Episode 7: “Rolling Boxes"
As the steed gained momentum and the three of them sped through the forest, Virginia told Juan she was sorry her Daddy was sending him out on this wild goose chase for people coming near. She thought for sure it was a nonsense. Even if he had seen smoke in the early morning light and strange items in the river, where was it now?
When Juan chuckled, the house of cards crumbled. Virginia shifted behind him and his love begat a reborn desire for truth. Juan found the first possible place where he could finally tell Virginia the truth about her home, and stopped the steed.
“So what’s going on, Juan, you’re laughing although you will be leaving me for days, leaving me behind. Besides, my Daddy is known for his fibbing, so tell me the truth, or else.
“Or else what?” Juan couldn’t resist.
“Or else I’m never going to speak to you again!”
“Okay, okay. Now Virginia, I want you to relax, and just open your mind a little...”
“Please, Juan, I’m the one who has read all the books in the library. You? You hadn’t read many of the authors until you came here. Who could possibly have a more open mind?”
“Just listen to me. Miller isn’t what it seems. We are not isolated from the world because we are too far away to reach others except by mass wagon train and luck. Machines exist to bring someone here in hours. Please, let me show you.”
“What are you saying? This is my home. I was born here. Juan, I have to tell you something too. Daddy told me you might start acting strange, that you might change if you met outsiders, and that you had been ranting about the finding the city you’re from. He hoped I would calm you. I’m here for you, Juan, let me...”
“I am not mad, Virginia, I am telling you the truth. Miller is an experimental community, funded by our government.”
“Of course, Juan, Daddy is the head of the government, but he experiments only with the jam we make every summer. And we are unique because we are self sufficient, but we’ve made it work — it’s more science than experimental.”
Juan began to lose his composure as his voiced gained tone and his will became more desperate.
“Virginia, you must listen to me. It’s all a lie, every last detail. We live in the United States, and the world is a very big place. Millions of people are your neighbors, not only the few here. Trust me Virginia, please. Science here is elementary out there.”
“It’s just small town fever Juan. You’re not used to being in this sort of isolated wilderness town. Daddy said this happened from time to time with those who first came here. The History Logs show three cases since Callahan first began Miller, and Quimby has documented one himself, now Juan, please. I love you.”
“But, Virginia, I remember everything now. My name is John. This is all the truth, please.”
Juan had always thought the Mayor a somewhat simple man, but he realized he had been out-smarted when Virginia had an answer for everything. It was no coincidence the Mayor had supplied all the answers — he knew Juan would try to take Virginia with him. Juan was stumped, creating a most awkward silence. Virginia made her way back to the horse.
“Juan, my Daddy told me to head back if you became uncomfortable, so let me go...”
“Virginia, you can’t go...” Juan rushed toward her.
“Juan, you’re scaring me, please, head straight along this path and I’ll send Daddy back with the horse,” Virginia said as she climbed aboard. “Hurry home well and soon, darling. Think about what I said during the ride.”
With that, Virginia was off, and Juan was alone and weak, now a mere shadow of the Great Peter. The Voice had said he should take Virginia with him? Was the Voice really his awakened mind rebelling against the story he had been living?
He stood and nearly tore his hair out over what to do. The plan had gone to hell. After a few minutes, he remembered the Voice.
“Now what the hell am I gonna do?”
But this time, he got no answer. Only a sound of hooves. Virginia was back and in a hurry.
“Something has happened. All numbers of men are in the town, and they're trying to get everyone...everyone into rolling boxes, and.....We have to go. Now!”
Juan was quickly up in front, and they galloped off. Juan was less scared now, possibly because he had his pride behind him, but more likely because he now knew there was nothing for Virginia to go back to.
“Juan, what you were telling me earlier, about the world — it’s true, isn’t it?”
“Yea, it is”
“But why? Why did Daddy lie? Were we prisoners?”
“He didn’t know any better Virginia. He told you lies based on the lies told to him. I know this doesn’t make much sense. Simply, he was born into a reality — a situation, perspective — and he accepted it. He didn’t know better. He wasn’t taught how to question. But unfortunately, most people outside Miller do the same thing, only it is a much grander scale. They too are prisoners. There is a lot you must get ready for.”
“I know, and I’m scared.”
“I know that, and I also know every little thing is going to be all right. Now lead me to the limits, and I’ll tutor you. Do we have a deal?”
“Juan, what were those rolling boxes, anyway?”
“They are called cars, or automobiles. Whatever word you want to use, they are interchangeable. But maybe it was a truck, usually they load people into trucks.”
“Usually? In the...what was it you called it?”
“The United States of America, or USA, or simply the U.S.”
“There sure are many different ways to say things in the U.S.!? Well, in the U.S. do they carry people away in trucks all the time?”
“No. I mean, not that often. Put it this way, there are almost 400 million people out there. You studied statistics — so say 2 percent of the population gets locked away — then 1.4 million people are criminals. So, yes and no. Virginia, I think this tutoring is going to be harder than I thought.”
“There are 400 million people in the U.S.? Juan, how big is this place? I mean it must be immense. Juan, we just passed the end...of...well, wherever we are, I’ve never been here before. I guess we are in the U.S. now, huh?”
“I guess so. Well, from where I believed this place was located as long as we keep heading south, maybe we can get to a highway. I’m truly from beautiful Phoenix, Arizona. It’s a desert. We are heading south, aren’t we?”
“Yes, Juan we’re heading south. Juan, when this is over, we have to have a very long talk. I really don’t feel right.” She began to mumble, “I feel so small, stupid, insignificant. I don’t know if I can handle this.”
“Just hold on, Virginia, it’ll be okay.”
As they galloped on, Juan felt strong again. He was intelligent, but his emotions were sometimes naive. His woman was feeling weak, and he felt it was his duty to get them to safety. Away from the lies and the liars. But who was it that stormed the town? Why hadn’t they been caught? Two people galloping on a horse out of Miller was a little more than slightly conspicuous. As far as he knew, everything was monitored. And surely, whoever it was would have realized he and Virginia were missing.
“Why did you come back when you saw other people in the town?” Juan asked from thought. “When I pondered telling you the truth, I was worried you’d want to tell the rest of the town and not run away with me. What went through your head? Is this okay to talk about?”
“I don’t really know Juan, or John. I just don’t ...”
Virginia stopped talking as Juan slowed the horse.
“Virginia did the rolling box you saw in town look anything like that thing up ahead?”