RG’s hydrogen-powered farm-stand/fire engine with the big sign of a flaming pea pod on the side was surrounded by eager berry purchasers at the farmer’s market. It was no longer identified as an “organic farmer’s market.” It was just the “farmer’s market.” Nowadays, a person who felt unsafe unless his food was protected by pesticides had to seek out a special “sprayed food market.”A loud buzzing permeated the farmer’s market, produced by the dozens of windmills at the location, all spinning madly.
A woman in her 50s approached her and called out, “Random Granddaughter! I remember your grandmother, serving coffee and home-baked scones at the snack stand! She would be proud to see what you’ve done with her land!” They chatted nostalgically about RG’s grandmother and about how well she had run the coffee stand and how everybody loved her baked goodies.
Grandma used to say, “Everybody wants baked goods that are good for you, but a lot of those health cookies are heavier than bricks. You could bring down a bunny with some of the ‘health food cookies’ people bake.” Mrs. Random had been renowned for baking nutritious and virtuous cookies that were also light and tasty.

RG’s daughter, Random Great-granddaughter, returned from playing in the giant Fun Forest where children and adults frolicked together and asked her mom, “Can I have some raspberries?”

Reflexively, RG corrected her, “May I have some raspberries?” Her mommies had taught her to be polite and grammatically correct. Then she added, “You can’t just live on raspberries, you know.” It had taken twenty years for RG to overcome all her food persnickityness, but RG finally ate a balanced diet, so she expected her daughter to do the same.

A small adult figure appeared at the truck. “Auntie Mia!” exclaimed RGG. Mia swept RGG up in a hug. RG said, “Mia and I are going to have fun in the Fun Forest. She’s too serious. Her shrink has prescribed fun therapy for her. Please mind the stand for a while. Please sell a few berries as well as eating them.”

“Do I have to? I want to play with Auntie Mia,” RGG whined, warming up to a meltdown. She had inherited her mother’s famous temperament.

“Please don’t talk back to me, young lady,” warned her mother. Everyone who knew them expected fireworks once RGG became a teenager.

Later in the afternoon, as the market closed, the farmers headed for their summer potluck and celebration. Chad and Yoshi joined Mia and RG, as the organic pea pod used RG’s fire truck to drive farm children to the farm near the island’s coast where the party was held that year.

 As the evening grew dark, all the organic farmers and their families gathered on a bluff by the beach, gazing nostalgically at where the mainland of America had once been visible before the deus ex machina.

 

 

 

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The members of the Survival Pod, bearing heavy packs of scavenged tools, weapons, ammunition, and medical supplies, as well as keeping weapons at the ready, climbed down the bluff leading to the beach. Mia clicked a signal light in the dusk: three clicks, stop, three more clicks. From the inlet by the beach, RG, in the boat, clicked the confirmation signal: two clicks, stop, two clicks.Highly intelligent, obsessive-compulsive, and controlling, Mia was the chief strategist and tactician for the group. She and RG frequently argued vehemently, but once a decision had been taken and it was time to take action, the pod willingly put themselves under Mia’s command.

 

As civilization seemed to be sliding downhill, Mia decided to turn their financial resources from securities and paper money into gold coins. Many people had decided to leave the island; others, including the pod, began to prepare it as a survival headquarters.
The Survival Pod had taken over the two adjoining meadows next to RG’s grandparents’ old five acres, and planted grains and vegetables as well as additional fruit trees and nut trees, and they were raising chickens, ducks, and goats. The pod had also become skillful hunters, collecting game such as squirrels, chipmunks,, rabbits, and deer from the woods at the back of their land.

They had arranged a self-defense pact with the few remaining neighbors to keep an eye on each other’s properties if one group of homesteaders traveled to the mainland for additional supplies.

Besides depending on armed and watchful neighbors, the pod also relied on traps and mines to protect their territory. Yoshi, skilled with the use of surreptitious weapons, had booby trapped the land around the homestead with pitfalls, snares, and mines. They had decided to make a trip to the mainland to see what supplies they could bring back to help see them through the uncertain future. They had brought both cash—in the form of gold coins—and weapons, unsure which they would need.

Circumstances had proven they needed both. First they had gone to a large pharmacy on the mainland and purchased a variety of medical supplies. Then they had headed toward a large sporting goods store to stock up on additional weapons, ammunition, and other survival gear. Unfortunately, as they were in the store, they discovered others approaching with similar goals and little willingness to wait patiently in line for the rapidly diminishing supply of vital items.

Following Mia’s quick-thinking directions, they fired some shots in the air, told everyone else in the store to get down on the floor, and left quickly. As they left town and headed into the woods, they observed several armed people tracking them purposefully. They opened fire on the pursuers. Several fell; several fled. One of the fallen was still alive.

Chad, their interrogation expert, quickly persuaded him to tell how many were in the party. “It looks as if there are three more alive,” he warned the others.

When they reached the bluff down to the beach where RG waited in the boat, they avoided using the trail, instead using their machetes to cut through brambles and berries. Two of their pursuers, thinking to head them off, raced down the path, falling victim to some of Yoshi’s artfully hidden traps.

When they reached the ship, they found RG eagerly awaiting them, with the engine already running and ready to go. Although wind was the main source of propulsion in these gasoline-scarce times, the boat was also equipped with a motor for those times when speed was of the essence.

As they quickly loaded the supplies on to the ship and prepared to leave, Mia called out, “Watch out!” The last of their pursuers had approached underwater and was now climbing over the side of the boat to attack them on deck. RG whirled, kicked, and chopped. Mia fired once; just to be sure the idiot pursuer was really dead; they then tossed the body overboard. They quickly sailed from the inlet where RG had concealed the boat. As soon as they were safely away from the shore, they turned off the engine and used sail to head toward the island.

Chad grumbled, “We’ll have to eat berries and nuts and packaged food from our emergency supplies until our first grain crop is ready to harvest and we can hunt and slaughter some wild animals from the woods.”

“We can do worse than nuts and berries,” replied RG, as they sailed quietly through the night.

 

 

 

 

By the time Random Granddaughter reached her early thirties, she and the other members of her pod had phone transceivers implanted in their brains. It wasn’t exactly telepathy, but it was a step on the way. Her mommies and other members of the older generation regarded this innovation with fear and disgust and insisted on using “telephones” and “cell phones,” making them an object of mirth and derision to the younger generation.
As RG had ceived the other pod members to tell them she was close by, they were watching for the arrival of her hovercraft. As usual, Mia, with her sharp eyes, spotted it first. Mia, Yoshi, and Chad all leaped aboard the craft and reclined on the bucket seats, buckling themselves in as RG peeled away toward the coast and then headed over the water toward her property on the island, inherited from her grandparents.
The four pod members exchanged their latest dreamsicles. They were four of the leading creators of the popular mass media of their day. Each pod member handed the others three dreamsicles: previews of their upcoming releases. Placed on a wrist before going to sleep, the dreamsicle would dissolve into the bloodstream, creating vivid dreams lasting through the night.

Each member specialized in characteristic dreams. Chad’s Dreamstage name was Touch&Pound. His dreams consisted of a variety of feelings of being touched, ranging from the most feathery caresses to the most savage pummeling. After sleeping with one of Chad’s dreamsicles, the dreamer woke aching and sore.

Yoshi’s Dreamstage name was Deeper Than Terror. He specialized in nightmares. During the night the dreamer’s experiences ranged from anxiety and unease to stark screaming fear. Usually a dreamer awoke drenched in sweat amidst tangled, soaking sheets after taking one of DTT’s dreamsicles.

Mia, possessor of an incredible IQ, was known as Differentiate/Integrate to her fans. Her dreamsicles took her fans through vivid excursions of pure mathematics from differential calculus through symbolic logic. As they awakened, her fans often said, “It all made sense to me during the dream, but now I can’t remember a thing.”

RG was known by the dreamstage name, FallingFree. When she was a toddler, her grandfather had noticed how much she loved being held upside down as well as spinning around on a merry-go-round and joked that she had evolved to be an astronaut and live in space. RG, had in fact, as an adult, traveled to a space station and experienced weightlessness.

Her dreams evoked flying and falling. After throwing up in their sleep, RG’s fans learned not to eat very much before they went to sleep with one of her vivid dreamsicles.

RG had inherited her grandparents’ five acres on an island. Picking and eating berries in her grandparents’ garden had been a primal experience for her. Although RG and her companions were too much citizens of the world to settle permanently in one location, they regarded RG’s island land as their summer home. In her education, RG had pursued not only art—dreamsicle composition (her Mommy had been a violinist), but also was a scientist—expert in expert in genetic engineering (Mama had been a biologist and statistician).

Her grandparents would have been impressed to see how she had expanded their garden, focusing primarily on berries, but as devout organic gardeners, they would have been horrified to see how RG had used her genetic engineering skills to create new varieties of berries, many of which were psychotropic and produced strange and bizarre dreams. RG had become rich twice over after she created her famous Random Berries, which not only emerged in a variety of spectacular colors (reminiscent of the water colors she had played with as a child), and flavors, but also produced a variety of bizarre and unpredictable visions after one consumed them.

A spectral figure interrupted my usual early morning insomnia.

“Come with me,” it whispered quietly enough so it didn’t wake my wife as she made her little “poofing” noises in her sleep.

The ghost crooked a finger at me and I felt myself drawn into the air and following the figure into the clouds. Like my guide, I had turned into an insubstantial specter.

“Who are you?” I bleated.

“I am the ghost of coming attractions,” he muttered to me in a low, croaking voice. As we emerged from the clouds I saw a highway far below, running alongside the ocean. As we descended, I saw a long, low bus, moving very slowly indeed.

“What is that?” I asked.

“That’s the HOVS lane,” the ghost replied. Noting the puzzlement on my face, the ghost explained, “High Occupancy Very Slow Lane.” By now I could see that all the passengers on the bus were pedaling.

Noting my continued puzzlement, he said, “Here in the future, there’s not much gasoline. Most people use ‘MVSHT—Mass Very Slow HybridTransit.”

Something struck me as odd about the outside of the bus. Parts of it seemed chipped…or splintered.

“What’s it made of?” I asked. “Plastic? After all, if people are pedaling, it must be very light.”

“Yes, it’s very light. But it’s not plastic…plastic is a petroleum product. The bus is made of balsa wood and particle board. It’s pretty flimsy, but most vehicles are not going very fast and when they collide, most of the danger comes from getting splinters.”

As I looked above, I noticed air traffic: gliders, hot air balloons, and yes, a blimp, bearing the sign, “BADYEAR” emblazoned along its side.

As I looked over the ocean, I saw quite a few sailboats moving across the water as well as galleys powered by people rowing. I also noticed quite a few odd-looking structures sticking out of the water. “What are those?” I asked.

“SUVs” the specter answered. “They’re used now as reefs for fish farming. People need all the food they can get these days.”

As we spoke, I could see a town appearing as we rushed through the sky. At the edge of the town, I saw a sign, bearing the information, “Not Welcome to HOSTILE, Washington. Population: None of Your Business. Keep moving; we are armed; please use town by-pass. No vacancies, no restrooms no food. (No shoes, either).” I saw many gardens and fields within the town, patrolled by armed guards carrying both firearms and crossbows, some wearing swords and machetes as well.

Suddenly, I found myself back in my bed. Had I dreamed my visit to the future? I heard a ghostly voice calling to me through the haze, “You probably won’t live long enough to see this future. Sorry you will miss the show.”