A citizen movement committed to restoring Vermont to an independent republic, free to pursue life, liberty and happiness unimpeded by the demands of an imperial, corrupt and disintegrating United States.
This article was first published in Green Mountain Noise, 2VR’s E-zine publication
Inter States is a story told at both personal and political levels of a profound crisis gripping the U.S. federal system of government during the fall of 2040, and the historic shift it precipitates. Unfolding in late October and early November, the events recounted in Inter States revolve around a presidential election, secession referendums in several states, and a powerful hurricane that affects most of the Mid-Atlantic and New England states – either directly, or indirectly through a massive refugee migration it triggers. Seen through the eyes of members of two interwined families in Maryland and Virginia, and from the perspectives of a Vermont Congressman and his staff, Inter States attempts to explore in detailed, concrete, and plausible terms how the long-term effects of climate change, fossil-fuel scarcity, dysfunctional national politics, and geopolitics could lead to fundamental, unintended changes in America’s system of government, and to very different roles and possibilities for the states. It’s not dystopian or post-apocalyptic; there’s humor, love, and romance; and despite despotism and oligarchy at high levels of power, what’s good and enduring about America as a culture also comes through. It’s also a road novel: you can follow the travels of the protagonists on a map to within a short distance of where they are at any given moment in the story. Enjoy, weep, and analyze!
Chapter 15 Safely Home
Saturday evening, October 20th, 2040
Jake Wilder slept as the train skimmed over the Connecticut border and along the string of cities in Western Massachusetts. The foreign maglev drive was as smooth as silk, the only system of its kind installed in the United States, in a bygone era of public optimism and support for bold energy-efficient, carbon-neutral infrastructure. Wilder never awakened during their brief stop in Springfield. Brattleboro lay ahead, a half-hour away. It was only when the conductor touched his arm and spoke that his consciousness returned. He sat up with a start, adrenaline clearing his mind. For a second, he was afraid he had overslept and passed his station. That had happened once before.
“Brattleboro, Vermont, next station,” the conductor said. She moved down the aisle and touched the arm of another sleeping passenger. From the silence, Wilder could tell that the maglev was still on. That gave him a few minutes to wake up, use the toilet, and get his things together.
It had been over a month since he was last home. Because Naegel had dropped out, he was running unopposed, so it took the heat off his campaign. Policy matters and politics in Washington were all-consuming, anyway. It was a blessing. People wanted him working, focusing on the latest threats in Washington. Since the New Haven Compact was signed, there had been an uneasy truce between the states, the Energy Trust, and the private timber companies. Only a few skirmishes had been reported. The case was slowly winding its way toward the Supreme Court. Wilder knew that there was only a slim chance that the FSA states would like the decision. And Forsa could speed things up very abruptly if it passed. What on earth would happen then? A very serious crisis would ensue – there was no doubt. When the Compact was signed, some in the media reacted as if war had been declared. He glanced at the date on his watch. Yesterday. That was the two-year anniversary of the New Haven Compact. What a wild term it had been. Wilder thought about the stress he would have faced if this had been a tight campaign, like 2038. But, then again, he would have been spending more time in Vermont, with Christine…
The overhead lights became brighter, the maglev switched off, and the train started its rattling, hissing deceleration. There were few people left on the train, and fewer still who stayed in their seats, bound for White River/Hanover, Montpelier, Burlington, and Montreal. The guards took their positions inside the doors, their automatics ready. The doors swung open and were retracted into the car’s fuselage. Dimly lit, the platform was fairly crowded, with many more passengers waiting to board than disembark – the Friday night business crowd heading home to Montpelier and Burlington for the weekend. With its proximity to Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, Brattleboro had turned into a key regional center for trade in what people needed in the more densely populated parts of New England: firewood, charcoal, pitch, cut stone, lumber, milk, cheese, vegetables and fruit, cured meats, maple syrup, wool, and cloth. Now, with most foreign imports banned or exorbitant, and more distant US products so costly, regional supplies were competitive again and the town’s Foreign Trade Zone lay idle. At this junction of highways, railroads, and the Connecticut River, with abundant hydroelectric and wind power and a quickly growing bioenergy complex near the old nuclear power plant just to the south in Vernon, commercial business was brisk.
Stepping down from the car onto the platform, Wilder felt the warm, balmy October air hit him. The night was full of animal sounds, down here by the river: crickets, katydids, tree frogs, bats’ clicks. Christine came at him out of the darkness, a smile on her face. They kissed and caught one another in a wide hug. The train’s doors hissed shut behind Wilder, across the platform.
“How’s my darling, then?” she asked. “Tired?”
“I slept most of the way after New York,” he answered. “Just woke up. Feel like I left my brain on the train.”
“Brain on the train, train on the brain!” Christine giggled. “Nice you’ve arrived this time all alone, just for me, no traveling journalists and delegation staff.”
He smiled back. “I’m tired of all that. Need to start separating private and work life a little more.”
She picked up one of his bags, took his arm, and pulled him toward the steps. “You’re in the wrong business, honey,” she teased. “Let’s get you out of here before a journalist spots you.”
“Or a Homelander sniper,” he muttered, immediately regretting his cynical remark. He glanced at her face. She did not glance back. They were walking through the overpass tunnel now.
“OK, no depressing stuff tonight. All right? You can save that for the campaign meetings.” They both laughed at that idea. “Miss me?”
“You know I did. That was the longest month.” Coming out of the station, they could see Callie standing down by the street, hitched to the trap. She was flicking her ears around, swinging her head and eyeing the pair as they approached.
“So, how about a nice relaxing drive home? We can get re-acquainted. I brought a thermos of coffee and some cake the Resnicks made for the school bake sale.” She opened the trap’s trunk and pushed the bag she was carrying in. Jake swung the larger bag in after it.
“Coffee? From where?” he asked.
“Secret sources. If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you.”
“Forget I asked.” He feigned exaggerated fear, but then felt instinctively uneasy as well. Only a joke, he reminded himself.
“It’s from Boston. Doug Whitting was down there for weeks and brought back a load of things he bought at the dock markets.
They climbed up into the trap. Christine released the brake and Callie high-stepped away from the curb. She clicked to her, speaking softly, and shook the reins.
“How’s Callie, by the way?” Wilder recalled their conversation earlier – it seemed like days ago already.
“They did a blood test and she’s clean. Said it looked like a bot-fly nest, but there was no infection beyond the immediate sore.” He peered ahead to see if he could spot it. “You can’t see it from back here. It was pretty yucky-looking. The vet cleaned it out, gave her antibiotics, and updated all her shots. Which cost a fortune, by the way. Three-hundred allens.”
“That’s a relief,” he said. “Except for the cost.”
“Mmm. There’s more and more to worry about with horses’ health these days.” She guided the trap up Bridge Street and right onto Main Street. “But lose a horse like Callie and you’re really in trouble.” Living in a village outside Brattleboro without good horses and the requisite trap and wagon meant you were cut off from both work and shopping. Unless you were rich enough to maintain a cell-electric or diesel.
“Speaking of creepie-crawlies,” she continued, “I heard of a boy in Putney recently who was diagnosed with hookworms. Very sick.”
“That’s a new one.”
“Hard to keep up with the changes.” They leveled out at the top of the hill leading up from the river, and trotted north down the empty street. The warm night air smelled of flowers, tar, hay, and wood smoke. A cat ran across the street.
“Want that coffee, Jake?” She hooked the reins over the footboard’s rail and reached down into a basket beneath the seat. “Callie knows where to go.”
To read all Inter States installments visit http://interstates2040.wikispaces.com
Dr. Ralph Meima currently works as a consultant and writer. He founded the Marlboro MBA in Managing for Sustainability in 2006 and directed it until 2012. He is current an adjunct faculty member at the Bard MBA and at the School for International Training.