Wakefulness hit me upside the head like a broken whiskey bottle, wrenching me from one nightmare into another. My handy is screaming at me, the klaxon alert of a citywide emergency alert blaring out from the cluttered table beside my sofa. Clutching the screen to my face, I see a clutter of emergency warnings: Hurricane Jasmine has already carved out five miles of shoreline in the Gulf and is showing no sign of slowing as it rips up the coast, skips over the mountains, and rushes towards the city on a coastal highway of muggy air. The meteorological restrillects are predicting that Jasmine will still be a punishing category six hurricane by the time it hits us, with rain starting as early as this evening and the full force of the storm striking within forty-eight hours.
I groan and drop the handy back onto the table, pulling my blanket back over my stubbled face.
There are plenty of advantages to life in the City: Safety, opportunity, comfort. But when you come right down to it, even the mighty industrial architecture and gargantuan flood control systems are subject to the whims of nature. My grandparent’s generation was the last to live with the blissful delusion that they could conquer nature through technology. Ever since, the restless planet has pummeled us with repeated lessons that we are a part of nature, not its masters. Rising seas, extreme weather, and the relentless evolution of diseases which eventually outpaced our ability to cure them. The worst of these was, of course, the plague. The ultimate manifestation of nature rebelling against humanity’s hubris.
I push back the covers and swing my feet to the floor, fingers gripping my knees as my head hangs loose from my shoulders. I fixate on the pattern of the synthetic wood floor, forcing myself to focus finding the repetition in the print as I struggle to banish the visions of necrotic flesh and seeping blood which flood my vision each time I close my eyes.
This is the last thing I need this morning.
There are days when I sit, feet nailed to the cold floor, eyes fixed on the floor, wishing that I were curled up on the floor in a pool of my own blood, feeling my soul sink through the floor and descend into hell. I’d take one of those days over this.
I wonder what it would take to get myself locked up in solitary confinement for the rest of my life. Some masterful crime just terrible enough to ensure that prosecution is handed over to the Feds, so the corps cannot put me to work in one of their private factories, but no so terrible that I run the risk of execution. Of course, it was such a confinement that saved my life to begin with, so maybe the solution lies instead in setting out across the mountains through the mire, walking naked through the wilds until nature claims me for its own.
It is enough to make me understand why men in medieval times would submit themselves to the strictures of monastic life, to spending decades performing strictly ordered acts of spiritual service while studying the intricacies of winemaking. The complete surrender of agency is an emotional suicide, an act of self destruction without all that pesky risk of damning the soul.
My handy buzzes as my ancillary notices that I’m awake and reminds me that I’ve got plans for the day and had best get off my ass and start moving.
“Gotta save the children,” I grunt. “They’re the goddamn future.”
I push myself up off the sofa and stumble towards the toilet, shouting for my ancillary to get the shower started.
Relatively speaking, this isn’t a bad start to a day.