How Much Food Do You Need

Recently you may have seen a round of ‘earth from above’ pictures looping around the Internet.  Seems like we get a new batch of these every six or nine months.  A couple made it to my ‘inspire’ tag in my reader.  This is one:

I’ll serve up a bit of brainstorming for you rather than a disjointed ending-free story.

Unlike the Veleme, who are isolationistic, the people that live here are adventurous.  They could each live out their lives in complete solitude, but they choose to gather together to take advantage of each other.  Not in a survivalistic way but in a increasing our fortune kind of way.  It’s a gathering of striking individuals that suspend their individualism in this one place.  However, since they are such individuals the community could lose half it’s people and still survive because each one person is self sustaining.

For this reason they are perpetually misunderstood by other communities.  Other communities gather to give things up, to allow small groups within the community to perform tasks they are suited for.  Divers dive, soldiers protect, merchants sell, weavers weave.  These kinds of people—that kind that give things up to specialize—cannot understand a group that never needs to give things up to become a community.

Seasonally, probably Neap Tide, the sea level drops enough that only pockets of water remain surrounding the stilt houses.  At this time new houses grow and cleave to the existing ones while the existing ones get repaired.  This ought to either follow some very strict community rules or nearly none at all.  For these folks everything is either good or bad.  Done or not done might be a better way of putting it.  Actually maybe the best way to put it.  Here if you do something then it should have been done and if you don’t do a thing then it should not have been done.  That ought to make for some interesting perceptions on the part of neighbors.

OK so where’s the drama stem from then?  We’ll have to upset something.  Put someone in the community that cannot be an individual?  Someone so dependent on others it drags the rest down, cramps their style so to speak?  But what could do such a thing in a community of individuals existing in a rather relaxed anarchy?  How could one person’s desire/need/requirement for dependency be met with anything but bemused indifference?  Some kind of doomsday situation: if Bill dies, we all die.  So, what?  Bill explodes?  Has some magical disease?  Maybe Bill represents an unexpected dependency the people of this place hadn’t realized existed before.

I’m going to have to learn about equipment free diving and the ocean and living in and near salt water for this one.  Plus survival in an unusual niche.  Where do they get water and food and power?  How much technology does a place like this require (or disdain)?  If you show up with a propane stove will you be derided as some anti-traditionalist or a hero?  Begrudging respect?  Something like that could be a sign of dependence on others for propane.

What do these folks do for entertainment?  Are their lives so full of activity eking out a living that they crash in bed at the end of the day?  Wake early to get enough time to feed their family?  Thus there is no need for entertainment—no down time?  Or is food in the form of fish so abundant that they loaf around all day after a busy morning of fishing?  How many fish do you need to catch to support your family.

Day 301

Introducing Jasper

Grasping a wad of high grasses in his left hand and wrapping it back around his wrist Jasper acted quickly. That would have to do, he knew it probably would not. He scuffed the dry prarie soil with the toe of his sandle enough to draw in with his fingertip. He traced a near-perfect circle, added two sinuous lines that might have been wings, and poked a dot into the center of it all.

Jasper liquified the breeze and draped it around himself. It did not take long.

Air rushed to him from all sides bending the green grass like penitents at prayer. The air then swirled upward into a vortex with Jasper at the hub. Solid circle shapes and other bursts sprung from the markings he’d traced in the dirt and rose with the air. Mostly they were the color of the prarie: green, green-yellow, and green-teal. Some, of course, were starkly white or deeply black.

Jasper hoped the grasses he held were well rooted to the earth, but didn’t look. It wouldn’t matter now. He strengthened his grip for what came next.

The two wings he’d drawn on the circle flowed along the surface of the prarie winding among the grasses growing there as crinkle of his vision. They seemed like eager beasts waiting on chance. They were desperate to fly.

Jasper needed his attachment to the earth to hold. If the roots tore free too soon he’d spin into the initial vortex and bounce in a painful arc along the ground before going up. It happened before; he held no interest in repeating the experience.

The wings popped and snapped along the surface of the prairies battering the gentle plant life and raising more bursts as they came fully to life. Each lively crinkle became a white ribbon expanding into a sheet and then a sail. One split partway out and formed a third anxious beast. The bursts ran freely to the center and rushed upward. The speed at which they formed disallowed them full solidity so nearly all of them were outlines or double outlines.

Jasper waited for the bursts to be incomplete arcs and wilder half-shapes. They signaled his leap.

A neatly drawn plus sign ran up from the leftward wing. Jasper had never seen one of those before. He hoped it good. The point of each wing ripped free of his tracing. They alternated between losing the rest of themselves and trying to encircle Jasper. One twined his leg and popped him off balance. He nearly lost his grip. When he looked up he saw the unsplit wing’s distal end billow up like a sail catching the wind. Then the split one broke free and lept into the air with it’s fellow.

Jasper caught hold of the wing still encircling his leg. He’d been taught he couldn’t force his will on these things; he could only coax them. He watched the billowing ends disentangle from the earth. Their freedom rippled back toward him.

“Please let me time this right.”

Each wing stripped completely free of the earth and rattled into the sky. The wider far ends wafted high and back toward the center. Good. He’d go up first—no arm breaking. A cascade of bursts erupted around him: stars, octagons, circles, hoops, a curious harp shape, more plusses. The wings went up without him. Distracted, he missed his moment.

“No I didn’t!”

He loosed his grip on the grass and grabbed a pair of plusses clawing at the air like it was a ladder. He stuffed his toes into a hoop on one side and stepped on a solid green circle on the other. He kicked and pushed his way up the flock of bursts till he closed in on the nearer tendrils of the wings. They did exactly as he expected—hoped—they twined his body and rooted there.

Jasper launched above the prarie pulled by three wind filled sheets. Bursts orbited him or rested near his shoulders. Sometimes running up the wings; sometimes trickling back down.

Day 295