He told me all the time “We have to get out of here.” I knew him since childhood; we were best friends. We grew up in an immense city, a sea of concrete, where the billboards were greener than the grass. His favorite activity was to rescue little plants trapped in a lifeless landscape and translocate them to more hospitable areas.
When he was ten years old, he dropped out of school because he knew more than his teachers. His precocious genius made the tutors uncomfortable. When I entered the university, he did not join me. He had decided to pursue further learning on his own.
We got together every year during my vacations. By the time I completed my first semester, he had mastered all the subjects the university had to offer. His appetite for knowledge was truly prodigious.
But what he loved most was the wilderness. His ardor for nature was more than his desire for erudition.
“We have to get out of here. The cities are cancers of the Earth. Like tumors, they are vile and ugly. Selfish and corrupt masses of blind greed and gluttony, they devour everything in their path. The time is near when there will be no refuge, no retreat from their blighted advance.
“The air is smothered by their mephitic toxicants, the waters clogged by their malignant creations. The birds and beasts are ruthlessly driven out of their homes and butchered, while the occupants of the cities multiply like replication robots. Before long the earth will be overrun, leaving the land and ocean bereft of life.”
So went our conversation as we wandered the alleys and byways or hiked the countryside during our annual meetings. Verdant solitude suited my friend well, and he would pour forth in grand eloquence.
One day when I came back from the university, he took me to a place outside the city. We had not been there before. It was a grove of trees, fresh and flourishing in their youth. He told me they were the little plants he had rescued in childhood.
“From today onwards, I will live here,” he announced.
“You finally did get out of there,” I replied.
“Not yet,” he shook his head.
Then in the middle of my last semester, I received a note from him. He said he had made all preparations to finally ‘get out of here.’ He invited me to join him if I wished. He would be leaving the following day.
Next morning I rushed to meet him at the grove. Beyond the trees in a clearing stood a rocket which my friend had built. I was astounded. He proceeded to tell me that he was going to blast-off today and would not pester me to join him.
Knowing my friend well, I did not dissuade him. He waved me goodbye and got into the rocket. And then came the launch, and I stood there, stunned and silent, as my friend finally ‘got out of here.’
An occasional writer but a regular thinker, Beryl sometimes fiddles in speculative fiction. He sees both humour and tragedy in everyday events and is extremely concerned with the fate of other creatures trapped in the monstrous march of 21st-century human civilization.