Released on 22nd April, Earth Day 2018, the Nothing Is As It Was climate-fiction anthology is raising funds for the climate-action group, Earth Day Network. The story below has kindly been donated by the author to raise awareness of the anthology and the issues humanity faces due to climate change. We hope you enjoy it and if you do, please make a donation to the cause if you can and leave a comment letting the author know.
‘Carla loves Frank’. It was cut into a piece of tree-bark delivered by drone, wrapped in protective plastic. Outside, rain fell steadily from neon-logoed artificial clouds. ‘Touch me,’ the package dared in bold typeface, ‘and discover the truth.’
Ferdy put the package aside and lit an electronic cigarette.
‘I’ll check it out,’ he said to Lissa, ‘and be careful, it could be a trap.’ He gazed out at the flashing concrete world, wondering who would want to pollute their pod with tree.
When they looked it up, the museum hologram projected into the room showed a tree actually growing, incised with similar marks. The caption said: ‘Up till the 21st century, when trees were placed in enclosures, it was common to desecrate them as part of a mating ritual.’ They laughed, disbelieving. Trees were now part of The Wild Inc., which operated the planet’s biological resources, and no one had been allowed to go near them for well over a century. Earth’s ecology had become so toxic The Wild Inc. existed to purify it for human use. That’s why those sentenced to work there had to live apart from everyone else.
Out of the city’s bubble, where the Exers lived in the shadowy acrid planetary atmosphere, Ferdy pulled his hat and mask down over his face and sought out the only woman who might give him some clues.
‘Tell me about trees, Gloria,’ he said, entering her home and leaning against the door. ‘And who is Carla?’
Gloria was the oldest woman you have ever seen. Close to bald, the hair she had lay in wisps down her back. When she spoke, she wheezed. Her eyes had sunk into her flesh, leaving nothing but a gleam; her face was scarred with wrinkles as deep as the valleys on Mars. She was half Ferdy’s height, and walked with prosthetic implants to her spine and legs.
But Gloria shook her head.
‘I can’t’, she said, coughing; then coming closer, she whispered: ‘They were the one good thing. Too risky to say more. Don’t come back here or they’ll suspect us both.’
Back at the pod Lissa was gone, her stuff too. Perplexed, Ferdy picked up the packet and saw it had been opened. New words had been added: ‘L loves F’ and then scored out. He took it out of its wrapper and, gingerly, held it in his hands. The wood smelled sweet and vibrant like nothing he’d ever known before, with a rich, citrusy tang. It smelled fresh. He looked out of the empty apartment at the leafless cityscape stretching in every direction. At last – too late – he thought he understood.