Thursday, March 11, 2010

Part 9, Chapter 4 - Return to the VIllage of the Idiots

It's time for a homecoming. Jonnie, Angus MacTavish, and Parson MacGilvy get dropped off in a canyon above the Village of the Idiots along with some recently-domesticated horses, preparing for a quick visit between passes of the recon drone. And why are they making the trip? Why return to this imbred, mutated, moronic settlement of humanity's failures? Well, a week ago Jonnie finally remembered his earlier conclusion that his people were suffering from radiation sickness, meaning there might be uranium around.

No, I'm not going to rag on Jonnie about this. If I'd come from that village, I'd do my best to forget it too.

So they're looking for the glowy stuff, and Jonnie's also going to make another attempt to relocate his tribe, having found an old mining town on the other side of the mountain that had tunnels to take shelter in, plentiful game, and a refreshing lack of radioactive materials. Of course, in a thousand years nobody in the village has noticed this place or thought to move to it. And of course no other tribes of humanity have moved in either.

Jonnie and his two comrades ride into town, noting the sparse animal life and dilapidated state of the village (nothing new), but then they're greeted by Panther the dog and... is it normal to name animals after other animals? Like Chicken the horse? Or Elephant the goldfish? Argh.

The courthouse is deserted, but not Jonnie's house. He has a heartwarming reunion.

There were sounds within and then the door cracked open. It was his Aunt Ellen. She just stood there, staring through the slit. Then, "Jonnie? and then, "But you're dead, Jonnie!"

She opened the door wide and stood there crying.

After a little she wiped her eyes with a doeskin apron. "Come in, Jonnie. I kept your room . . . but we gave your things to the young men. . . . Come in, the cold is getting in the house."

"Is there illness in the village?" said Jonnie, thinking of his companions.

"Oh, no. Nothing unusual. There was a deer seen on the hills and the men are all up there trailing it. There's not too much food, Jonnie. Not since you went away." Then she realized it sounded like an accusation. "I mean . . ."

She was crying again. Jonnie felt a tug at his heartstrings. She was growing old before her time. She was gaunt, her face bones showing too plainly.

When I said "heartwarming" I was being extremely sarcastic. Jonnie has no immediate reaction, no emotional response to his family member standing at the door, sobbing in relief at his return from the grave. He doesn't hug her, and for all we know he just stood there watching her cry. No thought to her suffering, no fond memories of her time as his caretaker. He hasn't worried about her for even a fleeting moment since leaving the Village of the Idiots, and his first words to her are his worry that he might catch something from returning to it. He only feels that "tug at his heartstrings" when he notices her physical appearance.

I hate this guy. Eragon might be a borderline sociopath, but at least he cares about his family.

Jonnie assures his auntie that Chrissie and Pattie are alive, while being careful not to mention the near-death experience or the remote mines attached to their heads, and introduces his friends. Then it's time to meet the town council, where Jonnie explains that the valley is poisoning them, but not to worry, since he's found an empty town - yes, the mining camp has endured for ten centuries, don't think about it - for them to move into.

Old Jimson (whoever he is) is in favor, but the nefarious Brown Limper holds onto his grudge. When it's time for a vote the result is a tie, which means the issue has to be decided by a village assembly. All twenty-eight villagers come together, which makes a "flaming rage" at the Psychlos surge up in Jonnie for the sad state of his people, despite it being their own fault for sticking around.

Jonnie tries bribery, handing out gifts of food and flints and stainless steel axes, then describing how easy it would be to relocate and how wonderful the new city site is, not to mention how their current position is slowly killing them. And of course the vote for moving turns out to be 3-15. The people feel safe here. It's their home.

Natural selection at work, in other words. And so the chapter ends with an utterly despondent Jonnie righting his father's grave in the cemetery.

Were all his people going to die here? The bitter winter wind moaned down from Highpeak.

Cheer up, Jonnie. You, Chrissie and Pattie escaped, meaning that your people's proud tradition of jaw-dropping stupidity can continue through the ages.

Next chapter: Escape from the Village of the Idiots!

Back to Chapter Three

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