This story is based on a dream I had a few mornings ago, shortly before waking up. It was one of those rare lucid dreams that I remember very clearly long after it has ended. I could envisage every detail so clearly: the evacuation of the Islanders from their homes; the oncoming storm conditions; the weary old face of Michael’s dog Murphy; her panic-stricken reaction to being placed into an escape pod with Michael; the hair-raising labyrinthine path that the pod had to follow in order to lead them to a secure location; the eventual, spectacular eruption; and a strong sense that the children’s mother was, for some reason or another, not around – that she had moved away from the Island some years before.
2070 is the story I’ve ended up writing after mulling over that unusual dream. I suspect that many strands of it have yet to be teased out – I’m still not sure what exactly the situation is with the mother, for example, or where exactly the Island is (though I am getting a French-speaking vibe).
I also want to write a story based on the perspective of Julianne, Michael’s grandmother. As I began to work on her character, I could feel her ‘telling’ me all about how she and her husband had first met in the year 2016 – after the two had begun to follow one another on Instagram – and how a number of vast societal and environmental reforms had swept through the world during the 2030s and early 2040s. I love futuristic writing, because it intrigues me to imagine what the world could look like one day.
Anyway. This is part one of the story – I divided it into two sections because I’m still fleshing out the later part of the story, but I was eager to get the first part up. I hope you enjoy it! 🙂
UPDATE June 12th 2018 – part two can be read here.
2070 (Part One)
Michael keeps up a steady pace behind his father: a short, stout man with a full head of meticulously combed black hair (he is very proud of how thick his hair has remained, even in the throes of middle age) who is shouting out words of encouragement to everyone around him and urging them all not to panic. ‘The unit isn’t too far away now – just another few minutes of walking will get us there – and we’ll all be safe before we know it! Won’t that be great?’
His voice is too bright, his demeanour too cheery. A ripple of eye rolls and exasperated glances pass through the Islanders who hear him, but they choose to let it slide. They are well used to their mayor’s effusive behaviour and their minds are on other matters.
Michael’s grandmother – a woman of steely determination, in her 80s – walks a short distance behind him. Her pace is rapid, her brow is furrowed, her lips are tight. With one hand, she tightly clings onto a walking stick. With the other, she clutches a bag of treasured keepsakes that she would rather die than leave behind: her wedding veil, a cassette tape of songs she loved as a child in the 1990s, time-weathered pieces of art that her children and grandchildren have made for her in school over the years…
Michael has always prided himself on his ability to run, to move quickly and effortlessly around whatever obstacles lie before him. Not for nothing has he won the All-Island Schools’ Race Award twice in a row. His only problem is Murphy. She is trudging resentfully behind him, uttering low groans of protest every time he tries to chivvy her along.
“She clutches a bag of treasured keepsakes that she would rather die than leave behind: her wedding veil, a cassette tape of songs she loved as a child in the 1990s, time-weathered pieces of art.”
‘Murphy, come on,’ he implores her. ‘We need to get up there fast.’
Murphy lets out a deeply pained sigh, plonks herself down on the ground and stares at him with baleful eyes.
‘Dad. Dad! Daaaad…‘
His father turns around, looking slightly startled, and tuts. ‘Pick her up, Michael. The poor dog can’t walk like she used to, I’m always telling you that. See how Yvette is carrying Suzy…’
Michael glances resentfully at his older sister Yvette, who raises an eyebrow at him in return, smirking slightly. She is holding their puppy, Suzy: a spoiled red setter who is now panting happily, quite oblivious to the dangers at hand as she looks around at the people passing by. She has nearly reached adolesence and is far too old to be carried everywhere by now, in Michael’s opinion.
‘The only reason she wants to be carried is because she’s lazy.’
‘She hurt her paw last week,’ Yvette says scornfully. ‘You know that.’
‘Murphy would love to walk, if she could,’ Michael says disconsolately, staring down at his tired dog. ‘I know she would. She hates being carried.’
Murphy can only gaze sadly at him in return. She is, without question, his best friend. They’ve always stuck together. They were both born during the summer of 2058, right after the infamous drought that had wiped out five percent of the Island’s population and hospitalised many more…
An enormous wave crashes onto the cliff face directly below them. Michael shivers. Nasty storm conditions have been predicted to batter the Island over the coming days – as if the eruption wasn’t bad enough – and the evidence of that has been quickly gathering all afternoon.
‘Right, that’s it, come on,’ his grandmother shouts impatiently. ‘Michael – just pick her up, right now, and get moving!’
Michael hurriedly scoops up the elderly dog, despite her whimpers of dissent. ‘Come on, Murphy. It’ll be okay…’
As they draw nearer to the escape unit, with its rows of sleek escape pods lined up outside, he begins to feel slightly sick. He has been through several practice sessions with the pods in school – all of the Island’s children have – but now that he is faced with the reality of having to use one, he has forgotten everything his teachers told him. The last time the Islanders had to use these pods en masse was shortly before he was born. And as for the chutes – there are so many of them, pointing up into the sky…
His family have been assigned two chutes near the base of the unit. Michael’s grandmother leads the way, briskly striding to one of the pods nearby.
‘Let me help, Julianne.’
One of the unit assistants has reached out to her.
‘Don’t fuss, Harold, I’ll be fine,’ she says briskly, swatting his hand away as she lowers herself into the pod and straps herself in. ‘I’ve been dealing with this kind of thing since long before you were born! Yvette, Michael, Jonathan: I’ll see you up there.’ Within seconds, the door of her pod has come down and she is off, whizzing through one of their assigned chutes at breakneck speed.
“The last time the Islanders had to use these pods en masse was shortly before he was born.”
‘You go next, Michael,’ Harold urges him brightly. ‘Little Murphy will be going in with you, I take it? Make sure you hold on tight…’
Harold helps Michael to lower himself into another nearby pod and gently pushes it towards his family’s second chute. Michael is startled to see that the end of the chute has been fitted with a series of dark blue tiles, each one carrying an image of a seal, dolphin, or other marine creature. He didn’t think anyone would have bothered decorating them like that…
Murphy lets out a worried yelp as the door of the pod smoothly slides down, securing them from the outside world. Through the glass, Michael sees Yvette shooting him an anxious look, tightly clinging onto Suzy as she is ushered into another pod that will be placed into the same chute that their grandmother has just used.
‘Murphy,’ he whispers, as soothingly as he can, ‘I know you hate this, but please … you have to stay still. Please.’
The terrified dog writhes around in his arms, scratching at the glass and howling in desperation.
‘Please, Murphy. You know I’ll protect you, nothing can happen to you while you’re with me…’ He plants a kiss on her head and holds her close to his chest as the pod begins to pulsate gently. One last glimpse of his father – who, like Yvette, is looking anxious – and they are off: the chute walls whizzing around them as the pod picks up speed. Murphy is now emitting a piercing screech that he has never heard from her before.
Michael closes his eyes tightly as they hurtle onwards.
Coastal mountain path: Pinterest
The old dog: Petbucket