Before a long heat wave turned the Earth into a desert, one person preserved each season
I live in a tiny town. It’s not on any map you’ll ever see—except these days a map won’t help you. Everything looks the same. There are no landmarks. Things are being destroyed as fast as they are being built. The world is barren.
I’m so old I’m the only one left who remembers why it happened. It happened because of us. The wildfires, the hurricanes, occurring one after the other, the heat wave that began when I was 12 and never stopped.
I knew something like this might happen. I was very curious in my day. ‘Pensive” might have been a better word. You might say I was a scientist, or I would have been one if my parents had been able to send me to college. I studied weather patterns and read books on every topic you could imagine. In autumn, I watched the apples fall from the trees. In spring, I watched the children jump in mud puddles. In summer, I saw the rabbits frolicking in the dancing grass. And in winter, I saw the seasons die. The seasons were transient but transcendent.
Then things began to change.
I knew it had been mentioned in books. I had not thought much of it. They said one day it would ruin Earth. I thought it was a hoax. When the weather patterns started to change, the polar bears began to die, the biomes grew desolate, I started to believe. And then when the migratory birds stopped coming I had to believe it. The oil companies tried to suppress why this was happening, but everyone knew there was an impending doom chasing behind us. By the time the oil companies claimed that fake news was being published about them, everyone had a deep and passionate aversion toward them.
When the weather patterns started to malform, I started to plan ahead. I wanted a way to remember the seasons when they were gone because this change seemed inexorable. As a way of not forgetting the seasons, I decided to put a memory of each season into its own, separate jar. I collected some mud from spring. And then in the summer, I scrambled through a hurricane to get a dandelion. In the fall, I raced through a flood to get the most beautiful leaf you could ever imagine. Green, orange, and red. Then when winter came, there was a snowstorm, and I collected a prism-like ice crystal. I put these all in jars. Ever since the seasons died, there was this abstract feeling of dread—dread that the seasons would never come back as I remembered them.
There was tumult all around me as people experienced spring for the first time in many years
I still have those jars—well, except for one. I have no one else left in this world who loves me as much as I love them.
There is something odd about the jars though: The dandelion hasn’t wilted, and the mud hasn’t dried. The ice hasn’t melted, and the leaf hasn’t become crinkly. Maybe it’s magic, maybe there is a scientific explanation for it. I don’t know.
Some people ask me why I kept the seasons in the jars. I did it because I don’t want anything from before to go away. I knew I couldn’t stop what was happening. It was like a train, and it wasn’t going to stop. So, I did what I thought was best. I didn’t pray to God for everything to stop. I didn’t cry for Mama. I decided to take matters into my own hands. I said to myself I will have these memories forever, no matter what happens. So, I tried my hardest to make that dream come true. I meant to keep that dream to myself, but that’s not how it went.
One morning I turned around to grab my tea from the kettle when I noticed the spring jar that was on the windowsill was gone, and I became very scared. I heard a crash outside. I ran to the door and saw the jar on the ground and the mud lying on the hard earth in a blob.
Then something started to happen. There was a flash of brilliant light. Then there appeared lush green grass, verdure, streams, the gleaming sun. There was a moment of silence. Not a forced silence, but completely necessary and natural. After about five seconds, my neighbors ran out in disbelief and sat down in the grass, ran their hands over the leaves, and stood with their arms outstretched toward the sun. There was tumult all around me as people experienced spring for the first time in many years. I just stared. Everything I had hoped for as a child, a teen, and an adult, memories that had once seemed remote, had just come true before my eyes. It was manifest that these children would have the same memories that I have today.
In contrast to the felicity all around me, a boy was sitting against a tree crying. I walked over to him.
“I did it,” he said. “I broke your jar.”
“I’m not mad at you,” I said. “I’m grateful.”
“Because I had been living off of memories of the past, but now I am really experiencing it for the first time since I was a child. So come and enjoy it.”
As he went out to play with his friends, I felt the part of me that had been missing had finally returned.