This “vision” is one of the 30+ that we’ll publish here in the next months. Most of them will go into Life Plus 2 Meters, Volume 2 (expected publication: Dec 2017). We hope that you will comment on the message, suggest ways to sharpen the narrative, and tell us how the story affects your understanding of adapting to climate change.
Most importantly, we hope that you enjoy reading these stories and share them with your friends and family. —David Zetland (editor) and the authors
It’s hard to stay mad at Suze for long. When she comes splashing through the small waves carrying shopping bags to the bottom of the steps, late, as ever, I can’t help but smile. It’s more than her beauty that draws me in, every time; it’s her way of being, the light she seems to carry with her and her constant, sometimes infuriating, optimism.
I’m sitting at the top of the first flight of steps, and we fall into the hug that makes me feel whole again. Suze and I were best friends long before we became lovers. We were born within weeks of each other, to two equally unlucky families who ended up on low-lying land.
‘You almost didn’t make it,’ I say, into her hair.
‘I’ll always make it. Even when I have to swim,’ she says, pulling back.
I don’t remind her that the time she did have to swim she almost drowned; nearly got sucked into the strange currents that swirl below Gowan Estuaries’ grey towers. I’ve never swum it. If I miss the tides, I stay on land, in the damp swampy hut that was put there by the developers. They call it a Stayover, which makes us laugh. They make it sound like a place you’d choose to be, not a rotting hut for emergencies.
‘So what did you get?’ I peer into Suze’s bags.
‘Not a lot,’ she grins back. ‘But don’t worry; I’ve already a recipe in mind. I’m cooking you macaroni cheese, without the cheese. Or proper macaroni. And using dried milk…’
‘Sounds great,’ I say, pulling a face. ‘I’ve asked the families over for the Lotto results.’
‘I had some tokens left over so I bought an extra ticket,’ Suze said.
I nod. ‘Good. Because I gave ours to the Robinsons again.’
Suze mock punches me. ‘Seriously, Lou? You’re impossible. But funnily enough, I was going to do the same when I bought this one…’
I kiss her. ‘That’s why I love you,’ I say. ‘We’re as crazy as each other.’
She sits and produces some stale biscuits. We eat and watch the water climb the steps below us; greedy, surging water that looks like it wants to drink us in.
‘If you could go back, what would you do first?’ she asks me.
I hate this game and it always puts me in a bad mood. I sigh.
‘Go on,’ she says. ‘Humour me.’
‘I’d give our grandparents a bollocking for doing nothing to stop all this,’ I say, as I always do, gesturing at the water. ‘But then… then I think I’d take you for a drive, just because I could, to one of the old beaches somewhere, and we’d sit and watch the sunset. When we got back we’d go and surf the internet and order some stuff that would magically arrive in the post the next day, bought with real money. And then I’d open the front door and watch the stars and think how lucky I was to be alive in such an easy world.’
‘I’d buy you a proper ring and propose under a rainbow flag on a mountain, one that wasn’t off-limits to us, lower echelons of society, and-’
I cut her off. ‘Can we stop? I’m not in the mood for this game today.’ I never am, but the If game is her favourite. As an optimist, she’s a total dreamer; still believes there’s a happy ending to the crappy way of life we’re forced to live. I don’t. All of those dreams belonged to a different generation, the ones who sit, staring at the water, still in shock at what’s unfolded. At the fact that the warnings were right, all along. Unless they’re lucky enough to live in the Hill Communities.
‘Come on,’ Suze says, pulling me up. ‘Let’s go and cook and get ready for the Lotto.’
At eight, our families arrive. We sit around the Screen and watch the presenters dangle dreams in front of us, tempting us to buy into this façade every week. This week there are two houses up for grabs, two beautiful, enormous dry houses in Beacon Hill Community, worth who knows what.
‘I hope the Robinsons get it,’ I say, letting my bad mood out. Irritation has been gathering in me for the last couple of hours, as the sea has risen; the sound of the waves constant and threatening.
Suze’s mother, Anne, groans. ‘You didn’t give your ticket away again?’ she says.
‘Old Fiona Robinson isn’t going to survive much longer, here. You know that as well as me,’ I snap.
‘We’ve got an extra, this week,’ Suze says, giving me a Look.
‘Sorry, Anne,’ I mutter, staring at the screen, at the hyper-happy presenters, showing off the houses. ‘Just get on with it,’ I say, and they do.
There’s a silence as we all check our numbers.
‘Oh well,’ Suze says. ‘There’s always next week. And remember, when we win we take you all with us – those houses are big enough.’
‘Of course,’ I say. ‘Next week it’ll all change. We can leave this swamp and move to a place we won’t ever fit in because we’ll always be Lotto Residents, everyone knowing where we came from…’ I stomp through to our bedroom.
Much later, Suze climbs in next to me. We hold each other and listen to the sea and the hungry, never-ending water.
There’s a knock at our door. Suze gets up and I follow. She opens the door.
On the landing are the Robinsons. Fiona is in tears, shaking, as she hands Suze a Lotto ticket. Her husband nods at us. ‘She wants you to have it back,’ he says. ‘She told me to say it’s your future, not ours. It never was ours.’
For a second, there is silence, whilst we read the numbers. And then we are yelling, jumping up and down, hugging. The noise we make drowns out everything else, even the roaring water below us.
Emma J Myatt (@EmmaJMyatt) lives in NE Scotland, very close to the sea. She writes fiction of all kinds and thinks that using stories to make people think about their impact on the world and their lives is essential. She lives with her young family and they share with various cats, chickens and fish, all of whom have been ‘interestingly’ named by creative children. After spending time with her family, writing is her favourite thing to do and her stories are often about the sea, which provides the soundtrack to her everyday life. She hopes this story is not a prediction.