Trying to communicate with the other people in the camp was an absurd misadventure, but eventually she was directed to a shiny blue tepee she surmised was to be her own. For the next month anyway. She dropped her backpack and food and clothes off there. Then, as the sun was setting, she joined the others in the camp for something they kept referring to as a “view.”
There was a shallow crater in the middle of the camp, covered in freshly cut grass in a circle surrounding it. At the bottom of the crater were large, probably 15-feet tall panels of screens leaning together to form a pyramid. Carla looked out at the other people watching the screens, their corneas gently illuminated with some sort of technology that enabled them to make sense of whatever was unfolding on the screens before them. To Carla’s eyes it all looked like a slightly psychedelic hodgepodge of flashing bright colors and shapes vaguely resembling objects she couldn’t quite identify.
She thought she saw palm trees, maybe. Plates piled high with food. A raft in the middle of a body of water. A young boy playing with a yo-yo. People standing on a cliff, holding hands. Every time Carla thought she almost had it, the image would turn into something else.
A woman sat down in the grass next to Carla. A breeze passed through them. Carla turned to see the woman studying the screens, her eyes glowing a gentle green in the night.
“What are we watching?” Carla asked the woman, just above a whisper. There was no sound emanating from the screens. No speakers anywhere to be seen. Everything around her was perfectly still and silent except for the lights in the crater.
The woman nodded to acknowledge Carla’s question but didn’t answer her. A few minutes passed and Carla realized the woman was silently crying. Carla scrutinized the screen closely, trying to see what the woman was seeing. She thought she saw palm trees, maybe. Plates piled high with food. A raft in the middle of a body of water. A young boy playing with a yo-yo. People standing on a cliff, holding hands. Every time Carla thought she almost had it, the image would turn into something else.
“I just wanted to be alone for awhile,” Carla was fighting back tears now herself, but she didn’t understand why. “I didn’t realize how much time had passed.”
The woman reached over and patted Carla’s knee. Carla continued, “It’s not a crime or anything, living on a highway median. I mean, I guess technically it’s illegal. But it’s not like I ever tried to hurt anyone. I’m not petty. I don’t go around seeking conflict with everybody. I mean a war broke out for God’s sake. You know? I didn’t have anything to do with that.”
The screen burst with blue, orange, purple, and grey light. It swirled and shook, changing back and forth, turning into something else. Then something else.
“And, listen, some asshole? Some stupid asshole just up and ran a red light out of nowhere and knocked my husband’s brain clear into Buddhism land or some other next level spiritual plane of something or other I don’t understand. I did the best I could with what I had is what I’m saying. That should mean something.”
The woman took Carla’s hand into hers and gestured at the screen and whispered, “Do you see it?” Carla shook her head. “I can’t — I don’t have the same eyes. Yours are more advanced. I’m…” Carla’s voice cracked and there were tears now running gently down her face. “2193. Jesus. I didn’t realize how much time had passed. I wasn’t trying to prove anything or anything like that.”
The woman leaned in even closer to Carla and put her arm around her, resting her head tenderly on her shoulder. “Do you see it yet?” she asked. “Stop asking me that,” Carla whispered through her tears. She felt everything all at once. “Please just stop.”
Maybe a hundred faces were illuminated by the pyramid screen. Carla wiped the tears from her cheeks and looked up at every pair of eyes surrounding her, each glowing a different color, watching the screen before them, blinking open and shut like fireflies in the night.
On the screen Carla saw an operating table. She saw a human heart and lungs, bloody and raw. Carla inhaled deeply and held her breath. On the screen she saw herself, standing in her garden, tall and gigantic. Towering above her house there on the median. Towering above everything. Invincible. She kept growing bigger and bigger, walking off into the horizon, stepping over state lines and deserts and whole mountain ranges. She was on an operating table now. It was her. It was all happening simultaneously. Her heart. Her lungs. Her blood. She was surrounded by others. Smiling, familiar faces. She was so tall she could reach up and touch the moon and spin it on her finger. Her veins were as wide as highways.
Carla exhaled eventually. “OK. OK, I see it now.”