Saturday, 28 November 2009 - 9:21 pm

Breaking it down

I talked to Kostoya again today. He has relaxed a lot since we left, losing much of his shyness. He’s used to having people around now, used to sharing thoughts with them rather than pottering around on his own. Sometimes he gets effusive and starts talking in technical terms that I don’t understand, but his enthusiasm always makes me smile. Some people will just never be put down.

His water filter works wonderfully, turning poisoned acid into clean, perfect drinking water. The biochemistry building hasn’t been short of water in months. They’ve even started using some to wash things – mostly sheets and bandages, wounds and clothes. We’re starting to splash a little on ourselves now, though that seems like a crazy luxury after all this time. Hot showers are a fable I heard once as a child. I wonder if anyone has suggested that to him yet – he’d probably rig something up while we were sleeping.

I wanted his opinion about how we should move forward, how we might be able to get out of this lean position we’re in now. I asked him what he thought we should – or could – do next. What do we need to do to make a future for ourselves?

“Need to find a way to grow food. Sustainable, hmm?” He rubbed his frizzy bald spot as he started to noodle through the possibilities. We needed sun and soil that hadn’t been tainted by the rain. A way to protect plants from the rain. Water isn’t a problem – that’s a matter of scale more than anything else. Animals – well, they need food too, and protection. Probably harder to find than seeds. Maybe we should start with plants. Soil. Soil was going to be a problem – it wasn’t easy to find some that wasn’t soaked in poison. And of course, we’ll need to find the seeds somewhere.

I watched his ramblings with bemusement and thought that I should have brought a notepad with me. Someone should write it all down so that we knew what we were looking for.

I never thought I’d ever want to be a farmer. But that’s what it came down to – that’s what we needed. A way to grow food for ourselves, and then maybe for livestock. Kostoya had the right word for it: we needed to find a sustainable way of living. Not in a green, planet-hugging way, but in a way that sheltered us from the world’s evils. This wasn’t politics; it was survival.

“Definitely a challenge,” Kostoya said, finally turning from his musings to look directly at me. “It will take some work, but it’s not impossible. We just need to figure out the how. Yes?”

I couldn’t help it: I smiled at him. “Yes.”

I like Kostoya. He can be offhandedly callous if he needs to be – like with the acid barrier around the building, ready to spray on anyone who strays too close – but he means well. He wants things to work and he loves nothing better than figuring out this sort of problem. With a brain like his on it, we’re bound to come up with something.

I’m going to talk to the rest of the group about it as well. Maybe someone has an idea that will fix one of those problems. Conroy has been acting as Kostoya’s right hand and he’s often full of good ideas.

At least now we have a list of smaller problems to solve, rather than one big one. With this kind of thing, you need to break it into pieces before you can start to put it together. Like a jigsaw.

I always liked putting jigsaws together.