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There is not much that can be said when you’re walking uphill during a mountain thunderstorm. At best you can hear your feet stumble and slosh in the mud. If you listen really closely you can hear your pulse synchronizing with the thunder.
They reach the resort and, as expected, it has been abandoned. There was no need to break in. As the staff had been preparing for the ski season opening, all the doors were left unlocked.
Lulu walked into the cafeteria and felt the eerie stillness of lunch trays full of moldy food, no doubt left in place by people who had left without looking back. Lulu went into the rental shop and she returned ten minutes later and handed Dr. V a pair of dry thermals, wool socks, snowgear and sturdy boots.
The main lodge was freezing cold as they stood before the enormous picture window that revealed the magnitude of the storm. Lightening bridged across the sky and zapped the mountaintops like a science experiment run amuck. They sit in silence before Dr. V clears her throat to speak.
“It’s pretty obvious that we should stay here for awhile. I doubt the GeoForce believes we survived the wreck.”
Her thoughts stop short and she begins pacing the room while Lulu remains transfixed on the storm and listens to the plan unfolding. Her mind wanders to the kitchen. No doubt food storage is stocked for the week and still frozen. She then considers heat. They could pop all the wooden panels off the wall and burn them. She wonders if the electrical still works, if there’s any propane, knives, they will need knives. They have beds and fireplaces at the inn. It was almost as if she stepped out of her life at the hostel and reentered a luxurious life of conveniences she had left behind.
“This moment feels as familiar as Black Monday, when everything changed.”
She turned to Dr. V and watches her explore the drawers and cabinets, taking inventory of their resources. She had never met this woman before but felt keenly that they were kindred spirits in that they could not only see what was practical to do, but also plotting the next steps to get to where they need to be.
“If the GeoForce hadn’t detained you, what would you be doing right now?” Lulu asks.
Dr. V joins her on the bench and passes a bottle of whiskey she found in the office upstairs. Lulu takes a pull off the bottle and she coughs. She hadn’t had a drink in years.
“Its a throwback to the college days , eh?” Dr. V laughs. She takes the bottle back and takes down a swig. “If the GeoForce never showed up I would be packing.”
“For what?” Lulu asks as she takes the bottle back from Dr. V’s wagging hand.
“I was going home to Peru. Dammit I was looking forward to being home. I’ve been in North America for 10 years now. I’ve spent the last six months getting a grant and a team to travel. We were supposed to take a boat down the coast. When they started microchipping children last month I knew it was time to go home. Then Black Monday happened and I lost contact with my team. I’m not even sure they are still alive.” Dr. V takes the bottle and rests it in her knee. “And what would you be doing, Lulu?”
“I would be snuggled up in front of a fire with my husband and dog.”
Dr. V slaps her knees and she stands up. “We are at a resort. We should find a hotel room and see if we can cook up some food.”
They found a variety of food in the fridge but it was all rotten. They did find an unusual surplus of hot dogs and chicken fingers. Dr. V picked up a giant can of baked beans and a box of single serving potato chips and a pack of donuts. “Just to round out the lips and assholes,” she chuckled.
Lulu led across the plaza to the inn. They open the lobby doors to find open luggage strewn all over everything standing still. She went behind the front desk to retrieve an emergency hard key that would be used if the scan card system went down. It was still in the same place after all these years. She led Dr. V up the stairwell to the 4th floor. “We might as well get a room with a view.” She turns the key.
Dr. V sets the food down and she lights the logs waiting in the fireplace. The room quickly heats up and within a 1/2 hour they are roasting hotdogs on the fireplace grate. Lulu drapes a throw comforter over her shoulders and she watches the hot dogs sizzle and pop.
“What kind of doctor are you?” Lulu asks.
“I’m an ethnobotanist. I seek to cure disease. What do you do?”
“In my former life I was a teacher. Now my husband James and I operate a self-sustaining hostel in New Haven. It’s called Ohana.”
“Oh, I’ve heard about you guys. My auntie once stayed there. Do you remember Eva Domingo, by chance?”
Lulu smiles, amazed at what a small world it was. Six degrees of separation takes on a different meaning during these turbulent times in history. “Yes, I certainly do. If I remember correctly she was moving to the City to live with her sister. Is she your mother?”
“No, she’s one of six aunties. My mother lives in Brazil. After completing the next phase of fieldwork in Peru I had plans to go live with her, actually. She’s quite ill with cancer.”
“Oh I’m sorry to hear that,” Lulu said consolingly.
“Thank you, Lulu. I appreciate that. But I’m not worried,” Dr. V says as she hands Lulu a hot dog. “That’s why I’m going home. I believe we found the cure.”
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