Since ancient times, Albans and Negrans had their traditional territories. Albans’ home was of course Mt. Alba, but their lands extended up the Valley for thirty kilometres. Negrans’ base was Mt. Negra, with lands extending down the Valley for seventy kilometres. The accepted boundary between these lands was at the bend in the Valley, between Camel and Rhino Mountains. It was pretty tight there, only one kilometre across.

They had lived as neighbours for thousands of years, not totally peaceably, but generally so. Albans had slowly built up their land. They’d put in roads and power lines and telephone lines and water lines and sewers and bridges and dykes and houses and churches and shops and offices and stores. And they were allowed to. What they did with their land was their business. Negrans rose above petty differences and didn’t fuss. They lived in the forest simply, and focussed their efforts on inner development. But Albans’ powerful new transmitters did not respect boundaries. These objects designed for connection caused disruption and headaches. They were a step too far.

Negrans felt that they should do something, and at dawn engaged in extended communion. They had no need for wireless transmitters, for all their minds were connected. They simply shared their thoughts. Albans had also once shared their thoughts, but only until the two tribes had separated. Initially there had been no hostility between them, for they had all dreamed this great landscape together; conceived every rock and river; germinated every tree; they were holy brethren in this mighty work. But then differences began to show.

Negrans wanted to keep the land just as it was; to nourish and replenish it, and create an eternal sanctuary. Albans wished to use the land’s abundant materials ingeniously, in a continual quest for perfection. Neither of them wished to imprison the other’s vision, so they agreed to part, and established themselves separately at Negra and Alba.

Negrans had felt for some time that Albans were not honouring the spirit of their agreement. There had been many breaches of the accepted boundary; forestry roads here, subdivisions there, river bridges, and mountain huts – but these were small things, and Negrans let them slide. But that slippery slope had led to this – the powerful new transmitters. They requested a meeting with Albans to discuss the matter, but they said that they were too busy. Could it wait until next year?

Some action was needed to attract their attention.

The Negrans sent a flood to warn them. It wasn’t a big thing, just a couple of days of hard rain overwhelming the watershed. Vast sheets of rippling silver clothed the land. Albans knew this tactic from previous disputes, and were well prepared. Their dikes held much of the water back, and their raised homes were mostly unaffected. But it resulted in a week of chaos.

Rather than responding, Albans entrenched further. They said they wouldn’t meet at all. The Negrans sent forest fires – just a stray shard of lightning, and a huge fir was ablaze. Flames spread quickly through stands of pine, spruce and cedar, until it seemed the Valley was clothed in fiery robes. Albans had also dealt with this before. They cut out firebreaks, dropped red powder from the sky, pumped water continuously from the river, and eventually controlled it.

Then Albans inflamed the situation by announcing that they were accelerating their energy projects in the Upper Valley – hydroelectric, geothermal, and wind turbines. Negrans caused a huge landslide, the largest ever known. It wiped out bridges, roads, and mines. The torrent of mud blocked the river entirely, and acted as a dam. A huge brown lake built up behind this barrier, ready to breach it, and run amok down the Valley. Thousands of years of Alban development would be smashed, covered, or washed away.

Albans finally panicked and evacuated the Valley. They sent word that they would meet at the boundary for talks, and reminded Negrans that they too had powers– dynamite sticks, chemical sprays, open-cast mining, and clear-cut logging.

When Albans and Negrans met, it seemed more a battlefield than a conference. Each side treated this stand off as a show of force. Negrans held fir staffs tipped with sharp crystals, and polished metal shields. Albans had firearms and Kevlar. Their leaders met on the sandbank in the middle of the river.

Albans pleaded their case for progress. They said it would bring comfort, prosperity, and security to increasing numbers. It was the logical thing to do. Were silly Negrans not still living in stick huts without telecommunications? Negrans spoke of natural cycles, and creating harmony and balance, which represented humanity’s true place in the world. It was the spiritual thing to do. Did not foolish Albans take aircraft to shoot golf balls from mountaintops?

When it was clear that there would be no agreement, Negrans threatened use of their ultimate weapon – Imagination. While Negrans had retained the ability to share their thoughts, Albans had become increasing reliant on artificial methods of transmission. What they didn’t realize was that Imagination has both individual and shared components. Negrans had, as goodwill to their brethren, for centuries now been providing the shared component. The time had now come to withdraw it. Each Alban, from now on, would have only tiny, trivial thoughts. They would spend ever more time with their technologies, trying to connect with each other. But each would always remain alone.


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