Guest: Abraham McKinley 17/Apr/2031 Note: For this momentous occasion I’ve provided additional context in case this journal becomes a historic document.
Today marks the 12-year anniversary of the flash, a worldwide catastrophe that destroyed the internet and disabled governments. Countless human brains were ruined as our atmosphere was transformed into a microwave oven. This led to further deaths from cold and starvation.
For years, the wreckage of Canada languished. As most survivors departed for warmer climes, we were unaware of the savage wars raging on other continents. Our relative peace was something to be built upon. Calgary mayor Zubin Mehta organized us and put Albertan oil to work.
Our province stabilized fast. Soon Calgary was exporting oil to Vancouver and Toronto and Montreal. What began as charity became a trading bloc. Truckers distribute goods among the four cities. Toronto’s mayor Chevy reintroduced the value of money. Vigorous policing reduced banditry and crime.
The next move is to fully reactivate Winnipeg. We want this because it’s halfway between Calgary and Toronto. Hundreds of technicians and redeveloping it. We will incentivize their families and others to resettle there.
Abraham McKinley is our pick for mayor of Winnipeg. He’s a hero among fighting men. His combat experience, leadership, and loyalty make him the ideal candidate. He’ll be informed here, tonight.
The event didn’t go as hoped: McKinley’s contempt for many of the mayor’s wealthiest guests was palpable, saying, “Some folks got rich off the flash. Others stayed wealthy. Guys like me just serve.”
His son Zach recently returned after years of adventuring, which may be a factor.
Outcome: Abe’s still the only candidate. Several power players no longer support him. A lot of them are covert progressive nationalists, “progs,” striving to “reunite” Canada, but with them in charge. They try to spread anti-Calgary views among citizens and Albertan tribes. Most natives don’t trust them. For now.
Next morning, after the failed ceremony, Abe’s son Zach was still surprised he’d left his old life behind; the innocent calm of early chores felt almost suspicious.
Animals fed, he exited the barn as dawn broke over a giant blue sky—sunrise made the Rocky Mountains glisten.
The rooster crowed. A plowed acre waited, ready for next month’s sowing. A plot of grassy meadow was for horses and cows. Barbed wire fenced off their land. Pigs poked around a muddy pen.
One-footed Abner carried a basket of fresh eggs from the chicken coop, his stump supported by a curved metal tongue under its plastic socket: brilliant pre-flash engineering. He and his wife, Maggie, had their own home on the property.
Their farm was in Kensington. They’d leveled everything adjacent to their farmland with explosives years ago. No neighbors for miles.
Lemmy the black lab and Filthy the German shepherd followed Zach to his family’s ranch house. They made it from logs and stone, with a porch leading to an open-concept living room, dining room, and kitchen. It was spacious and airy. Inside, the cooking smells were bacon and pancakes.
Abe hadn’t come downstairs yet. His son showered and put on a flannel shirt and jeans. Back at the breakfast table, the father was digging in.
“Morning, Zach.” he wore a Motörhead T-shirt under his black leather vest. He was big and muscular, six foot four, lean, with a salt and pepper buzz cut and a huge head. His graying handlebar mustache had a drop of yolk in it.
“Zach Stack’s coming,” called his mom in her cheery sing-song voice. Clad in an apron over a housedress, she brought a stack of pancakes with whipped cream and sliced strawberry preserves in between, topped with bacon. Her hair was still dark and time hadn’t changed her shape much.
Zach sat and thanked her, but his eyes were dissolute and edgy, even while pouring maple syrup. The boy was handsome and lightly bearded, as tall as his dad, but less bulky.
“What’s on today’s agenda?” Abe asked, while destroying hash browns.
“Patrol. Thinking of going wide, Drumheller or further.” A car drove up their driveway. A man rapped on the door. Mrs. McKinley answered.
“You’re early today, Patrick.”
“Sorry ma’am. Mayor instructed me to come at once. I’ll wait in the Honda.”
Abe told Zach, “May be an operation coming up quick. If you want in, stay close.” The son nodded as his dad ate one more forkful of pancake and stood.
“Don’t be rushing,” said his wife as he kissed her, grabbing his large Stetson cowboy hat on the way out. “Maggie says there’s new Montreal sugar and toilet paper for sale downtown. We’re going shopping.”
Zach finished up. “Great breakfast mom, thanks.”
“Can I have a smile?” He grinned, though his eyes had no pleasure in them. After checking his sidearm he departed, wearing a battered, no-name old white cowboy hat with the left brim pinned up against its crown and the right side dangling horizontally.
He drove his brown Ford F-150 north along Highway 2. The road was in excellent condition. Its maintenance was a Calgarian priority. It was once busier; hustlers cruising, searching for auto parts, metal scrap, or money in dead people’s pockets.
These days, semis hauling oil from Fort McMurray used it most. Zach had seen no rigs yet today.
On the highway, you could often see oncoming traffic from miles away. Alberta was flattish, green and temperate. To the west were the Rockies and rainy British Columbia, with its valleys and mountains. To the east was a deserted prairie known as Saskatchewan.
He cruised through a dead small town called Balzac, scanning the disused warehouses. The province had thousands of empty provincial townships. Water damage, frigid winters, and overgrowth were consuming them.
Today, Albertan citizens occupied only Calgary and sections of Edmonton, where they fixed trucks and fueled them, and Fort McMurray, where the oil was.
A pair of hunters on the road waved Zach down.
“Seen anything?” he asked.
“Drifters in a van were following a native kid on horseback. That way.”
“Y’all couldn’t help?”
“No time. It happened too fast; we’re parked far from here.”
McKinley found them in a gas station parking lot. The boy was still on his horse. His harassers were out of their VW van and had him surrounded. They had rifles and long beards.
From a hundred yards back, unseen, Zach stopped and got his M4.
The kid was trying to get away, yelling and cursing. They had backed him and his steed up against the service station’s wall. His horsemanship was solid enough to keep the animal facing the attackers. Hoofs clacked on concrete.
One drifter lifted his rifle and fired into the chestnut mare’s head. As the horse fell with the boy on it, Zach shot the shooter, killing him. His partner ran behind the gas station.
McKinley approached. The dead man wore worn-out clothes. His type roamed the post-flash world with no allegiance to anybody.
The child was unconscious, his mount’s body trapping his leg. As Zach freed the boy, two men in full ranch gear, cowboy hats and rifles, rode up on beautiful Albertan thoroughbreds.
“Need help?” asked one, eyeing the drifter’s remains.
“Nah,” said Zach. “I should get this kid home. Know what tribe he’s from?”
“The Tsuu T’ina have boys his age,” replied a rider, who pointed at the human corpse. “Was he alone?”
“His partner ran that way after I popped him for shooting the horse.” In Alberta, abuse of women, children or horses carried a death sentence.
“Kay,” said one rider, “we’ll get the other guy.” They rode off.
Zach looked in the drifters’ vehicle; it stank of old blankets and alcohol fueling the motor.
He packed the boy into his truck after dressing his head wound from when he fell.
The roads were quiet as he drove. Still no fuel trucks. Strange.
As he approached the turnoff to the reserve, a knife blade appeared in the corner of Zach’s vision. He jerked away, avoiding most of the boy’s attack, getting a minor cut on his cheek. Zach braked while grabbing and twisting the kid’s wrist as he screamed and struggled, not speaking English.
He tied the boy up and threw him in the truck’s rear. He drove to Tsuu T’ina territory. An armed brave guarded the roadway entrance, a barrel-chested young man wearing cutoffs and a T-shirt.
Zach’s window was open. “Kid in the back yours?” The child lay panting on his side.
The guard approached and looked. “Dunno,” he said. “You from Calgary?”
“Yeah. Anyone around who can identify him?”
“Maybe. Take me a while to find one.”
“I’ll drop him off at the nearest village.”
“Then you can’t enter.” The guard spoke with easygoing confidence. His M-16 shined. He had big biceps and fine teeth.
“Should I leave him here?” Zach asked.
“I don’t want him.”
“Aren’t we supposed to return native kids found alone off their lands?”
“But you won’t take him ‘cause he’s maybe not one of yours?”
“If he turns out to belong here, do you want him?”
“You’re not making this any easier.”
The guard smiled. “Sorry to hear that.”
Three young whites in clean jeans and black hoodies were being ushered out of the reserve by a beefy elder in a tank top and jeans.
“Whatcha got, son?” he asked Zach as the boy made noise in the truck bed.
“Is he one of yours? Found him in Balzac, getting into trouble.”
The elder took a peek. So did the whites. McKinley didn’t recognize them.
“This is Calgarian treatment First Nations Peoples,” said one of them, with an apocalyptic, fake moral horror.
“He’s not our inferior!” The hoodie-wearer turned to his host. “A progressive nationalist Alberta would never allow this!”
“Whatever, prog,” said McKinley. The prog kicked his Ford. Another produced a knife.
Zach exited his vehicle fast as one prog moved in to fight. McKinley smashed his nose with a simple jab, breaking it, dropping him to the ground.
He then gave Ford Kicker an uppercut to the floating rib, who fell, clutching his side. Knife Wielder threw his weapon away and surrendered.
“Band Council’ll have to be updated,” said the elder. “You boys git. Go back to your Vancouver overlords.”
“We need help!” cried an injured prog, squirming on the ground.
“Donny,” the elder told the guard, “if they’re still here in two minutes, shoot them and bury them.” He put his hand on Zach’s shoulder. “I’m gonna let this helpful citizen drive me to town.”
As they entered tribal lands, Zach asked, “What were they after?”
“They want tribes to unify against your mayor.”
“Are they making any headway?”
“Not here. But we don’t know who’s being offered what.” After a mile, they arrived at a big round building surrounded by trees and trailers. Native roofers were re-shingling it.
McKinley hauled the boy out of the vehicle and cut his bonds. He ran off without a word.
“Did he getcha?” asked the elder, referring to the wound on Zach’s face.
“Just a scratch. Does the kid speak English?”
“Sometimes.” Two rifle shots banged from back at the gate. “Tell your mayor what you saw here. Remind him, even if we’re at peace, there’s no telling what other tribes want.”
Zach nodded. “At least that prog didn’t dent my fender.”
“Woulda been a shame.”