An excerpt from an upcoming novel/short story collection
On the outskirts of town lay a compound of mobile homes, placed in rows and set on identical basement foundations. Decorative potted palms engulf the front doors of these silver bullets, with twinkling Christmas lights strewn on each of the front porches, frankincense and sandalwood incense filling the air, and a calm that could only be rivaled by a Buddhist temple after midnight.
Housed fifty miles from the nearest gas station, one could only reach this housing complex by making a swift left turn off of the freeway and traveling down a rural, dirt road for another thirty minutes. The glow of The Diamond District was hidden from the freeway and if you were a truck driver or alien-hunting enthusiast, you wouldn’t know what lay beyond the ‘Channel Road,’ as they called it. Only the inhabitants of The District knew how to find it; interested solo travelers who heard of The Diamond District anxiously awaited acceptance into this commune. Some waited over twenty years to finally receive the coveted letter in the mailbox, the envelope unmarked and without a return address; ‘Welcome to The Diamond District’ the letter read, with only a phone number beneath the header.
Once admitted, one had less than a month to drop their quotidian for the nouveau; the charm of this haven lie in its ability to stay sacred. When apartments in New York, London, Los Angeles, and even Phuket had taken on a monochromatic, futuristic design, The Diamond District retained its old world charm; no one expected to live past the pandemic in 2020, and although it was now 2050, civilization had yet to recover from the Great Quarantine. The Diamond District was the only place where people gathered freely and without consequence, making a fire pit each night and chanting around the circle, holding hands and drinking beverages imported from Tucson, the nearest town.
The first question upon arrival was always the same, “what broke you?” a neighbor would ask, leaning out of their mobile home with a bottle of wine in one hand and a stalk of celery in the other.
“I left London in 2021, after Boris mandated that we could only go grocery shopping from 2-3 am in my neighborhood. We weren’t allowed to go to parks anymore, my children were forced out of school. I stopped talking to my neighbors. A dark, gray fog sat over the city, worse than normal, and never really let up.”
The stories were all different but held similar elements: world leaders reacted to the Great Quarantine with panic and hysteria; whereas scientific thought was typically pushed aside, it sat at the forefront of each great leader, as they transitioned each of their cities from proceeding with steady caution to ensuring that no one left the house during business hours.
“What broke me was when my internet provider just shut off completely. No one could afford their bill and the service provider became overwhelmed by all of the usage. One day it just went dark.”
The Diamond District opened its doors for the first time in the fall of 2020—an open land in Arizona with telephone towers, strong internet service, and communal living. Some would call it a hippie commune but those who lived there were nothing of the sort: they were former bankers, advertising executives, teachers; one occupant was a former reality TV star. Everyone came to escape from modern life, but they still drove cars and used electricity. They weren’t limited in their consumption and used only what they needed. No one forced these rules upon them, they just acted with the mindfulness and vigilance of protecting the greater good. Each had a responsibility to the other, to ensure that as they resisted the global change that the tragedy of the Great Quarantine had thrust upon them, that their tiny society would remain secret, safe, and free.
No one ever left The District, beyond the infrequent trips to get necessities for the group; for exercise, they ran along the outer trail at night, taking their animal companions with them. During the daytime, the majority of the occupants worked freelance jobs, found on Craigslist in Bangalore or Manchester; they didn’t need much to live off of and whatever was made went to the group: a central box near the 18th mobile home, with the words ‘Bank’ written on the outside. Everyone moved with a consciousness that would have been enviable to the rest of the world, had they known it was even plausible. No one knew about The Diamond District and because of this secret, their inner humanity was never threatened or compromised.
Everyone was there because they wanted to be there, promised to keep it a secret, and lived out their days with the utmost peace, happiness, and freedom; the oldest occupant died at 104, purely from old age and too many vodkas as a teenager.
With no lights on the freeway, one wouldn’t know where to turn to reach this rural Valhalla. Of course, if you applied and were admitted, you knew that it was the 15th road on the left from the gas station; but, no one disclosed this information to the random traveler. In the year 2040 to mark twenty years of The Diamond District, the occupants voted to procure a sign with their motto written in permanent marker. If you turn on the 15th road, and drive for 30 minutes, and look to the right just as you’re approaching the village, you’ll see a cardboard sign that says: “Resist.”