UNITED STATES—Forty-five years have elapsed. The world has grown bigger and smaller and weirder.

In the station house of the Twin Underground Cities, Detective Devon Zorba, was cleaning his desk and a little scraps of paper turned up. “Wilcox.” Because of an attachment to paper almost completely lost, the detective ensured the mocking scorn of the police force that he really belonged “Up there.” “Up there” was a theoretical jurisdiction that had no legal standing.

When they burrowed down here all the records were transferred and “Wilcox” caught his eye, it corresponded to a cold case, an ice-cold case. It was his hobby, now and then, when his desk got cleaned, thinking about these unresolved cases in a land which now had no legal standing. It was called whistling in the dark. He played with the edges of these conundrums like dry ice between his fingertips. He liked to pore over the old files in off moments. Who were these people? What had happened and how?

If he had ever tried to follow one of this ice-cold cases all the way to the end (which he hadn’t yet) there was a dry pleasure to be derived tantamount to winning the war between pawns and horsemen on a chessboard. But, Devon Zorba knew a thing or two about the human condition. Pleasure of any kind, even abstract ones, were not to be balked at.
He looked out the window, which you still had down here.

The sun was setting, the sky turned from orange to burnt umber. They had done a good job of it, since it was the only sky he had ever known and and it and been created because research had determined there is something deep in human being that feels a great reassurance from the old planetary movements.

He remembers his grandma, the one who put it all into the lottery, bet it all on a chance to be educated and brought up in one of the underground cities. She would always say how the sky didn’t seem quite right and then after a few years, the old feelings about sunrise and sunset just kicked in.

“I don’t argue between how things were, and how they are,” said Grandma.

Grandma’s words in mind, Detective Zorba with a practiced swivel of the eyeball switched on to receptivity mode to review the reports and information of this case on his desktop.

The young detective didn’t flinch when he saw the pictures of the victim in hoodie prone on the sidewalk, in daylight. More than half rotted. In the special period, as garbage and debris piled up all around, it had been days before somebody on Cosmo Street had even bothered to make a call.

The autopsy set the time of death, caused by blunt-object trauma, at between 3:00 and 3:15 a.m. one morning 45 years ago.

The world had moved from the time of that forgotten killing on a side street a long time ago, so much so there were two worlds now, separated in every way. One lived rather like the Amish with horses with no computers and they had lost the knack of reading.

Diplomatic relations with the land “up there” had long been severed; now and then reports emerged from clandestine travelers, of a barbarous subhuman land where the animals couldn’t be told from the humans, and when they died, beasts of burden dumped them onto the shores of one of the radioactive zones.

The reigning technophobia contrasted with remarkable concentration that developed and evolved as people developed deep memories. Since they had no outside media, the dwellers up there were said to have two lives, since they were reputed to recall every living instant of their lives. Detective Zorba didn’t know if that was a bane or blessing.

To be continued…

Graydon Miller is the Wizard of Fiction and author of the thriller, “Hostages of Verracruz,” 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)