UNITED STATES—Zorba’s time “up here” impacted him as colors must impact a person born blind who gains sight through an operation. Each place had something the other lacked, the Underground Cities had jeweled towers and “up there,” wide open spaces and a calm that saturated every molecule of bring. Detective Zorba dreaded going back to the Underground Cities, where the people were enslaved to the very machines that were supposed to liberate them.

They were a stimulant unleashed to proliferate a growth hormone for all that is hyper and selfish, though calling human being selfish is like calling a fish wet.

Up here was space and sweat and raw fresh air, freighted by the smells of livestock and beasts of burden in this land where all lithium technologies were forbidden. He grew to understand why The Leader, the murderer, in an odd detail from the original investigation 25-years ago had smashed his phone device with a hammer (it had been saved for fingerprints).

From diverse points of the compass, people mashed down the waves of wheat, a trickle at first of whom the horseman was the first to leave his boulder offering. They had started what would soon be a mound as word spread around the land “up there” with telepathic speed.

“What did The Leader say?” they asked the girl with yellow hair; what were his last words. What did he want put on his tombstone? It was funny how true actual events leading up to a death they rarely coincided with the maudlin and cautionary spirit that usually propels statements made in the prime of life about their final wishes.

“HE LIVED” said The Leader’s woman. “That’s what he wanted on his stone.”

The raw-boned son said, “He tried to teach us the tyranny of living for the good opinion of others—even from the mouths of infants we are trying to please.”

The yellow haired girl said, “I heard something quite different now. ‘You and me are little bubbles in the cosmos. The tyranny of opinion strangles the unborn self.’”

“But now his last goodbye gave it another twist of the machete. He also said he had been a murderer and a coward.”

Then the little kid or perhaps grandson spoke out, toed her shin and she flinched.

“Don’t talk talk that way about grand father!!”

Yes, yes, yes –the plaid clan were clearly going to battle it out after the death of the patriarch. His death triggered forces that might turn them against each other. It wasn’t Zorba’s job to sort it out; his job was done.

“I must thank you all. It is time for me to return to the Underground Cities.”

“You must stay, Mr. Zorba.”

There were many voices imploring him and the yellow-haired girl tugged on his sleeve.

“There will be feast and honors.”

Zorba stood his silence. There was Cecilia and the baby to arrive. They drew Zorba implacably back to the Underground Cities. A member of the clan made it easy on Zorba and owned, “You’re an Underground Man, you don’t belong here any more than a fish in the Sahara desert.”

Yes, Zorba clung to that: I am an underground man, I know who I am.

One of the middle sons who had nothing at stake in the game of succession nor a flare for the brinksmanship that girdled the death of the effete farmer, victim of a botched sex-change—accompanied to the silo, and they took to spiral stairs down to the halfway point down the three-mile shaft, where one world by international treaty ended and the other began.

To be continued. . .

Graydon Miller, the Wizard of Fiction, is the author of the international organ-trafficking thriller “Hostages of Veracruz” https://amzn.to/2CPQISk (Available on Amazon).

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Hollywood humorist Grady grew up in the heart of Steinbeck Country on the Central California coast. More Bombeck than Steinbeck, Grady Miller has been compared to T.C. Boyle, Joel Stein, and Voltaire. He briefly attended Columbia University in New York and came to Los Angeles to study filmmaking, but discovered literature instead, in T.C. Boyle’s fiction writing workshop at USC. In addition to A Very Grady Christmas, he has written the humorous diet book, Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet and the popular humor collection, Late Bloomer (both on Amazon) and its follow-up, Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood. (https://amzn.to/3bGBLB8) His humor column, Miller Time, appears weekly in The Canyon News (www.canyon-news.com)