Alex asked The Venerable, “Would you mind if I prepared a meal for us with the food stores I had recently purchased earlier this day, especially the frozen shrimp?”
The Venerable replied, “Of course. That would be a good way to introduce you to some of our local wares and customs.” He then proceeded to show Alex what rudimentary utensils and facilities were available. Alex realized he could make a quick couscous meal with garlic and oil, shrimp, white button mushrooms and spicy hot peppers. The meal was complete and ready to serve within 15 minutes.
The Venerable had in the meantime broken out some bowls and other personal eating utensils so that the meal could be served and eaten. He also poured 3 goblets worth of “local wine”. The three of them toasted to the newly formed friendship. They then supped eagerly to the tasty meal prepared by Alex.
“Alex, this is very good”, offered Kassie. “And Venerable, this wine tastes very good and heart warming”, she added with a grateful smile.
“Good heavens”, cried The Venerable. “I haven’t had shrimp in ages. This just is not a delicacy common to these parts.”
“Very sorry to hear that”, responded Alex. “Shrimp are one of my favorite foods. I often have it exactly this way, served over a variety of bases. My two favorites are couscous, as I’ve prepared today, or over angel hair pasta.”
“Sorry to break up this cute little party Mr. Venerable, but just what did we get ourselves into”, asked Kassie.
“Well”, replied The Venerable, “You have literally landed into a fairyland that is somewhere between mankind’s stone age and their age of metal.”
“This has been an indigenous population here for ages that never seemed to progress far beyond the stone age. They are scattered throughout in many clans and tribes. They were basically hunter gatherers and very much akin to the American Indian population.”
“While they all seem to share many similar characteristics , there are enough differences in customs and mannerisms to be able to distinguish one population from the other.”
“Fortunately for us, our closest neighbors are more peaceful and congenial than many of the others. We don’t know if that happened by accident, or design.”
“Wait. Who is this ‘us’ and ‘we’ that you speak of?” asked Alex.
“Ahhh. That is a great question, my boy”, said The Venerable. “You see, the ‘us’ and ‘we’ are the ‘outworlders’ like yourselves, and myself. I am the last of a long series of people that came before me. And in a sense, I am the first of a long line of people that has arrived after me.”
The Venerable then added, “Most of anything I know has been handed down to me by my predecessors and from their predecessors before them.”
“Since I have been here for so long, those who came after me have conferred the title ‘The Venerable’ unto me. To them, I am as an ‘elder’. They think I’m as old as Methuselah.”
“And where are these other ‘outworlders’ as you call them?” asked Kassie.
“Most of them are scattered the other side of the small creek just behind us. They feel safer with that barrier, as small as it is, between them and the indigenous.”
“And where are these famous indigenous people you speak of”, asked Alex.
“They live just in the foot hills beyond the woods from the general direction you came. We have formed somewhat of a symbiotic relationship with them. My outworld predecessors helped to take them somewhat out of the stone age, but only barely, and into the world of rudimentary metallurgy. That cast Iron skillet you used earlier is an example of their handiwork.”
“They also did acquire certain animal husbandry skills that had eluded them prior to our arrival. They learned to shear sheep and fashion clothing from the wool. All this, with rudimentary manual technology. Nothing really advanced will function here. Our ‘Overlords’ see to that.”
“Ohhh”. Exclaimed Alex. “That’s why my car would not start again once that fog lifted and we found ourselves here.”
“Yes”, Added The Venerable. “And within a few days, all traces of that vehicle will disappear as if it has never been here. So, if you have left anything of value in it, you’d best go fetch it quickly or it will be gone from you forever. And don’t ask me how or where it goes, because I don’t know.”
“hmmm. It seems to be getting a bit late for a round trip in unfamiliar territory, I suspect it will be dark before long”, offered Alex.
“First thing in the morning should be soon enough for you to retrieve your belongings.”
“In the meantime, we need to attend to your overnight accommodations. This lovely young lady can stay in the lean to on the side of the cabin. I had built it for myself many years ago when I first arrived. That was before I inherited these ‘luxurious’ accommodations left to me by my immediate predecessor. But, I am not sure what to do about you young man.”
“Not a problem Venerable. Part of the gear I brought with me is a sleeping bag, with room for two I might add”, Alex said sheepishly as he glanced wistfully in the direction of where Kassie was seated.
“I’ll fetch the rest of my camping gear from my truck in the morning. I also have a small tent as part of my equipment. I can survive just about anywhere and under most circumstances. I’m sure I’ll be fine here if I am truly forced to stay.”
“So Venerable. Did the indigenous just give you these cast iron utensils and clothing, or did you have to barter with them somehow. And with what?” asked Kassie.
“Great question young lady. At first, and this was long, long before my time, my predecessors were like ‘missionaries’ in guiding them out of the stone age. They traded information for goods. Later on, the indigenous wanted something more tangible. As it happened, they were not very good at agriculture. They generally did not make good farmers. They did not have the temperament for it. So, we outworlders filled that niche, not only in actually growing the food, but in processing and preserving it in various methods. We also cultivate the various fruits from which we make a variety of juices including that delicious wine you enjoyed with your meal. So, we traded our various agricultural foodstuffs for their goods. For the most part, that has kept both sides quite happy.”
The Venerable then added, “When these clothes you are wearing young lady begin to fray and fall off, you’ll be glad you won’t have to wear fig leaves as did Adam and Eve. This is hardly the Garden of Eden.”
“Fig leaves?” exclaimed Alex. “That would be an interesting sight.”
“In your wildest dreams!” glowered Kassie.
“Yes. They would indeed be my wildest.” And most desirable, Alex murmured under his breath.
“Well. enough for tonight”, interjected The Venerable. “It’s getting late and we’d best get some sleep. You two are going to have a very eventful day tomorrow determining how you are going to spend the rest of your lives here. You may as well resolve yourselves to it now.”
Alex and Kassie looked at each other. She looked distressed. He, looking at her, was forever hopeful. If he was going to be stuck in an “Eden”, then being here with her was a good thing!
Alex accompanied Kassie to the lean to. He made sure she was as comfortable as could be. He stationed his sleeping bag just outside the entrance. He was her protector. He would keep her safe.
“Good night Kassie. I’ll be here all night if you need me. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Good night Alex.” Kassie replied. “And thank you for today.”