Chapter 2: We Were Running in the Night
My trance-disconnected mind wandered as I stared up at the nearly ideal starscape above, scarcely thinned with light pollution by this small isolated desert town.
I was always a solo athletic type, the genetic dice rolling my height to be a bit taller than average. I was a good runner, but I’m not one for team sports, being a solid introvert. I’d done some long-distance running in high school on the track team, then switched to bicycling to do double duty keeping my body toned-up with a nine-mile round trip commute to work every day. I wasn’t in high school track star shape any more, but unlike the soft-bodied people I so often encountered in these flush economic times, I was probably above the ninetieth percentile for fitness.
The news media, always eager to report strife and hardship wherever it can be found, complains about economic collapse in the richest country in the world, but even in the middle of economically devastated Detroit, almost everyone in that city is today living lives better than their nearest counterparts in the third world, and those latter lives are better than those of almost all humans before them. The fact is, survival is a balance on the knife edge of starvation for wild animals on this planet, including prehistoric humans. Those with access to nothing but cheap fast food aren’t experiencing poverty, they’re living a king’s luxury when viewed against the broad scope of human history.
But of course, society’s expectations are relative. That point-1-percenter over there could pay off my home mortgage with his pocket change, so I must be poor, right?
Consider a crappy little 2-bedroom house, the sort you’d find in a poor US neighborhood, having only the most basic of comforts: electricity, hot and cold running water, carpet, ceramic and stainless steel tableware, sanitary facilities, and some type of heating. No air conditioning. Now drop that house — gently! — into the middle of the pre-colonial African veldt, and shortly you’d have hunter-gatherer tribes fighting, bleeding, and dying to secure and then defend access to that house. It would belong to the winning tribe’s strong man, and he’d house a few dozen people in it, six to a room, including the front room and kitchen, and call himself the richest man in the world.
Yet, a modern family of four can reside in that same house, two in each bedroom, and they may fill it with their belongings to the point that they need to put a shed out back to hold the rest of their stuff, and still call themselves poor.
People are strange.
I knew I’d made the right choice in not sticking around to talk to the police. I was on the side of the angels in this fight, a clear case of self-defense, but a brown person beating up a good ol’ white boy in an alley at night…there’d be a lot of questions, and I didn’t want to spend hours talking my way out of that mess down at the local rural P.D.
Besides, I needed to be naked and in contact with nature to heal and recharge. All magic is tied to nature, and my high tech bike shorts and shoes are very much unnatural, almost completely made of synthetic fibers, foam rubber, etc. I couldn’t do anything magical while wearing them. The socks were a mixed cotton-poly blend, so still not great. The 100% cotton tee shirt was okay, but it was still a technological barrier between me and the Earth. I did better magic without anything on.
Gravel crunched near the body I was not quite occupying at the time, and a bright light washed over the top of the weeds concealing it from view. The police car was creeping by, looking for the victim of the assault up by the bar, but the cop inside the car saw nothing interesting.
I wasn’t about to sit up and say, “Hi!” in my state of dress.