Supply drop

The hideaway

By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 2 May 2023



She fell silent. I was full of thoughts. I walked slowly through this mall, gazing into the storefronts as if shopping, but I needed none of it. You might think that my life in the woods alone, and with my brother the three years before that was a hard, Spartan existence, clawing out a meager living in the dirt and cold on the few fish and animals we caught. But it wasn’t, all thanks to my brother.

Besides his intellectual pursuits, which mirrored mine, he was an avid outdoorsman, hiker, bicyclist, sportsman. You name it, he did it. He found our home, which we surmised must have been an illegal hunter’s lodge, nestled in the trees in a steep valley and so hidden you almost had to bump into it to find it. It was a perfect getaway, thirty kilometers from any edge of the park or road. So he made a map and rejoined his hiking buddies without telling them. But he did tell me.

We began to talk of it in earnest as the world began to fray all around us. North Korea attacked South Korea and conquered much of it in a massive land assault before the US military could effectively deploy. Every week threats of using nuclear arsenals were bandied back and forth but none were dropped. Not so lucky for the Middle East when a small nuke was smuggled in and detonated in Tel Aviv, killing a hundred thousand. Israel retaliated by nuking Iran. In Africa at least ten rebellions or civil wars were raging amidst mass starvation, too many to count. China took the distraction of the Korean war to invade and reconquer Taiwan, with amazing alacrity. This emboldened Russia to reclaim and invade five of its former territories. Pipelines were cut, shipping disrupted, mass migrations, global warming catastrophes, financial crises, it was only a matter of a very short time before it reached Toronto like a tidal wave.

My brother had five million in the bank, thanks to Bitcoin and we decided a single airdrop was in order, a large one, to supply all of our needs for many years in the wilds. We rented a hanger and began collecting goods. Soon we had fifteen large crates each the size of a small pickup, full of guns, tools, food, radios, books, furniture, solar panels, even a large propane tank carefully packed to withstand a parachute landing, each box with a tracking beacon so it wouldn’t be lost. And one fair, calm night it was all dropped from a rented cargo plane with a rented pilot as close to the lodge as my brother could triangulate after a dozen exploratory flights over the park. And he was right on target as we discovered a week later backpacking in. The only odd things in our backpacks were two hammers, to unpack crates.

After a month of hard work setting up our hideaway and stashing our goods we were living like kings, working half the day felling trees with chainsaws to expand the cabin and doing whatever we pleased with the rest. There was a small lake full of fish only a hundred yards away, streams and rivers everywhere. I had my books and my brother had a thousand projects in hand and a whole map of territory to explore, which he did, sometimes alone when he couldn’t drag me from my lawn chair on sunny days by the lake.

By winter we had the cabin doubled in size and a truly comfortable setup. We had a fireplace and a stockpile of wood. Our solar array provided low voltage lighting to read by, a propane stove to cook the many fish we caught, garnished with a huge store of canned goods and each dinner finished off with a few hours by our powerful ham radio, feeding us the news of the world every evening, through our numerous contacts. This was the first winter. Canada was in the grips of a massive global recession. Unemployment was at twenty percent. AI was becoming ubiquitous and stepping up to the plate in managing most of our tattered affairs but people were still hopeful we would pull through, that things would improve in the new year.

We noticed as that year progressed that our contacts became fewer and fewer. There were bloody riots in the streets over food and many died. Both my brother Tom and I felt saddened by the news but we planted and fenced a large garden that Spring to ensure our own plenty. We both regretted that we hadn’t brought more people with us, some women and friends since we could have supported them. In our first deliberations before we left the city our focus was crystal clear: how to survive. Then a very muddy question entered our conversations: what was our purpose in surviving if the rest of the world lay in ruins?

I suppose I was looking for the answer to that question now. And I knew I would have to find it on my own. It wasn't something I could pose to Dora, though she might help me in finding people. AI would never unriddle the larger mysteries of our existence. A trillion constructs of world possibilities would never answer it. But a single human insight just might.

And therein lay the rub, as Hamlet would say. The combined data of all human experience, arranged, comprehended and viewed in one sweeping panorama would not reveal a purpose to Homo Sapiens and AI will always fail in this quest. It’s a question for the heart and soul to grapple with, and a computer doesn’t have a soul.

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B.A. in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkley. Writer, Blogger and retired Electrician.

Robert O'Reilly
Robert O'Reilly

I am educated in the Western Classical Tradition, B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Latin and Greek, English major, one year at U. of Toronto, studied under Alain Renoir and Northrop Frye, read most classics full time for many years after university in French, English, Latin and Greek to the modern day. I am interested in the near future of technology, what changes it imposes upon our heritage and character as humans. Short stories and Essays are my medium.

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