3.8
January 12, 2023

I’m writing a Novel! For now. So far, so fun. Here it is. Comment, keep me going, I need you!

The Last Generation, by Waylon H. Lewis.

Basically it’s gonna be a story that gives us a glimpse into what’s to come if we don’t wake up and actually change our habits, macro and micro. And how folks survive, but don’t thrive.

And then the discovery of a utopia, that’s all about mindfulness, warriorship, and bringing that wisdom back to now.

I think I’ll have to structure it like

  1. narrator is old man, talking with young man, in future (2075?) boring dystopia, telling story of self as young
  2. modern protagonist in old (present day ~ 2025) world as narrator is in climate crisis world,
  3. meets rich man when young, tasked with transition or gets bumped on head or somehow transitions to
  4. future post-climate change world (around 2050), a regimented limited world that basically sucks,
  5. then discovery of mindful kingdom/utopia that isn’t perfect but is helpful, training there through say 2075,
  6. then returns to original world (2025) somehow and changes course of future history.
  7. young man realizes his future no longer exists, and wakes up himself

 

My name is Huck and I have a long story to tell. Like most stories it’s full of half-truths and coverups and fake names but you can give it this: it’s long enough and I’m lazy enough that you know if I’m telling it there’s a point and I’ll vouch for the point.

I’m calling it the Last Generation.

I’m calling it the Last Generation because I liked F. Scott when I was young, and Dorothy Parker, and jazz, and the gilded age before the fall. Failure always makes gold things romantic.

I still like them today but I rarely read them. I rarely read them anymore because books don’t exist. Oh you can find them and keep them in your house but no one uses them. No one knows how to read, not in the old way. No one knows how to write, either.

You know, Last Generation stuff. It’s all over. But not in the lazy dead depressed nihilistic way your best friend from 10 years ago liked. It’s all over in the best way, and in the worst way, and gaddamn it’s a helluva story. But we’re getting to that.

My name is Huck and names do still exist. And codes, of course. Because people love themselves. Narcissism never goes out of style. Everyone’s a unique rabbit, a snowflake. Everyone’s the center of the world.

But the world I’m gonna tell you about is over, and it’s fantastic, and everything is ended, and over, and miserable, and everything has begun, and it’s gonna take me forever to make any sense of it. But I’m dying and so it’s got to be now, and I might be the last person who should tell this story, because for some reason I don’t like talking about myself. Which is another form of narcissism, probably.

My name is Huck and I’m here to tell you about the end of the world. No one saved it. It went down in flames, kind of. It went down with a whimper, more like. No one really cared. They just forgot.

And the new world you know all about, of course. But no one knows about the old world because no one cares.

~

Enough talk. Let’s start. Make yourself comfortable. I sure as hell am. We may not have books anymore but we got armchairs and we may not have gimlets with Rose’s lime juice but we got hot water and we got dreams.

It all started with a dream when I was 48. I was a big boy by then, big in my britches, self-satisfied, everything was smooth, I’d figured everything out. I was married and I had three kids and one of them was mine. I was wealthier than I ever thought I’d be and money mattered then. I had failed up all my life. I was broke as hell when I was a baby and it took me 38 years before my stomach didn’t turn over every time I handed someone my credit card. We had money then, too.

I had done well in school when I was a kid, I was a proud sweet little nerd, but I was poor and so society squeezed my square talent into a round hole and I spent the next 15 years working in tough jobs making shit money. But then I met old man Hem and he told me to work for him and save the world and that’s what I did. We’ll get to that.

The work wasn’t romantic or fun or easy but it was dream, a dream of ambition for world peace. It was a dream that started on a snowy afternoon in a restaurant, a kind of diner, where I went for lunch most days. We were playing flag football and I got hit. I got knocked out. And I didn’t wake up.

Make yourself comfortable. I sure as hell am. We may not have books anymore but we got armchairs and gimlets with Rose’s lime juice and we got dreams.

It all started with a dream when I was 48. I was a big boy by then, big in my britches, self-satisfied, everything was smooth, I’d figured everything out. I was married and I had three kids and one of them was mine. I was wealthier than I ever thought I’d be and money mattered then. I had failed up all my life. I was broke as hell when I was a baby and it took me 38 years before my stomach didn’t turn over every time I handed someone my credit card. We had money then, too.

The dream wasn’t a pretty dream, a dream of ambition of world peace. It was a dream that started on a snowy afternoon in Vermont. We were playing flag football and I got hit. I got knocked out. And I didn’t wake up.

My name is [Code] and I’m less than 20, just like everyone else. I am part of the history lobby. It’s underfunded, of course, and full of liberals.

So I was assigned to this old codger, and told to spend however many hours with him. I was told to learn all about the old world and record it and who I am I to argue, I’m dead in two or three years.

They gave me his address, a big log cabin on a hill in the woods and I spun out there in my boat and here we are. I took my date [Code] and we made a vacation of it. We booked a room at a nice hotel on another hill. Only the hills were left in this area, everything else was angry graywhite water.

I pulled my boat over to his place each day and he had hot water ready for me. Coffee didn’t exist much anymore, unless you were very rich. If you were rich everything still existed.

The old messy-bearded man sat in the warm dark corner against the big handsome old chair and started talking. He had a lilt to his voice, like an old-fashioned movie star, perhaps. He seemed kind, and charming, and I had nothing else to do, so I let him talk. I’d been taught to respect my elders if they seemed at all wise or interesting and he seemed both.

He had a glass of moonshine that he mostly ignored. He had his hot mug of water, too. And he had the fire and the cozy room and I had an hour to learn about the old world and I was recording the whole thing. Figured I could make money off of it, if nothing else. So few old people were around, today.

He started in.

~

He started in with a voice that was deep, weak, rough. He spoke softly in the way folks do who are confident you’ll listen closely. His quiet way of talking made me sit up and lean forward to hear over the yellow dancing crackle of the flames. I wasn’t used to fire; it was something you hear about and draw when you’re a child but, like trees, or houses, or the sun, it was something you never see, anymore. My world didn’t have fire; only lightning.

Everything was electric.

I said my name was Huck because names don’t really exist much anymore. But we’ll get to all that.

And my code is here if you want it.

I’m 87, but look much younger, not a day over 79.

He winked at me.

I didn’t have this big gray beard back then, just a little red one, like the ones hockey players and baseball stars wore. Just long enough to be useful if you live in the cold and actually get outside, ever. Today we don’t do that, of course.

I grew up poor and when you grow up poor it’s in your bones. But I didn’t feel poor in all ways, just in the realm of money and what I couldn’t do with it because I didn’t have it. I couldn’t go on vacations or travel or learn how to ski because I didn’t have it. And I couldn’t afford the broken bones that came with skiing, even if I could have hitched a ride.

It was around 2024 that everything changed. I was 38, I think. I was lonely and working hard like a jerk, staring at lit-up screens all day, watching the world burn up and drown in itself while folks debated about paying Ticketmaster to go watch a show and take angled-down photos of themselves half dancing.

That was really how it was then: the world was gorgeous and breathtaking and we had it all and no one cared that we were losing it all because we had it all and to hell with the next generation. And hell is what we got, as you know.

Every day I worked hard writing for this company that sold people things they didn’t want.

In my spare time I wrote for myself. I wrote poetry about birds and pretty words about feelings. I was okay at it except for writing dialogue, which I was really good at. I wrote stories and I’d published two books and this was back when there were readers, and books, and money.

I thought if I could just write one good book people might like me and I might become famous enough to buy a tweed jacket with elbow patches and get my teeth fixed and move somewhere safe. The old world was a lottery that no one won.

Some people liked what I wrote and it was a little side income that I used to send in letters, you’ve heard of them, to my mom. She lived off west in a land that was burning down and drowning, both, it’s ironic. And everyone was leaving but she didn’t have the money to leave. So I sent her money so she could patch the roof and buy some food and live out her days in style.

Every day then was Monday then, until then the week-end came and went before you knew it and it was Monday again. So it was probably a Monday.

He laughed to himself in a lonely way.

I’m sitting alone on my hour company lunch thinking about being a successful novelist. Yeah, that was a career of sorts then. Most everyone read words.

I was sitting at my little round table by a big window dreaming dreams of not being poor. And that was when everything changed, for me. For the rest of the world, nothing changed. No one took notice, just as the world had never cared about anything I’d ever done. And I hadn’t done anything other than work, and wait for the week-end.

She walked up. She said she knew me and I didn’t argue.

She was six feet tall, maybe, and her eyes were as big as flashlights and her hair was as white as snow, as it were, which is was. And I fell in love with her in the instant way that lonely jerks fall in love with anyone who gives them the time of day. And in the next instant we were kissing and making love on a beach and in the next instant we were married with children and a picket fence and in the next instant she was too good for me and I knew it wouldn’t work out and in the next instant I remembered I was sitting at a table looking at her and she was saying things.

“…so my father said I should ask you.”

I looked at her like an idiot, hoping for clues. She didn’t give any.

“Sorry?,” I finally said. I wasn’t sorry. I was in love.

“So my name’s Helena and my father is Bracket, the guy who owns everything, and he likes your work and said I should talk to you about coming over to one of his par-tays.” She said it like that, either out of shyness or making fun of her father which probably related to some lifelong family issues that probably took years of therapy and many thousands of their many thousands of thousands of dollars.

I stood up, clumsily, and put my hand out. “I’m Henry. Folks call me Huck.”

“I know,” she said, smiling.

“Right,” I said, and I sat back down. “Sit?” I gestured to the chairs. I looked back at my Huevos Rancheros, steaming at me. They didn’t look patient.

She sat, and spoke in the way you speak to a child who isn’t listening. Patiently, in an impatient way. “He likes your writing. Come to a party. I’ll be there.”

I’d been to rich people’s parties in big usually ugly tasteless unhappy houses and always felt like a cardboard cut out. “I don’t know…I’m pretty busy.” What I meant was I was pretty tired and needed a rest, not a party where I felt like a cardboard cut-out.

“He just wants to meet you.” I decided no would be easier and safer in the way poor hard-working people decide not to waste their time. I wasn’t ambitious in the way of rags-to-riches stories where some brash young man, he was always a man, sidles up to a complacent old rich man, it was always a man, and takes over and becomes rich. I was poor in the way that I had to get back to work in just 15 minutes and I was thinking about my Huevos.

“It’s next week,” she said. “Tuesday. I won’t take no for an answer. It’s at his place below the mountain, you’ll like it, nice people, good food, it’s beautiful, you’ll have a good time. He has fancy furniture and big ugly paintings worth more than you make in a year.”

I’m not sure if she said that last bit, I think I was imagining the mansion.

“I’ll hang out with you,” she said, for sure. That was nice, then I wouldn’t be all alone. I didn’t like being all alone around people other than myself, and I didn’t like that much either. “I’ll pick you up.”

“I’ll bike there,” I said, giving in. “Just text me the info.” And I gave her my number and she texted me her name and the date and time of the party. And she walked away and I started falling in love with her all over again but then I remembered she was too good for me and my Huevos were getting cold.

So I’m in the cabin on the little mountain surrounded by angry whitegrayblue ocean with my boat tucked into a cove that itself used to be a hill. And I’m talking with an old person in a world that doesn’t have old people, anymore. We don’t allow it. You live to 20, maybe 22 or 25 if you’ve been good, and then, well, you know.

Huck liked to talk, like many old people do. They’ve been left alone, their best friend had died, their other friends had died, their spouse had died, their children had died, their grandchildren had probably died, the world had died—and they were left sitting in a comfortable faded-red wingback armchair with a quiet fire in the fireplace on a hill in an ocean where his neighborhood used to be.

To be fair, Huck had a nice talking voice. A little bit of an accent, and a joy in the words, as he recalled the old world that was gone that I’d only heard about. I knew the old world had happened, but we never saw movies about it or read about it. There were no movies and no one knew how to read. The new world wasn’t new to us, it was just life.

So hear from Huck, or [Code]—about how there were endless forests and you could fly from one place to a far off place in a plane and it only cost a little—it was fantastic. You could go to houses and buy any food. You could go to other houses and buy any tool. You could buy a car! A boat! Any time you wanted. And, worst of all, there was the sky and the sun and trees and cabins and the weather and we didn’t have that stuff any more.

My home, like everyone’s, was a monolith. An endless great box made up of other little boxes. And I lived in a little box with others, and when we were 20 we were shipped off and the truck came back empty.

Maybe there was more to life than living in a metal box surrounded by other metal boxes, but we didn’t care. We lived a safe indoors life with some work, food, and sex to go around. We understood Outside wasn’t comfortable; you couldn’t breathe, or travel, really—the world was wet, all ocean, with little and big islands and it was hot and dry and drowning. So we lived inside and had our clubs and work and we had our fun and then we were shipped off.

I can’t remember who was in charge or who decided we died when we did, but it’s how it had been now for a few generations and we didn’t have history, or books, or movies, so what was now had always been as far as we knew. Like I said I worked in the history department, so I knew a bit more than most, but I didn’t care. When you adapt to an environment, it stops being a prison or a palace on the second day, and starts being your home, and your life, and you focus on what’s next.

I was 19, then, just a few months from getting shipped off. I was rewarded for my lifetime of good work by getting this working vacation, outside, to interview this old man. And I got to see some trees and islands and cabins and a little bit of the sun and lots of angry cold sky. It was fantastic, but, you know, I was pretty caught up in myself.

Having three months left to live will do that to you. You get caught up in your mind and sad and it sucks. And so spinning a boat with my girlfriend Clare [Code], out to old man Huck was my last fun, other than some pleasure back in my home—I’d get to be with my black-haired, sweet eyed Clare, and she’d let me be with whomever I wanted in my last months, too. And I’d get to eat a cake, which I’d never done since I was one.

“Your world is what we would have called a dystopia,” Huck was saying, when I popped out of my mind. Good thing I was recording it all. “Or, a utopia. A bit of both. I’d call it boring. But that’s all besides the point. You all didn’t have a choice. It’s what you had to do. We’re the ones who fucked it all up. We broke it.”

“It?”

“We—my generation—we broke it all. Everything,” he gestured around, in a sad way. “History. The Earth. Civilization. Nature. The sky, for chrissakes! We’re the ones who made you all have to move into boxes and just pretend to live. It’s not a life. It’s survival. And it makes sense, I get it. But I’d rather die, I think. And I will, soon.”

“What’s it like being…old?” I asked.

“It’s like being 20, except you look like an old person. You don’t change. You get wiser, smarter, but also more spaced out, sometimes. At least I do. And you have more memories, you look backward. You won’t get that. They’ll crate you off in, what, a year?”

“Three months.”

“Well, shit.”

“Yeah.”

“Well being old, then, is amazing. You live 4 times what you modern kids live. You live to 80, if you’re lucky. I’ll live to say 89 or 90. Who knows. Who cares. No one’s left. It’s all just ocean and being alone, for me. It’s over. But I’d like to tell you what it was like. You all deserve to know what you lost—what we took from you.”

“You know this is just being recorded. No one will hear it.”

He sighed, angrily, and took a rare sip of his bourbon.

“So I’m working night and day and night and day and every day is Monday unless it’s the weekend and on weekends I just bike around and wait for Monday to come. I have friends and girlfriends and all, but there’s no point to any of it. I travel and take photos and share them with friends on social media but no one’s happy, really. Some are, and they’re lucky and rare. The rich are unhappy, of course, most of ‘em, because they’re focused on being rich, not being nice to people.

So after a few more gray days I bike to the address on the text from that girl. I had texted her back to say thank you and I’d be there and what time would we meet and she’d texted back but that was it. She was busy and rich and beautiful and I was bored and poor and busy. As my pa used to say, there was no there, there.
So I didn’t fall in love with her in my mind anymore, I just biked up to the big white house with the big white pillars beneath the brown gray blond mountain and there was nowhere to leave my bike, of course, so I locked it up a block away and walked up. And there was classical music…music, you know, old music with no words, wafting out of the big house. The doors were open and it was dusk so the lights looked golden and I could see rich people wafting about, too. I walked in and looked around, and found some food on a table, and started just standing and eating, which was a pretty good time. The food! It was good. Free tastes delicious, you know. And at some point the tall girl walked up to me, and said,

“There you are. Having fun?” She looked at my busy mouth and my full plate and my busy hands and smiled. “Well come with me,” she said, and walked off. She was wearing a bright red dress, long, simple, with her white hair braided in some Northern fancy way.

And I followed her and looked at all the rich things and half-wished I was back home, bored, lonely, away from all this chaos. Chaos is tiring, when you’re already tired.

She walked up to a big mean-looking bearded man who was stronger than I’d ever been. He looked like Santa if Santa worked out. He looked like a linebacker who went and got old suddenly, overnight. He looked rich as hell, and full of himself. He was talking loudly and laughing at his own jokes and I would have had to wait for 10 minutes to talk to him, surrounded as we was with obsequious little people, but Helena pulled me in and said, Pa. This is the young man you wanted to meet. Huck.

And suddenly like out of a damn movie, we had movies then, the world got quiet and the big man with the little mean beady squinty eyes squinted at me.

You can call me Sham, he said. We’ve got a lot of work to do. The world is going to be ending soon. And you’re going to save what’s left of it.

I tried to smile, or say something polite, but my mouth was still full of expensive little crackers, so I just winked. He found that uproariously funny, and went back to talking to his little fans.

~

The young man wasn’t all so very young anymore.

He was 20.

He’d die in a few months. 

He’d walk down a long well-lit gray tunnel in a few months, with many others. 

So he had a lot of work to do. Deadlines, deadlines.

He had to wrap up his interviews with Old Man Huck, submit a report, decide on the Games (which could extend his life somewhat, if he wished), and make his goodbyes.

He wasn’t nervous. Most folks got killed at 20.

Some made it to 22, or 25, perhaps, if they made the Games. It was a fact of life that was accepted, widely, now, not as some sort of top-down Big Brother thing, but just by virtue of making room for the new, the young, the kids. It was like how, in the olden days, dairy momma cows got killed at 6 years old, in their prime in many ways, but not in milk production. Or egg-laying chickens, their heads snapped the moment they didn’t make their 6 eggs a week.

It was practical, not evil, it was understood, it was taken for granted…and he accepted it in the way one accepts the denouement of a yummy plate of food. It’s natural. It’s a little sad, sure.

But as he sped off from the high little rocky cabin-topped island belonging to old man Huck…in his little electric air-boat, over the fishless ocean and beneath the birdless skies, his head full of the self-charmed old man’s stories, he wondered if he should apply for the Games. One of his best friends, [Code or] Appl, had encouraged him. But she was an athlete, a mildly famous one, and he was…a liberal egghead, a nerd. A historian in a land with no regard for history. He wouldn’t survive the first round, he’d assured her.

The Games were held every year, and anyone who was 19 or 20 could apply. If you lost in the first round, you were shipped off. Killed. But you’d have been killed anyways, pretty soon. If you made the second round, and you folded, you could live to 22. A luxury that gave elite privileges in housing, access to food and less work. If you made the third round, you could live to 25, usually. Sometimes 24. And you were made famous. Money. Wealth. Power, sometimes. It was good, and fun. If you won the third round, you could apply to the Cabinet, and help rule one of the 43 remaining Monoliths.

(originally, there had been 50, but chaos has a way of breaking out and looting, raping, revolution…none of that’s good for a life in a gray bubble of 400 boxes in a steel yet inwardly vulnerable Monolith on a no-longer habitable planet).

“You only have two weeks left to apply, Wayy. What’ve you got to lose?,” she replied, begging her friend with those big brown eyes, curving up into black-lined Cleopatra flourishes at each end. And there was a desperation to her smile that made her entreaty touching. She didn’t want him to die before her. She wanted to grow old with him—you know, to 22 or 25. Perhaps they could even file to have a child together, which would bring with it some wealth in their final days.

The boat was gray, like everything in the Box, his city, their refuge. It was one of the monoliths created in safer areas, a sort of indoor mall times one-thousand, and he’d lived there all his little long life.

Life was simple in 2070, you’d think. Though the world had only recently become poisoned (the air) and hot (or wet) and the oceans had emptied out, and the animals had died, mostly, and the insects had failed to rise up again with each Spring, the humans had already hosted their trials, the Northen Trials, and held folks accountable for ruining this planet, and they’d had 10 or 11 years of this new order and that’s plenty of time to get bored of resentment and make movies and songs about it and, collectively, get caught up in the now. Not in a spiritual sense, but in the sense of obsessing about lunch, about what song was popular, about who is dating whom (mostly, everyone was dating everyone, these days—a shortened lifespan meant hedonism. Carpe Diem was the name of the Games, literally).

His gray metal boat hovered and smacked its way through the stormy waters to the Box, and he beeped his way in, the storm door opened, he slid inside into the electric dark, and he moored, pulled off his air helmet, hopped out and up a ladder, and saluted a soldier who helped tie up his boat in indoor dock. “Good day?,” the soldier said. “How was the old codger?”

“In love with the sound of his own voice, as usual,” Wayy answered, grinning. It paid to make light of his work, for resentment of nerds was always ready to flare up. Their work was regarded as superfluous, lazy, pointless, stupid. You know.

And Wayy couldn’t help but mostly agree. But he’d never heard the stories, from someone who was there, of how the world went to shit, and there seemed to be something interesting in it all. He was growing more curious by the day. It felt like one of those popular glass puzzles with blocks that move in three dimensions, until they finally reveal the answer. And he thought the answer would be fun.

Wayy had no idea that the old man’s secret would impact not only the young man’s tenuous hold on life, but, if he was lucky, if he played his cards right…the future of this ruined earth, altogether.

~

The young man tried not to cough, but it felt like a little fire in his throat. He wasn’t supposed to be sick around Elderly. Elderly were like unicorns, nowadays—there weren’t any. Just about everyone was killed at 20, the world was full of young beautiful hyper horny young things, and then they died. Or were killed. It wasn’t an accident; it was the Rules. They made sense, and they sucked. Anything to keep the human race going, he guessed.

Old man Huck was droning on, about being a young poor man plucked out of his writerly dust and pushed into writing for a great old rich man, Sham. Sham had pushed Huck into writing for him, into money, even into marrying his daughter, Helena. Sham had lots of work to get done and Huck would do much of it. Sham had plenty of money and could spread it around to get the work he wanted done, done.

The work he wanted done was to build a utopia. To coordinate the whole thing. To create the Rules. Sham was no fool and he saw the world breaking up. Globalization and economies and Capitalism, but I repeat myself, all depend on basic stability. Crime doesn’t care, crime flourishes in good times and bad. Especially in bad.

Sham had enough money to feed and clothe and educate everyone, but he didn’t care about that. He wasn’t benevolent. He saw climate crisis beneath everything that was going wrong and he did the commonsense thing for a rich man without commonsense: he built an island. He built a bubble that couldn’t be popped, a utopia that he’d be in charge of. And Huck would make a part of it happen.

By the time Huck was in his 40s and had the three children, or the one—Sham was still just 70, and the world was still falling apart slowly, only faster now. And by the time Huck was in his 50s, the Utopia was built and ready and finished and they’d started inviting everyone they thought had real value in. And from then on it’d be stocked by the winners of the Carpe Diem Games. And so the games would have to test physical prowess, skills, climate knowledge/survival knowledge, as well as history and arts and stroking a harp because no utopia is a utopia without champagne and eucalyptus trees and wafting music at night.

And so Sham lives out his last days in Heaven. Heaven in a bubble. A heaven of his own making. Only 1,400 were allowed into Heaven. The rest of ’em would be sent to the many Monoliths, the Boxes, the big gray metal Malls. And those who didn’t join a Box would choke on their own spittle, one morning, when they walked outside forgetting to put their Air Helmet on first.

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