Song of the Red-Legged Birds: Chapter 4: Nature of the island
The origin of the Event
Last week, in chapter 3 Holly’s tattoo rocked Takeda’s world
Chapter 4: Nature of the island
It was 2117, and the Birthday Event had been taking place for a little over a hundred years. It started shortly after several states began to leave the Union. The first of the Celebration Centers, or Centers as they were more commonly called, appeared twenty years ago.
It was popular for people to come together to experience the Event at the same time and place. Like going to a concert or a ball game. It was also an incredibly profitable venture for enterprising business people. And, for reasons that were not wholly clear, one that was government subsidized.
Center franchises each sported a particular style based on their location or some peculiarity. Want to celebrate your birthday with other hicks, potheads, Republicans, furries, sports fanatics, civil war reenactors, conspiracy theorists, vegans, home brewers, or homemakers? There’s a place for you to do it. Many Centers had separate areas to cater to the changing demographics and interests of the local population. That meant that a data analyst position at a franchise was an excellent career choice. In fact, they were relied upon to guide its direction and features. On any given day, roughly nineteen million people are having a birthday, and crunching the numbers to figure out how to cater to and exploit them is a challenge that paid top dollar to the best of the analysts.
The first known record of the Event occurred on May 3, 2003, in the little town of Hana, Maui. At that time, Maui was still a part of the former United States and hadn’t yet left the Union. A reporter who happened to be vacationing on the Valley Isle is the only reason there’s a record of the Event.
Richard McDonald wasn’t a real reporter, although he called himself one. He was a blogger and had been writing Dick’s Notes, with the tagline Notes from a Dick, for several years. The bulk of Dick’s posts revolved around the social implications of the world’s constant and escalating state of war.
He’d decided to drive the road to Hana, stay overnight, and then ride the back side of the island the next day. Arriving in Hana town, he traveled down to the bay, parked, and wandered over to Lew’s Concession Stand to get a soda. Weary from the long and winding trip, he walked out to the beach and plopped down on the golden sand to watch the waves and dream of better days.
Hana attracts many fascinating people. You’d have no clue whether you’re talking to a hippie or a millionaire, grifter, politician, or vacationer. On this day, a well-suntanned and lanky twenty-something hippie with dreadlocks, wearing board shorts and nothing else, dropped down on the beach near Dick. Dick had a reflexive sense of unease. One that came with an upbringing to be wary of anything and anyone new. It could have been the view or the magic of Hana, but when the hippie struck up a conversation, he engaged. They chatted for more than an hour, the hippie revealing to Dick that he used to have a real job as a broker for multi-million dollar properties. Dick didn’t believe that was true, but he found him quirky and harmless. The man, who never said his name, was lucid and didn’t appear high.
When it happened, it was almost imperceptible. The man who had been talking at a consistent clip as the sun began its drift to the horizon stopped abruptly. He stared straight ahead, then gently lowered himself into the warm sand until he lay on his back, peering at the sky. Figuring that something weird in the stranger had finally revealed itself, Dick waited fifteen seconds, thirty seconds. Finally, breaking the silence, he said, “Hey, are you okay? Did I say something to offend?”
“If I did, I apologize. I enjoyed our conversation. You maybe want some alone time here with the waves and Mother Maui?”
More Silence. The kind of silence that has something to say.
“Okay man, I’ll head out, I guess. I haven’t seen any more of Hana than the bay here. I should find a place to crash for the night and do some exploring. It was good talking to you, dude. Maybe I’ll see you around.” Dick got up and brushed off the sand.
He began to walk to his car when long shadows revealed that the man had sat up. Dick turned and looked over his shoulder at him.
“Dick,” the man said.
“Hey man, did you feel that too? That was… what was that?” the man added with confusion.
Dick squinted, “Um, what was what?”
“We were just talking, right? Did I fall asleep? You didn’t see? You didn’t see the, the… can’t you feel the…” the man fumbled for words with a bemused look of confusion and joy. He wobbled to his feet with tears streaming down his cheeks and seemed to glide over to Dick with an effortless and joyful stride.
“I have to tell you something. This whole hippie vibe I’m cultivating here? I’ve never taken drugs a day in my life. If you can believe it, I’ve never smoked a cigarette, and I don’t drink. Maybe that’s not all that shocking. But something happened to me, sitting right there next to you. Can you sit for a minute? I know I sound, well I sound like what someone who looks like me might sound. But, just for a minute?” the man said, almost bubbling with energy unseen earlier.
“Sure,” Dick said with apprehension. He’d heard from a friend that funny things happen in Maui, that it’s just the nature of the island. He decided to embrace what the volcanic land had in store for him at this stranger’s request.
The man motioned to one of the picnic tables under a nearby awning. They sat across from each other, and the man described what happened to him in great detail. Years later, the content and patterns in the story were picked up by a sophisticated algorithm on a routine sweep of every speck of data on the internet. That algorithm categorized the content and context of Dick’s Blog post as the first written record of The Event.
Thank you for reading the fourth chapter. To receive new chapters when I post them and to support my work, please consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. The island wants you to.
Next week in Chapter 5 “Tweakers and Flyers” Takeda takes a Flyer to work