“I grew up surrounded by orange groves, beautiful lakes, and stunning beaches. Now look at this place. My childhood home was destroyed to make room for a highway, the orange groves have all been replaced by overpriced ‘luxury apartments,’ and the lakes are all devoid of natural wildlife except for algae and amoebas.”-Overheard at Dixie’s Tavern in Acomb
Two-score men and women sat at tables around the old, wooden tavern listening intently. On most weekends, there would be lively conversation, the sounds of old comrades meeting for a night of reminiscing, and even occasionally dancing. But on this autumnal night, where the wind blew the leaves from the trees onto the noiseless main street of Arbon, there was none of that. Instead, the subdued crowd listened.
They listened to the words of a preacher from a nearby city. The preacher spoke with energy, her words bouncing off the walls of the centuries-old establishment. Her voice was deep – the voice of a singer, long accustomed to rooms full of attentive listeners.
“The ‘nature’ of the city, if it can even be so-called, has come to Arbon. You have seen this.” The preacher nods in agreement with her own point, the crowd imitating her motions. “I, too, have seen this. In Fossmore and in Romsey. I have seen the city’s blight reach its tendrils to Acomb and Lewes where now there is nothing but the angry and desperate.”
The crowd leaned in. These places were near to them. The preacher knew this and continued. “Lindlow, Aston, Aramoor, Troutbeck.” She listed towns and hamlets. At each one, someone in the room would become alert and share a knowing look to their friends. “What has happened in these places?” The preacher inquired, extending her arms outward. “What has caused their demise? Could it be, as the city men say, that they are simply at the end of their time? That their way of life is over?”
A dissenting murmur rippled through the crowd. The preacher lowered her voice an octave, commanding the crowd’s attention. “But now, the creep of ‘progress’ has come to Arbon. You have seen it. You have seen the beggars, sent from the city to your streets who take advantage of your kindness.” A few members in the crowd scoff but the preacher pays them no mind.
“For which the city thanks you, for it can produce destitution but can never correct it. You have seen your children become enamored with the city and leave, only to return to you broken and hollow. Do they sit with you now?” At this, the room is silent. Few under the age of 30 are present. The preacher had known this.
“They do not! But you know this. I need not tell you. I am not here to reveal the already apparent: that you are being replaced. No, you know this.” The taverngoers did not know this before tonight, but the preacher spoke with conviction. “Yes, replaced! Your children will not act as you did. They will think themselves above this town. They will not seek to carry on your traditions. They will become lost to you. They will become the city’s and the city will be everything to them.”
The crowd looked to the preacher for a solution. They showed the same signs as the others. Anger, desperation, and fear. Fear was the most important, but the preacher needed their anger.