Synopsis: Many have only dreamed it was a real place, and many more accept the legends as true, but when the Man in White returned with the message that he had been there, everyone believed. Would the hope of a better place be enough to overcome an oppressive military government?
Chapter 1 Excerpt
“You may not believe that peace is possible.” The first words from the person plainly known as the Man in White are somehow discordant with the energetic crowd which had just greeted him with a roar to the stage. The Man in White, true to his name, wears a long white robe with long sleeves that hang almost to the ground when his hands are lowered. An aged beard matches his white/grey hair to give him an aura of experience and wisdom.
“And,” he pauses and sets free a smile, “you would not be wrong in holding that belief.” The crowd was quietly attentive, and for good reason. The Man in White has not been heard from for more than 15 years. In fact, it is rumored among those connected to the resistance that he left for solitude to form a master plan, upon completing, he would return and lead the people of Brown City to freedom. And here he is, 15 years later.
Not at all impressed, or taken into people worship, or moved at all by the plight of the less fortunate, Han Brownly watched on from the back of the crowd with their close friend, Teache. Han was a product of the Brown City government, their father being the Commander of the military, and de-facto president. He was attending out of curiosity about the Man in White.
“I can’t believe he’s back!” exclaimed Teache, nudging Han.
“You can’t be serious. Did you even know about him 15 years ago? You were like 9…” Han keeps his eyes on the Man in White, who is now rallying the crowd.
“You have seen the inequality among us grow. Have you not? Who here is struggling to make enough to support their family?”
Hands shot up and a confluence of murmurs and shouts of agreement crescendoed upon his next words.
“You have seen the corruption get worse. Who here feels their voice is not heard by those in Brown Tower?”
Even louder shouts of agreement resonate from the crowd as a sea of hands waved agreement.
“And, we have all seen the pollution of our rivers, the ravaging of our forests, and the reckless harvesting of life from our oceans. Have you not seen these things get worse? Is this peace? NO!” The Man in White is now quite excited, nearing a full yell, and the crowd rises to meet his energy. Shouts of agreement are heard, and a chant begins somewhere in the middle of the crowd: “WE WANT PEACE – WE WANT PEACE – WE WANT PEACE”
Teache pulls Han’s ear towards hers to shout over the crowd, “I met him.”
Han turns and meets her eyes, she is emotional. Happy. Hopeful. Her eyebrows rise slightly in a pleading glance. Han suddenly feels their connection, and makes a note to not be too cynical, out of respect.
Han can best be described as angry. Raised by an iron fist, and taught to see aggression as the primary means to a just order, it was many years into their adulthood before they became sensitive to an internal longing for companionship and acceptance. A feeling that came up when they saw in Teache and her husband together. Han was also quite smart. Having learned at an early age how to manage projects, strategize campaigns, and build enterprises, they lead several small businesses, growing them to impressive corporations. Anything to stay away from their father, who was firmly rooted in the political and military worlds of Brown City. Han wears a finely fitted business suit, dark blue, accentuated with a soft pink button up shirt, a grey bowler hat, and two shiney black leather shoes.
Teache, a teacher at a middle school, was dressed more casually. She took the opportunity to dress casually between school semesters. Today she wears black leggings with an orange t-shirt boldly advertising her opinion on the state of the city: the block words “FUCK THIS SHIT” over a black outline of the unique Brown Tower, the tallest building in the city, the municipal headquarters, and a popular target for angry protests and unruly resistance mobs.
“Oh yeah?” Han responds, “did he give you that shirt?”
“No!” A flash of embarrassment is quickly replaced with excitement. “You’re just jealous. Should I get one for your dad?”
“Ha! He’d have you thrown in observation for just suggesting it.” Han imagines his father, popularly referred to as The Commander, opening a gift box and reacting with a furious disgust at the shirt vilifying his very existence; the same fury that Han had come to find more entertaining than worrisome.
The Man in White was now getting quite worked up on stage. “We want our children to enjoy this planet, do we not? We care about more than profits, do we not?” The crowd joins his energy, adding cheers and claps to each question. “We all want peace, DO WE NOT?”
The Man in White smiles at the rakkas stirred up, and waits for the cheers of agreement and chants for peace to die off before continuing.
“You may not believe peace is possible, my friends. But I am here today with a message.” The crowd quiets astonishingly fast in anticipation. “Even though you may not believe it, even though it may not seem possible, I tell you this with the confidence of a sage, the integrity of a scientist, the optimism of the youth, I tell you now that PEACE IS COMING!!”
He screams the last three words as he broadens his stance, throws his fists over his head with a euphoric smile as if speaking to the sky. He repeats “PEACE IS COMING!” as the crowd explodes into a roaring cheer, and the Man in White laughs playfully tickling the crowd to grow even louder.
A new chant starts from the mass, “MAN IN WHITE – MAN IN WHITE – MAN IN WHITE”
“Damn, this guy is a fucking lunatic.” Han forgets briefly his concern for Teache’s sensibilities, but she seems undeterred as she looks back at him with a smile and joins the crowd “MAN IN WHITE! MAN IN WHITE!”
Why is Han so cynical? Maybe it was the stories of the last world war, with the global economic collapse, and chaos that ensued. Or perhaps it was the years of dramatic oppression and equally dramatic opposition. Or, maybe it was just knowing who the real leader of Brown City was, the ugly and hateful Commander, their father. But Han could see nothing but a joke in this rally, in these ideas, and in the hope at which Teache and so many others grasped. Han had seen the ugly underbelly of this rotted city, and no connection to reality in the ideas of peace and sustainability. They gufaye, smile back at Teache, and idly scan the crowd as the Man in White continued.
“Now, you may wonder how this is possible. How can peace be coming when there is so much injustice, ignorance, intolerance, and inaction among our leaders.” He continued rapidly “How? How is this possible? You want to know? Do you know already?” He had a speaking style that was very natural, engaging. “Here’s how I know.”
Again, the crowd quiets with anticipation as the Man in White pauses.
“I have seen it.” He says softly. The crowd remained quiet.
“He’s going to talk about Ocean City!” Teache anticipated to Han. “Oh, I’ve always wanted to believe that was a real place.”
“I been there.” He speaks slowly, purposefully. And now, after moments of silence, he asks, “Do you know of where I speak?”
“OCEAN CITY!” Teache, and more than half the crowd responded in a roar, following more cheers and yells.
“YES! I have seen Ocean City. I have visited Ocean City. And I can tell you this about Ocean City:” The Man in White slows his pace with each sounding of Ocean City, and pauses again to draw the crowds’ attention. “Everything you heard is true.” More cheers.
The Man in White goes on to talk about life at Ocean City, but Han is no longer paying attention. Scanning the crowd, their thoughts turn to the people at the rally, who according to Han, are being duped into believing something pretty childish, world peace. They stood at the back of a huge open park, just outside the downtown area of the city. The manicured lawn, curated gardens, and groomed trees were all in broad contrast to the landscape that awaited outside the city limits. Large military drones patrolled the border constantly, detaining anyone who crossed without authorization. As if their weapons weren’t enough to darken their oppressive demure, their micro jet engines made a distinctive whirr, high pitched and scratchy, like an electrical arc. They could always be heard before they could be seen. They were officially called Sheriffs, but are more commonly referred to as “bulls” by the frequent targets of their aggressive attention, the poor of the city who found themselves at constant odds with the rules: no sleeping on the streets, no traveling in the perimeter zone, and no growing of food without the proper permits. In fact, it was that last rule, restricting growing of food, that was the source of the most recent wave of resistance to the Brown City government.
“At Ocean City,” the Man in White continued, “they believe that everyone deserves a place to live, work, and healthy food to eat. Does that sound good?”
Socialism. Han thought, then added out loud to Teache “There isn’t enough resources for everyone, the problem is immigration.”
Teache turns to him with a disgusted look. “Han,” she was about to ask a question, but decided against it, instead turning back to the Man in White.
“At Ocean City, they believe that the purpose of life is to enjoy it together, not to fight for survival. How does that sound?” The crowd was loving this, cheering with whoops of “Sounds great!” “We want ocean city!” as well as some more antagonistic cheers of “Down with Brown” and “Too much tower, too much power”.
Han was about to comment to Teache on the ignorance of altruism when something caught their eye in the crowd. On the opposite end of the field, still towards the back, and near a large grouping of trees, was a tall person in a large brown cloak, similar to the one the Man in White was wearing on stage. But it wasn’t the person or the cloak that caught Han’s attention, it was the bright pink fur protruding from the edges of their hood.