Thursday, February 21, 2019

2/21/19

Post-apocalyptic Chicken Wizard
By Marlin Bressi


It was not an attack from an enemy with electromagnetic pulse weapons that scurried us back to primitive times, as our elders had feared, but a gust of air. A shockwave of compressed air, to be precise, produced by the passing of a great meteor that didn't even have the decency to smack into our dreary ball of water and mud and give us the gift of eternal rest.

Such a gift would have been nice, I think sometimes, because rest is what we need. The shockwave showed those of us in northern Indiana-- we are the sole survivors due to some peculiar geographical quirk of fate-- just how soft and helpless we had become, like grubs wriggling under a log. Survival without machines would be significantly more tolerable if we had been left with the written word to guide us, but our elders had tossed away books with as much thought as one gives to throwing out eggshells or melon rinds.

Only the spoken word endured after the shockwave. The only person I know who had seen a book, many years before I was born, is the ancient one we call the Wizard. It is possible that some day we may learn the secrets of making paper again. But, even if we knew where paper came from, what would we do with it? Until another person as smart as the Wizard comes along and invents a machine that can turn our mouth words into written words, such knowledge would do us no good.

Sometimes I wonder if the Wizard is really as smart as everyone says. The Wizard told me once that paper came from trees. I've stared at every tree in the district-- big ones with rough bark and skinny ones with shiny leaves-- and I fail to see what one has to do with the other.

Or maybe it's just one of his many magical secrets, like the way he summons beasts to do his manual labor while the rest of us break our backs and topple over in the fields from heatstroke. Some of it is magic, yes, but much of the Wizard's power comes from his ability to make machines that can function even without the Grid. My grandfather was incredibly bright-- he designed motorized vehicles with complex artificial intelligence-- but even my grandfather couldn't figure out how make one of his machines work without electricity.

The Wizard, on the other hand, has devices that can do the work of an entire village, and strange, mysterious tools that can turn wood and metal into chicken warehouses and transporters. Of the twenty thousand of us who survived the great shockwave, the Wizard is the most technologically advanced. He knows how to do things in real life that you and I can only dream about. And he knows more mouth words than all other survivors combined.

In fact, he knows so many different words that you walk away from his dark castle reeling in confusion, just as I had that afternoon he tried to tell me that trees can be transformed into paper. I still can't wrap my brain around that, how something so hard and heavy can be radically altered in such a way as to make it thin, flimsy and flexible. If that's not witchcraft, I'm not sure what is.

Like most of the survivors I know only one or two names for things. For instance, I know that chicken warehouses are also known as coops. As for the chickens themselves, the Wizard refers to them by dozens of different names: Orpingtons, Leghorns, Brahmas, Rosecombs, Appenzellers, and the list goes on. The Wizard is so scientifically advanced, so skilled at genetic engineering, that he can get the exact type of meat he wants by getting one particular animal to fornicate with another.

One important thing you must know about the Wizard is that you must never refer to him by that name when you meet him in person. If you do, he will not share his vast wealth of technological and mechanical knowledge with you, and this could be tragic. Get on the Wizard's bad side and you just might end up starving to death for lack of food, or freezing to death for lack of heat. He does not like to be called Wizard because he has a different mouth word for himself. He calls himself Amish, whatever that means.


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Marlin Bressi is the creator of the paranormal website Journal of the Bizarre and author of two non-fiction books, "Hairy Men in Caves: True Stories of America's Most Colorful Hermits" and "Pennsylvania Oddities", both published by Sunbury Press.

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