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.