AFTER THE DAY: Timothy's History, the dispute the travellers, the gathering.

Other people stopped and chatted to, 'the old one' through the evening, and I found mysef fascinated by how his benign smile seemed to become more and more strained, as the evening progressed. I heard at least two people ask him what the mountains were like, and his answer was beginning to sound increasingly rehearsed.

One large room in the old part of the farm, had been made up for the travellers, and as the evening ended, I saw Sophie show them where the bathroom and their room was. Just for a moment I thought I saw James behind the farm house. Part of me thought I should go and find him, eavesdropping is after all a little rude. But another part of me wanted to know what he managed to hear.

Lilly was busy whispering to people pointing them up the hill to the cove, where we would sometimes have the gathering in the summer. Some people were reluctant, it was October after all, and night to hoot. But Lilly is a very persuasive person when she wants to be. I dutifully followed.

No one ever really started the gathering, there was always a moment when everyone knew, everyone who was supposed to be there was there, and conversation just died away into silence. And Someone would speak.

On this occasion it was Jenny. "I understand a need for a gathering, do we really have to be out here in the cold?"

Lilly replied, "These travellers have technology, Until we have a chance to clean the hall I would not be surprised if they had technology that could listen in on our conversations."

Terry spoke next, "Don't you think that's a bit paranoid, Lilly?"

Lilly looked directly at him and said matter of factly, "No: I have read the books, before 'the day'  listening technology was so small it could be hidden almost anywhere."

"But this is after 'the day', Lilly. No-One has that technology any more. If they ever did? Some of the books are just stories, not what was true."

John added his voice, "The radiosite we have would be small enough to hide somewhere."

"But not the batteries. " Jenny said, there was a laugh from the gathering.

Joshua was just a little sensitive over the batteries, (they worked, but were awfully heavy), jumped in, "There were much smaller portable batteries before, 'the day', just because I haven't figured out how to make them, doesn'the mean someone else hasn't."

Terry had a really fed up look on his face, "It all seems so paranoid. Life in the Valley was good before all this. But now it feels like we are looking over our shoulder and second guessing ourselves, there always seems to be too much to do, and it just feels like what we had has been soiled and lost!" There was distinct bitterness in his tone.

And there was a murmur of agreement from the gathering.

Sophie said, "I think most of us feel like something important has been lost, but for myself, I don't think we could have held on to it for ever. The 'old one' is right about one thing, the survivors do have to contact each other, it has to happen some time."

"That is as it may," I said, "But they are looking to trade, not just to 'contact'."

"There is nothing wrong with trade." said Joshua, a little more aggressively than I think he meant to.

"Of course there isn't " I said, "But it seemed to me the 'old one' wanted us dependent on their coal. And dependency would make us a client of whatever group this is."

I paused and because no one else spoke I asked, "Who here believes they come from the mountains rather than the hills to the North West?"

There was universal agreement, even Terry thought they came from the mountains.

"So if they are lying about that: what other deception are they engaged in?" I asked.

There was muttered agreement here too.

"I think, "I said" , this 'delegation' is from the old government from before the day, I think this is about reasserting control."

Terry looked at me, "You think they are an Ism." He paused and looked around, "we are running scared of fairytale monsters." He said.

Sophie said, 'We can still establish proper contact, without trade, until we get to know these people better. Send people out to see their community, keep talking"

John spoke, half to himself, "The rebirth of politics."

There was more discussion, but this was really what we ended with, we were going to decline trade, but ask to learn more about their community, perhaps even travel to see it. After the excitement of the travellers arriving,  the end of the gathering was quite flat.

But: the next morning there were half a dozen people at the wall to help Terry, Chang and Mark finish building it.

Whilst Sophie ate breakfast with the travellers.

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