“Tell me, Iswas, how many people can our earth sustain?”
“That is not for me to say, Noyes.”
“Then who will tell it, Iswas?”
“Seek where it is found, Noyes. Become the source.”
Noyes returned fifty-two years later, a burlap bag slung across his back. Iswas, unchanged as the rock he perched upon, nodded. “Your return is welcome.”
“As was my journey.”
“Does knowledge smile?”
“The servant of knowledge does.”
“Bless us then, Noyes.”
Noyes opened his bag and placed three objects on the ground before Iswas.
Iswas gazed for long moments upon the three objects. “Elucidate.”
Noyes gestured to the grasshopper. “A pest and plague to many. Plentiful protein to others.”
Noyes gracefully fingered the fine-grained gavel. “The rule of law is not the rule of nature. Ownership protects the innocent and guilty, the exploiter and the sustainer. Judgment is not guaranteed to be swift nor sure.”
Noyes pressed the power button on the smartphone. Even on the remote mountainside at over twenty-thousand feet, three bars registered. Iswas’s thick eyebrows lifted.
Noyes continued, “Ideas flow. Resources do not. Counter pressures that do not balance. A time bomb ticking.”
For the first time in many decades, Iswas rose from his perch, his bones cracking like shale. He stepped down beside Noyes. “You present the knowledge. Do you have the answer?”
“Is the question still the same?”
“Is it, Noyes? You are now the source.”
In response, Noyes picked up the smartphone and flicked open an application. A series of pictures appeared below the Facebook masthead on the screen. “This is my wife, Weare, and our three children. This is our flat in Soho. Our two dogs and the tea shop I own.” He handed Iswas the phone. “I can sustain this. That is all I know.”
Iswas held the phone for a few moments then set it beside the gavel. “You have sought. Now, leave with this thought.”
He picked up the gavel and struck the smartphone. It shattered. Iswas tossed the gavel into the abyss beyond his rocky perch, picked up the grasshopper and popped it in his mouth. He crunched thrice and swallowed. Then reseated himself upon the mountaintop.
“Not bad,” he called to the retreating figure of Noyes. “It will sustain me.”