By: Annie Grimaudo
July 14, 2018
He ran into the building with a hacking cough and a hand covering his mouth. His throat burned as he took long breaths to stabilize in the buildings fresh air supply.
In, one, two, three.
Out, four, five, six.
In, out, okay. He glanced down at his watch. Thirty minutes to regain his composure before reporting in. Clean air wasn’t cheap after all. The showers and detox center was busy. Today was a red zone danger day with a rating of 8 out of 10 on the pollution scale. Most people like to clean that off them before they start their day.
He scanned in at 9AM promptly and was stationed down Row 3, Column 7 of the cubicle floor, ready to receive his first report at exactly 9:08AM.
After the 10th phone call the cough came back. He hacked so hard it felt like a fit or attack of the body against itself. It took him a minute before he could fully breathe again from the attack. He had been holding a handkerchief to his mouth which was now covered with black phlegm. He examined it - more than usual. The handkerchief bore brown stains scaring its white folds, from ample past use. His lungs ached from the upheaval. He pulled a small bottle of orange liquid from his desk drawer. Almost empty. He would have to go see the company nurse again. He chugged down the remaining elixir just as his phone rang, demanding the return to his duties.
When it was 5PM, a chime rang out, signalling the end of day. His computer automatically switched off, and the shuffling of beings rising from their chairs and transitioning toward the exit ensued.
This time, he put on his safety mask before returning to the streets for his commute. No one was on the street, his eyes watered as they hit the air. He looked up and down the vacant street - why?
Chancing a glance upward at the sky, past the shadowing skyscrapers, he saw the once iconic blue sky was it's now constantly maintained dull brown-yellow. The brown yellow sky was sadly no surprise, but what did look out of the ordinary was the small brown flecks of...what? They were flying all over the muddy backdrop. It gave him chills looking at the sporadic flecks, there was no way that was good.
Back on the street level he now fastened his safety goggles over his breathing mask. He had never used them before and had thought it was a stupid regulation they had to carry around these apparatuses with them at all times...until now.
His breathing and vision were limited, all covered but they no longer burned; and that was a nice reprieve.
Arriving at his flat, his television turned on right when he walked through the door. A broadcasters professional voice broke the silence as he removed his protective covering.
“A warning from our head of environment branch today that there have been preventative spraying of aluminum dioxide into the atmosphere all day today in an attempt to regulate the steady incline of the temperature of our planet. Unfortunately, this preventative measure adds more pollution to the very thing we are trying to correct. When poised with this question the head of the environment government branch refused to comment saying they are simply doing everything they can.”
He muted the T.V. and watched the woman reporter’s concerned expression for a minute. He felt unmoved from her concern, if he was being honest with himself, he knew she didn’t care. No one of power actually cared, how could they let it get to this point if they did?
He felt the constant throb of pain emanating from his throat, how where they expected to live like this? He couldn’t even remember the last time he had been able to enjoy being outside. An earth as inhospitable as the universe itself. Nowhere felt like home for humans anymore.
To confirm that fact, he coughed a little more black phlegm up. He hadn’t eaten all day - eating was expensive, only greenhouse food was safe anymore. Out of the pantry he pulled a small packet of rice that required ½ cup of water. He glanced at his water stores - one gallon left. With great care he measured out the required amount and put it on the stove burner to heat up.
All the simple pleasures of life were lost. His closet sized apartment had nothing but a T.V., and a bed with one corner for the kitchen and a cubby style bathroom. He didn’t know what he was living for anymore with every simple pleasure callously stripped from existence. He continued to endure out of habit. He supposed that, and an absurd optimism that stayed in his tired soul. He took a deep breath to test if he could. Pain permeated his chest. No, he could not.
The only “things” he had were plants in his apartment. But with his need to ration water, they didn’t look very strong. They were feeble and weak, like the breath that rattled from his fatigued lungs. Breath no longer could even nourish him. What could nourish anymore?
What could give him peace with his reality?
He was met with a blank question mark. Dissatisfaction, they always were saying was normal. But so was so much else he found vastly unacceptable.
Inhospitable to humans. It was unavoidable at every turn of the mind. Carry on in the cloud of dissatisfaction. It was embedded in his soul to do so. Enduring was the only option; with his foolish optimism.
over & out. ANgr