Growing Back

Author: Jae Miles, Staff Writer

The snow is so fine it sometimes drifts about for hours before finally settling. The result is a mist that makes everything vague before fallen snow obscures it completely. This being acid snow, obscuring may become erasure when thawing drenches everything in acid.
On organics, the snow is quicker to harm. Every member of our group has snowburn – blotches where snow melted on contact and scarred the skin. You’ve got to be well covered to survive out there. Even the toughest organics have a lifespan measured in days, which drops to hours if any snow is allowed to melt on whatever it is.
Every lair has a sluice, where those coming in are rinsed thoroughly as soon after entry as sensible. Filtering the water used is a continuing nightmare, as we can’t let it contaminate our potable supplies and even the vapours are noxious to varying degrees.
“Rack and ruin, rain and burn, will we see another turn?”
It’s a well-known rhyme, used to keep those who pedal the generator in time. Everyone gets to pedal, it’s a rule. Electricity allows us to keep the luxuries going, like educators for the kids and the special lights that keep the plant vats growing.
Vegetables: beans, okra, cucumber, melon, and more. We have nineteen varieties. That gives us trading rights with every group for ten miles. We even get trekkers that come from the haven over at Lewes and the forts at Southampton. They’re hardened types, grown from ex-military cliques. I’d call them strange, but we’re all a little ‘off’ these days. Good thing is, with the end of natural fresh water and everything wet falling from the skies liable to melt your face, the bandit problem just petered out. You can’t raid to live anymore.
“I’d question if we’re actually living.”
That’s Ethel. She’s looking over my shoulder, getting a feel for this writing thing. Someone has to, and she’s inherited her mother’s knack for words. All she needs to do is take the plunge and write something from what she feels, rather than what she sees. It’s a factual existence, these days. No room for whimsy when the planet’s out to purge you.
Which brings me to her question. We’re working very hard to live. So hard that anything not directly associated with it has been let go. Me writing is a gift from having lost my legs in a bad fall. I needed something to do, so I’m writing a guide to everything we do, so we don’t lose any of the ways we’ve worked so hard to perfect – and continue to refine.
“You and Kaden Leader are the same. Keep insisting that we’ll eventually be able to not work at surviving all the time. I still don’t understand what we’ll do with – what do you call it?”
“Free time.”
“That. What do you do with it?”
“Anything you want. Do something for fun. Relax.”
“Not sure I’d like that.”
“You’ll be surprised.”
She thinks on that, then grins.
“When it happens, I’ll cope. Like we always have to.”
I laugh for so long she wanders off in disgust, not understanding just how funny the idea of people having to cope with free time is.
Which is unfair. I can remember people, long dead, who’d agree with her. They had the same problem, even back when we had non-lethal snow and leisure time.


  1. xdhz8

    A horrible future believably and vividly portrayed. The pedaling rhyme is an excellent touch. The concept of coping with free time adds a whole other layer to the piece. Nice.

  2. Hari Navarro

    Really enjoyed the spikes of resigned humour and vivid glimpses of society in collapse that you injected into this decidedly bleak future. For me, it gave the story great balance.

  3. Adam Gerencser

    Great world-building – Thanks for the story, Jae!

  4. SimonJM

    And if the Downs are keeping the worst of it away as they do now … 😉

  5. rogerley

    A whole new world pattern of existence conjoured up from the idea of acid rain. Very enjoyable

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