I’m relaunching The Weekly Fix, with a twist. For now, instead of a serial tale or a short story, I’m sharing excerpts from the stories in the forthcoming Fix the World anthology. This is a fantastic collection of twelve hopeful stories from sci-fi writers on how to fix some of the greatest problems we face as a world.
The Call of the Wold
Pedalling out of the shade of the Douglas firs, I heard the farming collective before I saw it. Squawking, bleating, angry barking—and that was just the people. I ground to a stop in front of the gate, careful to avoid the wild sorrel poking through the damp, crumbling pavement. “Olly Olly Umphrey!” I called over in my cracked old woman voice. The nearest person, a lanky man with a brown ponytail pulled exceptionally tight, frowned at my shout. His foot rested on a rusted cage with something brown and feathery in it.
He glanced at me, my bicycle, the small bike trailer that held my possessions, then back at the other two. The woman was waving a large and shiny cleaver in the face of a stocky, acne-scarred man. I wasn’t one to judge—well, I was—but my calves ached, and my stomach was tired of deer jerky. I raised my voice a notch or four. “I don’t want to join your discussion, I was just hoping I could do a few chores—”
“We don’t need any trade goods,” yelled the cleaver-wielder. “Go away, old woman!”
“Ageist, much?” I yelled back. The driest summer in Vancouver Island’s recorded history meant my scalp itched continually, and a guest bunk sure beat out a dusty tent, but I didn’t let such comments slip past me. Not since I turned seventy last year.
“Let her in,” the lanky man said.
I pushed my bike along the high chain link fence—the height of it intended to keep out the overly-numerous deer rather than human intruders—until I reached the gate.
Neither of the other two had moved.
The lanky guy sighed long and low. “By the power vested in me by Henkel’s Wold, let her in.” At his feet, the caged guinea fowl backed him up with an ear-piercing shriek.
The short guy moved first, walking up to the lock and looking into the biometric screen. It gave a loud click. My heart did the hokey pokey as the smartcam swivelled toward me and facial recognition software did its thing.
“Keeps out the riffraff, eh,” I remarked to the guy as the gate clicked again and swung open.
“So what? We breed our own criminals,” he said, glaring back at the woman.
She waggled the cleaver at him. “Sez you, Riley.”
“Gah!” Riley turned to the skinny guy. “Did you see that? Whatcha gonna do about it, Aaron, waffle as usual?”
With a sigh, I scanned the dark clouds overhead. Was a bit of comfort really worth enduring such an unhappy crowd? But I knew my solitary life wasn’t mentally healthy, any more than my cheese addiction. Surely I could hang my frayed Tilley here for one night.
Besides, maybe I could help settle the dispute. I hadn’t been much use to anyone lately, maybe I could use my rusty people skills to at least calm ’em down. I sucked in a breath. “I think you people are the flea’s pajamas, doing what you do, way out here in the bush,” I said and smiled blankly like the kindly old woman I hoped I looked like. “A bunch of nice people like you, nothing more to talk about than some chicken.” My tactic worked—they all looked as sheepish as ewes at a shearing competition. I stuck my hand out toward the one named Riley. “Julie Leung, traveller extraordinaire.”