Polistra's dream, 1
June 2008, at the Mill.
Polistra was heartbroken to see her home town of Manhattan smashed by a tornado. She is certain that nothing will improve. All factions of the American power structure are frozen in absolute gibbering insanity, utterly incapable of taking the most obvious steps in any positive direction. We have surrendered to Sheikh Osama, surrendered to Reckless Desire and Ruthless Greed, surrendered to every imaginable variety of falsehood and fraud, to every false god known to history, and to some never before imagined.
She prays for relief.
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June 1939, Ponca City, the Arcade Hotel.
Fran is a free-lance magazine writer. Tonight she's working on a draft while half-listening to Information Please
What's this? Radio overheating? Can't be. It's a nearly new Philco.
Howdy. You're surprised, aren't you? This is going to take some explaining...
And Polistra proceeds to explain the situation ... that she's a cartoon character from 2008 who dreamed her way back to 1939. Since Fran is a writer, she has sufficient imagination to encompass the idea.
Fran asks Polistra the inevitable questions.Fran:
Well, what great advances has America made since '39? Cured cancer?Pol:
No. We have lots of fancy machines and drugs, but except for childhood leukemia, which we can definitely cure, we haven't improved
the survival rate in general. You could even say that the fancy machines make things worse, because people know about the cancer earlier.Fran:
That's dismal. Well, cured infantile paralysis?Pol:
Yes, in 1954. Fran:
Cured the common cold?Pol:
Have you controlled weather? Built domed cities?Pol:
No. In fact we have decided
to make no progress in that area. We haven't gone beyond cloud-seeding, and even though we know it works, we won't allow ourselves to do it.Fran:
No. The New Deal started a long-running escape from poverty, especially among Southern sharecroppers of both colors. Our entry into the war in '41, which you can probably foresee without my help, expanded that change dramatically. The poor folks moved into industrial jobs, and incomes rose steadily from '39 until 1970. Lots of other things were also improving during those years: science, education, invention. It all came to a screeching halt around 1970. What happened at that point was basically a bloodless takeover by a form of Communism, which we aren't allowed to discuss openly. It's complicated and crazy, and I doubt that I can explain it to you without driving you crazy too.Fran:
Murrr-derrrr! Well, how about fast trains? Super streetcars?Pol:
No. American trains are much slower, less efficient and less luxurious in 2008. They still carry freight well enough, but passenger trains are dilapidated junk, pretty much restricted to serving a few big cities badly. Most people travel long distances by airplane, and that system is starting to fall apart too. Streetcars are mostly gone, though again a few big cities still have good bus and subway systems. In most cities, you're out of luck if you can't drive or can't afford a car. Cars have improved a lot, for what it's worth: they're safer, more efficient, more comfortable. Most of them are made in Japan now, and General Motors is on the verge of bankruptcy.Fran:
Not to interrupt, but you look like you could use a smoke.Pol:
Yes, and thanks for your insight. Smoking is on the way out in '08, but it isn't quite illegal yet.Fran:
Well, how about colonies on Mars?Pol:
Ha. We flew to the Moon in 1969, but then the Communist ideology took over and we haven't advanced the cause since.Fran:
Are you running the country on hydropower?Pol:
No. We're still using the dams the WPA built, which I'm grateful for, even if nobody else is ... plus a handful built later in the 1950s. Worst of all, we are actually getting rid of some dams to satisfy the utterly insane theory that's at the heart of this crazy Communism.Fran:
Getting rid of dams? Why in the everloving name of God would you want to waste all that work and deprive the country of free energy??? Well, I don't mean you, because you obviously know it's wrong, but the people in your time?Pol:
Oh lord, you're not going to believe this. You've somehow understood my time-traveling, but you won't be able to absorb this.Fran:
They want to eliminate the dams because they think the fish are more important than the people.Fran:
That's crazy all right.Pol:
It's a primitive religion, something like the old Incas or Mayas, whatever those South American savages were called. This religion considers the earth to be a goddess, and ultimately wants to sacrifice all people to the goddess. Most of our politicians and most of our churches and educators have signed on to the belief, and they treat anyone who disbelieves as crazy.Fran:
Weirder and weirder. Does this savage cult have churches?Pol:
Doesn't need any. All the main churches preach it, though I'm pretty sure the regular believers don't know where it's taking them.
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