I cut off the engine and coasted by bike to a peaceful stop on the side of the road. Gravel crunched pleasingly under my tires. As I stepped off I fumbled around in my backpack for my guidebook. When I found it, I flipped to the page I had bookmarked last night.
Gravesend, CA, U.S.A-
A community formed on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Once a thriving town, the population was driven out following the acquisition of water rights by the Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power. It has since become a lawless hotbed for those who seek to live off the grid of modern society.
Movements like these had overtaken the country. Millions of people sought an escape from the pressures of life. A distinctly American instinct arose- a need to get away to the wilderness. To establish oneself anew. The phenomenon was well documented in my book I was writing: “Hermit Habitats”. That is the theory behind the movement. I had the metrics, but I was missing actual accounts, detailing what these communities were like. That is why I rode out to Gravesend.
I would be the first to record what it was like in an actual “Hermit Habitat”.
I dusted off my jacket and strutted down the street towards a hastily built gate with a lone gunman standing in front.
“Hey you!” The man yelled. “State your business!”
From my research I had learned that visitors were turned away from the isolated communities. Only permanent residents would be allowed within the city gates.
“I’m looking to move out here-” I responded. “Got room for one more angry 20-something?”
The man chuckled and gestured for me to proceed. I jogged back to my bike and turned the ignition. I accelerated through the opened gate, giving the guard a two finger salute off my forehead. A few hundred feet past the wall, small houses dotted the sides of the street. I parked in front of what seemed to be a general store and dismounted.
I stood for a while and took in the small details of this paradise. Every home was roofed with solar panels, tarps for collecting rainwater formed sweeping canopies over the gravel sidewalks.
“Are you new here stranger?” A voice interjected.
I spun around, dazed by the interruption of my thoughts. The words came from a young redheaded woman. She grinned at my confusion and pushed a mess of hair from her face.
“Uh- Yeah. I just came in today.” I mumbled nervously.
“I noticed you admiring our rain collection network.” She explained. “First thing you outta know about Gravesend is that water is king. And the second it touches the ground it belongs to the City of Los Angeles.”
I nodded in understanding and whipped out a notebook. “Could you explain more of the rules to me?”
“Certainly” She stammered guardedly. “Though there aren’t many rules. What would you like to know?”
“Why do people move out here?”
“If you’re moving in wouldn’t you know?”
“Uh- Well yeah, but I was wondering if there was a cause behind the movement in general ya know?”
“The emigration of individuals from the bigger cities of the United States to parts of veritable wilderness to form their own communities.
“I’d like to know the reason behind this phenomenon.”
There was silence.
My curiosity had gotten ahead of my common sense. I had ousted myself. I could tell by the pissed off face of my redheaded acquaintance. She took a step in my direction.
“To answer your question.” She raged. “We are out here because we don’t appreciate being treated less than human. Outside of this city you are: a consumer, a voter, a drivers license number, a phone number, a social security number, a bank account, a sucker. I’m a person damnit!”
She snatched the notebook from my quivering hands and flipped through the pages. Her expression grew dark as she read.
“Let me explain!” I pleaded.
“Your work speaks for itself Mister Investigator.” She put two fingers to her mouth and whistled loudly.
Within moments, people began peeking out of windows and cracking open doors. As if they had been summoned to gather.
“I’m sorry that you came all this way.” She teased. “But we despise numbers, and you’re trying to put us in a fucking box.”
The mob of people conglomerated, cutting off my routes of escape. I wondered.
If my blood soaked into the ground would it too be owned by the City of Los Angeles?
It was much to late to publish, but I now understood their anguish.