Rumi’s Field – Author’s Note
This will go somewhere in the front matter…
From where I sit, it’s fairly easy to write a story set in what is commonly known as “the real world,” the world in which we all live together. I just take what I know and use it as the backdrop in front of which my characters speak their lines. It’s also fairly easy, I find, to write a story set in what is commonly known as “the post-apocalyptic world,” first because we’ve all already seen so many renderings of it, and second because, when we travel together that far down “the energy curve,” we end up in a whole new place. All I need do is concoct a few basic rules – no electricity or petroleum; decimated population; fast, slow, or no zombies, etc. – and go from there. It’s almost like starting from scratch, like the creation of an alien world, and that’s as easy for me as starting from the known.
But it’s much more difficult, I find, to write a story set in a world in-between our present world and a future dystopia, a world that’s fallen a few steps down the staircase of societal collapse but has a ways to go before it hits bottom, a world that is, in Linda Travis’s words, “in free fall.” And yet it’s in just such a world that the story of Rumi’s Field unfolds. More than three years have passed since the events that took place in All of the Above, and the world has fallen a few steps down the stairs.
Things are all a-jumble in Rumi’s Field. We’re about sixteen months past the global economic event known as the “Christmas Crash,” in which a great deal of money disappeared almost overnight, putting huge corporations, small businesses, and individual families out of business. Governments toppled or were overthrown. People, as the old song said, lost their jobs, wives, homes, cars, kids, and lives. Riots spread like wildfires, wildfires burned like pandemics, pandemics raged like hungry mobs, hungry mobs stormed the land like floods and droughts, and floods and droughts came and went like rich bankers and corporate personhoods, doing their damage and then absconding for someplace better, leaving devastation in their wake.
Even so, it was not the total, monolithic, Big-C “Collapse” that many had feared, a one-time mega-event that would instantly transform the structures and institutions of civilized society into vast heaps of bodies and dusty plains devoid of life, though both could be found easily enough if one looked for them. It was a big old goofy world, after all, as John Prine sang, and it very much mattered where one was. Some countries fared better than others, as appears to be the case with Canada as compared to the United States. Some governments maintained their integrity and continued to function fairly well, taking actions to mitigate the worst effects of the Crash and finding ways to keep at least a portion of their societies intact, as did the Travis administration. Some corporations managed to hold together as their competitors were torn to pieces, and some even prospered in the new world order. There was enough left in place that many people could still find work-arounds and substitutions and alternatives enough to meet their needs. The mobs and wildfires and pandemics settled down after a year or so, or were brought under some measure of control. “We are down,” said Linda Travis, “but we are not out.” Nobody knew whether it would last, but they appreciated the chance to take a breather.
Such is the world in which we find ourselves in Rumi’s Field. Post Crash, world governments reserved most of their fossil fuels for military and agricultural uses, and for maintaining the electrical infrastructure. While some portions of the grid were completely out, many areas still had electricity, at least part of the time. In the United States, as in many other countries, huge camps and shelters were put into operation, and great numbers of folks moved into them, or close by, in search of the food, water, warmth, and shelter they needed, not to mention the senses of safety and belonging and order they expected from their leaders. The rich remained in their fortresses, enclaves, castles and holds, as far as anybody knew. The rest stuck it out in their homes, or hit the road, or formed their own communities (and even their own sovereign countries) in their own homes and on their own lands, brewing their own biodiesel, generating their own power from solar panels or stored fuels, and growing and hunting and gathering the food they needed to stay alive.
If you were lucky enough to work for the federal government in Augusta, Maine, you lived inside the Capitol City Green Zone, into which were imported the food, fuels, and supplies which made life there feel almost normal at times, and around which bristled a military cordon hell-bent on maintaining order and safety for their Commander-in-Chief. If you were luckier still, the daughter of one of the secret rulers of the planet, say, you might not notice much change at all to life on your small, private college campus in Montreal. If your luck had run out, you might be sleeping on a cot in a gymnasium next to hundreds of others, working in the food line serving soup to nuts and watching the constant stream of news and entertainments on the Jumbotrons that looked down from where the basketball hoops once hung. If your luck had run out even further, you might be dead, murdered by a group of punks intent on stealing your blankets. Some, of course, would consider the dead the lucky ones.
It very much mattered where you were, how well you had planned, and how resourceful (or wealthy, or both) you were when the markets were closed for good. Whether you drank coffee, tea, or stale tap water, whether you could grow lettuce or artichokes or just weeds in dust, whether you slept on a hardwood floor or in the comfy confines of your private island mansion’s master bedroom, the range of conditions a human might encounter as the world unwound was great, and your personal situation depended as much on being at the right place at the right time as it did your own efforts to decide your fate. In that, perhaps, the world had not changed as much as most people seemed to think.
The world was a-jumble. The world was all-of-the-above. It’s into this world that we now proceed.