Father Frank's Peaceable Kingdom
978 words long
It's one thing to be as a voice calling in the wilderness. It's another when the wilderness calls back.
Notes from the author:
Over the course of the Friday Fictionettes project, certain themes have arisen. One persistent theme has been that of the animal kingdom suddenly gaining sentience and speech. I’ve also written a few drabbles (hundred-word short stories) set during a time after humans have vanished, where other creatures rise to take their place. If those stories exist in a continuity, this fictionette takes place during the implied transitional period. Humans are not gone, but they’re on their way out, and the other animals are on their way up.
Father Frank was certainly not the first to compare the prairie dog lookout on its mound to a preacher at the pulpit. If you can find a copy—and there seems to be one at Last.FM—take a listen to “Prairie Dog Messiah” by the rock band Rhino2Rhino.
When what remained of humanity came crowding tight into the city centers, Father Frank walked out. For a variety of reasons, he considered himself done with humanity. The last thing he wanted was more of it breathing down his neck. So he kicked the dust of that place off his heels, turned his back, and off he went.
First he went through the new suburbs, the neighborhoods whose population had sharply dropped between the die-offs, disappearances and diasporas. Here the urban vegetable gardens still flourished. Those who remained to care for them were robust and able-bodied. They had to be. There was manual labor to be done in every postage-stamp garden plot. There was concrete to be broken up and soil to be hauled. There was the daily journey, on foot, back and forth, bringing crops to the city center and returning with tools in trade.
Father Frank considered the new suburbs and rejected them. He suspected the people here of being too smug in their health, too proud in their usefulness to humble themselves before the Lord. Besides, he’d once argued with a community gardener about the precise relationship of works to faith. She hadn’t seemed to have any—faith, that is—and the argument had not gone well. No, they’d make a poor congregation. This could not be his parish.
Next he went through the old suburbs, abandoned and already crumbling....
This has been an excerpt from the Friday Fictionette for June 3, 2016. Subscribers can download the full-length fictionette (978 words) from Patreon in PDF or MP3 format depending on their pledge tier.
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