Shattered drank his afternoon tea, sitting inside the isolation yurt. The days moved as though backwards. His mind no longer raced. He faced blankness; a boredom of horrors, the kind of boredom that reveals one hanging over the edge of a void of meaninglessness. Words no longer held together like links in a chain; they merely congealed inside his head alongside vague images. A person’s face. Another person’s face revealed underneath. Another underneath that. And so on. Until he slept. And he slept. And slept. And slept. And this afternoon, after his tea, almost with immediate effect, he fell into a hypnogogic state followed somnambulance. He unconsciously walked around the room. He felt himself picked up. Lifted. Guided by the hands of others. Moved. Transported. Silently gilding through the soft, misty coastal night. A carriage. Horses. Movement again. Bumps. Shattered’s eyes opened and closed. He drifted, his consciousness vacillated between hibernation and a sort vague, indeterminate and approximated awareness, an awareness that was only partial, only fragmented yet not with much ability to move his physical body.
Faces. More hands. A train. The smell of something shadowy, like smoke, but thicker. Inside, the sounds, the bumps, that accompany an old train on old tracks. Sleep. Inside a station. Shattered awoke to more hands, more faces, he didn’t recognize their clothing. Not Marin, not Park. That smell, was that from the train?
“I am Duchess Farthing Goldwood, welcome to our humble little Grand Duchy of Modesto!” The woman removed a white, silk glove and held out her pale, white hand. Shattered jerked back.
“Why I am here?”
Farthing Goldwood did not expect this reaction. Her slim, pallid white face with deep blue eyes looked at him with an intense befuddled curiosity.
“Mr Sosbry, what obscurity hinders you from a polite response to a lady.”
No, they have exiled me to the Central Valley. Not here. Not here. Morph Zed said these people practice all sorts of cruelty.
“Where did you say I was again?” Shattered’s voice, to his own surprise, rose to the level of a shout.
“Mr Soulsby, please maintain a degree of politesse. You are in the Grand Duchy of Modesto, a part of the Confederacy. We are a racially pure people. Oh, yes we do have a few colored creatures here, but we keep them penned up, for entertainment. Papa likes to get the some bears real hungry and set them on em'” – she clicked her fingers – “and just like that we have a night to remember! You’ll love it here.”
“That’s–” Shattered couldn’t complete his sentence because he couldn’t comprehend this woman. Her frilly, dress looked like something out of the 19th Century, almost Victorian, from the photos he’d seen, and the descriptions he’d read, in the books he devoured at Park’s libraries. She held a parasol. Her lips were painted dark, glossy red. Her shoes seemed impractical at best, ugly even: the heal had a long point on it. He feet seemed jammed into these bizarre triangle wedges. He scanned her from head to toe. And again.
“Got a good look, honey?”
“Listen, I need to get back to Park. Why am I here?”
Farthing began to laugh; she laughed, giving off a bit of shriek. “Why honey, you don’t know why you are here? Park sent you. The leader of Park… What’s his name… They change so much. Democracy and all those niggers, spiks and chinks you have there. How hideous; I just don’t know how you live with them all. How do you?”
Shattered ignored her question, and while he was aware of her words describing his fellow denizens and his friends, and those words sickened him, angered him, his ignorance of their potency both allowed him to focus and skip to the point of his question.
“Administrator Tallie sent me here?”
“Yes, dear, you are an exile! We traded you. We’ll we didn’t trade. He made demands. Two of our people, confused people, came up to Park’s borders and asked for asylum. Now, giving as we provide about, well, the Confederacy in total – from Bakersfield to Redding, the whole Central Valley of the former California – provides some twenty to thirty percent of your food, we thought some sort of trade was in order. Otherwise the Dukes and the Grand Wizards would get real angry.”
“Oh, yes, hun, them the ones that hold this place together. Some of them are real old. Keep traditions alive, many came from the Old South, some came from where your Park is now, others have lived here for generations. After the sky made electronics a thing of the past, and the Beast fell, we grabbed our guns, our Bibles, and we made this wonderful place. We feed ourselves, we have the whole valley: four-hundred and fifty miles long from south to north, from the Big Mountains to the sea. Mostly, Marin is off limits. Elites. What are you going to do? But we can go to sea anywhere from Notleys Landing to Harmony. My daddy owns a big cabin overlooking the ocean on the side of Cone Peak. Maybe that’s where we’ll take our honeymoon!”
“Honeymoon?” Shattered shuffled along as the perfumed creature wrapped her slender, bony arm around his right arm; she held tight, and moved them through a sparse terminal to the end of the station. A car, nothing like he’d seen in Marin, but without a horse or animal to carry it, sat waiting. A tall, white man in a black suit opened a door outwards. Once inside, Shattered’s buttocks rested on plush interior seats; the cushioning had a pattern of black, red and white. A large Z was engraved into the seat facing the front of car. That’s where Farthing sat, across from Shattered.
“I always let new people sit with their heads facing forward. Do you get car sick?”
“I never have been in a car. I mean, on my way to Marin, I was in a…”
“Oh, don’t talk to me about those Marin folk. Bunch of elites, just a bunch of elite kikes and niggers living high on their technology. I hear some of them don’t even leave their little machines! We ain’t had nothing to do with them for sometime. They don’t talk to us; we don’t talk to them. Daddy says they should be all be killed. I think he’s right. We did manage to get the pickers and the planters from them, so we could hunt down all the spiks.”
“The farm-workers? You hunted down all the farm-workers?”
“All the ones that weren’t white.”
Farthing seemed bored with this conversation. Her face turned to the left, then to the right, the car left the train-station, left the city of Modesto. “I just love looking at the fields, see them floating automated tenders, they are picking almonds. These almond groves are my daddy’s. As far as the eye can see. And over there, we own all that land. How happy you will be to see what you are inheriting!”
Along the side of the road a man, beaten, bloody and chained to the ground near the asphalt, yelled out Help me! Help me!
“Stop the car! Stop the car!” Shattered shouted at Farthing.
“Why hun, he’s just one of the niggers we keep around for fun. We breed em’ on the farm. He must’ve done something wrong. Got out of line.”
“Shut up and stop the car!”
Farthing knocked on the window behind her. It rolled down. “Jeffrey, could you stop for a second.”
Shattered rushed out and ran down the road to the man. His lips were so dry; the hot summer sun crushed everything in this damned and wretched valley. Shattered began to pull at the chain in the ground. Farthing came out and rushed over. “What in heaven are you doing?”
“Get some water for this man and release him. Now.”
“That chain goes deep down, deep into ground. Only papa can decide what happens to him.”
“I said get some water and…”
A shot rang out. Jeffrey had fired a rifle and blown a hole into the side of the man’s face. Shattered, who had been nearest to the man, felt the blood and brains spew onto his face. Farthing stood motionless, emotionless; slightly annoyed with delay, she calmly but firmly said, “Can we go now?” She followed up this remark by thanking Jeffrey. “At least he’s not suffering anymore dear,” she took Shattered’s hand and guided him to the car as Jeffrey took a towel and wiped his face, “we don’t usually allow such mercy, but maybe we need to learn a little mercy, maybe you’ll help us with that, we need the New Testament just as much as the Old. These people have the mark of Cain, and they aren’t worth saving, but it is a sign of mercy, the mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that you’ve given us today. Rejoice my love.”
Shattered stared at this antebellum sociopath. A hideous belle, a hideous belle, I remember a book… Yeah, that one about the movement of white supremacists wanting to restart the Old South out here, on the West Coast. At first they thought Oregon, but the weather and diseases killed them off, they organized from Bakersfield, Fresno and Modesto, after automating their crops in the late 20s’ and by the time of the calamity, they had the fire-power to take control. The book was called A Hideous Belle. It followed the women of the new Confederacy in the mid to late 20s’… Yes, it was an… eth-nography. With this remembrance of the book “A Hideous Belle,” something he’d read some five years ago, he began to leaf through the layers of what he could remember and combine them with the little he learnt about the Central Valley region from Morph Zed. They arrived at a large, three-story white house with grand columns, a circle driveway with a fountain in the center and flagpole with a large Confederate flag. He recognized the flag immediately. His heart skipped.
“Let’s go meet daddy.” Farthing grabbed Shattered’s hand and took him up the stairs to the large front porch. The spotless, white porch, some six meters wide and thirty meters long, seemed to wrap around the sides of the building. Shattered couldn’t see the entire house, given its size. Made of wood. Thinking to himself about burning the place down, he noticed, in the periphery of his vision, a man come around the far left corner of the porch, wielding a very large gun. And then another. And another. And another. And another. A procession of men with guns. Walking silently around the house. Shattered shuddered, closed his eyes and collapsed right near the front double doors.
The Bride (1946) by Gertrude Ambercrombie (1909-1977) Courtesy Painting Valley