Death by a milli-nilli-trillion drops

This vision came after the deadline for prizes, but it’s still eligible for inclusion in the book. Please comment to improve its quality (or just praise it 🙂 — David

We knew we had to move fast when the Suisun Marsh was swallowed up and became this week’s new beachfront. Sacramento was next in line to get sucked into the Pacific. Then the old underground gold mine shafts started imploding under the pressure and spewing like Old Faithful. One, then another and another again. You could see the trail of impending doom and sinkholes coming up the hill. We had to move quickly. For weeks, I had had a false sense of security because after all, we had started out at 1800’ feet above sea level. Today, that meant we were now only 200’ above certain death. The swelling tide never ebbed. It only flowed.

I could sense their coming before anyone else heard them. I could smell them as they marched up the hill; thousands of sweaty feet, palms and nothing but exhaustion moving as one entity with deadly purpose. Their mission was to take our hill, even by force. The sound was insanity heralded by the putrescence of dying, feral humans. My exceptional sense of smell had served me well in this life, but today it was not necessarily a blessing. Suddenly, we all felt it. The reverberations of tens of thousands of feet pummeling the ground heading east and up to Cameron Park, and they were coming fast. The cacophony brought fear to life. We struggled to control our panic.

In my previous life I rescued people from general stupidity and specific homelessness. Very soon everybody would be homeless, and I knew I couldn’t save them all. I shook off my sense of responsibility and called my kids aboard. Our supplies were expected to keep the 6 of us alive for at least 12 weeks once we landed in Denver; life after that – well, I couldn’t hope for more than the generosity of a few thousand strangers and a few old friends and colleagues from Oracle. The last good engine on the Cessna was reassembled. We were gassed up and ready to soar. We only needed 130 feet to get out. Now, as I considered my assets, I felt woefully underdressed. In thirty minutes all hell is going to break loose. These people will be trapped. As we rose above the human tide, my thoughts were of our futile efforts to survive the ‘Big Swallow’. And so it goes…

We made it out of California, but what of the others? We have no way of knowing their fates without reports, and those are few and confused. I do know that we have run out of fresh food, clean water and most of our humanity. Now that Aurora has succumbed, we prepare for another evacuation. This time, they will head North to Minot, ND. Why Minot? Because Lake Sakakawea hasn’t breached its natural shoreline, silly, that’s why. Lest we not forget the Air Force silos. Not yet sure whether they represent survival or a sarcophagus. I’m not sure how I feel about 50 years underground.

I see my children and grandchildren preparing for the trek. I can only respond by dropping to my knees to pray: for reprieve but mostly forgiveness. I am old. My heart is heavy with the guilt of repeated warnings that began as far back as the Ban-the-Bra movement. Sadly, I recall every V-8 I drove, the enormous waste I created, the squandered natural resources. I can only hope that the next generation sees what we wrote on the wall.

I am deeply ashamed, but I don’t want to die just yet. Unfortunately, today is my 75th birthday – or, what we now call the Date of Expiration. I will not be joining them. “How long CAN I hold my breath?” I wonder.

Collectively, we have destroyed this planet because as a species, we are inherently selfish and greedy. There is no doubt about it — we are paying back on an old, unavoidable debt.

It’s funny that I had expected to die from a million paper cuts but now I’m going to die from a milli-nilli-trillion drops of melting ice and rising seas.

Rene Evans is a single mom, sci-fi fan, life lover, disability advocate, and non-profit president who’s armed and waiting for the Zombie Apocalypse. Raised in Silicon Valley and now housed in the Sierras, Rene has been an advocate for the under-served in El Dorado County for the past 20 years. Known for her tough love stance, she helps people re-stabilize after unfortunate events or choices land them in a residential crisis.

Just before she told him no

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

She wasn’t there when it happened; she didn’t have to be. She could see it as clearly as she had in her child mind when, as a girl, her grandparents painted the picture for her, as their grandparents had done for them. The waters would advance, overtaking the beaches, the resorts, the high rises and bungalows, until the palm fronds of the last coconut tree, undulating like sea grass atop the waves, were all that remained on the surface. And so, when it happened, she was not surprised. She had carried the image of those last palm fronds in her mind for so long that she had already come to think of her homeland as submerged. Almost out of obligation, she had raised a mourning yowl to the empty universe, a pointless screech of rage, and then was done.

The news reports indicated that the archipelago was almost devoid of human life, at that point. Anyone who could get out, did, of course. Few were as fortunate as she, who had gotten out before it was necessary to obtain refugee status, before exceptions had to be made. She had come to America from Malé on a scholarship to study international relations, with a minor in geology, back when the threat of submersion was still just an idea, a terrifying future world no one dared contemplate for too long. Until they had to.

But there was that word almost, sometimes substituted with virtually. Words that suggested that not everyone had escaped, that at least one person was still there. At least one person sank with the wreckage.

But she couldn’t bear to think of that. One single life, or five, or ten, was inconceivable when every day brought news of deaths in the thousands. She could only think of the place, because the people had flung out in every imaginable direction, living and dead. The place, now, was lost.

Once, she’d had a professor who graduated from an academic program which had since lost its accreditation when his alma mater went bankrupt. He had done all of the work, earned his degree, played the tenure-track game and won, and suddenly had no academic credentials whatsoever. The foundation on which he had built his entire professional life was instantly, and through no fault of his own, undone. This was like that, amplified ten thousand times.

Her grammar school. Her pediatrician’s office. The minarets of the nearby mosque, which amplified the muezzin’s call to the Fajr. Her neighborhood. Her mother’s neighborhood, her father’s neighborhood, and so on back for thousands of years. The house of the cute boy, who sometimes rode his bike past her house after school and did tricks in her driveway, knowing she was watching from behind a corner of the drapes. The betel leaves and areca nuts. The airport hotel on Hulhule where she had her first job, as a front-desk receptionist, smiling in the faces of eco-tourists and practicing her accent. All of the places that held all of the same miniscule memories for everyone she had ever known. All of it gone. It was unthinkable, so huge was the loss. And yet, here on the other side of the world, there was not so much as a gust of wind to mark the change. Not the beating of the wings of a single Karner blue. It was entirely within her. It may as well have been a dream.

What, then, could something as frivolous, as petulant, as another person’s love be to her?

Michelle J. Fernandez is a public librarian from New York. Having spent the majority of her life at sea level, she is preoccupied with, and fascinated by, the implications climate change has for the future of humanity and the places it inhabits. Her poetry has appeared in the disability journal Wordgathering, on, and in Tonguas, the literary journal of the University of Puerto Rico. Her 2014 novella, The Pedestrians, was published in serial format by Novella-T. This passage is an excerpt from her full-length, as-yet-unpublished CliFi novel, Eminent Domain.

The green turtles

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

The time had come. She could feel a trickle of sand upon her nose, as she broke through from the safety of her spherical home. Clambering on top of her discarded eggshell, she propelled herself to the top of the chamber into the warm night air, where she waited. Suddenly hundreds of tiny heads emerged from their hidden cavity. They looked about nervously. The full moon’s light reflected upon the indigo sea… The air was still and balmy.

‘Let’s go, follow me.’ she said.

The sand was warm, as they scrambled down the dune towards moonlit water. Gentle waves kissed the beach, as they dove headlong into the open sea, leaving the shoreline behind them. The currents grew stronger as they approached deeper water.

‘Wait for me,’ a voice called from behind her. She turned to see one of her brothers, smaller than the rest, paddling as fast as he could against the tide.

‘Come on, keep up, I’m sure it won’t be far,’ although she wasn’t indeed certain of where they were going. but instinct drove her on.

After several hours, with rose-pink dawn upon the water, a large bed of floating seaweed appeared ahead of them, swaying back and forth in the swell of the waves. The horizon, like a stitched line appeared to join both sea and sky together.

‘Come on, we can rest here,’ she called to the little one beside her and turning, she was surprised to see that the rest of the group had disappeared. Seaweed brushed against their bodies and they rested within its benevolent embrace, its fronds aiding them shelter and camouflage from the eyes of predators.

After such a long swim and hunger gnawing at their bellies, they began to tear small pieces of tasty seaweed with their beaks. As they ate, they were unaware of a large slim shape that lurked below them, also intent upon finding a meal for itself.

Suddenly the silver form of an adolescent shark appeared through the crystal waters. She sensed its arrival and signalled to her brother to remain motionless. Its flicking tail passed them, almost close enough to touch, before it headed off into the water’s azure expanse.

‘That was very close,’ she said softly.’ We’d better be more watchful unless we want to become someone’s dinner.’ He shivered.

Days passed into months and the two youngsters were growing larger. Having outgrown their floating home, they desired a more varied diet and decided to swim closer to the shore. In the distance, they could see a large forest of kelp. Like underwater trees, it towered towards the surface. The water was shallower here, with algae covered rocks that jutted from the sea floor.

Amidst this watery canopy a jellyfish poked its glassy bell like head out from a rocky hole and eased itself from its hiding place. She caught sight of its diaphanous form and intrigued, sped towards it, thrusting herself through the ultramarine waters. Potential food, her sawlike beak, pierced its underbelly, instinctively careful to avoid its circling tentacles. Its rubbery body was unlike anything she had encountered, string-like tendrils protruded from her beak, as slowly the new cuisine, was consumed.

Here the sunlight sprinkled waves, with unflexed muscles, crawled smoothly to the shore, where they lapped on to the flax gold sand. Gulls silhouetted against the cloudless sky, wheeled above in the afternoon thermals. The lazy day idled. Summer languished. Time passed.

Some days they would climb on to a rock and enjoy basking in the sunshine. Here they felt relatively safe as they were now too large to fear becoming a hungry seabird’s lunch and far enough from the water to worry about sharks. Life was good. It was one such a day as this, that she noticed that the sea was full of the many limpid forms of jellyfish. From her vantage point on her sun warmed platform, she could see that these floating creatures would prove an easy catch. She chose her prey, slipped into the water and was upon her translucent meal in no time. It didn’t put up much of a fight as it drifted like gossamer in the current. Its white tentacles were tough and somewhat bland, but she swallowed it nonetheless.

‘The sea here is full of jellies,’ she said as they finished eating. Semi-transparent forms floated just below the surface in the rhythmic pulse of the sea. These gelatinous umbrellas pirouetted, caught in the water’s circling embrace.

The sky above them was cloudless, the sun breathed its sultry breath down upon them and they returned to their rocky terrace to bask once more. Listening to the sound of the lapping waves, they watched as slowly the sun changed its colour from orange to muted gold, that spread across the sea’s surface like an amber veneer.

As the temperature dipped, she turned to her brother and was startled at how strangely pale he seemed. He had a faraway look in his eyes. She wondered what had brought about this sudden change. Slipping into the apricot water, she turned and said. ‘I’m going to eat, are you coming?’

‘I don’t want to eat right now’ he said quietly. In fact, as he replied, she realised that she didn’t feel like eating either. It was as though there were lots of tiny bubbles in her stomach and somewhat alarmed, she found it was becoming difficult to keep below the surface.

Neither of them were now hungry and sluggishly they hung around their sea weed forest, occasionally scraping a little algae from the golden rocks. She was concerned that he was so quiet, although she too had little energy. Wedging herself between two small rocks to secure herself from floating upwards, she fell asleep.

When she finally awoke, her brother had disappeared. In desperation she looked around, as she wriggled herself free from the rocks. Once again the bubbles in her belly forced her to rise and before long she found herself drifting on the surface.

A boat’s bow broke the liquid turquoise.

‘Look’ shouted an excited boy with corn coloured hair, his freckled face smiling as he peered over the side into the blue water. ‘It’s a turtle!’ he exclaimed through a mouthful of sandwich, a plastic bag now empty, still in his hand. A girl with a similar number of freckles upon her sun kissed face appeared and leant over the side of the boat to watch a rather sick and bloated green turtle, flounder in the moving tide.

‘It doesn’t look very well does it.’ she said sadly, ‘I wonder what’s wrong.’ The boy tilted himself over slightly further to get a better look, before a sudden gust of wind, detached the plastic bag from his grasp and deposited it into the water below. He watched the receptacle float away on the tide.

Looking up she watched the seabirds circling, as yet another indigestible synthetic jellyfish joined the plastic sea.

Cohl Warren-Howles is an observer of nature, she captures her thoughts in both rhyme and short stories, across a variety of genres, but has a special interest in Eco-Fiction, She was born in Salisbury, England, near enough in the shadows of the ancient stone circle – Stonehenge, where she spent many an hour drawing for her degree in Fine Arts and Graphics. She writes for a number of magazines worldwide, has published a book, is now completing her second and currently lives in Stratford upon Avon with her husband Saul. They have two children. You can visit her blog  and check out her next book here.

Wall Street predators

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

Jessica urged her customers, “Hurry up, guys. You paid a lot of money for this charter. Check your gas levels. We’re almost at the drop zone. Stay together. If you wander too far apart, you’ll be out of communication range and on your own. Remember, there’s safety in numbers. Also, you signed papers promising not to spoil any of the relics. Look, but don’t touch. ” She pointed to a tan, willowy man, “That’s Tim Trenton. He’s my right-hand man. He’ll be diving with you and protect you in the event of an emergency.”

Trenton pulled back his vest, exposing a gun and a spear. He smiled, and said in his Aussie accent, “No worries, mates, I’ve got your back.”

Patrick, Josh, and Griff were all friends from Lincoln, Nebraska, visiting New York City. They gave Jessica the thumbs up sign and waited patiently for the boat, “The Downtowner” to reach its destination.

Five minutes into the descent, Patrick said, “Can you believe this? I’ve already seen a hundred different species!”

The divers moved away from the boat at a steady clip. When they reached the maximum allowable distance, Jessica pressed a button on her control pad and instructed the men to stop their advance. “That’s far enough, enjoys the sights!”

Josh signaled for his friends to follow him. They obliged and headed to the floor of the ocean. He said, “We’re on 44th street! My great-grandfather told me stories about coming here to see musicals. Now the only show playing is “The Incredible Mr. Limpet.”

His reference to a hundred year-old movie drew no replies.

They swam closer to the door of the building and read the sign, now practically worn away by the rushing waters. “Flood damage, everything must go”.

“Ha! That’s a good one,” said Tim. “It’s not like they can pump out the water, right?”

Griff was a professional photographer and planned on selling pictures of the trip on his website. He clicked away with his underwater camera, as he swam past retail stores of yesteryear like Bergman’s Deli, Styles by Rene, and a tattoo parlor.

Griff swam east on 44th street, passing landmark theatres, now buried in the sea like the lost city of Atlantis. He ventured out too far and an alarm rang in his ear. In a steady, clipped voice, he heard a man’s voice saying, ‘Return, return, return.” Griff did not return. He swam onward, away from the group. His friends were too far away to warn him of the impending danger. Tim frantically tried to reach him, but it was no use.

Griff felt a slight tug on his left leg. Thinking it was one of his friends, he said, “Hey, knock it off.” Then he felt a sharp pain that made him howl, “Ahhhhhh!!!!”

Blood filled the area outside his mask, and then inside his mask, too, and he began to lose consciousness. Tim pulled out his spear and fired at the shark, but the shot only nipped the dorsal fin. The Mako turned and set out for a second victim while Griff, missing one leg, and doomed, drifted along with the current. His trail of blood acted as a homing beacon for two other sharks in the area and they proceeded to finish off his remains, picking at him like guests choosing appetizers at a wedding.

Tim reloaded and fired again. He scored a direct hit on shark #1, stopping it cold, and the killer retreated into the depths and disappeared. His hungry friends caught Tim off guard, rising from below the Australian, each grabbing a leg and turning him into a Thanksgiving Day wishbone.

Jessica heard Tim’s cries of agony, and screamed, “What’s going on down there? Tim! Speak to me! What’s happening? Get back here, now!”

Patrick and Josh didn’t need suggestions, they needed to swim faster than the sharks and get back to the boat before they were dessert.

The sharks gave them a head start and then, as if in a competition with each other, raced towards the remaining divers.

Jessica saw the potential disaster coming from a distance. The shark’s fins poked through the choppy waters, closing in on the swimmers.

With ten feet separating them from certain death, the crew reached out to haul Patrick and Josh out of the water. Patrick went under first, lost forever. Josh extended his hand towards the boat. Jessica grabbed it and pulled with all her strength to help lift him out of the water to safety. She fell back against the railing, still holding Josh’s bloody arm. The rest of the poor man never made it on the boat. Jessica shrieked and dropped the bloody limb, where it fell, ironically, into a pail of bait. Jessica vomited, and then broke down in tears, her hands still trembling in fear.

As they returned to the dock, Jessica said to the captain, “They knew this was coming and they did nothing. They just kicked it down the curb. They knew the water was going to rise, dammit. They knew it, and didn’t do a damn thing about it until it was too late.”

The captain looked up at the tour guide and said, “And that’s why we have sharks in Manhattan.”

Richard Friedman lives in Cleveland, Ohio, and works in the criminal justice industry. His motto, “Saving the citizens of Ohio during the day and the rest of the world at night” keeps him motivated to write. His self-published novel, Escape to Canamith, was a fan favorite at the 2014 Green Festival in New York City. Last year he published The Two Worlds of Billy Callahan.

We drown with history

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

The Caribbean water remains piss warm despite the cool barrier of the touring party’s skin suits. Hope floats next to Envy floats next to Saul, their heads colorful specks amongst the water. Their tour guide hovers behind them, adjusting their oxygen tanks for the transition between their home marshes and the deeper waters. He stays patient while they try and adjust to the warmth.

When he dives, the party follows.

Of the three, Hope is the first to adjust to the dust and blue. Stray bubbles from the sandy base press up against her collarbone. The further she swims, the more intimately she recognizes the sweat sticking her suit to her back. It doesn’t distract her, though, from the sight of women scattered across the distant ocean floor.

They lie with their backs on the sand, faces worn away but breasts preserved, pert and tattooed with the skeletons of dead coral. The tour guide glides over them, pointing out the strays that have slipped away from the crowd. The stone of their skin is white and cracking.

Hope grimaces.

“We don’t know if they ever served a purpose,” the tour guide says through their headsets, “but they migrate with the tide. My colleagues theorize that this was some sort of mausoleum.”

Hope can’t see his eyes behind his goggles, can only notice the cant of his head. Down and to the left of his floating form, the women pile atop one another like resting crabs.

The tour guide leads them on.

The water warms past piss and becomes an unclean jacuzzi. Hope gathered bubbles around her throat like a necklace and slows each of her breaths. Envy swims ahead of her, making a game of fleeing Saul’s outstretched hands for distant, sunken upshots of land.

“We’re nearing the edge of the Grenadian reef, which means we’re close to the floating islands, the tour guide signs. We can’t board them – the plastic pieces are too unstable – but you’ll be able to see their prisms.”

Hope follows his flipping feet, spots a drowning bicycle, and carries on.

The statue that marks the edge of the Grenadian reef wears a broad, stone hat; the tour guide points it out as they draw nearer, though Hope’s gaze is hampered by muck and her companions at play. She spots the floating islands before the statue itself; their refractive plastic makes them skylights, amalgamations of color glancing off of the statue’s bowed head.

“We call her Mary,” the tour guide’s voice whispers in their ears.

Hope paddles closer, ignoring the pressure building in her chest and the drift of her party. She makes eye contact with the statue’s skull. The bleached hat has spared the bulk of Mary’s face, but the hole that is her mouth has been stuffed with a plastic bag.

Hope reaches out and removes the bag. She leaves a stream of bubbles in her wake.

Above her, the light shifts. Mary’s face melts from white to gray, purple, and green.

“How’d she get here?” Hope asks the tour guide.

“Like the rest of them did,” he replies, several heartbeats later. “When the world is drowning, the wisest are the ones who learn to drown with it.”

Celia Daniels is 22 years old and is pursuing a Masters in Literature at the University of Toledo. She’s fascinated by a burgeoning science fiction subgenre known as solarpunk. Her creative works have been published in Road Maps and Life Rafts, Magic Jar, Entropy, The Molotov Cocktail, Retreat West, and others.