Jelena scraped a bit of moss off the …. thing. It was huge, much bigger than Jelena. In the middle of the forest it stood as if it had been there for centuries and would stay there for centuries to come. It was already hard to specify what it might have been, overgrown as it has become with thick vines and fluffy green moss.
“Grandma, what is this?”
Her grandmother walked towards the monstrosity and smiled slightly.
“This, my dear, is called a tank. They were used back in the days when war was a thing, when humans still fought humans.”
Jelena looked confused at her grandmother.
“But why… why would we fight each other?”
Her grandmother slowly sat down on a boulder next to the tank, putting her basket filled with mushrooms and berries on the ground.
“A long time ago, even before I was a little girl, war was normal. At any time, people would be fighting each other over the most stupid things. Some people believed that their gods were the only true gods, others wanted a piece of land that someone else owned.”
Jelene kicked against the tank.
“You can’t own land. Land is just there. Did they also try to own the air?”
“Well, actually, yes. People believed everything could be owned. Mind you, little one. This was well before meteorite. Our own little extinction event.”
“But we aren’t extinct! We survived!”
“We did. Pops told you about the dinosaurs, remember? They also had an extinction event, they also got a big rock on their heads. But they didn’t have bunkers and food storage and canned beans. We did. So we survived.
Anyway, before that happened humans did not believe their number one concern was just to survive. A lot of people believed that the world must work the way they wanted. If you have all you ever wanted, you still won’t be happy you know. You’ll just want more. Greed is part of the human condition.”
“The human condition?”
“Don’t worry about that, Gramps is getting a bit sentimental in her later years.
Now, war, war is bad. In war big bad guys would fight each other using soldiers, which were just normal people like you and me. They often had no choice, or if they had, they didn’t know the whole story. They were told that if they did not fight, their family would be killed by the other people. So they fought, often very scared themselves. The big bad guys would not fight though, they would watch and tell the soldiers what to do.”
Grandma looked into Jelena’s confused face.
“Hmm, let me see. It’s like when you and your brother Benji fight over the last strawberry, only instead of you two fighting, you would let your friends fight his friends.”
“Oh. But then they’d also want a bit of the strawberry, so everybody would only get a little piece.”
“Well, yeah. But what if you promised them strawberries every day? You will make sure they get strawberries everyday, if you own over the strawberry field.”
“But the strawberry field is for everyone!”
“True. However, if you owned it, you could decide who gets strawberries and give them to the people you like to get what you want.”
“But everybody else would be sad. And my brother would hate me.”
“Yes, that is the price we pay for it.”
“I don’t want to pay that price. I just want to play and get strawberries and raspberries and eat them with my friends and with you and with Benji even if he’s stupid.”
Gramps hugged Jelena.
“I know love, that’s how it should be. When people get too greedy, people get hurt. But it’s hardly ever the greedy people that get hurt.”
She looked around the forest she’s lived in for the last sixty years. They gather fruits and nuts here and survive, if only barely some winters. Since the impact they use the forest as their pantry, enjoying what mother nature provides. They get by, but the overabundance of food that used to exist has gone.
With food and medication being scarce, surviving has become the first and only concern. Surprisingly enough the little pocket of the world that Jelena and her grandmother live in has realized that working together is more fruitful than fighting. There are too few people nowadays to worry about things like tanks and wars anyway. If you don’t like it where you are, you can just move; there is always more forest. This is no Nirvana, but it might be a chance to build a society.
“Let’s get these strawberries to your mom, she’ll make some nice jam from it.”
Jelena jumped from the tank she was climbing on.
“Yes! I like jam. I will even give some to Benji.”
“How generous of you.”
Jelena stuck her tongue out to her grandmother.
“Puh. I will tell him about the tank and about war and how stupid it is to fight over land or over gods. And how people thought they could own land and air. Grown ups are stupid.”
As Jelena ran ahead, her grandmother slowly got up from the boulder, her old bones complaining. She laid a hand on the tank and looked all the way to it’s top, where ferns nested in the metal and thorn bushes climbed along its long barrel. She picked up a twig and drew a circle in the moss covering its side, with a line through the middle and two smaller lines from the center to the sides. Creating a symbol almost forgotten in a world where survival has become the sole purpose of life. A world where a peace symbol has no meaning, as war has made way for pestilence and famine.