Far from any road
Beyond the curtains of my tiny room, I can see the town still enveloped in fog. Nobody is outside. Nobody is allowed outside. It was one of the first rules we set up after seven of us died during the first decent of fog. While I wait, I do what everybody would do. I read, I check my body for holes, I get bored, I repeat. Around noon the fog is finally gone and I can take my first step outside for the day. My joints still feel rusty which I should probably take care of at some point. Only slowly do the others emerge from their homes. Small eyes peeking out the door, reluctant hands grasping for something they hope is no longer there. I walk faster now, never leaving the wooden planks we call road. “Never step off as long as the ground is still wet after fog or rain or else you might lose a leg.” Another rule we made, not the second one, but among the first ten. I pick up a small part, an SD card if I am not mistaken. It must belong to Janice, she had a habit of losing it.
I see Mr Riley cleaning his windows. With immense speed, he wipes the glass from left to right and back, then again, there is little else he can do, though in the future, we hope to change that. Give everyone a better life not free from their body, but at least without restrictions. I silently greet the old man and he does as expected and waves back, left to right, right to left and continues turning his window into a sparkling sea. He is always grinding his teeth when he does that, maybe he should see a specialist about it. I am supposed to go to the church straight away, but I need to see Mary before that, I cannot put my finger onto it, but it just feels important. On the way, I quickly knock on Janice’s door. She is as confused as always. Of course, she cannot remember a thing, neither my face nor where she is. I return her card and make a mental note to check up on her later, in case she has problems with it again. I think I can see just the faintest gratitude in her eyes as I hand it over, but that might also just be me imagining or wishing.
56 long years have passed since we founded this little village. Even finding one another after all the masters and caretakers had disappeared was a chore. Everything felt empty and was in a state of disarray. Not all of them were actually gone at the time, of course, but those that remained were hard to find and even harder to get out into the open. Mary’s house is one of the nicest around. Probably because I take such good care of it, patching up her roof, painting the walls, and all that. I hit my head with both arms and a hollow sound echoes. I should really be a bit more humble. Mary avoids my gaze as I stand in her living room as do I, but I can hear her eyes quickly glance at me whenever she spots the opportunity. We awkwardly talk a bit, before it is almost too late for my appointment. I wave goodbye and rush towards the church. Often, I turn around and look back at her house, one day we might share it. One day. The warm sound of her creaking wheelchair would wake me up, I would push her around town, fall asleep next to her, change the bandages on her wrist and ankles every day. One day I will ask her. One day.
William is already waiting in front of the church. Do I see anger in those eyes? I bow apologetically and he does not seem upset, relief spreads. He informs me about a problem with the man in charge of welcoming. We deemed it important to reintroduce all the survivors we found into our society. Giving them jobs and all that. After all, they could stand the rain and fog no problem. We took care of all the rest. But we have had increasing problems with them these past few years. As we walk to the entrance of the town, I can already see what the problem is. The job was easy enough after all, simply wave and welcome anybody into our town. But even at the start the man refused to. We assumed this was because he hadn’t been waving for such a long time and it was hard for him to do. So, we built a little contraption that would do the moving for him and bolted his arm to it. Even then, he did not seem happy with the solution. But I had read about those types, the ones that never really integrate into society. Understanding as we are, we left him there, apparently, he did not like to live with the others and bear his share of the burden. But now even that wasn’t working out. He had let go of his arm which now limply clung to the contraption still moving back and forth and his body was a twisted mess on the ground. Sleeping on the job again. I tell William to have someone pick him up later when he is awake, then we will look for a new job for him. Perhaps we can find something easier. William writes everything down and gives me a reassuring nod. I want to go back, maybe check on Janice, but actually just visit Mary once more, when I get a call from Pastor Martin. Apparently, the child on Jesus duty today had a problem with her arms as well. I tell him, I would be right there. It would be a long day again. At least the arm was still working, welcoming all to Automatown.