Wednesday, September 30, 2009

That Onion Field

It's a long way home.
From this point, it's a very long way home.
I'm looking out across a burning patch of onions on an old abandoned farm. I think it's after midnight.
Smoking and staring out at the onions burning I take a deep wiff of the air and decide I've smelled worse.
I get up from the dirt and walk to my car.
It's a long way home.
Home, of sorts, was not far away from the farm in the whole meters and feet of the world where home once was.
Up the street from the farm, and up a hill, and down another I grew up in a small family.
My father left when I was two and my mother pretty much raised us.
I grew up, went to school, got a job, and that was the end of that life.
But within that life there were paths and roads that led away from that place. And I ended up way off the beaten trail and here in this onion farm that's burning down.
It's burning down because I set it on fire about an hour ago.
I wish I could say I hate onions, but I don't. I'm actually quite fond of them.
Back on this very farm when I was sixteen, I worked on this field and picked the onions and laid pipe to irrigate them.
It was owned by a Vietnamese family and was overseen by an old American Vietnam vet who hated onions, teenagers, and probably the Vietnamese that employed him.
He would cuss a blue streak and threaten to hit us if we fucked something up. Which, only having worked there one day, was a lot.
There were stories that the Vietnamese really did beat you if you fucked up.
I remember quitting the next day and buying a bunch of Pink Floyd albums with the money I got.
I still remember the smell of the onions and how good I felt after a long, hard day of work.
And then quitting the next day.
I think that was 1992. The year, right now, is something like 2950. I'm sure it's after 2900, as most of the Earth, or at least this patch, has returned to somewhat good health. But there's also another moon, which put it after 2948. I haven't really been here in awhile.
The onions no longer smell good. I think the dirt is now burning.
No one planted the onions. They just grew of their own accord.
Imagine that, a thousand years later and the Earth still remembers…
In case you're worried, no one is here to bust me for burning the onions down.
There's no person left on Earth. Or, if there is, they wouldn't look much like a person. I mean, you couldn't walk up to them and say "That's a person."
People changed long ago.
At least here. Maybe down the line things are different in different places for different times, but I'm still the same, so this is the same for me. Maybe there's another different me in a different time and things are different, but it would still be the overall same and everything is kinda one in all, like in the Buddhist sense.
Now, if that's true, I'm like asshole of this body, because it smells like burnt soil.
In the car I look around for a pen. It's important to write down what the weather is like when you're traveling through time.
The biggest reason being, people will ask you "So, what's 2950 like? And you can just say "Clear and breezy" and walk away.
If you think I'm joking, I'll tell you about the last time I came back to my "normal" timeframe.
I think it was 2019, and someone
It was in a bar. I was drinking and trying to find a way back home, like usual.
I was approached by a man in his early twenties who asked why I was wearing a "Gay Toga".
I told him it wasn't a "Gay Toga", it was a funeral robe for a friend of mine who was killed by The Singularity.
"What the fuck? Come here, guys. Check this guy out in the gay toga!"
"No, don't check him out. He's trying to get drunk."
The man looked at me. He was fat and puffy looking and when he spoke spit built up in the corners of his mouth. "What's the singularity, dude? Check this guy out, he's from the future."
His friends ignored him, as friends do when they aren't really your friends.
"Look, actually, I am from the future…and the past. But today I'm from here and I'm trying to drink in peace. It's been a tough 43 years and I just want to relax for a bit."
"Before you go back to the future? Get out the old movies, guys, this is Michael J. Fox."
I looked up at him and replied "I can't believe you even know who that is."
He got serious and said "He's an American hero. He's that football player who defeated the Taliban in 2002, then made that geeky movie about the going back in time with Christopher Plummer."
Then he went back into frat mode and asked "So, what's the future like?"
Before I hit him in the face, I replied "Sunny."
In fact, his future is REAL sunny. So sunny that there's a 90% chance he got/gets burned to death by the sun.
In 2034, the climate is so bad that the polar caps average temperatures in the 90s. Few people make it. But you could have seen that one coming.
Some people actually, literally, burn up. It'd be like the sun came up and the temperature goes from 109 in the evening, and by noon people are dying of dehydration and exposure, and by four in the afternoon, bodies begin to char on the more fleshy parts.
It's like those awful pictures of Ethiopia in the 80s of dead bodies in the desert, but imagine those same images, but the people used to be Caucasian.
Ugly stuff. And it happened so quickly. Or so they say; the ones who survived it up/down in the poles.
I would have never made it. When I landed around that time, I had to immediately take off as I felt the car heat up like an oven.
Jumping back a few years, I realized what happened/will happen and chose a better landing location.
The South Pole and the North were the only places on Earth where humans were still around, aside from the few that went underground.
Most people just stuck around and died. Like that Truman guy who let Mt. St. Helens kill him. People don't like moving. Hell, look at Hurricane Katrina.
The people who ended up in the poles weren't even the very rich, demographically, they were every type of person from any walk of life. The only thing they all had in common was they really, really, really didn't want to die.
Now, most people really, really, really don't want to die, but as long as death isn't staring them in the face, they also really, really, really don't want to move.
Back in my twenties I used to move all the time. I probably lived in 15 different apartments in the first decade of the 2000s – all in the same area.
People would look at me horrified each time, like they couldn't understand why anyone would want to move – for any reason.
I just got bored.
So, maybe the survivors just got bored.
Hell, the North Pole was just a flotilla of floating barges by then – that's some change right there.
It was also one of the most happy periods in human history. For once there was no governments, and no money and people all joined hands in a sense of "At least we aren't burning to death in California."
Someone told me once that different parts of the world were also hospitable to, you know, not burning to death, but I never met any of those people.
Point is, it's important to never drop anchor for good. Some fucking catastrophe, years in the making, having nothing to do with you personally, will come and tip your ship.
Well, that's one future. Again, any of them can be anything. I would imagine if you're reading this you have a good idea that climate change is real and whatever creates it should probably be avoided.
So, you know, don't use hairspray.
I'm now driving away from the farm in the Dolorian.
Yes, the irony isn't a mistake. The time machine could have been made of anything, but the creator chose the Dolorian, after the movie.
It's not really funny to me anymore and when people bring it up, it's like "Yeah, I know."
But when you time travel, jokes never get old to other people.
And by the way, I have no idea how it works. But you're welcome to step inside and go wherever you want. I'm leaving it in 1985 on the set of Back to the Future when I'm done with it.
Let them deal with it.
I can see the smoke from the fire against the moon as I drive down the abandoned highway, away from the farm.
If I had to guess, this highway hasn't been used since people started burning alive.
After that, humanity kind of decided to say fuck nature and moved more and more towards very unnatural things.
Like cyborgs, artificial humans, clones, and then, finally, the Singularity.
Which was just what you would figure it would be: a hive mind of the 80% of the remaining humans bent on the integration of the other humans.
That's how my friend died.
But, that's three hundred years after the sun's temper tantrum, and that provided humanity time enough to return to this farm, but they never did.
No one ever bothered to leave either pole. They all dropped anchor once they got comfy. When humans get comfy they fuck up, and that's why they created the hive mind.
But maybe it wasn't a bad idea?
It's dead now, so it doesn't matter.
The hive mind, or Singularity, eventually ran out of humans to integrate and got bored, and like the philosophical universe of Zen, decided to branch off from itself and explore itself subjectively.
This was only after 300 years.
The Singularity had that big of an ego.
So, now, here in 2950, there's what amounts to robots walking around trying to understand themselves. And they believe they created the Earth and the Universe, and so on and so forth.
The Singularity is insane.
That's what happens when things become self aware.
The other moon is rising and I realize that I failed to explain that.
That was the work of Mother Nature. Or, Mother Universe. Flyby comet trapped in the gravitational pull.
Which the chances of that happening without killing off most of the planet make little to no sense, but then why am I time traveling to burn up an onion field?
Things just happen.
Or don't.
There's every chance that the Singularity did create everything and I'm just a byproduct of that creation with the actual knowledge of the decades that came before me.
Or, shit happens.
Either way – hey, new moon, guys!
One of the little robots is walking out into the middle of the highway, it waves its arms in front of the Dolorian.
I do. They're still kinda human.
I'm rolling down the window and the little guy is walking to my door.
They look exactly like old movie robots: a TV shaped midsection, with organed hosing for limbs. The heads are biological and resemble the almond shaped entities from alien folklore. They stand about 5 feet.
"Wait! Wait! Wait!"
I ask it if it means "Stop"?
It doesn't.
"Who. Are. You?" It's asking as it moves its head out with each word, like it's singing the question.
"I am a time traveler."
"From where?"
"From here."
It's walking around the car and looking at it, murmuring to itself.
"That's really a nice car. What year is it?" It's trying to be loud so I can hear it from the other side of the car, but instead it's just upping the frequency and making my ears ring.
"I have no idea. Why don't you come back around and talk to me."
"Is the noise bothering you?"
"Yeah. Look, can I help you out with something? I mean, how many of you are there left? The chances of you being out here and just happening to find the only living human are slim. Do you want something from me? Like, say this time machine? I really don't need it anymore."
"No. No time machine. Information. Why did you burn down the onion patch out there." It points back down the highway.
"I was hoping someone would be left and see it." I'm telling this thing. I think I'm lying, but I don't know. Maybe I want there to be humans left, or maybe I was just really bored and figured burning something to ground might be fun.
"There are no humans on this planet." The robot is telling me.
"Where'd they all go?" I'm asking.
"That onion field."

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