Author : Beth Boyle
It was hot. It was always hot. There was no escaping it and there hadn’t been for hundreds of years. There was only the unyielding, unbearable sun and the empty horizon wavering like seasickness before her. Not that seasickness was really an issue anymore. Where she was walking had once been the bottom of what they called the Indian Ocean.
She wanted to drink (oh god all she ever wanted was to drink, to bathe or to swim- anything to be submerged in water), but every member of the colony had a carefully rationed allowance of water adjusted to the individual’s weight, age and health requirements. Only just as much water as the body required, and a pocketful of hydration pills to keep body and soul together. The water bottles were a psychological comfort, really they survived on the little blue capsules. Each one behaved as a single 8-ounce glass of water- but without any of the delicious sensuality that had once been associated with hydration.
She would be even thirstier in ten minutes. The water would feel that much better, that much cooler in ten minutes. She rubbed her left eye (her eyes, they itched all the time and they hurt there was nothing but fucking sand and it burned) and felt the skin around it crack and flake. There may have been a trickle of blood flowing into the canyons of her arid face. She felt sick.
She was going to the laboratory, as she always did on her free-labor days. She was exotic-looking for her colony, with almost dark-colored hair and eyes where everyone else was sun bleached and burnt into photo negatives and she had a wide smile in a place where few smiled at all. With these tools she charmed herself an unauthorized lab pass, but it wasn’t necessary anymore, everyone knew the girl who sat in the Archives Room.
Some days she read old books and played with the minuscule menagerie of mammals and birds the scientists kept so they would not become fully extinct. Sometimes she lay in the Aquarium room and listened to the water move and the fish swim, basking in the crystal light dancing through the water. But mostly she would lock herself in the Video Room with bottles of stolen water and watch movies.
Two hundred years ago, there had been rain. There was wind that was cold and things that were green, animals everywhere- and water. There was water all over the world. There was so much, and they let it all die.
She would sit in the basement for hours, mesmerized by images of snow falling and flowers projected on the white wall. She sat for hours and hours and cried because all the snows and flowers and greenness and coolness had burned away.
She cried for hours without tears, because all the tears had been burned away too.