Midas' touch: A dystopian message (from an era after Nuclear Winter)

Submitted into Contest #213 in response to: Write about someone with a Midas touch: everything they touch turns to [fill in the blank].... view prompt


Science Fiction Fiction Sad

Dear future humans or others,

I write to you from a world you might find difficult to imagine, a world shaped by the reckless desires of those who came before me. It's like the ancient tale of King Midas of Phrygia, whose touch turned everything to gold. Our own "Midas' touch" turned our dreams into greed and our ambitions into disaster.

In the fragments of what was once known as Istanbul, a small settlement now struggling to survive, I've grown up without ever glimpsing the graceful flight of a bird. The birds, like many other creatures, were lost to our insatiable thirst for more. I ache for their songs I've only read about in ancient texts. My name is Ari, and I'm captivated by the remnants of history, especially the stories of creatures and wonders we lost.

In the age-old tale of King Midas, his fabled touch possessed the power to turn ordinary objects into glistening gold at his slightest contact. This enchanting gift was something he chose himself from the god Dionysus when he could have asked for anything. Initially seen as a blessing, soon evolved into a heart-wrenching curse that isolated him from the world he cherished. His trusted stallion turned into a golden statue, food became gold, and wine turned to metal taste, he would spit it out. His beloved daughter, whom he held dearer than all the treasures he amassed, was transformed into a lifeless golden statue when she ran to her father's arms for a dear embrace. His servants scared, abandoned him. His carriage was too heavy, and he could only move on foot, in thirst, starvation, and horror for he knew he would die soon and all that gold couldn't save him.

This poignant tale is a haunting reminder that even the most coveted abilities can unravel into tragedy when unchecked desire overrides reason, just as we, in our own time, yearned for boundless advancements but sowed the seeds of our world's ruin.

King Midas' story mirrors ours in a haunting way. Humans craved greatness, and like him, although many claimed that we achieved it and different people had varied opinions about when that was, nevertheless it was not without grave consequences. Our technological prowess birthed innovations, however, the production and consumption rates were insane and caused even further pollution and poverty in the place where those things were manufactured. Combined with local-scale wars, this led to internal and external displacement towards "safer" societies, but in those societies fear created division, hatred, and even more fanatics.

The powerful manipulated truths and twisted ideologies turned nations against each other and even incited internal conflicts. Meanwhile, the climate was unstable and brought forth overflown oceans, raging forest fires, and devastating storms, amongst other phenomena. Wars broke out over dwindling resources, and global alliances began to crumble under the weight of this pressure.

Scholars mentioned that there was World War I and World War II, but this- this was something else. The weapons used were much more powerful, nuclear and hydrogen weapons, that impacted and changed the whole world, and caused much further "collateral" than people had imagined. Even if you did not die from the impact, or the third-degree burns, even if you lived somewhere far away, you could not escape the effects, because this great War brought upon a Winter. As dust and smoke lifted up above the stratosphere, and stayed there covering the sun for years. Many people, animals, and plants died. I heard stories about how cold was that first period, farmers would gaze upon the barren land, storages were empty. As global communications and trade were paralyzed, getting provisions from other areas was nearly impossible. Dignity did not exist as people would do horrible things to feed, in those unforgiving famines.

It's both fascinating and horrifying to see in recent history how our intelligence and strategic capacity have led to this, as they were wielded as tools of destruction.

Yet, the wounds went even deeper. Oceans, once teeming with life, now became toxic wastelands, a result of our disregard for nature's balance. I've read about the wonders of the oceans, their vibrant ecosystems, and the creatures that called them home. Now, they stand as heartbreaking monuments to our arrogance.

As I pen down these words in my journal, I'm aware of the irony. The paper itself is a luxury, and the act of writing is a way to immortalize our fall from grace. The knowledge I possess, painstakingly preserved from the fragments of the past, only magnifies the tragedy that we brought upon ourselves.

Our mastery of engineering, chemistry, and physics led to advancements that should have elevated us. Yet, our hubris led to a nuclear catastrophe, spreading radioactive waste across the lands. The air we breathe, the soil we till, all poisoned by our own brilliance turned toxic. My studies revealed the intricacies of this disaster, the way radiation still interacts with matter, seeping into the very core of our existence.

The nuclear waste, a byproduct of our insatiable hunger for power, seeped into the ground and contaminated the soil. The plants that once sustained life now withered under the touch of radiation. Their leaves turned brown and shriveled, and their fruits, if any dared to grow, were twisted and mutated. The animals that fed on these plants suffered as well. Their bodies weakened, and their offspring were born with deformities that ensured a painful and short existence.

The rivers that were once lifelines turned into toxic veins, carrying the radioactive poison far and wide. Fish that swam in these waters developed grotesque tumors, and those who consumed them suffered a similar fate. The delicate balance of predator and prey, once a dance of survival, was disrupted, sending ripples of suffering throughout the ecosystem.

Even the air carried the remnants of our nuclear folly. The winds picked up particles of radioactive dust, carried them across continents, and settled them like a dark shroud over the land. The rain that once nurtured the earth now carried a silent killer, seeping into the ground, further contaminating what little remained of our world.

I write these words not to wallow in despair, but to ensure that the horrors of our past are not forgotten. As you forge your path, remember that the pursuit of knowledge and progress should always be tempered by wisdom and responsibility. The Midas' touch, as you see, was not a gift but a curse.

In a version of the tale, King Midas begged and begged Dionysus to tell him how to undo the curse. After contemplating for a moment, Dionysus was amused, because as a deathless god, he didn't have these problems. But out of pity for the mortal king, he advised him to bathe and purify himself in the Pactolus River, and this explained to the people of the time why they could sometimes find gold in that river. Indeed, in the story, the king went there and spent all day and all night. By the next morning's dawn, his curse had been lifted. He was grateful to be able to eat and drink again, for he could live a bit longer. He no longer chased gold, and he was a wiser king who cared for his people and the kingdom's future.

Greed was the common curse, a hubris that can no longer be amended in our case. It is now too late, and the effects of what we have done are irreversible. Our intelligence and scientific prowess should have been forces of creation and progress. Instead, they became instruments of devastation, leaving behind irreparable damage together with a wasteland of shattered dreams of unborn generations.

If you are reading this, whoever you are, from whichever time or place, I implore you to learn from our mistakes. The allure of power and wealth, the insidiousness of greed, must not be allowed to shape your destiny. Cherish your world, protect its delicate balance, and remember the lessons of history. May our downfall be a cautionary tale, a reminder that the truest form of greatness lies in using our knowledge wisely and respecting the very balance that keeps us alive.

With somber hope,


August 26, 2023 18:37

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Helen A Smith
19:04 Sep 01, 2023

Very true. I liked the elaboration of the King Midas story which many will have heard of, but not necessarily have known the outcome. It’s exactly what’s happening now. I hope it’s not too late. Well written.


Belladona Vulpa
06:19 Sep 02, 2023

I also want to hope that it's not too late. It's interesting how ancient myths can still connect with today. Thank you for reading and commenting! :)


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
06:14 Sep 04, 2023



Show 0 replies
Belladona Vulpa
10:30 Aug 31, 2023

This is inspired by a series of sources: A while back I saw the movie "Chernobyl" (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7366338/ ) Recently I listened to a podcast (Startalk Radio by Neil deGrasse Tyson) titled "Nuclear Winter with Ann Druyan and Brian Toon" (https://open.spotify.com/episode/5lDbzqYHjpUckDChCiBr4S?si=QbJ8Bj3gRe6-eRlL3-CCbw) and a YouTube video on nuclear war (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7hOpT0lPGI ) On the mythology part, well, I have heard and read different versions, but inspiration is also influenced by the podcast "T...


Show 0 replies
RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.