Ghost In The Ruins, Chapter 7

7.

 

“We are very pleased with you, Billy,” the head elder praised, “you have restored water to our planet of origin and possibly life.”

“Sirs,” he fidgeted uncomfortably, “if I may be permitted to speak.”

“Go ahead,” the elder nodded.

“I hesitate to agree with your desire to recolonize the planet,” he responded, “as the risk of there being a repeat of all that came to pass there is too great.”

“Oh?” The elder was now intrigued. “Is there evidence of the incident not being unique?”

“In many ways,” he nodded, “yes. Not that I have definite proof, but…”

“But you saw something that made you believe,” the elder finished for him.

“Yes,” he nodded again, “there is a massive wall like structure, something that looks man made, that stretches the length of the ocean basin we were first in.”

“An interesting anomaly,” the elder agreed, “one that makes me inclined to agree that mass resettlement may not be a viable option.” the elder peered at him. “So what is your solution?”

“We make Earth an animal sanctuary where wildlife can roam free,” he voiced, “and place a small scientific crew to oversee the sanctuary.”

“Interesting idea,” the elder smiled, “and is there more to this?”

“Yes,” he admitted, “we can clean up the lunar colony, tear down the original as it would be…unusable….then build a hostel or resort in its place where visitors who go to view animals in the wild can stay while there.”

“This is your project, Billy,” the elder announced, “we grant you permission to do all that you have suggested. But you must wait for at least eight days.”

“That is eighty Earth years,” he beamed, “correct?”

“Well,” the elder chuckled, “close enough to. It is about 400 Earth years. Long enough for the forests you planted to grow. Long enough for the climate to return to as close to normal as possible.”

“Thank you, sirs,” he bowed.

“You’re welcome, Billy,” the elder answered, then bent closer, “and you will be placed as management of this new sanctuary.”

***

“So what did they say?” His mother asked.

“They loved the sanctuary suggestion,” he bubbled happily, “and I am to be manager!”

“I am proud of you, son,” she smiled, “you have finally become an adult. Being given a charge is a sign that the elders see you as an adult. I believe the mission you were given was their test for you.”

“So I am to pick the science team?” He looked at her.

“Yes, son,” she nodded, a tear coming to her eye, “choose well.”

“What about those who have been caring for the animals in the preservation zoo?” He inquired.

“You will have to ask them if they would be interested,” she suggested, “but they would do as a starting point.”

“And you?” He pressed.

“I can only offer technical support,” she responded, “nothing more.”

“But we work so well together,” he objected.

“Yes,” she nodded, “but you need to find others you can work with. Others not of family.”

“Very well,” he was disappointed, “I shall. Wish you could go.”

“Son,” she began, “I have had my fill of Earth. It was a beautiful planet, but I do not want to live there. This is your destiny. Your opportunity to shine. Go. take hold of it and do not let go.”

“I will miss you,” he sniffed.

“And I, you,” she smiled sadly, “but I always knew that this day would come.”

“You always knew that I would leave?” He was surprised.

“We all must leave at some time,” she nodded, “and I knew that you were marked for greatness. Greatness that would not include me.”

“But,” he objected, “this was never the way I intended it to be!”

“It never is,” she shrugged, “especially when fate takes a hand in things.” She looked at him. “You were always destined to go back. From the first trip we took, that was to be your path. There was nothing I could do to stop it.”

“Couldn’t you have said something?” He inquired.

“No,” she confirmed, “it would have made you want it more. You would have pushed harder. And it would have driven you away from me more violently.

“I had to allow you to do as your destiny demanded. It was more natural. This is what is meant to be. Embrace it.”

“What of you?” He persisted.

“I will still be here,” she affirmed, “and I shall come and visit. Do not worry. And you may have a brother or sister. It is the way these things go.”

***

Billy selected a team. The conservation team agreed to accompany the animals to Earth and to remain there to study and preserve life in a more natural setting. The conservancy cubes were loaded into the largest ship he had ever seen. 

“What shall we call our ship?” Anders, the bug cat overseer, inquired.

“How about The Ark?” He asked, somewhat jokingly.

The Ark,” the scientist mused, “good enough for me.”

“Let’s get loaded up,” he looked at Anders.

“Yes,” the scientist nodded, “let us.”

Billy entered the ship with the science team. He stopped at the hatch and took one last look around. It would be the last time any of them would see Home.

They lifted off after the last conservancy cube had been loaded. The small loading/offloading crew remained aboard. They would return the ship after all was offloaded. 

That had been how he had set things up. They would load and unload the ship, then return Home with the empty ship. He would remain on Earth with the scientists.

He smiled sadly. In a flash, they would be over Earth. There, they would off load the animals according to their original continent. The Americas. Eurasia. Africa. Australia. 

The islands would receive their animals last. There would be fewer to offload. Fewer to get mixed up.

Behind them. A second ship lifted off. This one was loaded with a cleaning and colonizing crew. The lunar colony would be small, just enough to maintain the hostel. 

Their project would be the most important. It would establish a resort where people could stay while visiting the preserve known as Earth. It would ensure that there was little to no contamination of the preserve.

***

The Ark lifted off from Earth and vanished. Its departure symbolized the last chance of leaving the planet. Billy blinked away the tears.

What had begun as a research project had become his life’s work. He was now fully invested in returning Earth to its former splendor. There was no turning back.

He turned away from where the ship had been and vanished into the primal jungle. He would roam the forests and jungles from this point on.  

Ghost In The Ruins, Chapter 6

6.

 

He had found the same promise of hope at each capped source. Grass had begun to grow where the water had made a wet spot. The discovery gave him such hope.

It showed him that life could return to the planet. Life would return. That meant that once the caps were destroyed, the atmosphere would return to what it had been before humanity poisoned it.

The rains would return. The plant life would spring back to life. Verdant forests and lush prairies would grow.

He hoped that the elders reconsidered their idea of resettlement. He would rather they return the creatures of Earth back here to roam free. Yes, Earth would be best as an animal sanctuary.

Humanity had its new home. It really did not need to return here. They did not need to risk returning to what they had been.

If they wanted to colonize, they should look outward from where they were now. Not back toward where they had been. No need to revisit the past.

Not permanently, anyway. The animals could have Earth once they were repopulated in their respective regions. Humanity could come back and visit, leaving it as they found it.

Not that it would be hard. They no longer hunted for pleasure or even for food. They no longer had the need.

Perhaps they would have to cull the population in order to keep illness down. Then, again, maybe they wouldn’t perhaps illness was nature’s way of doing just that.

He could only hope that the elders would listen. The planet was going to be pristine. Untouched.

At least once every seed had grown and all animal life returned to its rightful place. And once the oceans were filled and once more teeming with life. Why spoil it?

Humanity had destroyed it once. There was no need in risking it happening again. Not after so much work to restore it.

Perhaps they could replace the colony on the moon and use it as a hostel where they could stay when visiting Earth. They could also clean up Mars and recolonize there.

He would recommend this as more feasible. He would push for the idea of Earth as a nature preserve. A sort of open zoo where the animals roamed free in their own environment.

The only permanent human inhabitants would be those sent to ensure each region’s animals’ full return to wildness. The keepers. They could close down the preservation zoos they had set up on Home permanently.

He smiled. It was a grand plan. He just hoped that the elders would agree.

***

He placed explosives on the last cap. He was finally done setting the charges. It had taken three months, but now they could free the water.

He grinned with satisfaction. Every seed had been planted. Every cap was ready to be blasted. 

“Are we ready, mother?” He asked into his communicator.

“For what?” His mother returned.

“I just set the last explosives,” he responded, “are we ready for mass blasting?”

“Did you remember to place the wireless remote detonators?” She pressed.

“Yes,” he averred, “and made sure that the explosives were just enough to destroy the caps, but not enough to damage anything else.” 

“Then,” she admitted, “we are ready just as soon as you are back in the ship and we are airborne.”

“Then,” he stated, “I am on my way in.”

“Any special requests?” She inquired.

“Turn on the external audio sensors,” he suggested, “I want to hear what it sounds like after the caps are blasted.”

“Very well,” she sighed, “the audio sensors will be on.”

“I’m headed back in,” he concluded, “no time to waste.”

“The hatch is open,” she averred, “just hover right in.”

“Thank you,” he stated, “I will.”

He sped to her location.  He had no time to lose. They had to get to a high enough altitude that the mists of the roaring waters did not dampen their ship and cause contamination. They also had to go above the planet and deploy the relay net so that the simultaneous detonation could take place. 

He hovered into the cargo bay of the ship. Getting out of the rover, he made his way to the bridge.

“We need to release the relay net,” he stated, “so we can finish up.”

“Let us get into high orbit,” his mother responded, “that should do the trick.”

***

The relay net was a remote operated retractable device that expanded to whatever size was needed. They would expand it completely for use, then allow it to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. It would not cause any harm to the planet.

Once it was deployed, they reentered the atmosphere and hovered low enough to capture any sound that might emerge after the detonations. And waited. 

The detonations barely registered as more than a distant pop. A soft, but growing roar followed as the waters were suddenly released. They watched on the monitor as the waters washed over the parched ground, flooding over the newly planted seeds.

It was a beautiful sight. He thrilled at the thunder of the water as it flooded forth. The sound of nature at her most pure. Most violent.

Even his mother was enthralled by the sight and sound. It was the first time he had ever seen her speechless. He smiled.

“So,” she finally gathered enough courage to speak, “this is what the elders wanted you to do?”

“Yes,” he nodded, “though I am not so certain we should recolonize.”

“Is that their intention?” She frowned.

“It was one of the possibilities, yes,” he admitted, “though not the only one.”

“What would you do?” She pressed.

“I would turn Earth into a sanctuary for the animals currently kept in the preservation zoos,” he responded, “with minimal human contact. And almost no human population…just a small number of scientists to oversee the welfare of the preserve. We could…have hover tours to keep contact to a minimum and a hostel on the moon to stay at when visiting.”

“So,” she rubbed her chin, “you’re against recolonization?”

“Yes,” he nodded again, “I am. Why colonize when we can always search elsewhere for suitable planets? What if recolonization sets off the chain of events that originally caused us to leave the planet in the first place? What if we recolonize and end up finally destroying the planet?”

“I see your point,” she averred, “and agree. The risk is too great.”

Ghost In The Ruins, Chapter 5

5.

 

Bones littered the plateau. Shattered remains of buildings, glass stripped by fire and explosions, stood like stark sentries above what had been New York City. A blob of oxidized copper sat where a once grand statue had once stood.

The bridge was still there, but riddled with holes. Crumbling. Unusable.

Empty shells that were once cars sat, littering the streets. Skeletons sat within, sightless and uncaring. Sands had begun to reclaim the streets. 

It was a nightmare landscape. Something out of his nightmares. How he wished he could turn back. 

But he had a mission to complete. In a way, he was breaking the rules at the behest of the elders. He was attempting basic terraforming by reintroducing once native species back into the ecosystem.

The only difference was that he was taking the natural path, not using machines to do the work. All he had to do was find the source of the problem where the rivers were concerned. What was keeping them from flowing? 

Had the source springs dried up? Had they become clogged? Or maybe buried?

Had the same happened to the tributaries? Or had the aquifers been drained? Or had the problem been manmade?

He knew that the aquifers had not gone dry, but too many questions flooded in. He felt somewhat lost. He had admission to complete, but no idea where to begin. 

He sighed. He would begin at the big lakes at what had been the ancient border of Canada and the United States. He would do some scratchings there as well. In each lake bed. 

He hoped that he could turn things around. He hoped he could return waters to this rock somehow. Even a little bit of water flowing could restart the ecosystem. It could get the rains to begin again. 

Yes. He would have to get a little water trickling out of the ground. Just enough to restart the rains. Once the rains started, the rivers, tributaries, lakes and oceans would fill up over time. 

The seeds he was planting would grow. And maybe long dormant seeds hidden beneath the sands. With that growth, the atmosphere would heal more. 

The cycle would continue. Rain, growth, oxygenation…perhaps his actions would bring on more seasons. Perhaps spring and fall would return to separate summer and winter.

He smiled as he thought of what his actions could bring. A renewal. A rebirth.

It could also bring on catastrophe. But that was a remote risk. Something the elders felt necessary to see if Earth could be revived.

***

The scratchings and corings done in the lake beds had yielded moisture. Water had come bubbling up from two holes left after core samples had been taken. Puddles had soon spread, forcing Billy to abandon each lake bed. 

He smiled. Water was to be found. And at this rate, he might be able to return a decent ecosystem to this planet. 

“Water in all four large lake beds,” he reported to home base, “perhaps this planet isn’t as barren as we were led to believe.”

“That’s a positive thing,” his mother began, “isn’t it?”

“A very positive thing,” he confirmed, “has the oozing water a few clicks from you begun to build to anything?”

“So far,” she returned, “not that I can see. But the location is quite a distance from me, so it could have become a bigger stream. In this salt desert, it’ll be hard to see much difference until a lake forms…or a river.”

“True,” he averred, “just keep watching. If it does show signs of change, or the water gets too close, go ahead and move to a plateau.”

“Alright,” she answered, “and I will be sure to relay my new location to you.”

“If I happen upon something manmade and believe it will pose a threat to you,” he continued, “something I have to break, for instance, I will contact you and tell you to move the ship.”

“Alright,” she stated.

Shutting down the communicator, he went back to work. First, he would travel to the north. Check the rivers there.  He would plant the seeds as he went. Forests and grass would grow once more here.

“Moving to the slope,” his mother reported, “for a better view of what is below.”

He switched his communicator back on.

“East? He inquired. “Or west?”

“West,” she replied, “why?”

“Just for reference,” he stated, “the west slope is closest. The east would give me further to travel.”

“Oh,” she responded.

***

Humanity had been stupid. They had capped all the source springs of all the major rivers and tributaries. They had literally stopped the flow of all lifegiving water. All in their greed.

Perhaps they had thought that they were conserving. Or maybe it had been an act of war. Or malice. Or greed.

He believed it had probably been the last. Or maybe a combination of malice, war, and greed. And maybe not in that order.

Whatever their reason, they had killed the Earth. After capping the rivers and tributaries, the rains had stopped. When the rains stopped, crops wouldn’t grow. And starvation set in.

By all appearances, they had forgotten that they had capped these sources. Wouldn’t surprise him. Humanity had not been that smart.

They had always been making war for no reason. Hating for even less. And their greed had been horrible.

They had stopped caring about each other. Only money mattered. Not life. Not equality.

And their politics had reflected that. Their hate. Their greed. Their lack of compassion.

But so had their religions. All of them. None of their religions had taught compassion or love.

Both had been their downfall. Both had brought on their extinction. Their end.

Looking at the cap before him, Billy noticed something. It had begun to deteriorate. Just a little.

Where the water slowly oozed from the cap, a small damp spot had appeared and grass had grown in that spot. A ghost in the ruins. The promise of returned life.

He had enough explosives to blow every cap he found. The problem was, how to handle the simultaneous demolition of every cap on the planet. He turned his communicator back on.

“I have a problem,” he announced.

“What kind of problem?” His mother inquired.

“I have found the source of the problem,” he returned, “but it will take weeks to set up all the explosives for a synchronized demolition.”

“Demolition of what?” she pressed.

“The fools capped all sources going to all rivers and tributaries,” he sighed, “all will have to be blown so that the rivers can all run free.”

“Is that within the parameters of your mission?” She was alarmed at his inference of interference in the natural order of things.

“The caps are all man made,” he responded, “if we destroy them, we return the natural balance and set the rivers free. Is it interference if we return things to their natural order?”

“Well, no,” she allowed, “but…”

“I was told to do whatever it took,” he reassured her, “as long as it restored balance and did not use machines to artificially create anything. Blasting the caps off the source springs successfully fulfills that mandate.

“The problem is that we will likely have to go to every continent and island and set charges…which is time consuming. That means we will be here a while. That is, if we want to do this right.”

Ghost In The Ruins, Chapter 4

4.

 

Beyond the sixth coring site, he came upon the rusted hulk of a submarine. Had the inhabitants survived? Or had they died?

Curious, he approached it. It was as big as he had believed it would be. No matter. He could still get in.

A simple adjustment to his utility belt and he was at the top. He studied the hull as he rose. It was remarkably preserved for something that should have been rusted away.

But then, there had been no moisture since it came to rest here. No rain. Nothing.

He inspected the sealed hatch. The lock was still intact. Almost as if no one had exited the machine.

That meant that all were possibly still in there. Were they alive? Or had they died?

He shook his head. They couldn’t be alive. These machines had not been built with hydroponic chambers for extended use. They had been intended to remain at sea for short periods.

Once out of food, they would have returned to base to get more. They possibly changed crews at that point as well. Or received new orders and ordinance.

He popped the hatch. A putrid odor rose from the bowels of the machine. The smell of death and staleness.

He touched another button and a bubble popped up around his head. A filter would be needed for exploration here. Something to filter toxins.

He descended into the bowels of the submarine. As he did so, he noticed that some of the lights were still blinking weakly. There was still energy enough stored here to keep the lights going. That was good.

Bodies were strewn everywhere. The mummified remains told him a tale of being trapped within this machine for decades longer than they had intended. Maybe longer.

He sought out what he believed would be the captain’s quarters. He needed to find the log. Or whatever the final moments would be recorded in.

He needed to know what happened. How it happened. And why.

Anything that could help prevent future mistakes. Or future wars. And anything that could add to the incomplete histories the elders currently had.

***

The captain, or what he took to be the captain, sat at a desk in one of the compartments. A stained book lay open before him, his dead, empty eyes staring at the ceiling. In his hand was a stylus of some sort. To one side sat a strange computer so compact that it folded easily.

So unlike the current technology, Billy thought to himself. Now, computers were little more than crystals that projected digital workpads. They saved so much room and used so much less energy.

The data on the old foldable computer would have to be extracted and digitized. After, it would have to be transferred to a crystal all its own. Just as the book before the captain would have to be digitized and placed on a crystal.

Still, the work couldn’t be avoided. The data was important. As was the video feed streaming back to the ship. 

He had switched on his video button when he entered the submarine. He had wanted a record of his entry into this massive machine. He had wanted to record all he saw.

He had not expected things to be so grim. But then, he wasn’t sure exactly what he had expected. Or why.

He had known that no one could have survived in one of these tubs for thousands of years with nothing to eat. And it was very apparent that they had starved to death. Or those who were still in one piece had. 

The rest had become food for the others. Perhaps, because of this cannibalism, the rest had succumbed to poisoning as the rest may have died of illnesses. At least that was how it appeared. 

He took samples from each corpse. Perhaps the samples would tell him what had ended their lives. He only hoped that he didn’t end up freeing some contagion.

From what he could tell, the engineering crew had been the first to be sacrificed. Perhaps they had been the first to die. Or maybe the first to fall ill.

He knew that in situations of dire need, in those times, the ill and the weak generally ended up the first to serve the needs of the rest. It was a disgusting fact in primitive humanity’s past. It amazed him that humanity had survived.

Man had been such a horrid creature in his primitive form. So selfish. So filled with hate and violence. So quick to eat his own in times of need.

He was glad that humanity no longer had need of physical sustenance. It seemed such a distant unnatural thing. So foreign.

He made it to ordinance. Or what he believed to be ordinance. He checked for radiation. 

There was none. The uranium used in the warheads had finally degraded beyond danger levels. The radiation levels in the engine room had proven to be below danger levels as well, though there had been signs of a leak. 

Nuclear power had been such a primitive form of propulsion. Most of it was what was called fission reaction. Splitting atoms to make energy. 

The Savior, the man who had helped the peaceful escape and who had started the colonies, had used what was called cold fusion reaction. Creating energy by fusing atoms in a cold environment. At least that was how he understood the concept.

***

A few clicks away from the submarine sat another ship. This time, it was a surface ship. One the ancients had called an aircraft carrier.

It was huge. Like a massive city that had once floated on the waves. And as it was just sitting there on the bottom, seemingly settling in an upright position, it was even more impressive.

Unlike the submarine, the aircraft carrier had begun to oxidize and the sheeting seemed a bit eroded. Still, it was in fairly good shape. He nodded. He would explore.

Instead of seeking entrance at the lower level, he decided to hover to the top, to the tarmac and explore from top to bottom.

Bones littered the tarmac. Deteriorating aircraft also littered the top deck. Standing at the far end of the top deck, he could see a seabed littered with planes. And other ships. Cruisers. Destroyers. And even one that looked oddly like what had been described as a commercial cruise ship. 

Apparently, they had run our of fuel. All of them. He shook his head sadly.

He didn’t have time to investigate the other ships. Nor did he want to. As it was, he was wasting valuable time exploring this one.

He felt, though, that he should. Maybe there was a similar journal here. Something to corroborate the other one from the sub.

Floor by floor, he walked the corridors and the cavernous lower levels. None had survived and much of the ordinance was harmless. There was even evidence of the same fate as those on the sub. 

A tear came to his eye. It was such a sad way to go. The torture of deciding who to sacrifice. The slow agony of death as it closed in.

Again, he had turned on his video feed. Once again, all was recorded. He climbed back into his rover and turned off the video feed.

He would head on to the plateau once known as North America. There, he would plant the seeds he had been instructed to plant. After, he would seek out the mysterious reason why the rivers suddenly dried up.

Ghost In The Ruins, Chapter 3

3.

 

Home was fifty light years from Earth but the most current technology could bend time so that one could land on Earth in the same moment in time that they left Home. They could remain in the present even if the space in time was vast.

He chuckled. Ancient humanity would have claimed that the technology was impossible. But they, his more recent ancestors, had come to realize that nothing was ever impossible. Ancient quantum physics, and ancient astrophysics for that matter, had been rudimentary. Incomplete. Biased enough to ensure that truth seemed to be the impossibility.

Even time travel was accessible now. One could go to almost any point in the past and, remaining beyond the continuum so as not to be seen, observe events of the past. Yet none had attempted it. Not past a few years.

He wondered if he would be given a pass for that as well, once he was done with this mission. He wanted to find out what had really happened. Who had started what? Or had it been a natural disaster?

He also wanted to know what the true origin of the long held religion really was. Had it been a single man? Or had it been something simply made up?

He was full of questions. How did man begin? How did he advance to where he had been when the schism occurred? What had been the origin of that schism? Had it been founded in truth? Or just another lie?

He had so many questions. So many things he wanted to discover. But at the moment, he had to finish the mission the elders had given him. After, he might convince them to allow the other.

“Two minutes until we enter Earth’s atmosphere,” his mother stated, pulling him out of his thoughts.

“Did we remember the rover?” He inquired.

“Yes,” she assured him, “and the packs you were told to bring. I just don’t understand why I have to remain with the ship.”

“The elders talked that they might be transmitting more orders,” he shrugged, “and someone has to be aboard to upload the data I send through com.”

“Oh,” she frowned, “and what was with all those packs?”

“Just something the elders wanted me to do,” he smiled, “nothing to worry about.”

“Not worried,” she sighed, “just seems to be an awful lot of secrecy surrounding this mission.”

“I will probably be gone for a few days, so will have to send data through com,” he explained, “someone is needed here to upload it to the crystals so that it is ready for transmission to Home. No real secrecy. No mystery. 

“I am simply to do my experiments on my own. Nothing more. It was the instructions I was given by the elders.”

“Oh,” she nodded, finally satisfied, “OK.” She paused. “Be careful.”

“I will, mother,” he smiled, “no worries.”

***

What had once been oceans were now deep cavernous deserts. There was no life to be seen. Nothing to hint of the once vibrant world that Earth had once been.

Instead, a swelteringly dry wind met any who entered the desolate world that remained. Billy wondered if the plateaus that had been the continents and islands offered anything cooler. He hoped so.

He would be working up there soon enough. That had been where he had been instructed to plant the seeds. That had also been where he had been told to explore. 

There had been no settlements in the oceans. Nothing but great underwater war machines known as submarines. And even those had their limits where depth was concerned.

He was sure that he would come across some of these strange machines but he doubted if there was any left alive within. After all, there was no food. Nothing to survive on.

At least not where primitive humanity was concerned. Modern humanity no longer needed sustenance. They no longer needed anything remotely resembling food. 

Knowledge fed them. Understanding. Empathy. Wisdom.

Billy studied his surroundings. The trenches were off limits. They were nothing but fiery pits spewing lava.

He smiled. He would travel just out of his mother’s line of sight before making his first test for water. After scratching for water in a few places, he would head for what had once been the Americas.

He was glad that the rover had hover capabilities. It was sort of like a small flying saucer, though not enclosed and mostly empty so that cargo could be stored within. His little cockpit was just big enough for one.

“Am I out of your line of sight yet?” He called back to his mother.

“Yes,” she answered, “and I do not like it. But you have your instructions, so I must accept even if I do not agree.”

“Alright,” He began, “I will do my first scratching here.”

“Alright,” she returned, “ready for data transfer.”

He stopped his rover. He could not see the ship. Good. 

He got out of the rover and dug in the cargo hold for the instruments needed. Finding his core tapper, he walked a short distance and pushed it into the sandy soil as deep as he could. He would be taking six of these cores in his attempt to scratch for water.

***

On the sixth coring, water began to ooze – almost unnoticeably – from the ground. But he had noticed and was thrilled. It meant that the planet wasn’t completely dry. Or completely dead.

He gathered some of the water for analysis. He wanted to see if there were minerals in it. Or if it was completely sterile.

He hoped that this was not a fluke. That would be a horrible thing. It would also mean that this whole trip was for naught.

He hoped to find an answer to what had caused this. Surely humanity hadn’t drank up all the water. Nor had the water simply dried up. Or had it?

So many mysteries. So many strange things that didn’t make sense. He shook his head.

Even with the greenhouse gases that ancient humanity had caused, this was not a plausible end. Poisoned water, yes. Extreme heat, yes. But not total loss of water.

So what had happened? Had their nuclear warfare caused the waters to be stopped up? Had their greed caused all the rivers’ sources to be tapped and capped? 

Nothing here made much sense. There was nothing to indicate exactly what had happened. Not like the colonies on the moon or on Mars.

All on Mars had died from some bacterial plague. The source of the bacteria was unknown. Wherever it had come from, it had spread rather rapidly. 

There was incomplete evidence that the bacteria had been indigenous to the planet. But nothing solid. No evidence could be found to corroborate what the colonists had recorded. 

The catastrophe that had been the lunar colonies was horribly evident. Space debris, most likely a small asteroid, had destroyed the protective bubble and allowed the artificial atmosphere to escape quicker than the machines could create it. Space dust and stellar radiation damaged the machines beyond repair. 

The end result was the death of all within. The investigations into the scene had proven it. He found himself tearing up at the thought.

Ghost In The Ruins: Chapter 2

2.

“What will you do on your next outing to Earth, Billy?” His mother asked.

“I think I will explore a bit,” He stated, “and test to see if there is water anywhere.”

“Have you cleared this with the elders?” She inquired.

“Not yet,” He shook his head, “but will soon enough.”

“What if they tell you no?” She pressed.

“On exploring?” He returned. “Or on the subject of seeing if there is water?”

“Either,” she answered, “or both.”

“Then,” he smiled sadly, “I guess that I will have to obey their wishes.”

“So,” she frowned, “You won’t break with their decision?”

“If they believe that the idea of searching for water is unnatural,” He sighed, “no. If they have no preference, then I will do as I wish. I would rather they grant me permission outright.

“As for exploring…I will accept their decision as one of protection. No need to put myself in danger against their will. What harms one, harms all.”

“Well,” she breathed, surprised, “you are learning!”

“Of course!” He assured her.

He had not told her that he would have disobeyed if he felt there was something just beyond sight that was of importance. Or that he had already spoken, beforehand, to the council of elders on the possibility. After all, he was but a student and did not make the first trip without their permission.

She would have been a bit disappointed had he done so. She was always trying to find ways to discourage his curiosity and to curb his desire to know. She was, after all, his mother. 

Well, to be more precise, she was his parent. Humanity had become asexual as it evolved, making two parent families a thing of the distant past. He simply called her mother, as she preferred a feminine presence.

He, on the other hand, would be known as someone’s father since he preferred a masculine appearance…though he could change at any time. Strange how evolution worked. 

Still, evolution drove the wheels of nature. Change was inevitable. And what was now the norm would, somewhere down the line, be phased out as sexual coupling had been. 

And gender. Gender was not really necessary either. Not really.

He knew neutrals who had hundreds of children. Neutrals resembled neither and yet both. They were what ancient Earthers would have called androgynous. 

He smiled. What a wonderful time he lived in. How different humanity was than it had been. 

It was now without hate. But then, it was no longer bound by religion in any form. No texts told them how to believe. 

Difference was seen as simple individuality. One could choose their gender appearance. Or they could choose to remain neither. 

No one sat in judgment of any who desired to be any of the three. After all, they had learned that the soul had no gender. Not really. 

Genders began blending when sexual unions became a literal fusing of male and female. Then, there was no need to fuse. The two halves were born as one. 

That wasn’t to say that one couldn’t have multiple partners. On the contrary. One could.

But it was rare. Almost no one sought a second pairing. Almost.

Besides. It wasn’t necessary. It wasn’t really sought after.

They had come a long way. As a race. As a society.

They were no longer divided by color. They were all the same drab grey. They all looked pretty much the same. 

Everything that had driven humanity on Earth was gone. It had all been replaced by sameness. Dull. Boring. But enlightened.

***

“Billy,” the head elder began, “we give you permission to explore the ruins of Earth. We also give you permission to scratch the surface to see if there is indeed water there. If your findings come back positive, then Earth is indeed healing itself. If they come back negative, then we will know that there is no possible future for the planet.”

“Thank you, oh great ones,” he bowed, “while I hope for the best possible results, I realize that things may not go that way. I am fully prepared to fail in finding any sign of life or even water.”

“It is good that you are ready for such,” the elder responded, genuinely surprised by his honesty, “for you must not forget that prehistoric man, our ancestors, had what they called biological weapons as well as something called nuclear weapons. By the exodus, they had developed such horrible weapons that could cause mass destruction on a global scale.”

“I understand that, oh great ones,” he nodded, “and I understand that they constantly warred with one another over such things as color, creed, sexuality, and all the base things.” He hesitated. “But I do not understand how long it took for some of the effects of their weapons to degrade.”

“Hundreds of years,” the elder stated, “so most of the radiations should be gone.even those that were left unused and that have begun to degrade, should be harmless.”

“Then,” he looked at the elder, “I should be safe?”

“Yes,” the elder nodded, “does your parent know that you are doing our work for us?”

“No, great ones,” he shook his head, “she does not. I…have  not told her.”

“Do not inform her that we are behind your expeditions,” the elder ordered, “she does not need to know. At least not yet.”

“And if my findings are positive?” He asked.

“We fully intend to send back a few colonists to reclaim the planet,” the elder replied, “once it is proven that the planet can successfully sustain life.”

“Will my experiments cause change?” He inquired.

“They might,” the elder averred, “but it is a risk we are willing to take.” He paused. “Take seeds. Plant them. Monitor them over the next few expeditions.”

“Grass?” He pressed. “Trees?”

“All the plants in hydroponics,” the elder instructed.

“Yes, great ones,” he bowed again.

“Your parent should stay with your ship,” came the final instructions, “and monitor for offworld messages and your data transfers.” 

“Then,” he was surprised, “she would not accompany me into the field?”

“No,” came the answer, “you must do all on your own. In secret.”

Ghost In The Ruins: Prologue & Chapter 1

Prologue

Earth was a dismal pit of despair. The greedy continued to drill for oil and dig for coal despite the efforts of the enlightened few who saw that the excess, the greed, was killing the planet. And so, mankind continued his drive to extinction…religion and greed blocking all enlightenment.

Among these enlightened few, Jim Barry had been an obscure soul. His success had been recent, but not at what he was about to become known for.

Though he had always been a thinker, a man of reason and uncommon intellect, he had never pushed the envelope in quite the same manner as he was about to. Now, he sat at a table, drafting the plans for a massive fleet of craft.

“What are you doing today, Jim?”  The voice of his assistant brought him out of thought.

“I had a brilliant Idea,” He smiled, “and as you know, I don’t have many.”

“Ooo,” his assistant stated excitedly, “I like this! Who is it for?”

“well,” he swallowed, “I had thought of offering it to the religious community…what with their expectations of rapturing off this hunk of rock and all…” he looked up at her. He could see that she was clearly amused. “But if they don’t take it, we’ll see how many of our fellow humans, those of us who are enlightened enough to understand what greed, hate, and religion is doing to the planet, want to go in search of something better. Let the ignorant have their way with Earth.”

What is this?” She pulled the plans for the terraforming equipment from beneath the plans he was currently making.

“Terraforming equipment,” He looked over at her, an eyebrow cocked, “why?”

“So,” she began, “this goes with that?”

“Yes,” he nodded, “as do atmospherics machines, gravitational generators, and shield generators to protect from possible asteroid bombardments.  There are hydroponics labs, tool and resource replication labs, and medical labs.”

“and I suppose that there will be stasis pods and self contained perpetual engines?” She pressed.

“Of course,” he smirked, “how else are these things going? Seriously, though, they are far from perpetual motion engines. They are, however, somewhat self-driven and based on continuous cold fusion reaction.”

“How do they work?” She was intrigued.

“They pull in elements from space,” He explained, “and fuse the particles together using a cold fusion reactor. No radiation leaks. No human interaction…unless they break down. And that is highly unlikely.”

“I see,” she nodded, “and who is going to pilot this thing?”

“Three crews,” he nodded, “two in stasis, one out for a single year. Each rotating into their routine at the end of the year. No contact with their charges.

“Only the medical crew and technician crew will have any sort of contact with the passengers. But not in a way where the passengers will speak to them. More like to keep the stasis units working and the occupants alive and breathing.

“The idea is to keep the passengers in stasis until they reach their destination. And before you ask…there will be three tech crews and three med crews. They will do as the flight crews. Rotate…until deep space where timers will be set for so many years once automatic pilot takes over.

“the only thing that should awaken the crew before the set time is if something happens. Staying out of their intended path. A near miss with a comet or asteroid. If a stasis tube stops functioning.”

“You have this all thought out,” she giggled, “don’t you?”

“It pays to, yes,” he chuckled.

***

Tests of all the components had been a success. The ships were ready. All he needed was a customer.

Talks with the religious community had failed. Miserably. Not that he had expected them to succeed.

The extremely religious had always wanted to rule the world. They had desired a theocracy for centuries. Now, if all went well, and the majority of humanity desired to leave, they would finally have their chance.

He sighed. He hoped the rest of humanity was more open to relocating. Let the destructive keep this ball of dust. They had already destroyed it.

“Sir,” his assistant announced, “They’re here.”

“OK,” he nodded, “I’ll be there in a minute.”

“Very good, sir,” she averred, “I will tell them.”

She left and he put his head in his hands. It was now or never. He rose and headed for the door.

“The craft are light and durable,” He began, moments later, standing before the representatives of nearly every nation, “as are the stasis tubes. As passengers, all will be placed in stasis for the length of the journey.

“Crews of techs and medical personnel will monitor all passengers until deep space is achieved. Then. they will also go into stasis until such time as they are awakened. The same will happen once the navigational crew get us to deep space…they will also go into stasis until the passengers reach their set destination. there, they will land the craft so that the medical and tech crews can unload the now awakened passengers.”

“What will be the cost?” The German representative inquired.

“We leave everything behind,” He stated, “this planet, the currencies, our homes, cars and most belongings. Some of us may even leave behind family members.” He looked around the room. “If this is a price you are unwilling to pay, then by all means stay! Just know that they will probably kill you for being enlightened.”

“We can always rebuild,” the representative from Ghana admitted.

“And we will,” he assured them, “as we will have the aid of terraforming equipment and any other technology needed for both survival and protection.”

“What do we have to gain?” The Arab representative asked.

“Don’t you mean what do we have to lose?” The Japanese representative returned.

“I see no need to think this through,” the French representative announced, “I know many who would jump at this chance.”

“So do I,” the Russian representative nodded, “anything to get away from oppression and hate.”

***

Several unmarked ships lifted up from every country. Aboard, teams of astronauts who had trained extensively now guided the ships out into space. Techs and medics kept a vigil over the passengers who were now in stasis.

Among those onboard as passengers were Jim and his assistant. Neither had desired to remain. Behind them, his abandoned labs now burned.

1.

He remembered summer. Earth had been a cacophony of seasons. Extreme heat. Extreme cold. No in between.

Not at all what he had been promised. But then it was over a thousand years after man had caused the massive disaster that had sent the species, the race, into extinction with the rest of life. Well, those who had refused to leave.

They had been extremists. The Inheritors they had called themselves. Radically religious. Closed minded. Hateful.

Those seeking better lives, more peaceful lives, had left Earth behind in search of paradises never before experienced. The rest were left to their own devices. Their own hatred. Their own ignorance and greed.

“What are you thinking, Billy?” His mother inquired.

“I do not understand,” he answered, “history says that Earth was once green. That man greedily cut down the forests and drained the fossil fuels, polluting  the water and air. And yet, the air is back at breathable levels. Has man been gone so long that the planet is healing itself?”

“Perhaps,” she nodded, “though I would hesitate in the belief that the air is breathable for very long. After all, the plant life has never really rebounded.”

“But could we terraform it back to its former state?” He pressed.

“Probably,” she averred, “but the planet is tainted.”

“Tainted?” He was confused.

“It holds the memories of those who destroyed it,” she explained, “and the disease that drove them to oblivion.”

“Couldn’t we make it a sanctuary?” He was still trying for a yes.

“Possibly,” she stated, “but that is against the natural law. The planet is to heal itself. That means we cannot intervene.”

“But we terraformed our planets,” he objected.

“That was over a thousand years ago, Billy,” She reprimanded, “we have learned so much since then. How not to go against the natural laws. The universal laws.”

“Well, yes, but,” he struggled to object.

“We have learned that all things are in balance,” she continued, not allowing his objection to take shape, “that we should never take more than we need. To never become greedy. That the old ways were wrong.”

“I know, but,” he tried again.

“We learned that terraforming was unnatural,” she brushed the attempt away, “that it harmed other planets. That other planets held new and better food sources than our old ones.  That evolution was always the natural path.

“You remember the skeletons in the museum at home? How they don’t look like us, but are our ancestors?”

“Well, yes,” he snorted.

“Humanity changed over those thousand or so years,” She taught, “after leaving Earth. Each planet hold a different evolutionary branch, each with its own unique appearance.”

“Sort of how,” he began to see what she was trying to tell him, “how evolution caused the color variations of humanity on Earth.”

“Yes,” she smiled, “now you are getting it.”

“So,” he scratched between his antennae, “if some of us came back to Earth…”

“Possibly,” she admitted, “but as I said. I wouldn’t be too sure of the air being at levels that could sustain much life. After all, the plant life has yet to return to normal and I am not so sure that Earth is still fertile enough to support much life.”

“And the sun?” He asked.

“What about it?” She returned.

“They once claimed that it would blow up,” He replied.

“There is still five billion years, give or take a few thousand,” she mused, “just as man had predicted that there was about 7.5 billion years…but that was before the avent.”

“So,” he smiled gleefully, “there is still a chance that life can evolve again?…here?”

“Yes,” she giggled, “I suppose so, given the right elements and the right natural push.”

***

Home world was nothing like Earth. The seasons here never became too cold or too hot. The old colony was now abandoned, no longer suitable for the new race of beings that had risen from the human colonists.

Plant life here was different as well. As was the animal life. But then, living here was different.

Few left the new home world unless it was to do research and none ever left for long. Here, only peace existed. Here, only symbiotic coexistence happened.

There was no crime. No greed. No hate. No lust.

Only a single mind. A hive mind. Something that had been a side effect of the planet’s unique atmosphere.

Much the same had taken place on the surrounding planets where other colonies had sprung up. Each planet had added to the humans. Changed them in a unique way.

But all had changed for the better. Mentally. Physically.

Billy had enjoyed his visit to Earth but had been saddened by the state of the planet. It had been completely destroyed. Its forests had been cut down. Its animals had been driven into extinction, man with them.

But what had saddened him the most was that there was no longer any surface water. The whole planet was a giant desert torn apart by massive eruptions. The colonies, Or what he had seen as colonies, were completely empty and crumbling. Eroding.

As were the land masses. They were all eroding. It had all been so surreal.

He had hoped to see a glimmer of hope. Something that would tell him that the planet was healing. Or Beginning to.

Instead, he had seen that the damage might never be reversed. The planet was dead. Useless.

It had been completely drained. Now, it just took up space. Like Mars and the rest of the planetary system it was a part of.

He sighed. The thought was depressing. And there wasn’t anything they could do to bring it back.

He would have to study it a little more.  Maybe he had missed something. Maybe he had overlooked some clue.

Yes. That was it. He had missed some clue.

He had overlooked the obvious. And though he could not terraform, perhaps he could scratch the surface to find if the planet still had water. And if he found water, maybe the planet could heal itself.

 

 

 

 

 

Key To The Highway, Chapter 12: Always Something New

We began to move everything from Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Shreveport to  the Edivere estate. The publishing company. The recording companies. The film production companies.

It was all to consolidate everything. Centralize it all in one area. Even my eventual corporate offices would be moved here. 

There would be a company in every field. Scientific research. Medical research. Tech research. Educational research. Food service. Entertainment. The automotive industry. Construction. 

I would eventually branch out into every industry. I would even become an investor in numerous private startups. But I would make money faster than I could ever use it. 

I had made friends among club owners and restauranteurs. Several would help me start my teen club chain, others would help me with the nightclubs. And still others would sell out to me. Especially the more famous venues.

I knew a good thing when I saw it and I ended up with most of what had been the chitlin circuit as well as many clubs that had refused services to black bands during the days of segregation. These I bought mainly out of retribution for refusing service to some of the best musicians of the decades they had operated as segregated establishments. 

I would rename them, then reopen them. I would make them open to all artists and pay well. I would begin to tear down walls. 

To many in the south, I became known as a force of nature. I represented an end to their once proudly held way of life. An end to their tightly embraced hate and fear. 

I was a symbol of change. A sign of changing times. An omen of what was to come.

Most of all, I represented a change of ideals. I made them look at themselves for a change instead of at those around them. My perceived innocence revealed their hidden guilt.

I was a force to be reckoned with and I was only two years of age. I frightened the adults. I gave the children something to aspire to. 

A small community began to grow around the Edivere mansion. My home. These loyal employees would remain with the companies for decades. Even after I disappeared, they would remain loyal. 

***

The facilities in Shreveport, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans were turned into museums with gift shops. The warehouses would remain in use until new ones could be built later on down the road. Die hard fans would continue to send to the warehouses for replacement copies of worn out tapes and badly scratched records even after I disappeared. 

While I was never really a fan of the 8 track, I sold quite a few of them. I preferred vinyl and, later, cassette to the 8 track. Perhaps it was the cumbersome design that garnered my dislike, I don’t know.

In my heart, I knew that the 1970’s were the last years for the 8 track.I also knew that vinyl was coming to an end. At least for the mainstream. There would always be those who would collect vinyl. Just as there would be those who collected 8 tracks. 

But I knew that any entertainment company worth its salt would have to innovate with the rest of the industry or die. Hell. The best would be at the forefront of innovation. 

I intended to be at the forefront. Whenever there was an innovation, I would be among the first to adapt. If I had to leave for any reason, I would make sure that whoever took my place, for however long, would carry out my wishes. 

It was just good business to be adaptable. Something the oil and coal industries were unwilling to be. Something the automotive industry was unwilling to do as well. 

But I had learned a lesson their CEOs had not. I had learned that greed destroys everything it touches. Including the person who put their trust in its emptiness. 

The knowledge had been what had kept me grounded. I cared nothing for wealth. Or privilege. Or position. 

To my employees, I was just another one of them. An average person willing to work alongside them. Someone willing to learn every aspect of the business. Even at the age of two. 

And as such, I would earn their loyalty. Their trust. Their love.

I would never have need to advertise for new hires. My employees would remain and their children would become employees. I had no policy against hiring family, as we were all family. We were all one big family even though we weren’t really related.

***

I was unaffected by the free sex culture of the 70’s, I was too young. Hell.  I was still too young to be affected by the drug culture. 

I suppose that was why I was able to emerge from the 1970s relatively unscathed. I was too young for all the decadence. I was also surrounded by very responsible adults, despite my being exposed to people in both of those scenes.

Even with exposure to both scenes, they were so distant from me in my mind that I had little interest. I only cared about my work or, as I saw it, play. And my vision of changing the world for the better.

Sure, I was naive in many ways. Or perhaps simply blissfully and willfully ignorant. But it did not yet personally affect me. Not yet.

Key To The Highway, Chapter 11: Ride The Wind

Mallory and his children built the best production company the industry had ever seen. It would rival all the major studios in Hollywood. In many ways, it would become more successful. 

And again, I insisted on keeping it off the stock markets. It was kept a private holding. No investors meant no compulsion to sell. No option to try a hostile takeover.

It would forever remain mine. That was my intent. Even when I would hire a new CEO, they would not be able to negotiate a salary over $400,000 a year. 

I set the policies in stone. There would be no way to change them without my express permission. Not during my lifetime.

I even wrote a ‘tombstone’ clause that stated that no policy could be changed without physical proof – a legitimate obituary, picture of a tombstone with name and date of death, and/or death certificate – so that nothing could be faked just to change a policy that someone did not like. 

That meant that just believing me dead would not warrant proof. The proof had to be undeniable and legally recorded. Not hastily created for personal gain. 

The company could never be sold. Not even after my death. It was to remain in my family, whoever that might be. 

It was a brilliant move. It meant that my company had to operate under my policies indefinitely and Hollywood could never get rid of me. Or my legacy.

Perhaps I knew, even then, that they would become an overly gluttonous cannibalistic industry devouring each other in a feast of creativity that would destroy that very creativity. I just had no idea who would eat who. Nor did I care. Just as long as they could not devour my work.

The fact was that the cannibalistic feast had already  begun. Even in the 1970s. The number of studios had been greatly diminished. The amount of creativity, though, had not. 

What had started as a friendly competition had become a bloody and cannibalistic battle for supremacy. The casualties would be the fans, eventually. Zanuck was ailing. Disney was long gone. As were Samuel Goldwyn, Louis B.Mayer, David Sarnoff, and Howard Hughes. Oh how they would mourn what had become of their legacies. 

I bought back the rights to all the films I had made from the first books, all dealing with children and scientific advancements not yet seen. I re-branded them and released them again under the new company’s logo while I made new movies.  I even began a dozen television series, all of which became instant successes. I had learned the secrets of success as a producer. 

I would never take a salary from any of my companies. Instead, I made my money producing films, acting, making music, and writing books. What would have been my salary went back into the business. And so I would pattern all of my businesses. After all, I did not need the extra income. I made enough as it was. 

***

We had worked my ‘Baby Jay’ routines into our stage presence. We would do a skit in between our serious or sad songs to keep the mood light and to make the audience laugh. It worked wonderfully. 

It was almost as if the fans were glad to see another side of me. I believe that they loved my ability to laugh at my age, height, and perceived weaknesses. They also loved the irreverence that I exhibited. 

It all gave me a very human appearance, something I had lacked up to that point.it also made me extremely accessible. And open.

We even began building upon those routines, creating even more. My character was easy for some to identify with even if I was not. I addressed things that were hard for most to not identify with. Friendship. Acceptance. Love. Dreams.

I made fun of adults. Their prudishness. Their fixation with riches and fame. Their total lack of respect for children. 

I became controversial. But in a good way. And through the use of humor. 

Some adults took things too personal, but still, they had to admit that I had a point in it all. I never meant it to be too serious. And they knew it. Or they should have.

Thirty-six solo and dozens of band and studio project albums into my career, I was the most seasoned player even though I had only been in the industry for two years. Well, two years and six months. I’d been in continual tour for the first year and a half. I had been in at least a dozen countries. 

I could converse with anyone. Sing in any language. Play in a thousand different styles.

I had worked with all the major hit makers. I had performed onstage with some of them. I tolerated some, loved others.

It was what made me unique. I could do whatever was needed. It didn’t matter whether I liked someone or not. I would still work, at least once, with them.

The bands were also beginning to mix in some of my solo works. My vocalists had to travel with the bands in order to play their parts. And yet, they seemed to love the new opportunity.

Twenty-four albums’ worth of material was now being added into an already heavy show. In hindsight, it was the bands’ way of telling me that our time together was growing short. After all, most of the members were of retirement age and probably had about three more years left in them and none of their children wanted to take their place.

***

Almost from the very beginning, I loved the Tao Te Ching. It is such a poetic and timeless piece of wisdom. I put it into practice almost immediately. At the same time, I became extremely fascinated with the I Ching. 

I also immersed myself in the Vedas and Rumi. I had read and contemplated the Koran and Bible, but had discounted them both as incomplete. As I had done with the Rabbinic writings and the Judaic ‘Holy Books”. 

I had found that there was quite a bit more wisdom in the eastern philosophies. Hell. There was more wisdom in the teachings of Zoroaster. And in the pagan teachings.

Not that I felt that the big three were frauds. In many ways, they were important in their own ways. But, at the same time, it was as if they had been repainted and repackaged by Rome or by those who’d come after the original belief system. Multiple times. 

None more than Judaism and Christianity. After all, the Jewish histories had been destroyed under Xerxes. As had their original texts. It was more than fair to believe that the ‘histories’ and ‘laws’ that resulted from the reconstruction had been deeply influenced by Zoroaster’s belief system as well as the pagan myths of Persia. And Babylon. And every conquering nation that took control of Judea thereafter. 

Christianity had definitely been hijacked when Rome took it as the national religion. Their gods and goddesses had been combined with the message. Lucifer, the light bringer, had been made an aspect of the devil. As had the darker aspects of all the gods. 

And all in the attempt to make divine the assassinations and exiles of royal and political opponents. There was nothing remotely ‘Holy’ left in the religion. It had all been distorted.

Key To The Highway, Chapter 10: Road Songs

I had weathered my first ‘vacation well. I had forgotten none of what I had been taught and had gained insight into my biological family. I had a vindictive, selfish sister. Well, she was actually my half sister. 

I had a narcissistic  workaholic father who thought he could do no wrong. And I had an adorable, sometimes over protective mother who would support anything I did as a child. My mother loved horses. My father loved guns.

Even away from the road and studio, the music never stopped in my head. Nor did the business ideas. Or the concepts.

I had observed every trait, every nuance, of each of my family in quiet contemplation. I rebuked my sister in nearly every language I knew except English. I muttered in Creole to myself whenever I was upset. 

The only one who even remotely knew anything of what I was saying was my grandfather and he wasn’t saying anything. 

“Is he speaking another language?” I had heard my mother ask curiously.

“Not that I can tell,” he had replied, “even if he was, we would never rightly know. Doubt there is any book for it.” after, he had smiled knowingly, sought me out with a glance, and winked.

It had been his way of showing approval. He knew that I did what I did as a means of appearing as a normal child of my age. Just as he knew that I revealed nothing of what I knew in order to remain ‘normal’ in their eyes. 

Both of us knew that my father could never know. For my sake. My future depended upon the illusion I was casting. 

My father only desired two things. Money and control. He had failed at the former, so he exerted all his effort in the latter. And he ruled, at least in his own eyes, with an iron fist. 

But even that was mostly illusion. After all, a man who does not have control of himself cannot control those around him with any effectiveness. Thus, my father had no control. Just the illusion of that came from fear.

And yet, at this point in time, grandpa held him in check. And though he was cruel, he had to hide it. At least for now. But I knew. I could see through his serene illusion.

***

I was two years old and I was already a success. I already had a business that was making millions. I was already a millionaire.

Yet, the only thing that mattered was my talents. I had dozens of books. I had written my first nonfiction book after returning from my vacation, a sort of release of the angst that I had built up. The observations I had made. The psychologist had begun to emerge. 

My first book of poetry also emerged. The different emotions. The different aspects of life I had witnessed in a single house. The different personalities. 

It was a kind of child’s version of Ginsberg’s Howl. A scream for normalcy within the bounds of supposed normalcy. It became an instant classic.

I continued with my fiction as well. Writing was my release. My escape from reality. 

And I was becoming more professional in my style. More perfected. Less scattered. Less rough.

Jean was a respected publisher and editor. His works had been critically acclaimed when he was younger. When he was still writing. 

He was my editor and publisher. He would fix my errors and make the books printable. But even I knew that he would not be there forever. There would come a time when he would no longer be there to solve the problems for me. 

And so I worked hard at perfecting my craft. The lyrics I wrote, the songs I recorded, made it into print as well. As did my first attempts at writing plays. 

I was coming into my own. I was growing both in body and in talent. As well as in experience. 

Music legends passed through the studio and I worked with them all. The Moody Blues. The Hollies. Elvis. The Rolling Stones

I was the local oddity that drew a star studded crowd. And I relished it all. I invited the attention.

But it was in my second year that the fans began realizing that I was not the midget that they had believed me to be for two years. I was suddenly taller. More distinctive. 

My first year of growth had been nearly indistinguishable. But this second year, I was far taller than I had been. It was apparent. 

But the moniker ‘Baby Jay’ stuck because they realized that I had truly been a baby…though they could hardly believe it. Still, it had not dawned on the censors that I was a child. But, then, I was not the one singing my songs. I merely played the instruments. 

And, of course, I became more active in my second year. I began dancing around onstage while playing guitar, doing high flying kicks and becoming flamboyant to cover my shyness. And I was extremely shy. Even for a musician.

I suppose you could say that this was the moment that my reputation for being a flirt began to emerge. At first, it was a way to hide the fact that I was extremely nervous. Then, it just became a part of my act.

***

More roles came my way. Hollywood loved me even if I rued Hollywood. Well, I didn’t exactly rue Hollywood. I disliked what some of the power players were. The system was gluttonous. And cannibalistic.

It seemed to eat its own. Made me desire to remain apart from it. Thus, Jean called on a film producer friend of his who had retired before the heyday of the studio system went into decline.

Mallory Astor was an amazing man. Though around Jean’s age, Mal was still as active as a 20 year old. He had wisely split from Hollywood before the scandals hit and had never looked back. 

He had become an instant fan of my literary works and saw the cinematic potential of many of the novels. Jean had even prepared him for our first meeting. But not quite enough.

“Mal,” Jean began, “this is Jay. He is the author of the books you are interested in developing into films.”

“I know ya prepared me.” he stated, slightly surprised, “but I thought you were kidding about his age.”

“No,” Jean mused, “I wasn’t kidding you. Jay may be a bit young, but he is more than capable of all I told you. He has already earned his bachelor’s in business. He knows how to build the perfect business. He just needs a temporary adult manager to head his company openly. And now, he wants to branch out into film and television…and you are the perfect person to be that visible head of his company.

“You are experienced in the business and can train almost anyone to do what you did in Hollywood’s golden age. Just as I am able to train anyone to do what I do.”

“So,” Mal took a breath, “what is he looking for?”

“He wants to build a production company that will rival Hollywood,” he answered, “so that he does not have to fear that the so-called producers will destroy his books for the sake of their egos.”

“Well,” Mal chuckled, “that is the norm nowadays.” He paused and took another look at me. “Alright, I’ll do it. I will call my son and have him come in as well. Just add us to his family photos from now on.”

“Merci, Monsieur Mallory,” I smiled in appreciation.

“And you’ve corrupted the boy with your Cajun French,” Mal grinned, “bet that galls those bloated morons in Hollywood.”

“James, or ‘Jay’,” he nodded, “is multilingual. And yes, it drives most producers nuts. But it also works in his favor when he goes home to his own family over the winter. He can speak in almost any language and still seem to be babbling.”

“Well,” Mal beamed, “if that don’t beat all!”

“Indeed,” he mused, “but then, Hal Parvenue has always kept his word when delivering a unique talent.”

“And how is Hal?” the producer inquired.

“Aging,” came the answer, “like the rest of us. And ailing. He has heart problems.”

“That’s too bad,” Mal shook his head, “he’s a great man. Does amazing carpentry.”