A significant break with tradition today. I am posting a short story for the first time. This one was written one day during the summer of 2019/20 when I was languishing in the heat, thinking about impending climate disaster. The story is set in Australia.
Why would anyone worship a sun god?
The heat of the day feels as if it could burn away the sins of the night before. It is the sort of furnace blast that bleaches animals bones in the desert and sends the general populace to seek shelter indoors – air conditioners struggling to pumping out air at the coldest setting.
Sunburn and dehydration are just two of the daily threats she has to deal with. This truly is a two-bit, half-horse, hell hole of a town so in addition to the hostile environment, Clare has to battle the aforementioned populace and its collective denigration of her kind.
Not a tall woman by any means, she nonetheless usually finds a way to hold her own. A functioning brain, quick wit and an eye well trained to see trouble coming were among her best assets. The revolver she wore on her hip provides additional motivation for people to keep their spittle to themselves.
At this very moment she sits on her favourite chair on the wide veranda of the hotel where she works. It is a low paying job, the customers are crass and the owner even worse. But it enables her to enjoy the lifestyle to which she had become accustomed. And by that, I mean she can eat, most days.
Things have not always been this hard. Clare still remembers the way it felt to walk on cool soft grass, a depth of green she hadn’t seen for at least two decades. She remembers turning on a tap to collect fresh clean water. Luxuries now long gone.
The world today, what is left of it, is full of climate change refugees like herself. They have returned to ancient nomadic patterns of living, although without the benefit of indigenous knowledge that could have helped them read the landscape, survive. Taking leaps of faith that water could be found in this direction – or maybe that over there, she has traversed most of this vast dry continent.
Over the years she has stumbled into a myriad of towns just like this one: a desolate outpost perched on top of a deep well. It is the closest thing to an oasis anyone can find these days. Clusters of humanity desperately trying to eke out an existence, none of the established residents take too kindly to the idea of sharing much of anything. It is getting harder with each passing year and everyone lives with the knowledge that one day they would taste salt. Until then they survive.
One would imagine that living in such conditions would wear a person down, lead them down a path of letting go. Somehow, though, Clare still finds the energy to keep going – probably fed by a stubborn streak that refuses to accept defeat.
It will be another five hours before the sun goes down and temperatures ease. In the ‘old days’ a hot day was followed by a night so cold that pipes would freeze and icicles form on wire fences. These days due to a ‘super heated atmosphere’, hot days of 55°C+ degrees gave way to nights at a warm 35°C.
After the sun has gone down tonight people will emerge, bringing life to the settlement. Even though the dawn still technically heralds the arrival of a new day, it is during the hours of darkness that people trade their goods and services. Those condensed hours in which they try to find a fleeting solace in the company of others, regaining for a moment a sense of belonging and community.
There are many others like Clare, scattered around the continent doing what they could to survive in this new reality. Moving from place to place, they spend increasingly short lives in search of work, food and precious water. Those old enough to recall the old ways sometimes pause and ask themselves “how did it come to this?”.
In short, society had spent too long being the frog in the pot. By the time the 2% realised they were at risk it was too late. The irreversible damage had already been done. Politicians, captains of industry and celebrity spokesmodels could not save humanity from the encroaching disaster.
And so it here that Clare now sits. In her favourite chair, day dreaming about why anyone would ever worship a sun god. Squinting her eyes to block out the worst of the glare as a bead of sweat rolls down her back.