Life After the State

rose garden

© Sue Vincent

David had lived underground all his life, his existence tied to the Hive habitat that had been manufactured hundreds of years ago, and his body, blood, work, all in the service of the state. He couldn’t have imagined the exquisite beauty of the garden he was now walking in, sunlight warming his back and shoulders, the sweet aroma of these spectacular plants, all so green, growing and alive, even after all the vid records he’d seen of life before the tipping point of global warming, he was still astonished.

“So, Mister. What do you think?” Ten-year-old Timothy had been assigned to guide the mysterious guest around the farm and the common grounds such as this community garden. He wore clothes strange to David, what they called denim pants, a “T” shirt, whatever that meant, and a hat. Oh, he’d used helmets on his job in maintenance to protect him against hazardous conditions, but what protection would one need in such an idyllic setting?

“I think it’s all quite amazing. I’ve never seen anything like this, all of this.” He spread his arms wide and whirled around in delight.

“You mean you lived all your life in a hole in the ground, like a gopher?” Timothy scratched at his dark brown hair under the billed red cap.

“Well…” he chuckled. “I don’t know what a gopher is, but the Hive isn’t just a hole. An entire network of Hive habitats were constructed deep within the Earth when it became apparent that the global temperatures were going to trigger a worldwide extinction event. They are actually very sophisticated biospheres powered by nuclear fusion. Our lives were regulated by the state, where we lived, ate, our jobs, our friends, we had everything was provided for us.”

“Bet you didn’t have this.” The boy ran to the tree at the center of the garden but didn’t sit in one of the available chairs. He was fascinated by the stranger, especially how he escaped from his “state” up through one of the old air shafts, after they found out he and some of the others were trying to be individuals and not one of their worker ants. But even then, he was also getting a little bored.

“No.” David, his long legs still unaccustomed to dressing like the rest of the farmers, actually missing his synthetic one-piece overalls. “Nothing like this.” He casually strolled up to the boy and sat on a wrought iron chair under the blooms of the tree. He spent a few moments trying to take it all in, the buzzing of bees, the fluttering of small birds, the barking of a dog in the distance.

“I’ve read the history, too. How ol’ mother Earth got hot enough to fry an egg on. But we thought that those old wells, the one we got you out of…that is…that all those folks who went down there died. I mean, hundreds and hundreds of years. How could any one survive?”

“I guess the same could be said for you. Our history doesn’t teach us that anyone on the surface survived at all.”

“Well, them that stayed weren’t exactly on the Earth.”

“Your Dad Silas told me.” The word “Dad” like “Mom” sounded strange to him, since he and everyone he knew had been raised in the state’s crèche system. It had only been a records error that resulted in his actual birth mother being assigned as his first crèche teacher. Before he was advanced to primary, like Moses of old, she taught him he was a Jew, sung him some of the prayers, even though it was forbidden to distinguish themselves from the rest of the state’s citizens.

“I know how human beings survived by colonizing the Moon, Mars, the cloud cities of Venus, eventually developing technologies to bleed off the heat from the…the oceans.” His mind still boggled at the thought of so much water. He couldn’t wait to take a transport west and see the Pacific for himself.

“Don’t forget all that carbon dioxide trapped in the air and water. I seen videos of those old extractors, bigger than a mountain each one of them. Why they left one in orbit as a museum.” The boy puffed out his chest in pride.

“But that’s why you…I mean people, have all decided to farm the land, live in balance with the global environment, leaving technologies that would be destructive to the biosphere in space, on the Moon, and some of the asteroids.

“Yep. I really hope Dad lets me sign up for university when I’m of age. I’d love to get on a rocket and go blasting through the solar system. Heck, I’ve even got an Uncle who’s a miner in the belt.

“Yes, it would be fascinating, Timothy.” David (the state had named him Herbert, but his Mom had named him David first) got a far away look in his eyes. There was so much to take in on just this one farm. He couldn’t begin to imagine what life would be like in space.

“Hey, Mister David. We gotta go.” The older man turned and saw the boy looking at his wrist watch, run manually by a spring, no network access, such ancient technology. “Lunch should be just about ready.” Then he grabbed David’s shoulder. “Race you back.”

Then suddenly, the boy was in motion and dashing in a cloud of dust down one of the paths away from the tree.

David stood but otherwise didn’t move. At forty-seven, the pale man with the thin blond hair just starting to grow out had spent all his life performing for a schedule set by a faceless, anonymous state. “What’s the rush?” Then he slowly began to amble after the boy, enjoying the moment, and perhaps the rest of his life.

I wrote this for Thursday photo prompt: Fragrant #writephoto hosted at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. The idea is to use one of Sue’s original photos as the prompt for crafting a poem, short story, or other creative work.

I just finished writing a short story which I’ll be submitting for publication about life in an underground “Hive,” which was the habitat for humanity as a result of runaway global warming. I read that even if we stopped 100% of carbon dioxide production today, the carbon already free in our environment, particularly the heat being absorbed by the oceans, will continue to change the climate, not recovering for perhaps hundred of thousands of years.

In my wee tale, which is currently being scrutinized by my beta readers, I only had 3,000 words to play with, which didn’t give me the chance to explain how the climate had been reverted. I felt the need to write an epilogue here.

23 thoughts on “Life After the State

  1. While I like your tack that shows a technological solution to the changing climate, it seems incongruous that these same people would aparently adopt retro-technological attitudes. I was expecting another possibility, however — that the folks who imprisoned themselves underground had over-exaggerated their fears of climate change while the folks remaining on the surface had actually applied technologies to cope with the changing climate as it cycled warmer, then cooler again.

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    • My understanding based on this and other sources, is that even if we stopped producing greenhouse gasses today, the atmosphere and then the oceans would continue to heat, and after that, there would be no recovery, just the “new normal” for thousands, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of years.

      That’s why I had to invent new technologies to extract carbon dioxide and bleed off oceanic and atmospheric heat. Of course, I could have taken a different trajectory and suggested that the heating and later cooling of the global climate are all part of a more natural cycle, but even so, we’re still talking about great lengths of time.

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      • One assertion I have read is that human activity produces no more than a couple of percentage points worth of total greenhouse gases, hence ceasing all such human production would not appreciably affect the warming thus generated. Other assertions address the cyclical nature of climate changes over a relatively long periodicity.

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  2. Very well done. The little one is very well informed about his people and his culture. That is one of the good things I see that have resulted in the end of the earth as we know it.. Hmmm.

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    • Thanks, Joy. I’ve actually collected some research on what the Earth would be like if the climate was hot enough to melt every single bit of ice on Earth (HINT: The land masses on the planet would be nowhere near covered, although coastal areas and islands would take a big hit). The real problem would be the heat and species extinction. There’s a ton of data and so far, I haven’t had the time to get into it. I think it would be an interesting novel though, especially if science fiction technology were used to adapt orbital, domed, or underground environments, or even people.

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