DISCLAIMER: A tale of an alternate reality, in the post-factual age… As a long-time fan of speculative fiction, one can imagine the worst possible outcome of current trends. Hopefully, thinking through the consequences will jar us to action to prevent such an outcome. Here then, is a wild ride through a landscape where the nation has gone to pieces, reassembling itself in bizarre and distorted caricatures, region by region, built around our actual travels through the wonderful landscape and people that are the *real* America.
As is our custom, 2017 began with a major Road Trip, ostensibly to visit relatives in the Southwest of what used to be the United States. This year we’re a bit early, in hopes of returning before the new borders close. But, our trip was delayed slightly, for two reasons–a brief encounter with What’s Going Around, commonly known as “The Flu,” and some delays in our effort to refinance our home (possibly also caused by What’s Going Around, in the far-flung banking empire). At any rate, since the mortgage department at Big Bank is located in Iowa, we surmised that the actual paper-signing could take place anywhere. Consequently, our signing site kept moving south over several days as we finalized the transaction.
Leaving said home, near the Salish Sea in the heart of the Cascadian Confederation, on the eve of Donald the First’s ascendancy to the throne of the Federation of Trumpistan, we traveled to the first proposed (and later cancelled) refinancing site in the heart of the Republic of Jefferson. Having a new goal farther south, in the morning we ignored the coronation festivities to press on over the mountains, stopping briefly in Yreka, Jefferson’s capital, to purchase tire chains, as we—for the first time in over 20 years—don’t have all-wheel drive on our winter expedition vehicle.
The delay brought us to the chain-up area just as the restrictions were lifted, so we pressed on at speed through slush, rain, and snow into the northern sections of the Republic of Greater California, then on to the old capital for the night, past prematurely-flooded nut orchards and through a flooded section of roadway, having left the main highway in case roving bands of Federation loyalists were on the watch for dissidents fleeing south.
Traveling south, this time on the main highway through the wet and verdant San Joaquin Valley, we arrived in the Los Angeles area in late afternoon, with the usual heavy, but not quite gridlocked Saturday traffic, despite the large political demonstrations downtown.
We found our relatives dry and well, and settled in for a brief respite from our travels. With the six-year drought officially over, we braved flooded streets on Sunday to replenish our food supplies at nearly-deserted stores, as the torrential downpours continued in the third wave of La Niña storm cycles in as many weeks. The intensity of the storms across the Northern Hemisphere is, no doubt, fueled by the loss of much of the polar ice cap. Now, two possible explanations for the disappearance of the northern sea ice in this century are either 1) as the result of man-made global warming or 2) the capricious act of a vengeful god or gods.
Either way, a large segment of humanity needs to change their evil ways, and soon, as the carbon dioxide and methane concentrations approach a runaway point with the thawing of the permafrost and shallow methane hydrates in the northern tundra and seas. However, in the current geopolitical climate, not much promises to be done to slow changes to the planetary climate. We need to hurry on to visit our descendants before we are all caught up in a mass extinction event not seen since Permian times, not to mention travel restrictions or economic collapse resulting from political upheaval.
Our banking business finally got settled, at least for now: the banker was astounded at the differences between California and rural Cascadia housing values. The transaction, started some time ago, was, of course, still in California dollars. Cascadia has yet to convert to New Hong Kong Dollars, pending renegotiation of trade deals between the new confederacy and the world economy and pinning the new currency to the Yuan.
We are preparing to travel farther south, but not too far. Mexico continues to keep the border closed during the Reconfiguration, to avoid further erosion of the peso in light of the shift to fossil fuel as the monetary standard in the Federation. Checking in with our relatives in the Rockies, we find even more changes. News was limited because of the severe winter weather and what we can assume are politically-motivated blackouts, but we gathered this:
Free White Idaho has apparently annexed lands between the Cascade Crest and the Continental Divide, except possibly the Missoula Free State. Communications to FWI from leftist media sources within the city have been blocked. We hear from loyalist acquaintances there who are barricaded against militant leftists and awaiting reinforcements from Wallace and Libby when the weather clears. We can’t be sure, though: the rapid divergence in semantics between left and right has made translation of their messages nearly impossible.
There has also been no further word from Whitefish since the Brown Shirts moved against pockets of Zionists early in the Transition. Perhaps the timeslip has healed and pulled the whole bunch back into 1930s Germany, but we fear that the opposite has happened: a large segment of the Third Reich that apparently disappeared in the mid-1940s has reappeared and fused with our timeline. We thought perhaps that the lands of the indigenous nations would be safer, but the latest credible reports from the east are that the Federation plans to move against them militarily “real soon” as part of the Final Solution to free the remaining fossil fuel into the environment and/or economy.
We, of course, discount most of the spotty news from east of the continental divide, amid the onslaught of misinformation, cognitive dissonance, and the aforementioned semantic schism. We are a bit concerned about traveling east. As far as we know, the theocratic Republic of Deseret, stretching from the Salmon on the north to the Mogollon Rim on the south, remains part of the Federation, but as inscrutable as always. Our return path next month should take us across the southern portion, as we leave the area that we assume is reverting to the old name, Nuevo España, since the hardening of the border with Mexico.
We do have to travel through the Southern Exclusion Zone and the Arpaio Coalition next weekend, and we’re not certain of the status of the region north of Chihuahua. Traditionally, movement into the zone has been freely accessible, but return north or west has been restricted by whatever immigration authority exists. We do have to venture into the bulwark of the Federation, Texas, but briefly, and hope to avoid encounters with authority while there. Perhaps this will all change by the weekend, and travel will become even more interesting, if at all possible. On the way south earlier, the border guards at the old Siskiyou checkpoint were a bit confused, passing traffic through unchecked, as the border had moved a couple hundred kilometers to the south with the inevitable emergence of Jefferson an hour or two previously, at the end of the Old Republic.
The rapidity of the current surge of reality dysfunction may signal an impending tear in the fabric of space-time itself, which may finally separate the two tangled alternate realities that are causing so much stress and confusion. We just hope we end up in our travels in the parallel universe that has a future. The other one appears about to collapse in on itself.
Meanwhile, the journal and journey will continue.