Chapter 11: What happened on the inside.

The South Ridge, when the valley prospered, was a recreational haven, when the path to the town was open, people would bring their trailers recreationally, or park one for a season. Over time, it became a destination for people living on the fringe, either by choice or poverty, or both. The path out front used to stretch all the way through the woods and back in to civilization, but projects of such large scale are hard to maintain with a population of poor, disaffected transients. The road decayed, and with it, the life lines to the settlements outlying the rest of the region. This much has been explained before.

However, before, and possibly helping bring the road to ruin, the permanent residents of the south ridge took advantage of the trading route. Ironically, they used their means of trade to outfit themselves more permanently, and reduce their dependence on outside goods. They did heavy harvesting of the woods near the road, and used that to build safety fences around the plateau. Labor was performed largely by the increasingly isolated hermits living on the west ridge, who were living, or left over, from the collapse of the farming system brought on by the degradation of the valley. The hermits would work either for raw lumber, or for a credit in trade from the few merchants that still made it up the road.

The early permanent residents, then, found themselves in the unusual situation of having stockpiled their goods and living spaces, simply because they had planned to live their regardless of the road being there. When the road finally collapsed and was too overgrown to navigate, the labor and materials became a small closed cycle between the permanent residents, and the hermits who had become dependent through their search for self sufficiency.

With the imbalance of commodities, the Early Settlers, who now called themselves “Pioneers” began to run a primitive form of arbitrage between their stockpiles of lumber, tradeable work hours, and the surplus goods that they managed to acquire. Despite their hedonism, they still managed to keep more than their fare share. Between all the stockpiles, they literally controlled the conditions of all the emerging markets, and simply funneled the excesses between their own communal projects, occasionally investing in the wares of the dwindling traders.

As they raised their trailers, they began to call it “Trailer Ridge”, and chose to mingle mostly amongst themselves. Some of the more dependent hermits, finally renounced their solitude and moved closer into the city. With a fortified, dependent labor source, the Trailer Ridge class invested heavily in creating a water route to a basin west of the plateu, and built a simple well to the bottom, and managed to pipe it in to a  simple sanitation system, this flowed directly south into a communal washing area, as the ridge and the disjoint trailers to the south were to scattered and inconvenient to provide direct hookups.

The communal area drained directly into the floor, which was gathered and pumped in to a small series of crops in the center of town. These were in short cut rows running from the west side of the plateau, directly below the trading post, and ending flush with it. The transplants on the plateau knew very little, collectively, about running a crop system, and annual crops of any type were too unpredictable to be relied on, though they managed to be watered properly, there was little in the way of planned sustenance, so fertilization was often more of an unfortunate byproduct of the close quarters than planned algriculture.

On the eastern side, there were narrow cages, once planned to be chicken coops, but too many were built with too little supervision. What animals there were often trapped by the dwellers who still went out to the woods, and the cages were kept on the honor system. There were occasional drives to try to restock the coops, but like the crops to the east, they were far too often infertile to be reliable.

Before the complete collapse of the roads and the imposition of utter isolation. The coops were secure, and filled with the livestock of the larger traders who would bring trucks with trailers up the road and sell them off, at such quantities that everyone could by them. Traders would fill sections with their stock, and sell it off in lots at the trading post. Work was ample, so there was money in hiring people to watch after them. Similarly, the traders could bring fertilizers and new crops that could weather the harsh stillness of the seasons on the top of the plateau.

Past the coops, against the eastern side, was the collective trashpile of Trailer Ridge. Given their place in high society, they would literally walk their trash to the end of the raised platform and drop it in the pile. Once a week, the people living on the first floor would pick through it, either scavenging, throwing pieces over the wall, or more likely, taking it to the Junk Ridge. More on that in a minute.

Just south of the trash alley were the chemical toilets. Like the communal bathing area, it was built on a large lumber platform that shucked waste out of two drainpipes over looking the plateau. The platform was studded with large plastic chemical toilets, all of them locked on the inside. This area had been the first installation of the chemical toilets, indeed the first sign of the Pioneers living there permanently. From what they had learned through building the well, and bathing areas, they managed to rebuild the area around their chemical toilets so they could work in a more sustainable way. Typically the sewage washed out without a problem, but where there were issues, it served as a rare community bonding experience.

The chemical toilets were the great equalizer of the plateau society, the trailers were actually too small to use and just an afterthought from some engineers checksheet a decade ago. The rich, the poor, and the visiting, all had to use the chemical toilets, and when the system stopped working, they all had the same problem. Despite the relative primality of the society, reverting to shitting in a hole was not an option because the basis of the economy relied progressively on scavenging. When everyone is a scavenger, nobody wants to put their hands in anyones crap. Even there own. So when the platform didnt drain, there was no shortage of volunteers to hand buckets of water from the well, across the town and through to stations along the chemical toilets, pouring them straight down and flushing the refuse out the pipes.

But they were still pretty nasty. Nothing like a permanent porta-potty after being stationary and baking in the still sun for a few decades.

The toilets, baths, crops and coops all ended abruptly, and beyond them were several large dunes of relics. This is where the scavengers made there way. Endlessly sifting through piles of broken debris trucked in from more prosperous times, or abandoned in leaner. It would be unfair to characterize it as a dump, or a wall, or even a landfill. It was more of an amorphous junkyard. There were paths through, but there were also impenetrable mounds of broken glass and rusted tricycles. This was the Junk Ridge.

Buffering, or maybe pushed against, the final southern wall were the broken down trailers Sartoris had walked through. These ranked among the oldest on the plateau, as well the first dilapidated trailers that had been reclaimed in the beginning of the isolation. The pioneers, of course, had refurbished and chosen the best of the lot to go into Trailer Ridge, and had a staff to keep them in immaculate condition, as well as the scaffolding to protect them from the elements.

This was the area of the outcasts. Too feeble, or acclimated to live again in the wilderness, too disenchanted to hope for acceptance in the high rises, too lazy and cynical to care. The trailers ran the length of the plateau, on the one end, the residents had annexed a few trailers with lumber and recycled parts from Junk Ridge and converted them to rudentary stills. This led to the long trail of barrels and trailers that Sartoris had followed to the end. To the underclass community area. This was called the “Party Wall” by the locals, and was where most of them spent their evenings. Out of sight of the uppity ridge, and far from the bubbling, toxic fumes of the stills.

So it was here, at the party wall, that Sartoris found himself swilling grimy liquor, and slowly fading out, still absorbing random details of where he was at.