My paternal grandfather insisted that the reason Massachusetts drivers were so terrible was that Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to require liability auto insurance. Grandpa said deep in the heart of every Massachusetts driver is the ancestral urge that, having been forced to pay for this insurance, they’re damn well going to use it.
Considering the Polynesians got to Hawaii and Easter Island, it seem likely some boatfull of intrepid navigators must have reached the mainland Americas.
But nothing came of it. No long-term consequences evolved.
We know for a fact that the medieval Vikings reached North America. But those contacts withered without memory. Mere centuries later, the Spaniards made a separate connection and set off the Columbian Exchange, which reshaped human society worldwide.
This doesn’t mean it isn’t worth remembering those few unusual contacts. The stories, if we had them, are probably extraordinary adventures.
But they are lost to us. Most history is.
To actually keep a secret in this world seems impossible. One person with a secret tells “just one person,” that person in turn tells one additional person, that third person tells others. Information oozes out.
Or perhaps it just seems that way–because we never hear the secrets that are successfully kept.
I found myself in an Japanese-occupied 1940s American city. It was a setting akin to Philip K. Dick’s The Man In The High Castle, although in this dream the war was still ongoing.
I left our apartment to run errands. There was steel foundry nearby. I could see the showers of sparks as battleship armor was forged. Then in my hand I found my grandfather’s copy of Battle Stations, a book that, in our timeline, the U.S. Navy published to commemorate their victory.
What was I thinking? Why had I brought this outside? If anyone noticed I had such piece of American propaganda, it would mean arrest and execution for myself and my entire family. I tried not to panic and immediately turned toward home, praying no one would notice the title.
Our apartment was located in an immense skyscraper–so immense that there was time, during the elevator ride up, to show propaganda cartoons. The car I was in was filled with people, including several Japanese soldiers. Everyone was laughing at the cartoon, laughing at the ridiculous Yankees being defeated by the Emperor’s troops. One of the soldier was standing right next to my hand holding the book. Would he happen to look down? Would he notice this criminal piece of subversive literature?
I held my breath and counted the floors until I could get out…
(Another Doors-inspired piece from my college years)
I wandered through Père-Lachaise, looking for Morrison’s grave. I could tell I was getting closer, because I kept seeing the graffiti:
COME BACK JIM WE LOVE YOU
JIM WAS A JUNKIE
I wandered among the twisting French graves, hunted among them for he who was closest to me, chronologically if not also spiritually.
My thoughts echoed off the markers. I turned a corner, thinking the bust-adorned headstone might be there. I was wrong.
On a mausoleum wall stalked the white tiger. It was drawn in chalk with red stripes, livelier than any oil painting. It gazed at me hungrily, like a mad beggar, and I could not take my eyes away. The perspective was such it somehow looked distant rather than small. Part of me expected it to slowly grow larger, to come nearer. My eyes fell to what was below it.
There lay the artist, dead. A needle dangled from his left upper arm. His crazy smiling death mask bore an expression that screamed:
Happy are the dead. You will soon join me.
I stumbled my way out of the cemetery, desperately trying to escape from what I had seen.
Sometimes it’s hard not to say “If the universe doesn’t care about evil, why should I?”