The path to the top of the hill could have been better. True, there were no impediments to him, per se, not any people to disturb him in his thoughts, not anything else at all apart from the trees – so very many trees! – and the sounds of birds, too, along with something else, insects, probably, and then there was the air, which was always the same air and always comfortable.
And so much light, light full to bursting with what his mother once called illimitable fecundity.
Still, something nagged at him, in his thoughts, at the very back of his thoughts, every time without fail. It could all be so much better.
At the top of the hill – which he thought of as his hill and which was not a tall hill, really – he could look out and he could see it all. Every single thing he knew of. Illimitable fecundity. With nothing to disturb his thoughts, he could look out and see everything that could have been better.
This hill, for starters. Yes, the hill was flawed. It should have been taller, and instead of earth and grass and flowers, too, it should have been cold and it should have been hard, with many sharp-edged corners. He should have been inside of it, looking out, instead of standing out here feeling the cool breeze upon his face.
That could be how it could be. How it would be. Someday.
And if the Conductor had only conducted properly, right from the get-go, there wouldn’t be all these trees. Something hard and grey and flat instead, then, bitter in the winters, overheated to melting in the summers, with nary a blade of grass to be found upon it anywhere.
It would be better.
Other things would dot the hard, grey surface. Shorter than his new and improved hill. More like his leather living hut only harder and colder and posseting up thick, floating tendrils of black that would make him cough. He could do with a good cough.
And once the ground was hard and nothing could grow and no animals came anymore, his family would have their food brought in to them from faraway places. The food would just be poison, basically, and it would take more energy to get it to them than the food contained.
There’d also have to be a lot more people. Though most of these people would live far away, they would spend their days making the thick tendrils of black, and they would sit inside of claustrophobic wheeled boxes – which would also spit out thick tendrils of black – for many hours on end to get here and then to leave. His friends and his neighbors would work in cold hard huts as well, only not the ones here, but rather ones very far away, for which they’d get inside of claustrophobic wheeled boxes, too.
No one would know anyone else’s names. Even family would be strangers and who’d want to get to know a coughing, poisoned stranger, anyway?
He knew that clear fishing stream there, over off to the left of him, would have to go. Too much illimitable fecundity there entirely.
This web of roots and branches and rains and pollen, of flowing and growing and merging and pupating things, would be broken. And no one would have any sense of the sun or the moon or the seasons, the solstice or the stars. And though this would make them frantic and empty, they would not know it was why they felt frantic and empty and in their franticness and emptiness, they would blame each other for their franticness and emptiness. But they’d keep right on going.
All greys and no greens.
That surely would be better than this, he thought.
He looked out onto the Conductor’s missteps.