Excerpt from Chapter 4
The Boston Post Road was empty of the usual foot traffic around lower Sherwood as Marto arrived from the Cross County. The day’s ride had been lonely and uneventful. He encountered a few travelers and caravans of autonomous tainers making their way along the regular trade routes. Marto, like the well Merited, traveled light. He wore his new shirt, a skull cap, and a woolen kilt. In his single pocket he carried some seed bars for the first leg of his journey. He knew that everything else he would need during his trip would be offered. The last time Marto had peddled his way through here, there were pop up shops up and down this stretch of the BPR. This time, they were sparse. The unicycle hummed beneath him moving at a modest but easy clip. He was thirsty.
The BPR, as its travelers and carriers call it has remained the best kept up travel route along this part of the coast. Marto liked to think, thanks to his own publication, his first serious one in fact. The Merritt, heading off to the north, used to be the popular way to go, due to it’s size and name, but in recent years the BPR had risen in popularity. Since the tide, large lengths of old 95 had been washed out next to the eastern corridor tracks. Up ahead, even the BPR dove into the ocean, making Sherwood Hill a logical first stop on his tour.
Marto teetered on his neural connected powered unicycle a moment, before heading off onto a webbed dirt road to the north, in search of the local population. Some queries ahead showed that they were all locked in a MUC (multi user construct) of some sort. Further inquiries came up blank which was odd. Could be something tactical or a local private game.
Then a grey bearded man in a green flannel shirt, walking a big brown dog appeared. Marto’s uni went out from under him.
“Don’t go up there, dude.” The old timer said aloud. He was a phobic, certainly. Marto could not ping him. “They don’t want to be disturbed.”
“Interesting. Why not? What’s going on there?”
“Sherwood tribe. They are locked in some kind of a group activity thing. I don’t know enough about it and I want to respect their privacy.”
“Well, I’m on my way to see them, and need a place to stop until they are ready. Do you have any water to share? I’ve been on the road all day.” Marto asked and looked around the path for homes. Nothing intact. They were too far from town.
“Yeah, I got some at my place. You’re welcome to join me. I was just going to have some dinner.”
[“Who is this guy? Ask him where he’s from.”] LalaUbriay thexted. The chatterers who had been following Marto from the start of his journey that morning had been quiet, with nothing eventful happening on the road, now began to debate the situation in earnest. This was a good sign for success of his trip. Intrigue cannot be manufactured, and when it happens, it’s always good for followership, which in turn is great for Marto’s Merit.
“Thank you. I appreciate the invitation.” Marto said walking with the man and the dog into the spindly woods. “What shall I call you? I’m Marto.”
“Gene Hernandez” the man replied over his shoulder. “I’m originally from a long way south of here. Used to be Kentucky. Just outside of Louisville. Whole state went mad. I was lucky to get out of there with Nero here.” he nodded to his dog.
[“be careful M.”] Dizzy chimed in. [“He might be a shooter. Definitely looks phobic.”]
“I walked all the way up here through Ohio and Pennsylvania. Now I guess most of it is called The Jersey. Long, lonely walk. We stayed clear of most people we saw until we got to a spot north of here. Found some of your friends I guess. They helped us out. I’ve been living here since the locals set me up.”
Marto could see a couple of homes up ahead. They were aiming for a red saltbox colonial style home fit with printed structures where storm damage hit. It was off on it’s own near the top of a hill, and looked inviting, if a bit desolate. Marto still felt some apprehension. He wished a tribal delegation had met him instead of this outsider.
“When I came through here last, I was met by a contingent of the local tribe. I don’t understand why they are not here.” Marto said, sounding a little nervous. Gene could tell.
“Listen, I don’t want to creep you out. We’re harmless, Nero and me. Sincerely. The tribe… they’re just locked in a thing. I can’t say that I fully understand it. I don’t have any goo in my head. They told me you would be coming through most likely and I was supposed to meet you until they’re … finished.”
Now Marto could see some chickens, goats and a horse near the old man’s house. Then he noticed the children. They were playing around the back between the houses, now visible from the approach. They registered as Sherwood tribe and thexted him bright hellos with pictures and invitations to games. They did not seem to be in any kind of distress. Some of Marto’s followers connected with them and sent light happy messages and greetings. Some even joined them in their games.
“As you can see,” said Gene, “I’m sort of baby sitting here today.”