Today we showered. We always all shower with our cold water, on the first Sunday of the month.
This Sunday is particularly special though, because it is also the first day of 2186, which means we will look through our family photo album!
My little sister Maisie runs around singing, “photographs, photographs, let’s look at photographs.” Papa gets out the leather bound book of pictures. Leather is the skin of animals pounded and soaked in urine. They used to use it all the time before the Microplanet law was put in place.
The Microplanet law bans eating at will- it says a person should eat one sturdy meal a day and waste nothing. They also banned eating meat or dairy and using any kind of plastic or fossil fuels.
I’ve heard something awful would have happened if they had not put that law in place.
Each family is only supposed to have one child, due to overpopulation. Any others will be executed. Because of this we have had to keep Maisie a secret, sharing our food rations with her and sometimes hiding her in the basement. I look at Maisie with sad eyes as she skips around the small house without a care in the world. I’ll never understand how she can be so happy knowing her life is at risk every single day.
“Play, play, play with me, June,” sings Maisie.
“You can play after we look at photographs,” says Mother sternly.
“Alright,” says Maisie, since we all know there is no point in negotiating with Mother.
Papa opens the fat book. We all look at it giddy with excitement. They used to read books all the time but no longer can because it wastes paper.
Papa shows us the first page where there is a picture of an eight-year-old girl. She wears a frilly, layered dress. We don’t have frills and layers anymore because it would use too much dye and fabric. The girl is sitting on a beach but it is nothing like the beaches we have — the water is a beautiful turquoise blue and the sand looks so smooth. I can almost hear the waves crashing onto the beach. Now the ocean is a murky brown and the waves roll onto the microplastic sand.
Underneath is a picture of a young man on a sailboat. They used to travel between continents by sailboat or airplane. We stopped using sailboats because of the giant whirlpool of plastic, which will suck anything in the sea into it. We stopped using airplanes because they released tons of fuel into the already polluted gray sky.
I heard that before the water level rose there was a continent called North America and try to imagine what it was like. This thought intrigues me but it also scares me — what if Europe sank under the sea? Mother says North America is just a myth. I pretend to agree but secretly I think it was real.
Papa turns the page and as he does, I hear a voice from our speaker. Every home has a speaker that gives instructions in emergencies. I’ve never actually heard it go on before but right away I know what it is. The voice on the speaker says, “Due to rising water levels, we are holding an evacuation at six o’clock tomorrow morning. Pack your possessions and meet at the city centre. Anyone who is older than fifty or younger than three will be left behind.”
Maisie begins to run around the house, crying. “What are we gonna do? What’s gonna happen to us? What’s happeni-?”
“Calm down child!” says Mother sharply and then more gently, “I know you can do this Maisie Daisy, you just have to trust me, everything’s going to be okay.” Sniffling, Maisie nods her head and wipes her eyes with her sleeve. I’ve never heard Mother sound so gentle. I guess I just figured she was always stern and strict.
Mother straightens up and scolds in her normal brisk tone “Well, what are we waiting for, we’ve got a big day tomorrow, everyone go pack before we eat and then we’ve got to rest.”
After we’ve packed our meager possessions and ate our meal of roasted vegetables, it’s time for bed. Maisie and I hug goodnight to Mother and Papa. As we are leaving the room, Papa, who never seems to speak, says, “remember how blessed we are, everything is going to be okay.” Once we’re out of earshot, Maisie whispers “What was that about?” I just shake my head and say, “Come on, let’s get to bed.”
We all wake early to the sound of the loudspeaker blaring, “Everybody who is part of the evacuation, please meet at the town square in ten minutes.”
We get there with one minute to spare and in all the chaos nobody seems to notice Maisie as we join the crowd.
I hear the same man who was on the loudspeaker shouting through a megaphone: “Everyone follow me please and watch the cliff edge.” We begin to climb into the Alps.
After we’ve hiked for hours I finally think to look behind me. I see our little huts surrounded by gray water and shriveled grass. I imagine how it used to be, with blue oceans, sandy beaches and green trees. I look at Papa who is walking next to me and say, “Do you think that if our ancestors had treated the earth differently, it wouldn’t be ruined today?”
“Maybe,” murmurs father. “If they hadn’t been so ignorant, thinking they were superior to everything else, maybe they could have made a difference and the world wouldn’t be how it is today.”
My eyes fly open and sitting up in bed, I shudder. I look out my window at the sun rising over the sparkling blue ocean. It was just a dream after all. But will it be a dream forever or is this what the world will be like for children of the future?