Closer to Heaven, Part 2 of 5

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Published January 23, 2023
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The Montclarion
Sure, the construction to make it work was an achievement to be praised. But it never should’ve been put towards something like this. Not something so destructive.

Kristen Swain took in the sight of the statue that joined every edge of her vision. She never understood the appeal of the attraction. Sure, the construction to make it work was an achievement to be praised. But it never should’ve been put towards something like this. Not something so destructive.

Towering before her was a concrete brachiosaurus. Neon green paint screamed into her field of vision. Kristen felt as though she might develop a knot in her neck as she craned to see the cloud-grazing head. In reality, brachiosauruses reached a maximum of 72 feet in height, claimed the informational sign. But this model outweighed the real deal by a hundred times. Kristen observed tourists snap photos of kids standing against trunks of feet, get selfies with the prolonged neck as the Cinderella castle in the back. She wondered how far away someone would have to be to get even most of the figure in frame. Behind it was a gallery of fantastical sights on equal levels of magnitude. Replicas of the Roman colosseum, a lightbulb, The Empire State building, a mouse, La Sagrada Familia and countless others. All stretching beyond the eye’s range. 300 sq. miles of nothing but these statues. The tourists surrounding her, as well as the thousands of others throughout the rest of the park, were in nothing short of awe. Kristen would’ve killed to see it all come crumbling down.

She spotted a wooden wall and a crane obscuring a perimeter around the brachiosaurus’ front right foot. Even the happiest parkgoers frowned knowingly at the sight. Kristen cringed at the mental image of the plane; burnt and crushed like a mere toy, each remaining piece being carefully collected to be scrapped. But after today, she was sure, it would never happen again.

That image had resurfaced many of the objections and concerns that had plagued Babylon Wonders since its opening. The gobbling up of vegetation, all the emissions, the perception filter that had caused the crash. Not to mention the sheer energy needed to keep the operation running. The accident had the unfortunate timing of coming days before rumors of a further 400 sq. mile expansion were expected to be confirmed. For the first time, light was not shining on Babylon Wonders.

But for the Green Earth Organization, it was nothing short of opportunity. For years they’d fought for a cleaner planet. And their campaign efforts against Babylon had cost millions over the years without a visible dent in the machine. That’s why Kristen was shocked when a secretary suddenly and at last responded to a request for a meeting. “Mr. Brock is willing to sit down with your organization’s leader one-on-one to discuss yours concerns,” the email read. It was like a dream, only she didn’t know where it stopped or started. At last the chance to speak to the founder on an equal level. Reason with him. Hold the evidence of the park’s harm inches from his face. At last the opportunity to do what governments had failed to long ago.

At last, a golf cart carrying a man in the spry year of 60 replaced the dinosaur as the focus of her sight. Silver hair curled at the nape of his neck. He wore a long black trench coat over an expensive looking suit. The cart headed for her intently, people turning heads and murmuring to their children in its wake.

Noah H. Brock dismounted and shook her hand energetically. “Ms. Swain, welcome.” He smiled charmingly, which Kristen returned with a shroud of politeness.

“Thank you for taking the time to speak with me,” she said. “I know you’ve been busy as of late.” Kristen cast a brief knowing glance over at the white wall.

Brock caught her eye. His expression dropped to solemnity that retained the same shroud of politeness. He cleared his throat. “I have a stockholders’ meeting later, so we have to be quick.” He nodded towards the golf cart. “This way.”

She was driven several yards past the dinosaur and La Sagrada Familia. Tourists on foot and golf cart split apart to create a path.

Kristen gently fidgeted with her sleeve, hoping to push the subject. “The news said the pilot couldn’t see past the perception filter. I couldn’t believe it until I drove up and saw it for myself.” She hoped that would pass as something of a compliment, but after having said it she felt the backhandedness scream out at her.

Thankfully, Brock didn’t appear to notice. He grumbled through a grin as he waved at passersby. “Anyone could’ve told him he couldn’t see the statues without a ticket. And I can’t take responsibility for the ignorance of others. But I know you didn’t come here to regurgitate the FBI,” he turned to her inquisitively at her as the cart dipped into an underground garage.

“My people have concerns about your park and its plans to-”

“Yes, I read the email. If I had a nickel for every time that came up, I could become president and have them all locked up,” Brock chuckled until noticing Kristen’s perturbed look. He cleared his throat again, though this time it came about very dryly. “But in all sincerity, I do look forward to our talk. I’ve always been supportive of hearty debate, but that doesn’t mean I’m easy to convince.” He arched a vaguely menacing eyebrow at her. “Understood?”

They parked before an elevator. An inscription above it read: OFFICE OF THE CEO. Kristen nodded, keeping a cool exterior as her stomach dropped. One chance to convince Brock of the harm he’s caused? She tried to shake it out of her mind. The more it daunted her, the worse she’d perform.

“Well then, onwards and upwards.” Brock smiled as he pressed a button. The elevator doors dinged open. Kristen swallowed her breath as she followed him in. Onwards indeed.

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