The Halloween Ridge became the Halloween Hole as more of Antarctica crumbled into desert winds. My uncle would tell the story every time the sun became too hot. No one listened when he mentioned the ice melting at extortionate rates. When life was simple, people found denying at every turn that climate change was changing our world would be an easier option. Ignorance is not bliss. Bliss was once feeling the seasons change from winter to spring. Seeing new life created and flowers resurrected when the warm winds called them.
Summer was always the time we adored. It brought later nights, warmer weather and the much-needed vitamin D that nourished our bodies.
Now, Summer is what we fear. When the sky started to burn and the trees were alight, the light called us underground. A life of night.
We started cutting trees down long before the summer set fire to them. It made it easier to see them go. Easier to watch a vivacious green land turn to a grey and orange dust. You see, no longer can any human sustain burning from the sun. The climate change and rise in gas omissions saw our protective ozone layer peel back. The long nights no longer brought fun and festivities. The Sun was our God and we its slaves. So, underground we went. To hide from the heat, we built ‘summer homes’. A hole in the ground, a final resting place for mankind. At the top of the hole we would soak dried, clay-like soil in water, to stop the fires.
Summer had become a nocturnal occasion. The coolest times were during the night. Perfect time to collect whatever water you could find; whatever food could be found.
A barren land filled with despair and humans desperate for survival. Doesn’t sound like the futuristic life we all expected.
Before the change slowly came upon us, over population had us walking in lines to reach one place or the next. No freedom to walk where we wanted. Death was so feared that the extension of human life became essential. There has only been one certain factor in life, death. They, the governments, were desperate to find new places to home the ever-growing population. Yet, it would only be those who could afford a new life granted the gift of survival. Of course, it would be amazing to watch as humans colonise on different planets, and we did. So once Ross 128 b was found, money was given in copious amounts to find new ways for humans to live life as normal on the new planet. Even more money was given to find other planets that we could eventually destroy. No thought was given to Earth as they left one colony at a time. Watching from afar as the Earth burned and died before them. Earth was meant to last, not humans.
We found that the hard way. Those not strong enough to survive extreme temperatures, and could not leave the planet, died within the years that the sea levels buried entire cities beneath them.
Autumn was always my favourite season. Watching the summer come to an end and cooler days float in. Sadly, Autumn now brought uncertainty. We knew that the groundwater would disappear with the heat. We could only hope that the change in season would change that. Providing us with sustainable soil to grow food.
My mother would speak of a time when soil was rich in water, water that wouldn’t threaten to make you sick. I guess out of all the adjustments, finding clean water was the hardest. So, with every Autumn came movement. It was too hot to travel during summer and the days were too long. Travelling in Autumn was the safest season. Scouring the empty lands to find where hadn’t been too badly hit by the sun, with clean water nearby. Finding water was hard but clean water, it was almost impossible. Clean, unpolluted water meant two things, food and hydration.
My father told me about when the warnings first began. They started lightly in the early days. Gentle reminders for people to think about what they left on beaches. Take their waste with them and recycle it. Next, waste management companies were targeted for not correctly disposing of rubbish. However, kept inside hidden walls was the toxic pollution from chemicals. Next, oil spills, once were perceived as a disaster soon became normal as corporations ploughed the Earth for whatever was left.
Soon enough, no one cared any more. It was cheaper and easier to receive a fine than to treat the toxins or dispose of the plastics correctly. The governments stopped caring. Great lakes that were once homed different species of fish were now toxic bubble baths that eroded the rocks around them. The barriers were melted away and soon the lands were infected so badly that nothing could grow.
Travel. This was the meaning of Autumn now. It would start with exploring the lands left for growing food and if you were lucky, uninfected fish. Of course, there would only be a small quiet time before we found ourselves moving again. Looking for shelter from whatever winter would bring.
The remains of cities and houses scattered around provided the obvious choice for a winter home. These were the places to avoid. It was easier to take risks in the wild than with other humans. We headed for higher grounds that had hidden caves where we could all escape when the temperatures plummeted. Winter was unbearable. The polluted air made it harder to breathe. The layer of freezing cold air was sealed in by a layer of warmer air; trapping carbon monoxide and other toxins into the air we breathed. Finding home slightly above ground with some trees around was essential for surviving the winter.
Of course, winter felt longer than summer. With nothing to do, no internet, nothing manmade left to entertain yourself. The increase in natural disasters swept away the technology we had once built. Modern medicine reverted to home remedies and shortened life spans. The Earth could no longer carry out the excessive demands humans expected. The Earth was finally reclaiming its lands.
Winter passed quickly and soon it was spring. As the rivers thawed and gathered in pools around the winter palace, it made a good place to stay for growing more crops again.
Spring, to start this year, was easy but more mutations could be felt. In the middle of spring it started to feel like the beginning of summer. A highly concerning thought. There was not enough food yet that would see us through the long days of solitude. We had some clean water but the rest would need to be cleansed. That would take time and heat. Heat that would decimate any energy we had left. It would render us weak. So, we waited to see if this was a fluke, a day or so of unusual heat. After a week had passed it was evident it wasn’t going to get any cooler. This was it now. The summer now commanded spring. We had to leave in search of land easy to dig. This year we headed towards the coast hoping a trench could be dug to live in before it was too hot.
Three days after reaching the coast my auntie died from heat exhaustion. The body was wrapped in cloth and burnt far away from our summer home. This was to stop any wild animals from finding the scent and leading them to us. Animals hunted as they always had. Being exposed to the wild animals that roamed the lands was not the best thing to do. Digging another hole took up too much of our wasting energy.
I looked to my mother once more. Her skin is peeling under the blistering sky fire. Lips cracked and bleeding. Teeth slowly fall out without touching them, water had truly left her body. I knew she will be the next body burnt. I fear with my skin bubbling and teeth decaying that I will soon follow her as the earth reclaims our bodies.
We cannot undo what has been done. There was a time when listening to warnings about our planet’s destruction, if taken seriously, could have prevented what was happening. Not now, it’s gone on too far. Perhaps if we fought harder to stop the Amazon being cut down. Perhaps if we listened to the warnings of climate change. Perhaps if we had all done our part it may have prevented the decimation of our Earth.
The Earth will remain long after humans have perished. The ways in which we defiled our lands and oceans only led to our own downfall. We were more concerned about advancing ourselves and technology we forgot to thank and care for the terrain that provided us with the opportunity. We should have thanked the world by growing more trees, not cutting them down. We should have cared for the animals better, instead of finding more on the endangered lists each year. We should have stopped to think about what every piece of plastic did to our oceans. We should have cared for the earth like it has always cared for us.
We did nothing to deserve or serve this planet.
Whoever or whatever is lucky enough to inhabit the world next, I can only hope they look after it better than humans did.