Some of Us
Julie Babcock

We didn’t care when they took the roads.  Our cars were long gone.  The stores by the roads boarded up and broken into and then left.  Why would we miss roads when we were camping in the grass?  We needed soft loam for our backs.  We needed supple willow sticks to weave.  Occasionally some herbs and root vegetables people with foresight had planted back in richer times.  Some of us wanted to plant more.  To find a spot in the sunshine and wait for our leavings to transform into new, green tops.  Some of us worked very hard in the sunshine digging trenches and covering eyes.  Using our precious rain water to dump back on the ground.  Some of us nibbled carrots down to the nubs and read old copies of Walden in the shade with the circling ants and pill bugs.

Some of us weren’t surprised when we had to leave the ground.  The Service Agents motorbiked in and slapped their orange stickers in equidistant arrangements on both the sunshine and the shade.  They said it was our first and only notice and gave us 30 days to gather our belongings and evacuate.  Some of us asked for an extension and some of us started climbing the best trees.  The best trees had berries and bird’s eggs.  They had a strong limb for each person in the family.  The best trees had sweet sap and thick bark and leaves with lots of veins.  None of us climbed well at first.  Some of us fell onto the Extension-Waiters.  Every Monday the Agents arrived in helicopters with surplus Extraction Platforms from the Old War and scooped up whomever was on the ground.  If they tethered the bodies together well enough they could fit ten each trip.  The Extraction Platforms would rise past our trees and some of us would wave goodbye.  Some of us tried to reach out and touch an arm or a leg for the last time.  Some of us tried for the contents of their hanging pockets.  The platforms never stopped.  Though they often swayed a lot depending on the load and the air and the guy working the cyclic.  Some of us cried, and some of us nestled into new, empty tree crooks.

As the years went by, we acquired new talents.  Some of us grew gills and some of us learned to fly.  All of us peed standing up.  All of us had sex.  Each morning we said goodbye.  When we finished with one tree and climbed into another there was no telling what might be waiting.  Sometimes the tree was tapped and empty.  Sometimes there were claws and skin.  Our families grew smaller.  Grew lighter.  Started to separate.  Still, the trees kept bending.

So now we are changing our density.  Because we know some Monday the helicopters will bring an even bigger, stronger, lighter Extraction Platform and take out the trees.  Then we will have nowhere to go but the clouds.  Cumulus, Stratus, Cirrus combinations.  When the weather changes we will have to change.  No two clouds are exactly alike.  Some are hollow and some are filled with sludge.  Sometimes we can breathe and sometimes we can’t.  Some of us practice and some of us watch.  No one has told us we have to go yet.  The Agents are still too busy clearing the ground and their Extraction Platforms are starting to break down.  One Monday they lost a whole one, the contents fell past some of us and knocked some of us down to the end.  The Agents took off early that day.  But some of us don’t want to wait.

These days we can’t sleep very well and we stay as far apart as possible.  The trees are not as strong as they once were.  Sunny, cloudless days are the worst.  When things fall past our trees none of us reach out.  We wrap our limbs around ourselves and stay still.  Some of us hope that the falling things are birds and some of us hope they are helicopters.  We never look at what’s on the Extraction Platforms.  And even if we did, we don’t look in the same way because some of us are developing different sight.  We look straight into the sun until we are nothing but waves.  Some of us say that it can’t be people on those platforms because the people of the world are long gone.

Julie Babcock’s fiction and poetry appear or are forthcoming in various journals including PANK, Necessary Fiction, No Tell Motel, Fifth Wednesday Journal, and The Iowa Review.  She is a lecturer at University of Michigan and spends her time off watching Scooby-Doo with her 3-year-old son and practicing monster imitations.