[Estimated reading time: 3 minutes]
This is a work in progress.
Anna and her husband Tom watch helplessly as their friend Walter slips on the wet rocks and goes head-over-heels into the airy void. They're at the top of American Falls some four hundred feet above the gushing river. Walter's falling form disappears into the mist and after a second the scene goes back to its idyllic state, unblemished by the temporary tragedy.
Anna lunges for the edge, her right arm stretched out to grab at the receding form. Tom holds her back from the treacherous edge, "Careful, don't slip!"
"We have to get down there!" Anna is frantically looking around, searching for a safe path down.
Tom pulls her close and holds her, strokes Anna's hair. "We will. I'm going to call this in, first."
Anna buries her head in Tom's vest and cries. She knows they're not going to find Walter.
[Estimated reading time: 6 minutes]
Billy leaves his hotel after breakfast and walks the few dozen blocks to the museum.
The streets of DC look strange, uncluttered by the automobiles of Billy's youth, a ubiquitous sight that was already on its way out when Billy was born. Here in DC, much like most other US cities, the last of the Auto Century roads have been repurposed and transformed into wide and infinite-seeming parks that cut across each other in strange orientations.
Even a decade or two back, Billy would have needed to make a number of breather stops. Benches line the miles of park, but Billy walks past these. It's the best he's felt in a long time, and the sole reason he arranged a hotel so far away from his one and only destination here in DC. He wants to enjoy walking in the city of his birth, just this one last time.
[Estimated reading time: 4 minutes]
Don't you want somebody to love
Don't you need somebody to love
Wouldn't you love somebody to love
You better find somebody to love
I hang on to a lamp post and cough, and it feels like I hack up half a lung. I spit and the red blood mixes with the brackish water in the gutter a few feet away. I analyze the spit for a moment, see that there are no large chunks in it, and continue walking.
The rain is relentless as it pelts me, but I barely notice. It's been hours, days, weeks like this, and I'm tired of caring. I turn up the collar of my jacket, pull my hat down tighter, and just try to concentrate on walking.
A street sign says I'm passing 480th. I look down and continue to put one foot in front of another, another shambling mess out on the city streets. The perpetual gray of the city is an oppressive blanket, and I'm wallowing in it.
I walk past a neon travesty, a pachinko parlor that's hoping to provide their clientele with the skin cancer they're missing out on by staying here below the clouds. I stare a bit too long and a pink neon elephant sign is permanently burned into my retina.
[Estimated reading time: 15 minutes]
We reach the coast just an hour before sunset. I look back and note our path, a long swath of dust rising slowly in the calm windless air, illuminated a dazzling gold by the setting sun. The dust twists for miles, then disappears behind a small hill. With a little light remaining, we set up our camp.
I pull my pop-up tent from my hover-bike, unravel it on the ground and check it for holes, tears, scorpions. I then straighten and connect its carbon-fiber ribs and plug the tent's power into my bike. While the tent inflates on its own, I go through the bike's maintenance menu and start a cleaning and fine-tuning process. I send up a dozen fly-sized drones to watch over us. I can check what they are seeing around us, but I don't feel like it and just leave them to their task.
Pops dumps his sleeping bag by the ring of rocks that's going to serve as the campfire. He pulls out some kindling from the bike's side bag, small twigs and branches that he gathered every time we stopped, and starts building a small well-ventilated structure. He adds larger branches and pieces of wood, then gets the fire started with some flint.
He's in charge of the common camp space today, while I'm cooking. I've been enjoying these moments for their pure simplicity.