On a cloudy day in the middle of September,
Farmer Ezra Ziller sat back on his rickety old porch chair and looked out to
the horizon. The storm he sensed gave him a slight panic, but he had to
continue focusing on the care of his crops, in order to harvest them a few
weeks later. Just seeing the land made him emotional, and he hoped that the
storm in all of its strength would somehow spare his livelihood.
The old man had grown frail in body, but not in spirit. He worked on the land that day as much as he could, and once he had grown too tired to walk, he delegated the rest of the job to his farmhand.
He had many previous farmhands, but this one was more intriguing than all of the others put together. The young man was quiet and well-mannered, but would occasionally reveal his wit and humor in casual conversation. He was a walking paradox in some ways; he possessed wisdom beyond his years and had a youthful mind and rebellious heart. Everyone who knew him admired his peaceful demeanor and marveled at the fire they could see in his eyes when he spoke of his passion to fix the tormented world. He was a born leader who was destined to achieve greatness, Ezra once put it. His name was Kailo.
Ezra watched as Kailo pulled the weeds from the ground. The young man was very sure to be gentle with his task, he always made sure to find the base of the weed before uncoiling it from the crop, which in that instance was corn.
No words were exchanged for a while, but then the old man realized that he neglected to initiate the most important conversation. They needed to talk about seeds.
He stood up slowly, and the sound of the creaking chair caused Kailo to look up from his work. Ezra looked at him pridefully, and motioned for him to come to the porch. Kailo swiftly made his way to the front of the house.
“It’s that time again, boy.” Ezra said, with a glint of sadness in his eyes. He reached in his pocket and took out a scraggly piece of paper and handed it to Kailo.
“You want me to go now?” He had no problem searching for the seeds for the old man, but he was concerned about Ezra’s health. What if he left and Ezra passed away? The winters were only getting colder and even though Kailo had renovated the house several times, the poor old wooden abode was bound to collapse in no time.
“The earlier you go, the sooner you can return and the sooner we can plan for the spring season.” Ezra said excitedly as his voice could handle.
“And if they come after you, what will you do?” Kailo asked. The ‘they’ he was referring to was one of the many groups of self-appointed leaders that governed the land. Since the government shutdown five years before, the frustrated citizens took it upon themselves to rule over their own states. Due to several differences in motives, the central governing power of each state split into more divisions, making the once united nation more separated than it had ever been. One thing remained the same across different territories; the possession of seeds was prohibited.
“I wouldn’t worry too much about me,” Ezra laughed, “I’ve been doing this thing for 40 years! If their machines were worth a shit, they’d have had me a long time ago!”
Part of this was due to luck, but the expertise of Ezra’s son, Craig, also helped. Before his disappearance the year before Craig had installed a mechanism called the Bermuda Tri-45, which prevented the farm from being detected by the strongest satellite. No one was able to track their exact location, at least not to their knowledge.
Kailo frowned and looked down at the list again with a sigh.
“Should I leave tonight?”
“It’s best to leave before the storm kicks in.”
They both took a good look at the darkening sky.
“Give me an hour and a half.” Kailo said, as he entered the house.
“Pack lightly!” Ezra called after him.
In his room, he grabbed his burlap bag from the closet and placed his notebook, map, wallet and master pass into it. In the kitchen he grabbed corn, rice, honey and bread from the cabinet and tossed them in. He turned and looked through the window to see the old man staring up at the sky.
Fearing that he would change his mind and stay, Kailo distracted himself by tidying up the living area. It was the last task he would be able to do for the old man for a while.
“Don’t forget the haven list.” Ezra said, as he entered the house.
“I don’t think I’ll need it this time” Kailo said, “I have all of the places written down on the map.”
Ezra shook his head, as mature as Kailo was, he was also like many young men his age, stubborn.
“All of the places, huh?” Ezra said, “What about Perry’s Peak?”
“That restaurant in Teyertown?”
“Swinner? It’s by the old watermill near the plaza. I got that, too.”
“What about Crossed Thorn?”
“Uh, I don’t...think I’ve heard of that one. Where is it?”
“Look and see for yourself.” The Ezra said. He took a seat at the table as the boy looked over the list. There were quite a few new locations. Seed collectors unions were becoming increasingly popular, but Kailo wondered if the new havens were trustworthy. A seemingly harmless practice of seed saving was actually one of the most dangerous practices one could engage in since all food production and storage was produced by crooked branches of corporations whose power increased due to the hiatus of the previous central government. There was no doubt that some of the havens were traps. The hard part was deciding which ones were authentic.
“I know what you’re thinking.” Ezra said, “I have old friends who check these places out.”
Ezra took out a handheld hologram projector. Kailo did not like using electronics in the house. Despite having the Bermuda Tri-45, he was concerned that some devices were possible to track, but the state of the country made wireless communication a necessity for survival.
He projected an image of Crossed Thorn to show Kailo. Suddenly, his hands shook violently and he dropped the device. Kailo rushed to his side.
“What’s wrong? What is it?” Kailo said in an uncharacteristically frantic voice.
Ezra held his temples and laid his head on the table. Ezra grabbed his shoulders in a desperate embrace.
“Was it the projector?”
“No...no,” Ezra said as he lifted his head “It’s the storm.”
Immediately, the sky erupted in a loud roll of thunder which vigorously shook the Earth beneath them. Kailo held on to Ezra.
“Let’s go.” Kailo said when he saw a flash of purple lightning light up the sky.
There was a trap door in the back room that led to a cellar. It was not the best place in the world, but it was the only option they had. He put the old man's arm around his neck and hurried to the back. He moved a table and a rug in the corner of the room to access the trap door.
When he opened it, Kalio hurried down the swaying stairs carrying the bulk of Ezra’s weight.
He placed the old man in a corner and leaned down to help him get adjusted. The thunder then shook the ground once more and rain pummeled the roof.
“You need to go now.” Ezra said. His eyes were watery and he breathed heavily.
“I really have no choice but to stay here,” Kailo said calmly, “We can wait until the storm passes.”
“God knows when that’ll be,” Ezra said angrily, “Get out of here! Now!” He had never yelled at him like that before. Kailo was not offended, he understood.
“Should I take Craig’s truck?”
The old man nodded sadly, besides a few photos, it was the last thing he had that reminded him of his own son.
“I’ll...go get my bag.” He rushed back up to see a horrendous scene. Nature was powerful and beautiful, but the conditions of this storm were beyond natural. The sky was consumed by a gathering of dark gray clouds and the crops in the field bent so close to the earth it was as though a large invisible hand forced each one down. Lightning struck near the porch, and several more flashes appeared in a series with a grand crackling noise accompanying each one. Every wall and window in the house shook.
He located the safe in Ezra’s room where the truck key was kept, and unlocked it swiftly. He then grabbed his bag from his room and noted that the wind had picked up even more.
Remembering the project, he ran to toss it in the bag as well. As he darted for the cellar, he could hear the sound of glass shattering.
Kailo shut the heavy door behind him and reinforced it with two iron rods they kept near the stairs for that purpose.
He looked sadly at the old man.
“You should come with me.”
“I keep saying it to you, boy. I’m not leaving this land until my son comes home.”
“But this storm is raging, Farmer Ziller you can’t expect to make it-” he stopped himself.
“Have them send for me when you reach the first haven.” Ezra said abruptly.
There was silence between them briefly that was only interrupted with the sound of the furniture upstairs crashing around. It was certainly time for him to leave.
Kailo banged on the dirt wall behind the staircase and it crumpled slowly. He began digging through it to hurry the process. Once he had gotten to the touch pad he entered the password.
Ezra never bothered to learn it, Kailo was the only other person who knew it besides Craig. It accepted the code and a wheel pushed through the center of the door. He twisted it with all of his might. Eventually, he made the wheel turn completely and forced the door open.
Kailo looked back at the old man one last time before his departure.
“Do just as we planned.” Ezra said. Kailo nodded and turned away, not even daring to say goodbye.
He entered and shut the door behind him, then traveled through the unlit tunnel and disarmed the security systems. The consequence of one wrong code could result in an incapacitating electric shock or worse.
After his short adventure in the tunnel he accessed the final room and saw Craig’s prized possession. It was an advanced military vehicle Craig had earned for his service; it was the only thing on their property that the storm could not easily destroy.
Kailo settled into the foreign vehicle, feeling uncomfortable, but motivated. If the house was to go down completely, Ezra might go down with it which saddened Kailo but he had to continue their mission.
He started the engine that was the only thing that could rival the sound of the thunder. The only way out of the ‘garage’ was through one of its dirt walls. He switched on the vehicular armor that thicken the shell of the humongous truck and plowed through until he was out in the open.
The lightning caused parts of the field to catch fire, yet the rain was heavy enough to contain the flames. In any case, their crops were gone and he had to accept that. Wind pushed the truck almost causing it to veer into a patch of fire.
In the rearview, he caught sight of a bolt that came close to striking the top of the old wooden house. The house already began to collapse, and Kailo forced himself to look forward. The wipers moved rapidly, the sound of the rain muffled his thoughts and, ironically, he found peace in the noise.
He headed toward the Bermuda Tri-45 border. He sped up as much as he could to pass through. The invisible protective wall slowed the truck, but it was able to continue on.
The wind just outside the border was far worse than he could have anticipated, but he picked up speed again. The storm subsided after a few miles and a faint rainbow appeared in the distance. He was back in the dysfunctional world, and once again had to adapt to its madness.