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Gloomy 2029

by M 5 months ago in Short Story · updated 9 days ago
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A sign of warning for our future.

I suggest reading this story while listening to this stunning composition by Ólafur Arnalds

"When you tell today's kids that everything will be fine, are you lying?"

A young boy was standing in front of me with a calm demeanour. His piercing green eyes glared at me. Despite our contrasting age differences, I could sense his maturity and wisdom. He was holding firmly onto something, with his tiny fist tightened. His unkempt dark brown hair and olive skin contrasted with his red t-shirt. Something surreal emanated from this little being.

"Don't you realize that you could have done more?"

He reached out for my wrist and placed a piece of paper in my hand. Pivoting briskly on his feet, he ran away only to vanish behind the Ferris wheel. I was left speechless while standing alone on the pier. I looked around me, wondering if people had noticed the bizarre encounter. No one seemed to be bothered. A shiver passed through my whole body. Although we were in the middle of May in Venice Beach, I was submerged by a frigid sentiment. It contrasted sharply with the sun slowly setting down, giving the scenery an iconic warm orange glow. The pink stripes in the sky strikingly reflected above the waves crashing on the shore. While kids and adults fluctuated on the boardwalk, the laughing and screaming felt muffled in my ears.

I slowly opened my palm. It was a folded post-it. As I mechanically unwrapped it, my discomfort escalated by the sight of four digits boldly written on the blue paper. It was a date. A year, more precisely.

2029.

Disoriented and perplexed, I shoved the paper into my back pocket. But a shiver passed through my body. I immediately sensed something was odd —a sudden shift. Things felt different.

My head was pounding. I started wondering if someone had knocked something on my head. I looked up, and warm colours no longer marbled the sky. The sky was grey, dark grey. Kids and adults around me were wearing masks — gas masks. Seagulls were lying lifelessly on the beach. The joyful ferry music was no longer playing. Instead, an automated voice resonated through the speakers:

May 2029, day 13. Under no circumstances should you remove your gas masks. The CO2 emissions have reached a peak of 460 ppm today. The air is toxic. Once again, do not remove your gas masks.

I suddenly started trembling, imprisoned by a sudden lack of control. I tried screaming for help, but my voice felt eradicated in my throat. I was shaking. I took a step forward, but my vision started to distort.

No, no, no.

This atrocious situation could not be happening.

Or could it?

I felt my body hit the ground, and then everything disappeared.

I woke up covered in sweat. Staring at the ceiling, I swiftly turned around and leaned on my elbows. I could feel the warm Californian ocean breeze flowing through the window. The sun was rising slowly.

"It was all a dream," I thought to myself as I attempted to collect my thoughts and reached out for my phone on the nightstand.

5:37 AM. Friday, May 13th, 2022.

I let out a sigh of relief while someone shuffled in the covers next to me. "What's up, Marie? Are you all right?" he asked softly in his raspy voice. I turned around to look at him. His tender blue eyes never ceased to captivate me. He was staring at me in a mixture of confusion and sleepiness.

"It's all right. I just had a bad dream," I replied, trying to shove aside the disturbing images. He leaned closer to me, gave me a tender kiss on the forehead and rested his head against my chest. I could feel his heart beating against mine. The warmth of his body felt reassuring. I entangled my arms around him, grateful for another moment together. He softly dozed back to sleep, but I stayed still and motionless. Wide awake, looking at the ceiling, I was stunned by the dichotomy of the situation. Feeling so secure in his arms, yet so distressed by this horrific dream. I knew it was just a dream, but something felt off.

This dream felt familiar — the familiarity of being taught that a significant, slow-moving threat was looming over us, entangled in our denial of the urgency which paralyzed us into making systemic shifts as a society. We could not admit our dysfunctions as human beings collectively and dare to transform our businesses and governments. Our inability to overcome ourselves kept us moving toward a gloomy future.

Wasn't it evident that we were heading for an existential collapse? This question haunted me as I closed my eyes. Exhausted, I started slowly falling back to sleep and, consequently, falling back into the dream. The vision came back. The little boy, with his voice echoing in my mind. When you tell today's kids that everything will be fine, are you lying? Don't you realize that you could have done more?

END

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More about the story: As of writing this story today (December 29th, 2021), the global CO2 emissions have reached the mark of 417.96 ppm. I was strongly inspired by shocking new research from Harvard University, the University of Birmingham, the University of Leicester and University College London, which "found that more than 8 million people died in 2018 from fossil fuel pollution, significantly higher than previous research suggested. [This means] that air pollution from burning fossil fuels like coal and diesel was responsible for about 1 in 5 deaths worldwide" (1). Please take some time to let that sink in. Regardless of your position on climate change, we can't deny that air pollution is threatening our lives. And unfortunately, we are heading towards an even darker outcome if we don't drastically take measures to make systemic shifts in our energy production.

Interesting takeaways from the study:

- "In the United States, 350,000 premature deaths are attributed to fossil fuel pollution. The states with the highest number of deaths per capita are PA, OH, MI, IN, KY, WV, IL, NJ, and WI.

- Transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy has immediate health benefits, including preventing premature deaths attributed to fossil fuel pollution.

- Exposure to particulate matter from fossil fuels accounted for 21.5% of total deaths in 2012, falling to 18% in 2018 due to tightening air quality measures in China

- In India, fossil fuel pollution was responsible for nearly 2.5 million people (aged over 14) in 2018; representing over 30% of total deaths in India among people over age 14

- Thousands of kids under age 5 die each year due to respiratory infections attributed to fossil fuel pollution" (1).

(1) Vohra, Karn, et al. “Fossil Fuel Air Pollution Responsible for 1 in 5 Deaths Worldwide.” C-CHANGE | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 9 Feb. 2021. Access to research summary here.

Disclaimer: The first-person POV is solely used to enrich the story's narrative. This is purely fictional (although I must admit that I used to faint often when I was a kid).

Short Story

About the author

M

Bridging the gap between fiction and reality with fiction stories revolving around one of the most pressing issues of our time: climate degradation. One of my dreams is to turn these stories into music videos, TV series and motion pictures.

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