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South and North by Stan Brin

Author says: we are pleased to present the first installment of Guest Historian Stan Brin's short story "South and North" a full copy of which is available upon request by Email. Please note that the opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).

Part 1: Mary's Diary The Year 1928

On March 21st,Mary Stokes of Hiwassee wrote in her diary ~ My dearest reader: If you are reading this diary, I expect that you must be my distant descendant or a historian living in some distant age. You may be assured that if you are of my blood, my love will be eternally upon you and yours. If you are a scholar, you may assume that your task meets with my approval, so long as you endeavor to sincerely place your own reader within the world in which I lived.

As for my reason for keeping this diary, my sister Margaret has been keeping one of her own for quite some time now, and has urged me - incessantly - to do the same. It is a lady-like habit, she tells me, and keeps one's mind occupied, especially when the weather is poor.

As I am sure that Margaret will provide posterity with every intimate detail of our private lives in her own diary, I shall endeavor to eschew gossip. Instead, I shall confine my musings to public issues that concern me.

First, I am a wife and mother of the town of Hiwassee, which, these many years, has been the capital of the Boone County Republic. My husband, Josiah Stokes, is a lawyer whose business is mainly the creation of trusts, wills, and contracts, and the enforcement of same. We have four children and are expecting another around Christmastime, God willing.

It is now 67 years since our ancestors entered this godforsaken universe.It is now 67 years since our ancestors entered this godforsaken universe. There were roughly nine thousand of us at the time. Naturally, very few remember the slightest detail of the world of our ancestors.

Our town and the surrounding countryside, which includes parts of Fox County and a sliver of North Carolina, arrived here in July, 1861 within months of Tennessee's secession the United States, and just after the First Battle of Manassas. A troop of volunteer cavalry from our town participated in that ml&e, and were thus never heard from again. All of their wives were, in the process, rendered widows. In addition, a dozen young men from our town had traveled north to join the Federal cause and were equally missed.

At first, no one realized that anything was seriously amiss, only that the telegraph no longer functioned. Then trains failed to arrive from any and all directions. At first, all of this was owed to the exigencies of the war. Our grandparents required a week to realize that something else was terribly wrong. The first sign was an attack on the town itself by wolves that weighed more than a large man.

It took another month to comprehend the enormity of the new situation. After a local man appeared with fresh elephant teeth ten feet long, the city council sent riders off to Atlanta and Memphis, but rather than the Appalachian Mountains that should have surrounded us, they found nothing but flat, primeval forests. The railroads ended at smooth hillsides and cliffs that appeared to have been cut by a razor. Worse, the land outside was filled with strange and giant creatures of a kind that none of us had ever before seen. The descriptions of them provided in our books did not do justice to the terrifying size of these species, nor to the ferocious beasts that ate them. Certainly no one had ever written of bears or lions that weighed half a ton, or of cats whose teeth resembled bayonets, or of giant honking things that pulled down the tops of trees with their claws. Over the years, scores of our people have fallen victim to encounters with these leviathans. As compensation, perhaps, we have domesticated the local camels to produce wool of astonishing quality, and we now raise colossal turkeys of an entirely new species.

Still, we managed to accommodate ourselves astonishingly well. We built palisades of logs to protect our town and our fields. We manufactured items that we formerly ordered from the North or from Europe. We adjusted our calendar according to the new seasons.

Through succeeding generations, we managed to prevail against this wilderness, and grew prosperous, at least by our own lights. Most of our people were farmers before we arrived and remain so to this day. We still grow mostly corn, fruit, and vegetables, the crops that our forefathers once sent by rail to Atlanta, but these are now consumed locally. Our population has nearly tripled in size, mainly due to our own fertility, although a few migrants from elsewhere arrived at our doorsteps, fleeing horrors not to be easily believed.

To accommodate our growing numbers, our grandparents expanded our city and built new villages along the railroad tracks and the Tennessee River, which is now attached to the local river system. At first, this river appeared to be either the Missouri. For many years, we had no way of knowing, but it now appears to be the Red River of southern Arkansas. Although we have, by necessity, declared our own Boone County Republic, we Hiwasseeans still fly the confederate Stars and Bars above our courthouse, mainly out of habit. The spirit of secession no longer means anything.

"Through succeeding generations, we managed to prevail against this wilderness, and grew prosperous, at least by our own lights".Alas we still keep slaves, although slavery has little economic value. The southern economy required millions of slaves to till and harvest plantation crops, at first tobacco, then cotton. We grow only enough of those crops to serve our own needs. Most of our farmers are small holders who produce grains and vegetables.

My husband argues, "Of what use is a slave to a wheat farmer while his crop is green? Is he to pull it higher with his bare hands?" Our pastor has written that slavery serves more to degrade the owners than it does the slaves. "While slavery forces the servant to become a beast of burden," he writes, "it forces the master to become a beast, plain and simple". Such sentiment has not endeared him to owners, but these families do not attend our church. Speaking as a woman who could afford to have slaves do her cooking and cleaning, I would not have it, not for one second, nor would my husband.

I consider it a sign of progress that well over half of our community's slaves and their descendants are irrevocably manumitted. However, certain loquacious squires still stubbornly defend the institution of slavery. These gentlemen proclaim that disorder and disaster should certainly befall us all if all of the slaves were freed. Like many, I suspect that chaos is not their true concern. These gentlemen, I believe, are those who buy, sell, and keep what we have come to call politely, "ladies of the town".

During the generations that we have lived here, the racial characteristics of these ladies have become so diluted with their owners' blood that their descendants are by now all but indistinguishable from the rest of our population. Yet slaves they remain, despite their fair skin and blue eyes. That is not to say that such live poorly by any means. There are men who prefer the company of their slave to that of their wives, and fix them up in fine apartments, and even remember their children in their wills. (My husband has written several such testaments for his clients, much to his disgust).

The practice is bigamy at best, and unfair to women who deserve husbands of their own. I also suspect that it is one reason why our sex does not yet vote in Hiwassee. Nevertheless, considerable progress against racial prejudice has been made in recent years. Free men of color were granted the right to vote and sit on juries thirty years ago, a result of a general threat to leave our country if those rights were not granted. This privilege did nothing to end bondage, however, as the most prominent of the free men of color were hardly colored at all, and owned as many slaves as their white counterparts.

And yet we have prospered. We have built new villages, erected dams and levees, and produce many new manufactures. We have discovered iron and other useful materials. These seemed sufficient to our needs, or so we thought.

And we have enjoyed uninterrupted peace. This land is so large, and people so few and far apart, that war and brigandage are hardly possible. Outsiders occasionally drop by, riding camels or paddling canoes, and telling strange stories of faraway peoples. They trade their metals for ours, which were of entirely different compositions. On occasion, they bring furs or camels to sell. They are Germans, Scotsmen, and Hindoos, and men who call themselves Romans, although that hardly seems possible. (Some of the traders bring books on such matters as science, medicine, and the useful arts. We study those volumes and copy them diligently, but often their information appears contradictory or impossible to believe - men on the moon, indeed!)

Then, last spring, a nightmare arrived, with a thundering wind, and a sudden coldness of the body. The sensations passed quickly, but the consequences have been with us ever since. We are no longer physically isolated from the rest of humanity, but instead possessed neighbors. These neighbors are wise in the ways of mechanical devices, but despise us with a passion that most of us found all but impossible to fathom.

A full copy of "South and North" is available upon request by Email

Author says to view guest historian's comments on this thread please visit the Today in Alternate History web site.

Other Stories by Stan Brin

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Zach Timmons, Alternative History of Today in Alternate History, a Daily Updating Blog of Important Events In History That Never Occurred Today. Follow us on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.

Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore that possibility. Possibilities such as America becoming a Marxist superpower, aliens influencing human history in the 18th century and Teddy Roosevelt winning his 3rd term as president abound in this interesting fictional blog.


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