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.
Every winter, the ice on the lake forms later and vanishes sooner, rotting and fragile in the too-warm air. Soon the birds will no longer come here at all: the birds that I watched with my father when I was a girl, and that you watched with me not as long ago. When you wore your small red snowsuit and pushed joyously out from the bank to spin on the gleaming white plate that the water had become. The birds will go farther north, chasing the last of the crystal cold. You will go back to your city apartment, chasing a life that answers all your wishes. Then the burning blue sky and my creaking old house will both be empty and quiet.
Today, you and I watch as the birds come in. You – who were born of my body, tearing at us both – you say I have more words and hours for my camera than you. You have three decades to look back along, only three to my too-many, but you have already forgotten the thick white ice of your childhood, and you never saw the flash of colour you made on it, the spirals of delight. Now you use words like ‘always’ and ‘never’ to sum up what you and I have been. You show me the total, underlined and circled in red: not what you wished for, always lacking.
My camera, your grandfather’s before mine, reaches back to the long-ago past and freezes images onto glass. I use it to freeze ghosts of birds in silver, because I will be gone long before you, along with the lake ice.
On the photographic plate, there is no earth or sky, no aching past or shadowed future. I give you my birds this way. They are perfect and free.