To The Future!
Tales from the Climate Apocalypse
It was closing in fast — behind him, and all around. It was everywhere.
“I can make it.”
“I can make it.”
His breath was getting heavier. The air escaped in short gasps.
He didn’t even notice the blood had drained from his white knuckles as they gripped the steering wheel. His hand was raw from the thin silver chain wrapped tightly around his right hand, and the heart shaped locket hanging loosely with the name Lilly inscribed in a delicate cursive.
He rocked back and forth as if by the power of his will, to make the car go faster. The pedal was pinned to the floor. Some part of him believed if he pushed down harder with his foot he might get just a little more speed. A little more and he might make it.
He had been driving all night. The car’s electric engine whizzed in high pitch frequencies as he swerved to avoid the debris. The path had gotten narrower the farther he had gotten from the cities. The car’s neural link flashed an image into his mind’s eye of a map showing the access roads ahead. The vehicle was compact but had smooth flat angular surfaces.
The fire had already engulfed both sides of the road which had gotten narrower. Thousands of sparks streaked toward the car and flew off of the windshield with a series of sharp tack, tack, tack, tack sounds. Under any other circumstances it might have been beautiful. His mind raced. The chassis passed through bursts of flames. The smoke was thick like a London fog and glowed red against the black backdrop. Silhouettes of what was left of thin jagged black tree trunks divided the skyline. Bright patches of yellow, white and red embers like a campfire after the logs break down like hot smoldering coals extended in every direction.
It was moving so fast.
When the rains stopped and the fresh water sources disappeared, the trees became dry and brittle — little more than kindling.
The dryness in his throat had been there for so long he didn’t notice it like he used to in the earlier days. It was so hot, but the sweat had stopped dripping from his brow for what might have been 20 minutes. It was nice to not have to wipe the salty moisture from his eyes, but this was probably not a good sign.
For some reason his thoughts drifted back to his childhood, swimming in the lake by his grandparents’ house. Maybe this was some kind of psychological defense to shield him from the soul-crushing inevitably of his current circumstance. He remembered the old family cabin. There were still fish back then in 2045, but it didn’t last long. The last time he ate a fish his brother had caught a trout in the lake. There was an elaborate set up of multiple fishing poles with bells attached. He loved fishing, but it had gotten so difficult to hook something that it wasn’t worth it to sit out there alone. Dad cooked the trout in tin foil with lemon and some rosemary from the garden.
Periodically, a loud thud of something striking the chassis would bring him back to the moment.
“We didn’t know how good we had it back then,” he thought to himself, even though the thoughts were barely audible. They were like computing tasks running in the background of his subconscious.
Not long after the fish disappeared from the oceans, lakes, and rivers, the governments mandated food rations. People did not handle this well. Then the water rations began. The water uprisings that followed were the bloodiest the country had seen.
For a moment the man noticed how curious it was that he was clinging to life. It had been so long since he had known anything like joy. But there was something primal driving him — the purest instinct.
“I can make it.”
“C’mon, c’mon, c’mon.”
He stared at the locket in his right hand. The latch was broken so it opened easily, producing a holographic image. He looked at the image of the girl with sad, tired eyes staring back at him. She was about 9 years old with a fair complexion and auburn hair. She had freckles, but looked too old for her age. The image flickered, illuminating the dried blood on his hands and the smooth silver talisman.
“I can make it.”
Just then, something marvelous and terrible emerged from behind the trees. A black dog ran across the road engulfed in flames that trailed behind it as it yelped. The dog must have escaped the fate of some poor bastard, but not for long. It seemed like a waste. Any other time there’s no telling what he might have done for meat like that. Must have been a rich bastard, to be able to afford a dog. He could barely remember the last time he had seen one. He might have cried to see the pup suffer like that, but there was no time to process or register the horrifying image.
It also made him angry though. Who could afford a dog? The ones that let it all go to hell and helped it get there.
Them that broke the world had made great fortresses. Some thought they could store up enough to last forever, so their kids and grandkids could rule over the ashes. They didn’t really give a fuck about their kin. They knew. They all knew what was comin’ back then…what was waitin’ for their own children. And still to keep the money flowin’ they tricked everyone else into believing’ that everything was fine.
Eventually, as the weather became more extreme, the fat cats hired small armies to protect them from the hordes. It didn’t go well for them in the end, though. At a certain point, the guys with the guns realized they didn’t need to take no orders, ’cause they had the guns. These were rough hombres, you didn’t want to cross paths with them. Very salty. Back in ’63 groups organized to take some of the compounds. When the rations got so low you couldn’t barely get through the day without it feeling like someone was sticking a knife in your belly. The mercs were ready for this. The houses that couldn’t afford to hire mercs fell easily to the mobs, but them trillionaires was well prepared. They knew it was a matter of time before the pitchforks came for them.
When the poors invaded the Hamptons, there was minimal support from the military because most of the soldiers were abroad fighting the second water war. Sovereign nations and corporations scrambled to loot fresh water sources like it was black friday. At that point, the lines that divided companies and countries had all but disappeared.
In the end, it was a mad scramble for the water. Water is life.
The heat started to burn his skin and his throat with every breath.
If he could just make it out of this and to the west coast. He had heard some people were surviving near the beaches in Wyoming. California, Nevada and Oregon were now completely under the Pacific Ocean. Once-bustling cities were now great expanses of watery concrete graveyards below.
A billion people were displaced when the coasts started disappearing around 2060. It all escalated much faster than anyone was prepared for.
Memories flashed one after another in quick succession like a picture show. There was the time they stormed the Bezos compound where old man Preston lived. It was the first time in a long time people had agreed about anything. So much planning went into it. The long trek to the Yukon where they had retreated from the big bad world. There must have been 30,000 people that started the journey. Only about 20,000 survived to the final destination. He remembered that old Indian they met on the way sayin’ it was like the “Trail of Tears.” They didn’t care about no history then, they just needed to eat.
“Prolly should’ve paid more attention to that old fool when he said the last one was a death march.”
He could still see it all play out in his mind. The memories kept coming. He hadn’t slept in a long time.
Back then, there was a moment it seemed like they might win. Approaching the outer wall of the compound, the mob went over the walls like an army of ants, only to discover that Bezos’ security had mini rail guns that cut through the crowds like a hot knife through butter. He remembered his wife looking at him, their eyes locking in frenzied rage and excitement as they made their move with the rushing unwashed masses. Those guns cut her clean in half right in front of him. Her wild eyes turned cold and blank.
“Focus. Focus. Don’t do it for yourself, idiot.”
He tried to stay concentrated on the task at hand as the sparks continued to rain down on the car like a shower of thousands of tiny comets. All of these memories came rushing to his mind like a tsunami. The mind is a strange and curious thing. Maybe this is what they are talking about when they say your life flashes before you when you are about to die.
All he could think about was the face of the little girl.
He wondered what it would be like in space at that moment. Some of the trillionaires and billionaires managed to get off the planet to a few terraformed space stations. They surrendered their entire fortunes to pay for their tickets. Turns out this was their exit strategy the whole time. What if they had all just committed their resources to solve the problem together when there was still time? It might have given everyone a chance if they at the very least hadn’t worked so hard to keep the lie going that everything was fine. There wasn’t no apocalypse comin’.
“God, just let me do one good thing” the man muttered. His lips stung because they were cracked and blistered.
These scenes flashed through his mind.
All of a sudden a tree fell in front of the car.
“AAAHHH NOOO!!!!! The noise came from the most guttural and primal place within him, but came out as a raspy whisper.
It was over.
He knew it.
The heat intensified quickly, like a blast furnace.
He stared down at the flickering image.
“I’m really sorry kid.”
He sobbed gently, trying to get the words out. His voice was faint and surrendered.
“Your mom told me she had to get to you. To get you out in time. She begged me. I’m sorry I didn’t make it. I’m sorry I took the car from her. I didn’t want to hurt her. I…I….needed the car. There wasn’t no other way. I was gonna to find you I swear. To do one good thing. She gave me the address before she was gone. She begged me. I suppose it don’t matter.”
His eyes fell shamefully downward.
“I’m not a bad man. At least…At least it’s over now.”
He took small gasps of air, but felt like he was suffocating. The heat was unbearable at this point. The images of everything around him began to waver as the heat seemed to distort the atmosphere, like a house of mirrors.
He figured that he must be in a delirium of some sorts, because looking out of the window there appeared to be figures standing around him. They moved closer through the inferno toward the car, completely unaffected by the flames. They said nothing, they just stared intently. Their eyes betrayed nothing like empathy. In the last moments, he could just make out their buckskin clothes, long black hair, and dark complexions. One had what looked like a white hand print painted on his face. He subtly nodded as if getting closure, but without the satisfaction. They were specters from the past who came to bear witness to the fulfillment of the prophecies. This was once their land, but they were no longer of this place.
They had tried to send messages through their living progeny in ceremonies and visions at the edge of death. They tried to save the people, to warn them to change their way even despite the centuries of suffering visited upon them. For one hundred and fifty years, these words fell on deaf ears.
The white men on earth were all but gone now. Their souls could finally rest.
What a waste of a beautiful world.
At that same moment, 200 miles directly above, they pressed their faces up to the cool glass window to get a glimpse of the earth rotating below. Below the space station, hundreds of thousands of miles of land were ablaze, but from that height the great walls of flame looked like single sheets of burning black paper as the orange burning glow dissolved the edges.
“Is it time yet, Ash my love?” A young woman said to her companion, who was much much older. Her medium length blonde hair floating as if underwater. They wore orange jumpsuits with Tesla X patches on the left breast.
“Now’s as good a time as any, my dear.” The old man produced a dark green bottle of champagne that read Sir Winston Churchill 1999 on the side. As it “popped,” she let out a little playful shriek. He tried to contain the explosion of the cork but the frothy bubbles floated in space.
“I’m afraid we must drink from the bottle like savages,” he said.
She giggled as she captured the champagne bubbles in mid air.
They both stared out of the circular window. The black and orange earth was rotating so fast below them. It was all on fire.
“What do you think it is like down there?” she asked.
“Best not to think about it, my love. Let’s drink to life. It goes on. To the future!”