Synthesis

There is nothing to burn. Modern life is plasticine, cheap and mutable and easily manufactured. Wooden furniture is the stuff of history textbooks and Better Homes and Gardens pinups, the pictures affixed to smooth synthetic walls with reused sticky-tack. Pinup is a misnomer; pins have no purchase in plastic.

The poor live in dingy cubes of space stacked on top of each other like ice cube trays, twelve stories high even in the slums. Oil is a thing of the past, hoarded by the elite and unheard of by the ordinary. Coal is a fiction in the lower city, a dream that children are chided for to protect them from the inevitable disappointment. There is nothing to burn. Even the telephone poles are polyurethane. Snow is praised as an insulator in the country, building up over low, squat houses and keeping their residents alive for as long as they’ve stockpiled food, but here in the city there is no such thing as snow. The heat of humanity melts it before it ever hits the ground.

Winter is the new population control, and the means of survival serve a double purpose. There is nothing to burn, so they burn their own, the stiff frozen twists of the unfortunate packed into thermoset stoves and lit with the dried dead fur of a squirrel or mouse. The vinyl clothing is carefully cut away before lighting the inferno, melted down by the heat of its previous owner and reused for the survivors. Bodies never rot. They are too valuable to be left so long.

Thick black smoke spews from the dingy acrylic chimneys, blanketing the slums in a charnel haze. Poor workers plod through the streets with heads down, trying not to breathe in their brethren. There is nothing to burn. They no longer notice the smell.

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The Past

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