‘Now’ – A short story of the climate crisis  

Words and art by Josie Porter


The waves crash. The birds cluster, taking aim on the fish below the surface. The insects within the trees creak, and chirp, and all other sounds sing loud. The sun sets. A cacophony of noises clash in a thunderstorm of sound. The rocks take in the salty wash as the waves hammer their fortress. It is solemn, and lawless, a helter-skelter of activity. But it is alive.  


Here is silence. Dry, hot, acrid silence. The world is sleeping. Or dead. The birds no longer thrash against the force of water. The insects no longer speak in volumes heard all over. It is a silent world.  

My hazmat is coming away at the seams. The little white threads are coming loose so I can see the ends poking out. I’ve being using it day in and day out for almost a year now. It was new then. Bright white, clean, tidy seams trapping in the cool, artificial air.  

I ignore its wear and tear and pull it on, attach the air con mask to my mouth and brace myself.  

The porch stabilises and the door gives a puff of air as it opens. And there it is: our earth. It’s cooler this year, only 65 degrees this summer. This is probably why mother hasn’t got new suits for this season; we can manage without.   

As I walk, I see a couple more people along the way. We give each other brief nods but don’t walk over to greet one another. Any unnecessary movement or time in the sun could overload the suits.  

The old roads are becoming covered with more and more soil every day. It doesn’t matter though, my mother says they haven’t been used in decades anyways, and the soil is so infertile it doesn’t matter if it’s in the farms or on the roads – it’s useless wherever it is.  

They say that the first time you go on a journey or witness something it feels long, because your brain is processing it. The second time, it feels a lot quicker, because there’s less for your brain to process. But this walk, from our pod to the market, never becomes quicker. Every charred tree looks new, every abandoned house intimidating.  

I was born after cars stopped being driven, roads stopped being used, and people stopped being optimistic. But part of me still yearns for the days that were.  

Mother tells me my great-great-great-grandmother would have lived in a time with cars, roads, shops, and businesses. She studied at university, had friends, used to sunbathe. If I lay out in the sun now, I would surely crisp up in a manner of minutes.  

My walk continued until I made it to the ramshackle market. Stone walls to block the heat out, but no ceiling. Wooden poles holding up cloth, providing meagre shade.   

The market always seems to calm me. The bustle, the people, the noise, the distraction. Today though, it’s stressful. There’s less stock this year, despite the cool summer. The rations are smaller, and people are hungry. The distributors try to explain that there’s been a bad harvest and slow turnover in the labs. There’ll be more next week, they promise. Just please take the package, it’ll tide them over.  

It’s nothing new. The labs have been overloaded since the cloning began – scientists have managed to artificially reproduce vegetables. Well, they’ve managed to make things that look like vegetables, with all the vitamins and minerals we need to live, with a taste that sometimes resembles freshness, and sometimes has a watery aftertaste.  

What’s worrying is the bad harvest. We’ve had those before as well. But the frequency and severity are increasing. More and more soil is becoming ruined, and the temperatures ruin most crops anyways.  

It’ll be okay though. The world has been through worse. These are just the lasting effects. The lingering carbon.  

I collect our two smaller-than-usual parcels, zip them into my pouch, and begin the hot trudge home.  

I find my mother with her suit on her lap, carefully threading close a hole in the leg seam. As the door closes, she looks up at me and her face immediately drops.   

“They’re smaller,” she says declaratively.  

“Bad harvest. Labs overrun. It’ll be better next week.” I say with a small smile.  

She nods and looks back at her suit as I begin unpacking the food parcels and measuring our weekly quota of salt, sugar, butter, bread, and various cloned vegetables.  

The buzz of the radio stops both of us from our work. We looked at each other. The radio crackles, the audio unsteady, but clearly sounded.  

‘There has been a small conflict on the border. 16 new fatalities, many injuries, thus far unnumbered. The war continues but now the Grabbers have gained extra land. The farmers have regrouped….’   

Cecily. That one word sits between us.  

“She’ll be okay. She always is,” I say with certainty, more certainty than I thought I’d had.  

“I miss her,” is all mum says in reply. I look at her and see nostalgic eyes. She gets up as she ties off her thread.  

“I’m off to my meeting. Maybe I can find out more about these failed harvests. Could you try and put together some sort of dinner?” she asks.  

“Of course,” I kiss her cheek as she goes to put her suit on.  

Cecily is my big sister, a nurse. She went to the frontline when the war broke out. The last real soil, properly fertile ground, had become a war zone a few years back. Those native to the area claimed it belonged to them; only they could use it. Opponents, known as Grabbers, argued the land there would produce more food than the small group of indigenous peoples left could eat in a year.  

Earth’s population has tumbled in recent decades. Oral stories tell of a time when billions inhabited the globe. Billions. It’s unimaginable now. What would they eat? Where would they live? How would we all survive?   

A small fraction of that now exists. And so, the argument goes that land that can provide for thousands, now only has a hundred or so living there.  

It’s hard to see any sort of right solution. Take food from people? Or leave the rest to starve? There is no right in the world. There is no easy solution.  

And so, the war rages on. My sister told us she was leaving the day it was announced. We tried to stop her; tell her it wasn’t her war to fight. But she wouldn’t listen. Mother and I trailed after her around the pod as she packed her bag, asking her to stay. But she knew this war was nothing insignificant. There would be real casualties to attend to.  

That was three years ago. We’ve received sporadic letters from her since then, mainly letting us know she’s alive and okay. I wish for this war to end daily – not for the people fighting in it, not for the people whose food and land are being taken from them, but so my sister can come home. And that selfishness is something I sit with every day.  

To be continued… 

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