Success! It’s good to be right every now and then. Okay, all the time. Because I was right. For once it wasn’t about something depressing, either. We’ll build this colony yet!
I finished installing about 10 kilowatts worth of panels on the roof and the grounds all around the office, earlier than I ever could’ve thought possible. It’s kinda funny how hard work just sorta blurs together. Get started, and next thing I know I’m already finishing up. Take that, everybody. I might not have magic or wings but I can still get things done. Try and stop me, I dare you.
Joseph was still doing computer things, so I stepped out to wander around the city. Huan kept me company, though I had mace with me too in case we ran into something dangerous. We didn’t, though as I got further from the office, I noticed something I hadn’t.
Singing. It wasn’t very loud, the voice haunting in the early evening. Good thing I hadn’t turned the music on so loud while I was working. Haunting, old-world song about a fairy who can’t leave her wood. I’ve never heard the song before; folk was never really my thing. But as clear as it came, it clearly wasn’t electronic. It was a pony. In person. Leading me right to him with his voice.
My ears are very good, and it wasn’t hard at all to follow the voice back to its source: the hospital.
I wasn’t the only one drawn in by the sound: dozens of squirrels and birds had stopped to listen too, clearly watching the building with too-intelligent eyes. They barely seemed to notice me at all.
Whatever, that’s okay. I didn’t really want them too. I’m just glad Huan didn’t chase any of them; I know how much dogs like to chase squirrels. My old one sure did.
I had to walk all the way around the parking lot to find the speaker, though I couldn’t see them at first. There was a garden back here, in much better shape than any further south (much more rainfall I guess). It didn’t look like any garden I’d ever seen, though. Rather, it looked like the Garden of Eden come to Earth again.
A cobblestone path (probably pre-Event) was more or less the only way through. Huge sunflowers rose on the edges, with blankets of forget-me-nots and daisies and hundreds of others. A few oaks stood beside mature apple and pear trees, in a loose ring. The path led to a gazebo, and it was there I found the pony.
He was like me, lacking horn or wings, built sturdier-looking than either of the other two (species, breeds?). His body was purplish, mane bright. Granted, I couldn’t see too terribly much of his body; he was wearing a tailored coat, like any doctor from the hospital a few feet away might have worn, only trimmed and adjusted to fall over his back, his forelegs in the sleeves and the middle tied around his barrel.
He didn’t notice me at first, which was fine. I wanted to hear how the song ended. His jacket was dusted with dirt, and the pockets held gardening tools instead of medical ones. As I watched, he passed between the plants, trimming a rose-bush with the shears. His song was interrupted briefly as he ate one of the blossoms, biting it right off the plant.
Don’t they eat roses in Asia or something? I can’t remember now. Guess we eat them here too now. “We.”
“Excuse me,” I eventually said, as quietly as I could. “I don’t want to interrupt you.” I still did. Kindof an empty thing to say now that I think about it.
He jumped, ears and tail going alert. Funny how much easier it is to see pony emotions, even when you can’t get a clear view of the face. I think our scents change too, but I don’t actually know how to tell that apart yet. It’s all musky stallion to me, something the RV has enough of to saturate my clothes as it is. Well, clothes and saddle-bags. Everything. When are they bringing dry cleaning back? Pity it uses so many freaky chemicals. Maybe we can get an industrial washer for the colony. We’ve got the whole world full of essential oils.
Anyway, pony introduced himself as “Oliver Pittman”, at least when he’d calmed down enough to speak. Had he heard us playing loud music in town? Yeah, and he’d heard the generator running too. According to him, he hadn’t wanted to “let himself down” by going to investigate it but not finding anything. “If someone was really here, they would find me. If not you would go away. I knew it would work out.”
We swapped stories in the garden there. Oliver has been completely alone in the city for the last month, barring an exception I’ll go into later. He is (or was) a doctor doing his residency at the hospital here, though he’s originally from the other side of the country. He “didn’t see the point” of leaving the hospital when everything went bad, since they’re so well stocked for disasters. Stretched things as best he could, running the generator for just a few hours a day and going out for fuel every few days. His first priority had been keeping the medical freezer running, and he had given up everything else (including electric lights, running water, hot food) in order to do so.
Gardening had always been one of his hobbies, and he’d taken over the grounds to have something to occupy his time (when not scavenging fuel or batteries). My question was (as you can probably guess) why his hospital had kept the garden so overgrown. He answered that they hadn’t, but that it’d just been a few flowers and a few seedling fruit trees when he started.
I’m not sure exactly how to put it, “the plants are all listening,” something like that. According to Dr. Pittman, a little attention was all it took to make them grow like they were some freak GE experiments gone wrong. He told me how he’d eventually got so sick of dried cereal that he had tried some of the plants in the garden, and found he could eat almost all of them.
I’m not sure if difficult is quite the right word for this pony. Generous? I don’t know. He wouldn’t let me go any further without trying several different parts of the different flowers and shrubs… picked and washed into a salad of sorts. Damn you, Doctor. I’ve resigned myself to eating my produce from cans.
I’ve never had a salad that good in my life. People aren’t supposed to eat most of those ingredients, I don’t think. Some of those leaves were right on the twigs they’d come from. It was basically just garden clippings rinsed and drizzled with a little sugar-water.
Plenty of the supermarket veggies had tasted that good. But it’s been almost a month since I’ve eaten them fresh. Too long. We really should’ve started a garden sooner.
I told Oliver about our little colony, and it seemed like nothing I could say would make him willing to even consider leaving the hospital behind. You know what did it?
Yeah, it’s when I talked about Moriah. An injured pony, one who might not recover correctly without the ministrations of a real doctor. I may’ve exaggerated her condition a tad (not that much!), but whatever. We need him. He can’t spend his life alone tending to an empty hospital in an empty city! How can the loneliness not be driving him insane?
Oliver had conditions. He wants us to bring the drugs with us, the ones he’s been carefully preserving all this time. To do that, we will have to find and convert a freezer truck. He can drive the RV, while I drive the truck, and we can caravan back to “civilization.” Not that I wouldn’t want to do that anyway. Will we need any of those drugs before they go bad? Not sure, but it does seem a shame to let all his hard work over the last month go to waste.
Oliver wants another few days to get everything in order. We’ll take at least that long retrofitting a truck to drive and loading all the drugs into it. Besides, Joseph hasn’t finished yet. He said it would probably take days to call every phone on the network, and somebody would have to be there in case anyone answers. He plans on also sending a “system” message to every phone, a status text up to 128 characters long. Plenty of useful messages we could send, even without the ability to send anything longer.
Only one thing Oliver said disturbed me more than his talk of the impossibly-fast garden. It was connected to the reason he hadn’t come to investigate us. He’s been hearing engines overhead sometimes, and said he’s seen “military planes” flying high above. Can he be telling the truth? I’m not sure why he would lie about something like that. It isn’t as though we haven’t seen our own private confirmation that airplanes can be flown (badly) by ponies. Some of them had “sounded like helicopters.” Could ponies ever hope to operate such complicated aircraft?
I haven’t seen any in the time I’ve been here, though it’s possible we failed to hear the sound of them passing overhead since we had music playing so loudly at night. A mistake we intend to correct.
It seems weird that every pony we’ve found so far has useful skills. Yeah, even Joseph. Why haven’t we run into more fry cooks, retail salesman, and pencil pushers? One farmer (cook), one mechanic (handyman), one programmer (hacker), and now a doctor (gardener). Hey, if anybody’s up there listening, can we get a civil engineer and a chemist next? Maybe someone who knows how to work those 3D printers. Wait, Joseph could probably do that if I asked. Um… a mechanical engineer? Material scientist? Bureaucrats need not apply.
Is this just an accident, though? Just a coincidence? Or does it suggest some sort of guiding intelligence? Maybe if we knew more about the criteria for staying behind, we could guess at the motivations of whatever force did this.
Oliver doesn’t think so. When we talked today, he seemed to think that, whatever did this is so vastly beyond us that we’ll never stand a chance of comprehending it. It’s like a surgery. Sometimes you can save a patient, sometimes you can’t. All we can do is make the best with what we have. Knowing what caused it won’t change the fact it happened.
He’s right about that, I guess. I don’t know if I can give up on knowing so easy, though. Haven’t given up on reversing this.
Mom, Jennifer… I didn’t forget you. I’m coming. Soon, I hope. I love you.
Here's Oliver. He looks way more like a stallion than Joseph does. I guess he lifts or something.