During my time as an explorer, I visited a place where time stopped. It was a small island where people rejected the Aid after the War. My friend Serg was very animated when he was telling me about it:
“It’s like it was in the Before. The buildings, the nature, the people. You simply have to see it. But make sure you get a local guide.”
So I did. I had to “email” (how old fashioned) an agency on the island to book a guide. He was waiting for me as I got off the boat (old fashioned indeed).
“Hullo, Mr. Grass,” he said, “So nice to make the acquaintance. I trust your trip was alright?”
I nodded and responded pleasantly. No need to bother him with the details of my sea sickness and and the pill I swallowed to make it go away. “I would like to see the sights,” I said.
“Naturally, right this way.” To my surprise, he did not lead me to a vehicle, but insisted we trek. It was the way of the land, so I did not object. I put on the “comfortable shoes” and flung the straps of the “backpack” over my shoulders. He also handed me a “walking stick” which I used following his example. And we were off.
The day was very pleasant, not too sunny and not too hot. “The place got unbearable at some point,” he told me, “Hot and humid. But then it all went back to normal. God save the queen.” And we continued through the deserted streets of the port town. “Not enough people to fill these buildings, you see,” he said apologetically, “Most of them emigrated. But not us, not the old guard.”
“Alright, lads,” said the guide as we passed by some hooded figures. They were young men in zip-up shirts. The shirts bore symbols which I did not know and I inquired with my guide. “Footy clubs,” he responded incomprehensibly, “Street wear brands from the Before, Hello Kitty.” I asked about each of these things and he told me fantastic tales of a civilization that inhabited these lands. The young men served as a priest class, paying homage to the past.
Then we came to an area which had fewer buildings and more foliage. A giant stone structure loomed over the place, casting a pleasant shadow. “A castle,” said my guide without a prompt, “Nobody knows what they were for, but we respect them. They are from a time Before Before. Or maybe even Before that. Tradition, you see. On Sundays, the Mrs. and I take the kids, a nice picnic blanket, some cucumber sandwiches, and we sit outside the walls.” When I asked about his “Mrs.”, he answered cryptically: “Me wife.”
From there, we walked to the “post office”: “It’s the email service of the area. I come here so they can read my emails to me. That’s how I got your message, relayed by the agency.” The office itself was a simple building with some metal boxes outside, and, I am told, a service window inside, where one can interact with Her Majesty’s Postal Service. Many mysteries around that, and my guide went into lengthy explanations which I did not all grasp.
The next area was something called a moor. It was just a patch of foliage, but a patch so big it stretched out beyond the horizon. “If we are to reach the Ol’ Benny,” said my guide, “We have to cross the moor.” And the trek took the rest of the day.
We stopped for the night. He made a fire brewed some “tea”, of which he partook, and then he slept all night. The next morning, we continued the trek. By noon, a tall tower with a “clock” became visible in the distance. It was surrounded by an abandoned, overgrown city. This was when my guide stopped and said: “Before we continue, I need to call me mom.” When I asked what it meant, he said “Every good son has to do it every day, innit? My mom worked very hard so I would grow up to be a strong and thoughtful boy. This is the least I can do to repay her.”
He stood straight, straightened his clothes, and put an open palm next to his face. “Well, ‘ello, Mum,” he said, “And ‘ow are ya today? That is good to hear. ‘ow’s your health? So sorry to hear that, Mum. Yes, we will visit soon.” And then we continued the trek. My guide was not able to explain much more about the custom, as he did not know anything. It was just one of those cryptic things we all do to let civilization continue.
We trekked on.