22.09.50 – Day 6 of Journey – Rana
The tip of the rocks started to look clearer as we walked. They stood out: a red blur against the sky. There was no trace of the green we’d seen from the distance. I imagined our dead bodies congealing in the mist and then breaking apart under the force of the rain. It comes down hot and fast for days, you can’t even go near the walls without feeling its unbearable presence. Eventually it slows and the floods recede, then the water cools and we can open the doors onto the top floor pavilion and walk out, washing away our cabin fever and jumping off the side of the railings into the water to swim.
Mum says the mist comes from the ocean. The sea heats up and evaporates, then it cools down and turns into rain. Not everyone agrees with her theory. The ocean as it was is thousands of miles away.
As we walked, the mist got thicker around us. The cart got harder and harder to push. We paused a moment, Jasper covering us with the thin tent of fabric so we could take off our masks and regroup for a moment. Jasper doesn’t look at any of us.
I’ll have to tear these pages out and eat them if we ever get home, but I don't like the idea of some future expedition or outsider finding this record and thinking I was some kind of victim of circumstances, any more than I was. I chose to bring her. I had to tell Cora as our acting medic, but it wouldn't be fair to blame her for being convinced by me. I've known her my whole life, she owes me a thousand favours, and she's just too empathetic for her own good. Anyway, it seemed so minor at the time, just some minor mood swings and a scattered memory, we thought maybe we would have years before it turned into anything.
“She’s been pushing for this expedition since I was a child,” I said, “all they need is one reason to put it off permanently. And it would be so cruel, for her to wait until the end of her life and then never get to see what’s out there.”
The decline happened so rapidly after we’d left it took Jasper less than an hour to figure it out.
“How could you be so fucking stupid?”
“It’s my fault,” Cora replied, “I should have anticipated … it was wishful thinking.”
Jasper has barely spoken to us since.
“We should wrap her arms, too,” Cora said as we began to pull the tent down.
“I’ll do it.”
I grabbed a roll from the bottom of the cart, trying not to disrupt mums cushioning too much.
“What is this?” she snapped, pushing my arm away.
“PCM,” I said, “remember?”
“I’ve never heard of that,” she shouted, “don’t lie to me.”
“It’s phase change material, to regulate temperature and …”
Cora tapped my elbow and signed, "you’ll just upset her more.”
"I won't wear it!" She yells, "it's my expedition!"
I stare down at my mother, distraught and running out of time just like the rest of us. Jasper steps up behind me and squeezes my shoulder. It's the first time she's touched me in months.
“You’re sick, mum," the words fall out of my mouth before I can stop them, "you don't understand."
She burst into tears and screams. I crawled into the cart and put my arms around her.
“We don’t have time,” Jasper says.
I don't want to write about my best friends holding my mothers arms down while I swaddled her like a screaming baby. After a while, she curled up on the bottom of the cart and sobbed with futile anger as we pushed her up towards the rocks.
“He hears me not, but o’er the yawning deep
Rides heavy; his storms are unchain’d, sheathed
In ribbed steel; I dare not lift mine eyes;
For he hath rear’d his scepter o’er the world,” I chant to her, breathless and heavy. It's all I can think to say. I think her crying slows a little. Maybe wishful thinking.
“Can you do the sunflower one instead?” Jasper asked, “this one is depressing.”
She knows ‘The Sunflower’ is my favourite.
Through the mist, a blur of green appeared. We stopped and stared. They were small and indistinct, mottled with bright colours in the distance.We moved forward, the cart handlebar digging into my chest as I pushed. Inside, our soil samples and Jasper’s scavenged tech rattled around mum’s folded legs. I heaved in deep, sticky breaths, the humidity seeping through my mask.
The forest starts to grow around them (note one) – build up to this moment more?
The mist had reached the ground, so thick we couldn’t see our own legs. The rubble seemed to be moving under us, something sharp stuck into my leg through my suit and I cried out. I checked for a tear, and my hand closed around a spiny stalk. I kneeled and ran my hands up and down it, the texture was rough even through my gloves. I could see move, shadowy and grey stretching out around us through the mist. The stalk in my hand was vibrating, moving to twist together with more until they formed thick stems. I ripped my mask down.
“They’re growing!” I screamed, “around us – look!”
We were surrounded waist high by shadowy formations, growing taller around us at every moment. Cora threw down her pack and grabbed onto the side of the cart, and together we pushed through the stems. The stems grew over us, twining together until we were crawling forward in total darkness following the cracks and moans of our forged path.
“We’ll die here,” I heard Jasper say through heavy breaths, “but I think the air is clean.”
I noticed my mask was still hanging over my chest, and burst into hysterical gasps of laughter, falling forward against the cart. Cora steadied me.
“No one’s dying,” she said, her voice eerily calm, “not just yet.”
due to soil contamination
they burnt it, and then they burnt
said the smell was
now they weed every day
and throw the bodies over
the tiny twisted roots
is quarantine now
we are living inside it
everything was in a flurry saving what
she said: they
lost so much research they
are building more but but
new things can be
Per di ta
per dit a
Perdita Perdita Perdita Perdita
Perdita Perdita Perdita
I will rise and walk with the sun on my head
will you walk with me, will you follow the dead?
we grow tunnels for air
I press my face to the glowing
my grandmother walks out sings through the mist
even as they tell her
you’ll die that way –
as time goes on
I remember ed more
but with more time
it’s going again
because they burnt it all down, they
my mother said, she can’t help it
she’s a scientist
like up at the rock
she points to the white dome in the
distance and that’s
my last memory of
“Rana,” the woman says, and twists her hands to make signs
she points to herself
“can you hear? can you
do you know
do you know
do you know
“ what’s your name?
what should we call you?”
black smog over red and white earth in all directions, scraggly trees in the distance
the water dried
from the earth and
gathered dense and hot in the sky
and we mo ved higher and hig her
deeper and deeper
they wanted to bring the world back
if we can manage to grow trees around the mountainside
eventually they’ll be big enough to help deflect the heat
and stop the rising floods
it will just take
a very long time
in the mean-time
we are dying
we are burning from the ground up
we are burning from the ground up
we are burning
Rana sits near me and watches
she asks can I see so
I show her one page
“You liked Amy Lowell?”
I look at her and feel
the cold grips around me
when I try to say yes
but she is looking
at me like a person so I
want to cry and then I think she likes poetry
her name is Perdita, she nodded at me – I’m sure it was intentional communication
she’ll open up more
Meeting of the City Council
Location: Level 7 Dining Hall
Council opened at 11:53am
Election of Chair
Adoption of Agenda
2. Confirmation of Previous Minutes
21. Minutes of City Council, Meeting 19(52)
3. Matters Arising from the Minutes
5. Motions without Notice
6. Level Representatives Reports – all submitted
7. Soil Contamination Response Update
7.1 Level Six Spread
7.2 Expedition 0 Quarantine
7.3 Expedition 0 Plant Samples
8. Inter-personal disputes (listed in attached documents)
9.1 Recycling Machines
9.2 Irrigation Systems
9.4 Windows: Levels 76, 82, 94 & 208
9.5 Energy Fabrics
11. Other Business
12. Next Meeting