Penny and Isaac waved goodbye as Meribah led her friends down the road. Lily looked back toward them. She was happy that Penny had fallen in love, and would have someone who could help her adjust to heaven. Isaac probably knew more than most Dorom about heaven, and was apt to be a good teacher.
They continued to walk until they came to a large green sign. The sign read “Region of New Earth, population 8,000,000”. At the bottom corner in red spray paint, someone had painted, “Stinky was here”.
Joel shrugged his shoulders, and continued past the sign. When he did, he faded until they could no longer see him. A few minutes later he came back, and motioned for them to follow. “You’re not going to believe this.”
They cautiously stepped past the sign. The sun overhead was instantly covered with clouds, and a wind blew in suddenly. The ground which was packed earth, on the other side of the sign, was now asphalt. The road continued forward until it bent into a clover leaf, and joined a freeway. Thousands of roads twisted, bent, paralleled, and crossed for miles. Buildings, grass, and trees grew between the black and yellow carpets, but the greens were a sick yellow. On the roads there were thousands of cars racing up and down.
Meribah coughed and spat on the ground, “This air is awful! How can anything live in it?”
Joel laughed and inhaled deeply. “This is where it’s at. This is where I was brought up. You’ll get used it. Well most of it. A city is a wild creature pleasing in some ways, but dangerous in others. Oh, and there’s one more thing. Look at each other, look at your feet and hands.”
They did, and it was then that they learned that everyone but Petal had aged thirty years. Fortunately, their clothes had stretched with their bodies, and covered them adequately.
Marc bent down to speak to Petal. “Can you understand me. Can you talk?” For a reply, Petal lifted her hands and smiled. “So she can understand, but she can’t talk. Well let’s get it over with.”
“We’re not going in there are we?” asked Lily.
“I don’t see why not. We’ve got to find God, even if we have to go through hell first,” said Marc.
“This place isn’t for pedestrians, we’d be mushed in a second. We’d need one of those vehicles.” Lily wrinkled her nose, “And they don’t look very safe.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it,” Joel said, putting out his fist with his thumb up.
“It’s called hitchhiking,” explained Marc. “It’s liking asking for a ride.”
They had to walk past the clover leaf and onto the freeway, before they were picked up. The driver of a large red pick-up truck with enormous tires offered them a ride. From the rear view mirror hung a racoon tail, and a gun rack was positioned behind the seats.
Everyone climbed into the back where the floor was rusty and full of debris. The female passenger, in the truck, slid the back window aside and began talking to Lily.
A few hours later, as daylight slipped away, they walked down a well lit street. Houses on this street had bars on their windows, and high fences surrounding them. Children could be heard playing behind the fences, and dogs would bark at the travellers as they passed by their yards.
Big neon lights advertised the hotel across the street: “The International”. Loud voices slipped out of the door as a man walked from the hotel. In his hand he waved a flask, and as he took a drink from it he fell on the concrete steps. “Sonovabitch!” he growled as he struggled to his feet. “I’ll be paying for that one tomorrow.” He crossed the street with a tune on his lips, and spittle flew from in enthusiastic tongue. As he walked back the way that they had come, he interrupted his whistling to break into the words of his song.
Where good and evil fight,
Where anyone just might,
Where none tread but Dorom,
As thrilling as the Forum,
As beautiful as an unpicked rose,
As cold as the Siberian snows.
A place of sadistic mirth.
You know I speak of New Earth.
“Quaint little song,” said Meribah sarcastically.
“Only a bar song, my dear.” Joel put his arm around Meribah’s waist. “It’s not meant to be taken seriously.”
“We had better find a place to stay soon.” Marc looked toward the hotel. “This place might become worse than Wezul when the sun goes down.”
“Maybe I can help?” said a deep voice. They turned to see two police officers, wearing uniforms like those of many earth cities. The male said, “It’s been a long time since I first arrived, but I’ve not forgotten what it’s like. There’s an old man who lives not far from here, and he takes in people for a night or two, while they get settled. We can take you to him.”
“That’s very kind of you, officer,” Marc said politely.
“No, it’s not kind of me. I’m only taking you there, he is the kind one. I’m Josh Wall, and this is my partner Kim Zanibi.”
“He’s a little flat,” said Kim nodding toward her partner, “but a good guy. Come on it’s not far and I’d feel better if you good people were off the street.”
The officers stayed for a coffee, and assured Marc that they would return tomorrow to see how they were. The old man’s name was Richard. He was very pleasant, and he loved to talk.
Their rooms were small and in Richard’s basement. He served soup, and bread for supper. They rested the remainder of the evening in his yard behind his large fence.
“What we got here, is a good idea that went a little sour,” said Richard. “The founders of New Earth called themselves Purists. They wanted to recreate earth as best as possible. So people are rich and poor here, drunk and sober, caring and not so caring, and everyone ages. Now they’re talking of allowing people to die and/or be killed, if you can believe it? If you die, you would be reborn as an infant somewhere else in the city. If that law passes, I’m outta here on the next train.”
“It’s a very unique idea,” said Marc, unsure of what else to say.
“And you my dear,” Richard asked Lily, “how do you like our fine city?”
“It’s alright, very exciting. But it’s a little ungreen for my liking.”
“Yes, you’re right. Trees don’t grow very well through concrete, and with all this gunk in the air the grass is more yellow than green. I planted some flowers and saplings once in this very yard, they didn’t last too long. The only thing left is that sickly pine over by the fence.”
Meribah patted his arm, “I’ve got a very green thumb. I’ll see what I can do tomorrow.”
Richard stood up and started toward the door, “You’re sweet child, but you don’t know what you’re promising. Nothing grows very well here.”
“Things change,” she whispered.