Alecto, have you noticed how downhill this little island is becoming?” Mandy questioned sadly. “All these organic food stores and yoga studios and cellular phone towers… Cape Breton was one of the only places left where it still had that nostalgic small town atmosphere but now… I’ve only been away for a year, how could things have changed so quickly? I mean, how can the world accept it?”“C'est la vie,” said Alecto, looking extremely tired as he stared out the window at the late November maple keys fluttering down from vibrantly red trees lining the streets on either side of the windshield.
Amanda, you finally decided to answer the phone,” her mom exclaimed after picking up at the first ring. “Where’ve you been, what’ve you been up to?”“Mom, do you remember when I was a kid, I had a friend, he was a Personification of the Sydney Tar Ponds, sort of my imaginary friend?” Mandy asked.“No, what in the name of god are you on about?” her mom sighed in exasperation.“Remember? Only I could see him, but he was real and he was my best friend when I was eighteen?” Mandy insisted.“No, I don't remember Alecto Sydney Steele at all,” said her mom all too quickly.
At her words, words of forgiveness from Rose, an honest and just woman, something broke inside of Wince. His tears began to flow. Age seemed to drift from his face like misty ghosts from a morning field. Katie lifted his chin and, holding back her own tears, looked into his eyes. Thank you, Wince.Eve placed her free hand on his shoulder. May we hold her now?Wince nodded and gently released the baby into the waiting arms of her sisters.You did the right thing, Wince. Rose gave Wince a hug. And you can help us bury her after Wilson and the Tar Ponds City Police see if they can find anybody to lay charges against after all this time.
Mandy was thinking back to when she was five years old, when she, her parents and Jud went outside before Christmas and had a snowball fight with the gray snow of Sydney Mines. “This is a wicked blast,” Jud would say, and Mandy would snap photos with a 35mm disposable film camera, photos she wished very much she could step into sometimes.
They think I’m not entirely ‘grounded in reality’, they say. They want me to go to some live-in nerdy activity ranch thing for troubled Canadian youth, that one out in Ontario where you come back programmed like some robot, dressed in a tye-dyed shirt and eating tuna sandwiches,” Mandy explained, a horrified look on her face. “You’re eighteen, not twelve! Would they really send you to some rat’s nest like that?” Wendy questioned in mock horror. “Aw hell no, if you get sent there, they’ll make you hold hands and sing songs about caring! And they’ll force you to recycle everything in blue canisters, and to discuss your emotions in front of groups of bratty little dopes!”“Dear god, they’ll have geeky youth wiener roasts at night, and no locks on the doors!” Mandy added, eyes wide. “…It’ll be the day pigs fly, my parents have the camp brochure on the fridge but they’ll never go through with sending me there. They always forget.
Oh, I’m Chrissy Mackenzie, I’m from Vancouver but I came here to study environmental journalism,” the girl exclaimed with way too much enthusiasm. “You got any advice?”“Search me,” Mandy muttered, spooning another ice cube from the empty glass on the table in front of her. “I like pollution, I write in favor of it, and environmental journalism most often implies that it’s in favor of all that “go green” hippie crap.” “Oh, well….” Chrissy seemed taken aback, offended, and Mandy sighed a fourth time. “Damn it, I’m really sorry,” she apologized, smiling dismally at the aspiring writer. “It’s just been a really lousy day for me and I wasn’t really thinking. My advice? Find your own cause to represent, not one thrown out into society by a ton of environmentalist dopes. Find something new, something you think could be improved, and work from there.” Chrissy smiled with a look of total ecstasy as if the words of some nobody woman were important. Mandy momentarily noticed the groups of laughing, drunk, giggling people, all acting childish… and for a moment she wished she could be them.
What are you doing?” Alecto asked in surprise, stepping back. Laughing brightly, she dragged him towards the greenhouse, the shattered glass reflecting rainbows as brilliant as a million Kodak flashcubes, glittering as they were cascaded through the breeze. “See, don’t be afraid of the glass, it can’t hurt us,” Mandy laughed, spectacularly eccentric, her eyes reflecting the fallen glass.“I wasn’t afraid of the glass, but this isn’t a very secluded place that you just decided to vandalize,” Alecto cautioned, smiling despite his words. Before Mandy could reply, she heard loud whispering in the air, behind the trees… it sounded like a group of people, all whispering in unison… “Somebody’s out there,” she exclaimed nervously.“Yeah, you’re right,” Alecto replied. Suddenly a sharp new vibrancy seemed to fill his eyes and he smiled coldly, taking the tree branch from Mandy and rapidly smashing in all of Mrs. Matthias’ stained glass house windows with it. Blue, green, yellow, red, turquoise, purple and an array of other colors showered through the sky noisily, sounding like wind chimes and crashing waves. “They’ll go away,” he told her, glancing up at the sky.“…Alecto, do you like me?” Mandy questioned, holding out her arms like a lopsided scarecrow as the glass fell through her dark red hair.“Yeah, sure,” he answered.“Will you be my friend, then? A real friend, not just another person who feels sorry for me?” Mandy asked.“…Alright, Mandy Valems,” Alecto agreed.
Alecto isn't a person! He's just something that society made and then threw away, a memory that refuses to die.
We were poor back then. Not living in a cardboard carton poor, not “we might have to eat the dog” poor, but still poor. Poor like, no insurance poor, and going to McDonald's was a really big excitement poor, wearing socks for gloves in the winter poor, and collecting nickels and dimes from the washing machine because she never got allowance, that kind of poor… poor enough to be nostalgic about poverty. So, when my mom and dad took me here for my tenth birthday, it was a really big deal. They’d saved up for two months to take me to the photography store and they bought me a Kodak Instamatic film camera… I really miss those days, because we were still a real family back then… this mall doesn’t even have a film photography store anymore, just a cell phone and digital camera store, it’s depressing…
Kipster is a perfectly valid word,” Wendy argued, about to write down her score on the little notepad that had come with the game. “Okay, so what does it mean?” Mandy wanted to know. Wendy struggled to come up with an answer, and finally just changed the subject with school gossip. Mandy found herself just ignoring it… it always sounded the same, the same events, same rumors, same secrets, same affairs, but never anything of interest to her.“Well Sarah’s on drugs again and that’s why she did it in Mario’s backseat, but now she might be pregnant, oh, and that messed-up Seth kid’s been cutting himself again so he was sent away to Halifax last week, and there’s a festival in Wolfville but Kathy won’t go because Audrey-Rose is going to be there and they hate each other, and….”Mandy had learned two years ago to detach herself from gossip; she’d learned it from Jud’s death. Wendy may have been eighteen years old but she could be immature on the best of days.
Tell yourselves whatever you’d like, but I’m afraid it doesn’t make it true,” Mearth sighed, beginning to look impatient. “Step aside Mandy, I have to remediate him, otherwise you’ll find yourself in a whole mess of trouble.”“You can’t do this, it’s wrong,” Mandy insisted.“You don’t have a choice, Mandy! Either you let his life compromise the lives of everybody else in the world, or you let me remediate him and get it over with,” Mearth icily declared.“…Do what she says, Mandy Valems….” Alecto added, standing up and staring with glazed eyes at Mearth.“I can’t,” said Mandy.“…Go away!” Alecto shouted at her suddenly, glaring with narrowed eyes, speaking in a voice that hardly sounded like his own. “Get out of here, Mandy Valems! I hate you, I want you to leave me alone! Go home and don’t ever come back here!”“I….” Mandy started, looking totally shocked.“I said I hate you, don’t you understand anything? Go away, get out of here!” Alecto repeated menacingly, stepping forward in a threatening manner. He looked like a mad dog, shivering as he chased her away from his site. She tearfully took off running, seeming both shocked and horrified, and he watched her leave for a moment with a blank expression, his dark eyes hollow. He looked like he was going to black out, but Mearth walked quickly towards him, for once not smiling at all. If it weren’t for her eyes, she would’ve looked like a person. “That was very cruel of you to do, Sydney Tar Ponds. I thought you loved her,” she disappointedly exclaimed.“I do love her, she’s my friend, and that’s why I said that stuff to her,” Alecto replied forlornly. “None of it’s true, I don’t hate her at all… but I know what’s going to happen and I don’t want her to see it, so I lied to her and told her I hated her… can you explain to her after… why I said all that to her?
This is my home, Cape Breton is my home, and I don’t know if I really want to leave it as much as I might think and I’m sort of scared to leave it all behind, everything I’ve lived with, I have so many memories of all the things I’ve done here and I’m afraid if I leave, I might lose all my memories…
You’re innocent until proven guilty,” Mandy exclaimed, unable to hide her gleeful smile. She missed the way people used to have normal conversations, used to be more caring for each other than themselves, back in the Seventies and Eighties. These days, she realized, neighbors kept to themselves, their kids kept to themselves, nobody talked to each other anymore. They went to work, went shopping and shut themselves up at home in front of glowing computer screens and cellphones… but maybe the nostalgic, better times in her life would stay buried, maybe the world would never be what it was. In the 21st century music was bad, movies were bad, society was failing and there were very few intelligent people left who missed the way things used to be… maybe though, Mandy could change things. Thinking back to the old home movies in her basement, she recalled what Alecto had told her. “We wanted more than anything else in the world to be normal, but we failed.” The 1960’s and 1970’s were very strange times, but Mandy missed it all, she missed the days when Super-8 was the popular film type, when music had lyrics that made you think, when movies had powerful meanings instead of bad comedy and when people would just walk to a friend’s house for the afternoon instead of texting in bed all day. She missed soda fountains and department stores and non-biodegradable plastic grocery bags, she wished cellphones, bad pop music and LED lights didn’t exist… she hated how everything had a diagnosis or pill now, how people who didn’t fit in with modern, lazy society were just prescribed medications without a second thought… she hated how old, reliable cars were replaced with cheap hybrid vehicles… she hated how everything could be done online, so that people could just ignore each other… the world was becoming much more convenient, but at the same time, less human, and her teenage life was considered nostalgic history now.Hanging her head low, avoiding the slightly confused stare of the cab driver through the rear view mirror, she started crying uncontrollably, her tears soaking the collar of her coat as the sun blared through the windows in a warm light.
With Pollution, emotion is irrelevant, it is not their nature,” Mearth sighed, making a face as if she were talking to an ignorant small child. “I didn’t create them, humans created the Pollution. Cheryl Nobel, Alecto Steele, Albert Sanders, Olivia Campbell, all my pretty little Representations, there aren’t many of them left these days but they’re still very dangerous! They’re here to tell society all about its mistakes! You don’t understand the world of Representations.
If you were me you’d do the right thing, help your friends, because you’re not a coward,” Mandy sighed sadly. “I covered up a murder because I was scared to go to jail and I did the wrong thing… well, now’s my chance to do the right thing, to save someone’s life, because I don’t want you to die.”“Save someone’s life? I’m no one,” Alecto laughed morbidly. “A hundred and twelve years is definitely way too long to have survived. You’d be wasting your time and risking your own life….”“This is my life,” Mandy declared, smiling sincerely. Alecto just looked concerned and very doubtful as the rain drizzled down the roads and sidewalks, towards the harbour where it fell into the ocean, indistinguishable from all the other water in the world.
…I’m afraid of what the digital age will do to the world, to the things we think are important… it’s almost like people want to believe in some illusion that they’re robots and forget altogether that they’re real, living people… but everything these days is disposable, even people themselves, and that’s why I’m afraid for the world,” Mandy confessed, looking depressed and worried.“So am I… but I’ll still watch all of it as the world dooms itself, because I want to see how it ends, and whether or not they’ll be intelligent enough to forget all of this digital illusion afterwards,” Alecto explained. “I’m sure that they’ll be able to realize how wrong it all is… even though the idiots outnumber most people these days, there are still enough intelligent people to fight against it.
Hey Alecto, film this!” she called out. With the slide being as tall as a two-storey house, it felt slightly risky being up there. “On second thought, why don’t you come up here? It’s a blast being up here.”“I don’t really like to be in high places,” said Alecto as he filmed her, the camera lens reflecting the entire playground, which was partially secluded by tall trees that cast otherworldly shadows dancing across the ground.“If you don’t like being in high places, then why’d you take so many drugs in the seventies?” Mandy questioned jokingly. “Do you want me to go up there and push you off the top of that slide?” Alecto threatened coldly.“You’d never do that, we’re best friends!” Mandy pointed out. She reached over and picked a bright red maple flower from one of the long branches of the trees, tossing it down to him. “Even in this failing 21st century, where people are cell phone addicts and crude humor and violence is the norm, even when society falls apart and drowns in its own mistakes, we’ll still be best friends!” She looked incredibly eccentric, never mind the fact that she was an adult woman wearing a trippy rainbow Pucci dress from the 1970’s, standing on top of a slide at a children’s playground. Alecto didn’t seem to mind, he just continued to film her with his camera like she’d asked him to.
Alecto Sydney Steele, an entity of few words whom society managed to overlook as it rapidly dove into the 21st century. Everything about him, his interests, his friends, his own life, was constantly in danger of becoming an anachronism. And caught up in that mess was Mearth, not exactly evil in nature but just misunderstood. A very long time ago Alecto’s life had been all incandescent sparkles and Kodachrome, but that was before the environmental movement changed Mearth from a perfectly nice and kind guardian, to a deranged and malevolent monster.
Well, we're originally from Glace Bay.Grandma Elsie's eyes glittered. She was looking at one of her own, a lost Cape Bretoner in need of help and offering a new story. Tell me all about it, dear.
Yeah, you’re right about having entire rooms full of film and photos… in that Sydney Mines house I have a darkroom, I have boxes of film and home movie footage… I have a few projectors, I have piles of Kodachrome slides… I like photographs. The world is always running away from society and the only way to keep the stuff that’s happened in the past is by taking photographs, I can keep memories of things alive with photographs,” Alecto responded. “People say that a time machine can’t be invented, but they’ve already invented a device that can stop time, cameras are the world’s first time machines… The steel mill, the coal mines, the train tracks, the smog in the sky, I’ve been able to rescue it on super-8 and Kodachrome, and no one can remediate those photographs, I can keep them as long as I want to.
I know what I'm talking about, Alecto! When I think of Jud, I think of the times he wanted to be a coal miner, the times he took Wendy and me sailing in the harbour, the times he showed me how to play soccer, but I forgot all the bullying and I’ll never understand why. And now you ask me, you ask me what happened once we were in high school. You said you didn’t understand what having a family was like, so ask me!” Mandy was shouting at him without even realizing it, her words sharp and unforgiving.“I….” Alecto started, hesitating for a moment. “You don’t seem like yourself Mandy Valems, not at all….”“No, go ahead! You want to know what having a real family is like?” Mandy snapped, turning to stare at him coldly. “Ask me what happened, I’ll tell you anything you want to know!”“…What happened?” Alecto asked quietly, looking nervous and confused.“I stayed late after school in shop class when I was in grade 9, trying to keep my lousy grades up. I was building a birdhouse, something like that, and that was when Jud and all his popular jock friends came storming in, laughing and swearing like a bunch of pigs,” Mandy continued. “So ask me what happened next.”“I… I don’t want to ask you what happened,” Alecto replied.“Ask me!” Mandy yelled.“Alright, what happened next…?” Alecto questioned.
And what if the other kids laugh at me?” Kerry complained to her parents as she nibbled on a piece of toast that morning. “I have a Cape Breton accent! They’ll know I’m from Canada and they’ll start asking me if I lived in an igloo or ate maple syrup, bacon and seal meat every day!”“You’re really overreacting,” Susan chuckled, sipping on a glass of orange juice. “Canada is a lot like the States and the only thing separating both countries is an imaginary boarder! If anyone laughs at you, tell them it doesn’t snow year-round, you got free health care while you were there and that you never rode a polar bear to school. Besides, do you know how many popular movies and TV shows from the States were filmed in Canada?”“It’s not just the Canada stuff mom,” Kerry sighed worriedly. “I’m from Dym, it’s an industrial dump!”“Yeah, and have you looked at Pittsburgh lately?” Susan asked. “Full of coal mines and steel mills, just like Sydney was when we lived there! I actually rather came to like the pollution, I don’t think I’d ever want to leave it.
I think we ought to find something else to do,” said Mandy. “But Alecto my love, you’re the first person to notice my retro diner kitchen. When my parents saw it, they thought I was creating a weird art project.”“I like it. It's got that let’s-drown-ourselves-in-better-days type ambiance,” Alecto declared, his gray eyes narrowed.