On the Ravings of a Madman
By Will Baker
I am writing these lines on the very cusp of summertime in Vermont. And for me, set against the explosion of verdant growth, are the words and actions of my dear friend, who, being in the end stages of his experience with a brain tumor, has gone quite mad. The cause of his madness might be the pain, the drugs or the cancer festering inside his skull, or perhaps a combination of the above. But no matter the reason my once trusted advisor and confidant is now a lunatic.
But I find it fitting, that even in his lunacy his words carry a sort of wisdom. In his day, he was a man of few words, but when he spoke, folks tended to listen. For he often provided insight and clarity when they were needed. And now that he has lost his mind, strangely, it seems to me that his words still carry that same quality. For example, let me tell you what he had to say to me just yesterday, when I visited him at his bedside.
When I entered his room he was distraught, but then he calmed some. He recognized me immediately and asked me where he was and then inquired as to the date. I told him that he was in his room in Vermont and that it was June 18. He then became impatient with me, and insisted that I tell him what year it was, to which I replied: "Glenn, it is 2002." At that point it seemed like a feeling of relief had washed over his body. He licked his chapped lips, and told me a remarkable tale.
He said that a band of "witches" had brought him into the future, and that he was afraid that he might not be allowed to return back to his own time. In response to my questioning, he described them as "Fury-like" in appearance, as if they had stepped out of some play from antiquity. Anyway, they brought him into the future, to the year 2303, to the countryside that was once a part of a North American state called Vermont, but which was now quite foreign to him. He said that he was left on a lane, in a mountain hollow, to fend for himself, and he had sat down to cry. But then a man came along, dressed in rustic clothing, and helped him to his feet. The fellow spoke in a recognizable tongue, and offering him words of comfort, led him home.
Glenn said that his home seemed to be cobbled together from the leavings of a society that had clearly fallen into ruin. The house was small and snug, with no two windows or doors alike. It had a tin roof and a hearth made of stone, and off of the dooryard there was a struggling garden. And surrounding the whole affair was a solid hedge of elderberry bushes.
The man had a wife and several children, and they cautiously greeted him. Glenn said that they fed him, and then showed him to a cot where he laid down to sleep. He awoke to the sound of many people, and, following the voices found a group of perhaps two dozen adults, men and women, gathered behind the house sitting in the grass in a clearing. Glenn said that he noticed a windmill, and a small millpond with what appeared to be a dam powering some type of machinery set up in some small out buildings.
When he approached the group they stopped talking, but they beckoned to him to sit with them, and then they introduced themselves. He said that they were friendly enough, but wanted to know where he came from. Glenn told them that he must have come from a dream, and that he doubted that this was real. He explained that he was sick, and dying from cancer. But they asked him many questions and he answered them as best he could. And then it was his turn to pose the questions, and this is what they told him.
They said that times were not good. Many people were hungry and the crops would not grow, and there was sickness and rats. There had been war for many generations (fought over food and energy), and the people had grown tired of it all. And as regards their "world view," there was no longer a "west" and "east," for commerce and the exchange of ideas between nations had become a thing of the past. Glenn said that these folks seemed to be living in a "dark-age" of sorts. He asked about the United States, and indicated that, based upon their replies it seemed that there was still some government nominally in power in North America, but folks looked to the past as their high water mark.
At this point, he ended his tale and nodded off to sleep. And as his wizened body lay before me, twitching in his hospital bed, I thought about his story, his delusion, his vision. An aide came in the room to take his lunch order, but seeing that he was asleep, she told me that she would check back later and then she quietly backed out the door. A moment later he opened his eyes and looked at me and asked, "What is the date?" "2002," I replied. He nodded and closed his eyes again. I asked him if he could hear me, and he said he could, so I asked him what he thought his vision meant. And he said, "I think that we need to come together before its too late. I think that there is too much us against them, and not enough we."