Part 2 of The Plantation by Lydia Trethewey
Damon stares up at the concrete wall. It’s about 25 feet high, and they’ve been driving past it for the last ten minutes. His neck hurts from being bent at a strange angle, looking directly up to see the strip of white sky.
His head spins, and his gut churns. He misses the solid, predictable food back in London. He misses the quiet hum of electric cars, the lack of exhaust filling his lungs. The very air here is of a different composition. In particular, he misses seat belts.
Eventually the wall ends, and they stop. Two men in green uniforms watch from beside a small door cut into the grey monolith. Damon notices the black outlines of assault rifles held motionless in their hands. With the flat, matte surfaces the guns could be plastic toys bought from the deli at number nine.
Damon steps out of the car. The driver looks at him dubiously, and he hands over a blue note. Dust kicks up behind the tires as the driver speeds away.
Damon lifts his chin and approaches the door. The guards seem not to register his presence at all. He walks in between them, looking sideways at their hands, see if their fingers find the triggers. But they remain still. Damon pushes open the door and steps inside.
He finds himself in a small, tidy room, with a long counter and two couches. It looks like the lobby of a tourist attraction, sans the display of pamphlets. No one else is there. Along one wall runs a shelf on which sit a number of small, carved animals. Their polished surfaces gleam in white spotlights. He walks towards them.
Someone coughs behind him. Damon spins around to see a short, balding man in an ivory-coloured robe. The man bears his teeth in an approximation of a grin, like someone who’s only ever seen smiling on TV.
“Welcome,” the man says in crooked English.
“Hello,” replies Damon in the native tongue. “Is this Aviva?”
His halting usage of the local language widens the man’s leer.
“Yes. What is your business here?”
“I want to join.”
The man’s tongue flicks out across his teeth. “Why?”
Damon swallows. “Because, I’ve heard so much about it. I’ve come all the way from England.”
“What have you heard?”
“That it’s paradise. Back in my home country, nobody talks to or looks at one another. They look at screens. We have no connection to the land, or each other. We feed ourselves poison and we poison the earth. I want to go back to a simpler time. I want to live a pure and good life, connected to the soil.”
The man’s eyes narrow. Sweat forms on the back of Damon’s neck.
“So you’re another Westerner looking for a quick fix. You seek the abstract ideals of purity and goodness.”
Damon feels hollow. He thinks of the men outside with their plastic guns. “It’s something else too.” He hangs his head, hair falling across his eyes. “I had a partner, a girlfriend. Back home. I thought she was the one. But she left me, for a richer man. I don’t want to live in that world anymore, the world of competition and greed.”
The man raises an eyebrow, but then something strange comes into his face. His eyes go blank, and his lips tremble around an unspoken word. In a flash, it’s gone. “Of course. You must learn the ways of Aviva. Follow me.”
Damon hesitates, confused, and then rushes after him.
“Here. Put these on,” the man says, handing him a folded robe and opening a side door. “Leave your clothes and belongings there.”
Damon steps into a small cubicle. Stains pattern the walls. He changes, and places his phone and wallet on the bare concrete floor. Rough fibres scratch his skin.
“This way please.”
The man leads him through a narrow corridor. Damon is wondering how thick the walls are when the passage opens up and he blinks into bright sunlight.
“Welcome,” says the man, in the local language.
Spread out before them are wooden buildings, robed figures walking across rich black sand, and, stretching into the distance, thousands upon thousands of banana trees.