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Historical Fiction Fantasy Science Fiction

“Your life will not be easy my little one and for that I am truly sorry. Through no fault of your own, by the hands of the generations before you, the world I grew up with will be nothing more than a fairytale to you.”

A baby no older than a couple weeks stares back at his mother with his emerald green eyes. The mother returns the gaze with eyes telling a different story. Her eyes show a theatrical act of sorrow and regret that is only broken as the curtains close between blinks. The mother tries to avert her gaze from her child. How can she face her son with the guilt of leaving him to live in an apocalyptic world? Tears begin to roll down her face like the streams that used to flow through the forests and mountains. She just wished there was something she could do. Anything to help him get through the hard times he will face throughout his life. Her whimpers turned into cries as she felt ashamed for her past transgressions against the planet. Like a crisp breeze on an autumn evening she whispered, “How could I bring you into this world and give you a life that used to be filled with dreams and has now been replaced with nightmares?”

The emerald green eyes of that baby boy began to swim with tears. Even in the baby's infancy he could sense the distress from his mother. With no conscious knowledge of the actions he was taking the boy began to reach out for his mother and burrow into her arms. With her final sniffles and the use of her sweater’s sleeve to wipe away the last of her tears she held her child close. She rocked him back and forth like a boat at sea until he was relaxed back into calm waters. She raised her child to match her at eye level so she could gaze deep into these emerald green eyes in an attempt to see the world through his. To see the world still full of possibilities and opportunity instead of the hopelessness that awaited them just outside. She wished he could see vast green forests, expanses of snow, and running rivers. She wished for him to know what the world used to be like before humanity pushed global warming past the brink. It was then, lost in her boy’s emerald green eyes, that she knew what she could give him. She could give him hope.

“Hello my little one. You may not understand me now but, I wish to tell you about the world that came long before you.”

The boy turned his head in curiosity to this proposition.

“Where would you like to begin, little one?”

As if expecting her infant to request a list of topics to choose from like a multiple choice exam she began to list the things that no longer existed on this planet.

“Where to begin: the vast green forests, the falling snow and icy tundras, the flowing rivers, or all the exoctic species that used to roam and grow across this once incredible planet.”

The boy returned her gaze and opened his mouth as if to speak when only a hiccup escaped.

The mother chuckled, “Okay little one let’s begin with the animals and plants.”

The boy giggled as his mother began:“When you come of age my little one you will be taught in schools of the diverse ecosystems that once covered the expanse of Earth. These ecosystems were the homes of creatures that do not exist anymore. With time scales in the millions of years, plants and animals evolved  to survive the changing conditions across the globe. Each species held unique adaptations that they honed to their benefit. In the oceans there were creatures as big as airplanes or as small as poppyseeds. Some were like us in a way, they were called mammals. Although we don’t live under the waves we create new life in the same manner. We raised them under watchful eyes until they were ready to live their own lives. The beauty of seeing another mammal, so different from us, create a new life in the same way was magical. A creature called a Whale could grow to the length of an airplane. Can you believe that?”

Hobbes, their small, orange furry cat had emerged from his hideaway to inspect and listen in on the stories being told. The boy turned in delight and reached out for the small feline screaming with giggles. Hobbes bounded away in fright startled from the abrupt shrieks of a happy newborn. The boy turned to his mother with tears welling up in his eyes. She sensed the impending water works and knew she had to continue her tale fast to deter the approaching fit. 

“Did you know there used to be cats like Hobbes little one?” He looked up at her and giggled. “Yes little one. There were big cats that roamed this world. With large fangs and dazzling color patterns of fur. The king of all the cats, the lion, had a mane of golden silk.”

The boy was having a frown form on his face as lunch time was approaching.

“Is it lunch time my little one? Let us get some food in you as we continue our stories.” The boy was raised to his mother’s exposed breast to be nourished. Through the quiet suckling of his feeding she began again. “On the topic of food my little one, there used to be delicacies that used to grow on the Earth. Their flavors from bitter to salty to sweet made your mouth water. Fruits of all shapes, sizes, and colors used to hang from trees all around free to pick. Bananas, strawberries, pears, and stone fruit so juicy it dripped all over you. You are far too young for this now but the most magical food of all was called coffee. Oh how I miss its warm aroma and bitter taste.”

As the mother trailed off in reminition of her caffeine addiction the little boy was full and fast asleep in her arms. 

“Okay little one, we can continue our stories once you awaken,” the mother said lost in thought. Her guilt and shame were still center stage in her mind. She carried regrets for her past actions and the actions of those before her for destroying this beautiful planet. She felt shame and guilt for leaving her boy with the shit show of problems they had created out of the past generations' greed. She couldn’t say how much time had passed as she swam through this pool of thoughts; perhaps minutes or hours. The boy began to stir from his peaceful slumber.

“Hello there little one did you have a nice nap?”

Smiling back with content he seemed to reply, “yes, I am eager for the next story mother.”

“Let’s continue this story of the once magical lands that spread across the Earth. What would you care to hear about next: the forests; the rivers, streams, and air, or the polar expanse?”

The boy blinked twice. The mother took this as a response for option two and so she began again:

“Long before you my little, when the temperatures were kinder the planet was healthier we had two magical fluid bodies. These two fluid bodies were so pure they had healing powers. One could quench the most desperate of thirsts, clean the dirtiest of bodies, and give life to a tired soul. The other was all around us, always with us, filling us with life hundreds of times a day as we breathed in and out, just like we are doing now. It was an invisible guardian that filled us all with vitality. These two pure, fluid entities were known as water and air. Let us begin with the air.”

Clapping with joyous agreement the boy was shouting encore, in his own mannerisms that only an infant could comprehend.

“As I said earlier the air is all around us; even to this day it still circulates around the globe like a meteorological ballet. Before your time my child; it used to be invisible. It was always with us and we inhaled it in and exhaled it out over and over again. There was nothing better than a breath of fresh air. This air that we used to know was not dampened by pollutants, plastics, or particles that would do us harm. I am sorry that the cleanest air you will ever breathe is one through a filter. Yes, this air does its job and gives you life but it isn’t the same as the good, natural, fresh breath that is now gone, just like the wind. The air now is too toxic. There is no fresh breath anymore and the air is no longer invisible. It has been contaminated and instead of watching over us like a guardian it now looms over us like a demon. It reminds us everytime we step outside of the mistakes we made long ago. It is our hell to see the toxic circulatory patterns of green and grey wafting and dancing: it seems to taunt us for our mistakes now. For this I am sorry my little one that you will never know a breath of true fresh air.”

The boy, cradled in his mother's arms, turned his head with sadness painted on his face.”I know little one. Even though you can’t understand me now you will one day and when that day comes I shall plead before you like a criminal and beg for your forgiveness as I have destroyed a simple act of life for you. Air has a sister called water. Water is like air but much more tangible to us. It is a fluid like air but different. It has weight and force that is so much more powerful than you or I. We have ruined water for you though too my little one. The water you will see is brown, black, and stinks of death. You cannot drink this water or play in it because of what we have done but, I can tell you of its once great majesty. This is all I can do for you now my little one. Water covered most of the planet in one form or another. In its largest form it was salty like the salt we add to our food. In this form it was called the sea or the ocean and covered most of this planet. It kissed and hugged the land in a never ending dance. The oceans were deeper than the highest mountains. They kissed the land from all sides with pure blue, green waters and allowed us to play and cool off on summer days. The spray from her waters was a reminder of her power but also a salty kiss of comfort. The oceans and seas were not to be taken lightly but we utilized them for fun, travel, and adventure. They were always a mystery to us and that is how they shall stay. It is too dangerous to enter their waters now. The ocean you will see today is a decrepit grave of what it used to be.”

“Water wasn’t just salty and in the ocean; it also used to fall from the sky and fill rivers, streams and lakes across the land. This water was fresh. The water on the lands would meander down the mountains and across the plains like a lost soul finding its way back home to the ocean. The sounds of a fresh trickling stream were gentle and delicate. The sounds of a river could have a deafening vigor  that truly made you realize the water’s power. As water traveled from the highest mountains and across the plains it eventually returned to the salty ocean, where the cycle would start again. Time would pass and it would be sucked up into the sky to rain down across the lands again. Rain, what a magical phenomena. It was a cool shower for the planet that cleaned us all. Are you still with me, my little one?” She looked down at the child in her arms and he smiled back at her with joy wishing for nothing more than her to continue these magical stories. “You know, there is one more form water could take. Water could be as hard as rocks or as delicate as a feather in the forms of ice and snow. At the tips of the Earth in the North and South, in an area called the poles, there used to be vast sheets of ice floating in the seas or sitting on the land. These areas had magnificent beauty yet were some of the most hostile environments on the planet. The ice sheets were a blinding white surface in every direction; flat, barren, and beautiful as far as the eye could see. Oh how I wish you could see snow my little one. You will never know the feeling of chills or being cold. It sounds unpleasant but walking through a blanket of snow gave a warm feeling I cannot do justice to explain. As the crystalline feathers cascaded down all around you there fell a shroud of silence that made you feel all alone. It wasn’t lonely though; it was peaceful. The silence made more of a sound than any other noise could. There hasn’t been snow in decades and there is no sign of it ever to return. The ice has all melted into the seas and raised them to drown more of our lands. This is our punishment for our sins. The environment is fighting back in one last rebuttal taking from us everything we once called beautiful yet had no problem destroying.”

The little boy had dozed off again for his afternoon nap and the mother laid him down in his crib to live in his dreams. She wondered if he was having dreams of wandering through a forest blanketed in cascading snow. She wandered to the kitchen window and pulled the curtains aside. The kitchen was illuminated by the red haze of her sins that laid waste across the planet. Outside she could barely see more than a hundred feet as her home sat shrouded in a haze of pollution. She looked at a device on the windowsill that told the conditions outside: temperature 98 degrees, humidity 0 percent, AQI 250. The minutes turned into hours as she stared out the window remembering what the world used to be. Even during her childhood the tides were already beginning to shift as climate change was reaching its tipping points. The generations to come were being left with a wasteland with more problems than solutions. She collapsed to the kitchen floor and sobbed like a child who lost their parents in a grocery store. How could she repay her child for everything she had taken from him.

The fading dull haze of light began to recede from the window as the evening approached. She was awoken from her stupor of sorrow as cries were heard from the next room. The boy had awoken from his afternoon nap for dinner. She gathered herself and hurried into the room. They returned to a comfy brown chair where she exposed her breast once more for her child to nourish. The cries disappeared as the boy’s eyes shut in contentment. 

“Would you care to hear one more story little one before the day is done?” There was no response this time as the boy was greedily feeding but, she began anyway in the hope that he would be listening: “This last story my little one concerns the towering fields of trees known as forests. These natural skyscrapers breached the clouds reaching up from the soil below. They came in all shapes and sizes and were some of the oldest living things in this world. They erupted from the earth, living off of the soil, water, and sunlight. Their trunks took hundreds of people holding hands to encircle the mighty tower. From the trunks emerged branches in mesmerizing fractal patterns which eventually held leaves. When a collection of trees grew together it was called a forest and forests were magical my little one. They enticed you into them where you would wander their maze. Sometimes their canopy of leaves could become so dense it was like a roof of a house. It stopped rain from soaking you or provided a shady grove to escape the sun.”

 She paused for a moment to gather her thoughts. With reluctance and guilt she began again: 

“I don’t remember when the last forest disappeared my little one but I wish more than anything you could’ve seen it. There are only singular trees now, few and far apart. Most of them look like a ghastly skeleton of their prior integrity.”

The boy with the emerald green eyes had finished his dinner and was dozing off in her arms. She laid him down inside his crib surrounded by blankets and kissed him on the forehead goodnight.

“Whether you understand me now or not my little one I am truly sorry. I sound like a broken record at this point but I can never give you these things that I have told you today. You will never see a forest or a clean running stream or snow cascading down on a winter evening. We have ruined these experiences for you and for that I can never forgive myself. My only hope is to leave you with the memories of times that are long gone. With these stories I believe you will gain hope to help return this planet to its former beauty. Sleep well my little one and I hope your dreams are filled with all the animals and plants sipping water from a babbling brook; surrounded by a forest with cascading snow blanketing you all in a powerful silence.”

August 29, 2020 03:11

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1 comment

Lee Doe
00:31 Sep 03, 2020

Great job! i loved how you turned the prompt from a day-in-the-life to a story with a very powerful message!

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