Day 68. 68 pages, 32,351 words.
“So,” the Saint said, “what can we do for each other this fine day?” he squinted as I drew the jar of white Wasteland crust and powder from my pocket, and rattled it at him. “We’re all good for sand right now,” he went on in mild amusement, and gestured around him unnecessarily. “Thanks though.”
“I found this in our garden,” I told him. “Just … growing in our lawn. Our ordinary lawn that’s still partly alive. Back in town,” I continued to elaborate, as the Saint’s squint deepened into a scowl. “In the still-functional world.”
“In grass?” the Saint asked.
“In – yeah, in grass,” I said.
“I don’t know if I’d go that far,” I admitted. “It’s not the greenest lawn in the universe.”
The greenest lawn in the universe, out of interest, belongs to Portimus the Yellow (It’s Just A Name). It’s made out of a type of grass called Viridescenzian Dragonmoss, which is technically classified as a war crime rather than a plant, and is so green that it’s been known to strike people insane and send them drooling and laughing back to their travel agents, ranting about things whispering in the depths of the merciless unrelenting greenity. Certainly it’s green enough to spontaneously de-pigment the cones in the human eye that enable the processing of the colour green, so basically everything you see after laying eyes on the lawn for more than about a tenth of a second takes on a reddish hue. This is a recognised medical condition that is colloquially known as The Portimus Hellscape. I haven’t seen the lawn myself, but a so-called friend of ours sent us a postcard once. It was intercepted at the nearest extraterrestrial customs office and toned down using nuclear bleach in accordance with local-cluster bio-weapon ordinances, but it was still green enough to give me a headache every time I looked at Creepy for about a week afterwards. Mind you, I often get headaches when I look at Creepy so it may have just been a coincidence.
“But you wouldn’t say it was desert?” the Saint pressed.
“Only as much as, you know, usual,” I replied, “considering this summer has stayed on way later than it should.”
The Saint looked around. “This summer?” he asked dryly.
“The summer we get in between spring and autumn usually,” I clarified. “I don’t know if it’s this specific one, although I’m beginning to worry they might be merging.”
“Not in desert,” the Saint muttered, then squinted at me again. “No swamp?”
“What do you mean, swamp?” I asked. “There’s nothing remotely-”
“Hold on, back up,” the Saint’s squint deepened yet again and he even took a half-step towards me. “What do you mean, stayed later?”
“It’s been a late summer,” I said, not sure why I felt that downplaying the meteorological event was so important all of a sudden. “Unseasonable.”
“And this appeared on your lawn, with no justifying conditions?” the Saint pointed at the jar.
“Yep. Creepy doesn’t know what’s going on either,” I offered.
“Were you expecting him to?”
“I guess not,” I gave the jar a final rattle and dropped it back in my pocket. “What sort of ‘justifying conditions’ bring about the Wasteland anyway?”
“The Wasteland doesn’t just happen,” the Saint told me. “It’s not just a big arid patch in the middle of the country, dictated by the prevailing geographical and weather conditions. It’s a state of mind. It’s neglect. It’s oblivion. It’s the memory of a world that has succumbed to dementia. You’ve heard the phrase in a world gone mad?” I nodded. “Well, the Wasteland is what happens in a world gone senile.”
“You’ve been watching it happen for a long time,” I said. “What can you tell me?”
“What can I tell you?” the Saint laughed harshly, turned, and stepped back up onto his bleached and ancient soap box. It looked like driftwood, silver from wind and salt and heavy years. “I can tell you everything. If you have time to listen. But that jar in your pocket, Hatboy, tells me that you don’t. That jar tells me the hour is already late.”