I don’t blame them for leaving. If I had had more sense, or perhaps if I had scheduled that appointment a few days later, maybe I would have done the same. Maybe I would have been happy. But, after all this time, I can’t imagine that the life I would have fled to would hurt less than the one I chose.

Black dust swirls in front of me, choking the light from my flashlight. A stuck gear, the “whirligig” gear as I’ve termed it, is preventing the mechanism from turning freely. I can sense another coughing fit forming, but with one final tug the gear jumps free. I duck as the fan blade sweeps overhead, catching the wind like a sail. Chunks of dirt rain over my back.

I stay on the ground a moment, willing my coughs down and listening. The fans that span the horizon, each with 4 vertical blades that scoop the air, make a calming whomp-whomp sound as they turn. Designed to harvest suspended carbon particles out of the air, they can hardly go more than 48 hours without becoming saturated. This wasn’t a problem for the people of yesterday, with their teams and funding. Now, between the allure of “clean air cities” and the dust storms, I’m the only one left. I used to dream about fields of dandelions. Now, any day where I can catch a deep breath is enough.

Flashes of red through the turbulent clouds tell me the day will soon be over. As I retreat home, I think of what our world has become. The grit scours my lungs like shards of glass. I can feel the radiation spiralling through my veins, promising traces of blood on my pillow in the morning. Most worrisome is the pressure at the base of my skull from the tumor. I just need more time to finish the automation system, then I can allow myself to die. If I have to suffer to allow my world to live, it will be worth it.

I pray that I am not the only one trying.

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1 year ago

Good “scientific data” without being pedantic. Good use of simile and personification with an optimistic ending.

1 year ago

Welcome to Voice Club, Autumn. What a terrifying story! Let’s hope that all of us bringing awareness to this topic will remind ourselves and each other of all the things we can do every day to help. Limit driving. Walk or take the clean bus. If you don’t have clean buses in your town, ask for them, again and again. Recycle. Reuse. Compost. Write stories and comments to keep the topic in… Read more »

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
1 year ago

The outcome of your story is so scary, Autumn. Fuji is right. We need to limit driving, and just walk or ride eco-friendly buses, and the rest she said is helpful. I just want to add, “don’t cut trees”. If we cut a tree, it should be replaced by 10x more because trees help absorb carbon and return it to us as oxygen or clean air. It is a very great first story.… Read more »

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