In the year 3015 there was hardly any place that wasn’t covered in concrete, covered by humanities collective fingerprint. Most wildlife was now kept in captivity in zoos or in labs. Trees were a source of awe. Teenagers didn’t quite care, but the older generations recognized how significant the absence of natural plant life was.
there remained a few federally reserved forests, They had been set up some time near the last 300 years as an emergency source of wood for the human race, Paper or wood hadn’t been used for centuries, but it was a necessary precaution to take.
It was some of the last true wildernesses left, though no one could say it was truly wild any longer. The forests were monitored by park rangers who would manage the forests wildlife, and would guard from wood collectors and tree poachers.
Enceladus had been training to become a park ranger, it was an arduous task and required a lot of knowledge that was mostly forgotten by other people of the era. He enjoyed the study of different breeds of birds, their colors were brilliant, and they were small and adorable compared to the pigeons he was used to that had evolved over the past 1000 years in the cities, which were two feet tall and grimy.
It was his first day on the job and his supervisor and him took the magnet train through the city on the way to the deposit station. They talked little, and mostly enceladus reflected to himself inward, the train moved at 800kmh but time seemed to dialate as he passed through, under, and over megastructures – the triumph of man. He saw droves of people packed together on the streets, and he saw autonotrons, and androids, which had been designed to look just like people too. The further the train got, the better he began to feel.
45 minutes passed until suddenly off in the distance he could see it, a large patch of green, thousands of acres across, he thought back to his ancient history lessons where he learned about a duo named lewis and clark, two primitive explorers who traversed across a vast stretch of land, he wondered if maybe they had passed through this stretch of woods. When he got to the deposit station, there was a stable with horses, real life horses – he had only trained on animatronic replicas. His supervisor typed in his work ID and logged him in to the system – turning around slowly, he looked at enceladus, he said “now remember, this isn’t a simulation, If you see something out there out of the ordinary the FIRST thing you do is contact me, don’t try to be a hero, you got that?” enceladus nodded.
Soon he was on his way, he sat upon his horse, looked back once to see his supervisor retiring to the deposit station to watch television, and approached slowly towards the wall of trees. His mouth affixed itself in disbelief, his head cocked back to the peaks of the trees. Through a vertical slit in the vegetation he entered, he pet the horses head to comfort his nerves as he looked around in every direction. He was so impressed with the natural setting that he wondered if he’d be able to focus long enough to properly do his job. After an hour of riding he could hear the sound of rushing water, a creek was near by. They walked to the waters edge, Enceladus dismounted, and led the horse to the water to drink, he bent over and scooped up handfuls of water for himself. It was cold, and it was the best water he had ever tasted.
Looking up from the creek, a shape in the mud caught his eye. He sat back up, and walked towards it, It was a single track, a foot print, but not from a deer, or a rabbit, it was a bare, human footprint. He looked up and scanned the area, It was a serious federal offense for humans outside of the rangers to be found inside the federal reserve forest. The dampness of the mud led him to believe it was a relatively fresh print, at least from the past three days. He looked off towards the horizon of trees suspiciously. He took out his communication link to alert his supervisor, but the thought of causing a false alarm on his first day was enough to snuff his paranoia. He continued onwards with his horse, now on the look out for a possible criminal.
He saw things he had only seen in pictures, large mushrooms, squirrels, moss, he picked berries from bushes and delighted in their sweet taste, unlike the manufactured blandness of the hybrid fruits he was used to eating. He sat on a log, and examined the larva inside. Suddenly, he checked the air with his nose, he smelt food – something being cooked by a fire. He sat up immediately, and pulled out his immobilizer, which could temporarily paralyze a full grown grizzly bear with one zap. He listened closely, and under the sounds of the birds chirping he could hear the direction of the crackle of fire, it was close. He tied up his horse and began to creep towards the smell, he came to a ridge of brush, and looked over, There was a man. He hadn’t seen enceladus, so he continued to observe as the man, who looked weathered, and dirty cooked fish over a tiny fire. The man had an unkempt and long beard which revealed how long he must’ve been in the area for. It was clear that the man was not a tree poacher, or a wood collector, all he had was a sleeping bag, and a copper pot. For whatever reason, this man had chosen to live in the forest, not as an occupation, but as a life style, and he had gone successfully unnoticed until now, either by dumb luck or fate. Camping for any period of time in the forest was still highly illegal, but Enceladus put his immobilizer away in it’s holster quietly, and backed off unnoticed instead. He understood, and even envied the man, who had successfully dropped off the grid of the manmade artificial reality, and had clung on to his last natural roots.
The end of his shift came, and he returned to the deposit station on horseback right around sun down, his supervisor was at the door waiting. A stern look on his face.
“well, what’s the report, any signs of interference today?” his supervisor asked.
“no sir, nothing today.” Said Enceladus.
As they were leaving, he noticed carved on the trunk of a tree, initials of two lovers surrounded by a heart that was over 1000 years old.