Japan was the third place Autumn visited outside the U.S. Took her a year to work up the courage, terrified of the language barrier. Ended up not being too much of an issue. More confusion from the locals than anything else. No hostility. When she brought it up to her dad back home he wasn’t surprised.
“Aren’t enough people left to be mean.” Sam said.
She considered that. “You’ve told me things were different before The Fall, people being jerks to each other. You think’s that’s why? Too many people?”
“Hmm, well…No, I don’t know that I’d say there were too many, but it was a lot easier to get lost in the mix. Once heard a philosopher put the problem a way that was real easy to understand—forget what he called the issue.” Thinks for a second, shrugs. “Anyways, back then there were all kinds of charities, non-profit groups, organizations set on helping the needy. Starving kids, war torn communities, disaster zones. Sometimes you’d see an ad on TV, an emaciated child holding an empty bowl, sorrowful music. Some white woman dressed in khaki comes on screen, picks the child up, stares at you—Won’t you help? Worked better than showing a group of children in just as bad of shape as the first and asking you to donate.
”The philosopher’s point was that even though all those children in the picture need as much help as the first, our minds kind of glaze over at a certain point. Just sort of shut down in the face of that big of a problem. One child? Sure, I can help one. Ten…Oh, wow, okay, maybe I can help ten. But ten-thousand? Gosh, no.”
“But go on,” Sam sips his tea. “Finish telling me about Japan.”
The old man bows to her, says something, but Autumn only shakes her head, waves her hands—I’m sorry, I doesn’t understand. He nods. Ducks into his home. Returns a moment later with a small box, holds it out to her. When she doesn’t take it he opens it, stirs the contents with a finger, sniffs—“Aah”—nods for her to do the same. Some kind of spice? Seems he’s giving it to her, she thanks him. Tries to imitate his bow.
Outside of the city a buck wanders out of a building into what was once a road. Now paths of plant life cutting through the ancient human-made structures. The buck eats leaves. Sunlight filters through the tree canopy, reflects off buildings, twinkles in dew. Autumn watches the buck as she sets up her tent. He pays her no mind. A few minutes later she’s back in Arizona. Shows her dad the box of—
“Tea,” Sam says. “You got tea. Now this’ll be a real treat. Boil some water. You’ll like this.”