her bicycle down the windy dirt pathway. Lazy spirals of large orange and yellow leaves slowly wafted downward all around her. As she rode, her brain fought to make sense of the toxic mucus, as well as trying to understand her encounter with the angry beaver.
She reasoned that, perhaps, since she was an empath, what she had heard was the animal’s thoughts. Although, it had never worked like that before; it had always been just waves of others’ emotions and feelings, not actual words and sentences. Or maybe that strange sticky goo she had found was somehow responsible, and it was causing her to hallucinate.
Cedar rolled up to her destination, the squat where her friend Sunday lived. The crumbling building was once an old Jiffylube, long since abandoned. Only the military cartel ever drove automobiles these days. She had initially met Sunday many years earlier, back in Sanctuary City, when they both had been “indefinitely detained” without charges, immediately following the bloody coup.
She pushed her bicycle through the corrugated metal roll-up door and detached her produce laden panniers. The air was thick with the smell of fennel seeds, peppercorns and dill. Sunday was engrossed in pickling a bushel of chioggia beets, and was singing to herself. As she looked up and noticed Cedar, her face brightened; she said, somewhat playfully:
“Well, if it isn’t my favorite lawless fugitive. What have you brought us for barter today?”
Cedar’s tone was decidedly more somber:
“When I was riding through Oakville this morning I saw more of that weird gelatinous goo. Everything anywhere near the globs was totally withered and dead.”
Sunday’s mood suddenly became very dark, and her eyes filled with pensive worry.
“Shit, the “jellyfish” are back.”
“Jellyfish?” Cedar repeated, incredulous and confused.
“When I was a small child, my great aunt Ida used to tell me gruesome bedtime stories about toxic globs that inexplicably rained down from the sky, like some kind of biblical plague. She said that it happened half a dozen times one August back in the nineties, and only in Oakville. Each time the mucus rain fell, dozens of small children and animals got sick and died, but nobody was ever able to find out what the nasty goo was, or where it came from.
Ida said that everyone suspected the military, some kind of biological weapons testing. However, the official government explanation for the weird blobs was jellyfish.”
“Somehow tons of jellyfish were supposed to have propelled themselves up into the stratosphere, and then they all came showering down on Oakville.”
“But Oakville is nearly 100 kilometers from the ocean. How could thousands of jellyfish rain down from the sky so far from the coast, on six separate occasions, and only in this one particular small town? That is completely twisted and incoherent; that reasoning makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.”
“I never said that it was a remotely plausible official explanation. Cognitive dissonance is one of the few areas in which the military truly excels.”
Cedar knew that this was indeed very true—cognitive dissonance. She stared blankly at the clear glass jars of striped beets spread out before her, and tried to forge some kind of understanding of the day’s strange events. Gibt es hier Quallen? Her brain hurt and she was starting to feel queasy. Finally she turned to Sunday and tentatively asked:
“Have you ever. . .had a conversation, I mean. . .spoken with. . .a beaver?”
Editor’s note: This is the tenth installment of Sanctuary City, an ongoing fictional serial that appears regularly in Ecolocalizer.
Read the previous chapter here.
You can read the next installment of Sanctuary City here.