Chapter XI

When George Packard was a young man he could hear the world calling to him. “Here! Come see me, young man. My delights, my pleasures are open to you.”

And George Packard, retired schoolteacher, still yearned for the mountain views, for the moments of peace he so often found when he was in the mountains, or on the beach, walking free.

Indeed it was a puzzle – to himself included – why George Packard remained in the city. Los Angeles. Why, you could barely call it a city at all! It was too much of a sprawl. In no way could LA compare to New York or Chicago, or any of the great European capitals. But it had easy seasons. It had a couple of museums. It was city enough.

The world had changed so much of late. And George Packard did not embrace the digital, non-personal manners that had taken over the airwaves and even ruled the streets. The world had always been harsh. But today, he felt, relations between people had grown colder and distrustful.  There was more fear, more competition. Marketing strategies targeted specific demographic groups. Differences between different peoples were widened, exploited.

With seven billion souls there were just too many people. The world was heating up, the icebergs would be melting soon. Even the Internet was overcrowded – and with nonsense for the most part. How did that come about? George asked himself. Why had the average intelligence been plummeting so? It was another puzzle, but that’s just how it was. And as for why he, George Packard, remained immersed in it, why he remained in the city, why he hadn’t jumped out of the waters and headed for the hills – well, that was a puzzle too.