Part I: The Winnowing
“There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more. “
“We went down into the silent garden. Dawn is the time when nothing breathes, the hour of silence. Everything is transfixed, only the light moves.”
― Leonora Carrington
The silence was unbearable. When I woke up, early in the morning, there wasn’t a single sound. Not even a faint buzz or a hum. I couldn’t even hear the ticking of the clock. As I switched on the lamp, I turned and shifted my weight to the other side; I found everything in my room- perfectly still.
I eased back and looked at the clock- the ticking reaching my ears now. I had slept a dreamless, dull sleep and right now, I was not ready to go back to bed.
Realising that within two hours I’d have to leave for the station, I got out of bed and made myself some strong hot, strong coffee. Sitting on my honey coloured couch, I stared out the window that was directly in front of me.
Light was filtering through the windows; glistening on the dew- covered white pearl bushes. The slant rays of the sun spread warmth and light- making its way through the pines that grew on the hills.
The glass-umbrella that covered the entire Meadow too was glittering. I could almost imagine a shiny, giant hemispherical globe as seen from the sky. The umbrella, which was a protective shield from the poisonous gases in the atmosphere, extended up to a few kilometres above the Troposphere. The glass panels fitted onto the umbrella acted as filters- absorbing excessive carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and other pollution-causing gases and replenishing us with clean, breathable air.
The glass-umbrella was built almost half a century ago when the climate had become too unbearable. Erratic spells of rain, intolerably hot days and nights of extreme cold were common then and now, here, only those above fifty and alive could recount the experience. ‘The Meadow’ as people fondly call it became a haven. It was hope offered by the government to us so that we could lead a better life.
I came closer to the window and glanced out to see a faint cloud of mist lift up in the gentle sunlight. A vague sound- what I assumed was a hoot- could be heard reminding me that I had work to do.
Not in the mood to prepare breakfast, I tossed some milk and cereal into a bowl and I ate in silence. After a hot, quick shower, I stepped into my walk-in wardrobe. A quick assessment and I decided to wear my ivory coloured peplum dress. It wasn’t new but a comfortable choice yet something formal too. I tied my hair into a simple ponytail. I headed downstairs where I scanned through some of the papers, collected and filed the important ones and arranged them all in my case. Locking the door behind me, I strode into the mild morning sun to catch a cab.
The cab ride to the Town Office was uncomfortable. My driver, Lance, had been away because of his infection thus leaving me no choice. But we reached the Office within five minutes- having to no longer bear the sudden brakes and bumps. After paying the driver, I walked into the building.
Will Barber, busy with some documents that he clutched firmly in his hands, the Minister and my boss, emerged from his office room flanked by his bodyguards and assistant Ray Mendes. Barber, grey-haired, looked tired maybe even sleepy. His eyes were puffy and despite the clean-shaven, spectacled look, his face failed to look fresh. Ray, on the other hand, was active as ever. His clothes were ironed (which never happened before) and I swear I could smell some stupid aftershave on him. He flashed an overconfident, boyish yet annoying smile at me.
“Greene?” Barber looked up at me finally. “Is the speech ready?” He asked without any enthusiasm.
“Yes,” I said, fishing through the case and finally having got them, I handed them over to Ray.
“The train leaves at nine. The ceremony begins at two—“Ray said and looked at his watch, “taking about three hours. After that we have a quickie press-conference and then ride back home.”
“Whatever you do, I have to be at Nova Rosa for the all-party meeting by night. Get that done,” Barber spoke exasperated.
“Sir? “One of the bodyguards called out. “We’re good to go now.”