2136 — A Post Apocalyptic Novel

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CHAPTER 1

When the Earth finally dies, and we’ve gorged and sucked and drilled every last morsel from her belly, will we be walking corpses tied to the same noose as sheep for a slaughter, or will we, when our toes scrape the cliff’s lapping tongue, resist and push back? When that day comes, I hope I can say that I gave it all that I had, that I fought and resisted as long as I could. That I pushed before the fall.

— W.W. (The last scientist on Earth)

Journal Log 4501-B37 - The Dying Man

October 10, 2204

April 7, 2133 - Three years before the outbreak.

I could smell my skin sizzling before I felt the sun streaming in through the slits in the walls. The room’s features looked pale as if a thin lens was cast over my pupils. I waited for my eyes to adjust to the glare. The ragged tarp that I used as my curtain to cover up the hole in the wall lay in a wadded ball on the floor. I’ll have to be sure to stop by the Market after my rounds today to see if Roxx got any spare parts when the last junk raiders passed through.

I tossed my feet over the cot, felt the rush of hard stone and dirt against my toes. A wave of powder shimmered in the air. I stood and shook my blanket against the back wall. The red dirt fell in a heap. The pile was two feet high and only getting bigger. I’d need to dump it down by the ravine before too long.

My hut wasn’t an ideal place to live by any means, but it was home. With limited supplies available, we made due with what little scraps we found along the roads, and abandoned buildings, or junkyards. Fortunately, I had found a section of Precinct 11 that was smooth. As my toes played in the red sand, I wondered what dirt used to look like before the solar flares burned everything. My skin turned a pale crimson before I squeezed my toes into my buskins.

The combat boots were from before the flares when the military used to execute missions over in Afghanistan. When the alliance was formed, militaries were disbanded. With no more war there was no longer a need. Plus, the military proved way too expensive to maintain. And with each of the Pyramids costing three times the government’s full yearly budget, cuts had to be made.Desperate times call for desperate measures. With the new alliance between eight of the leading nations, a future remained possible. And thanks to China’s endless supply of cheap labor and forbearance of our nation’s debts, Project Sky was initiated.

I walked over to the hole in the side of my shack and poked my head through the wall panels to survey the damage. A mound of sand had gathered at the base but that was about it. Someone was looking out for me. Maybe my luck would hold out for the lottery later today. Proc 1 loomed like a florescent orb of sunshine off in the distance. Its metallic ultraviolet retardant panels reflected the dark blue of the ocean as its thrusters sucked up the seawater into its propellers. The blue pyramid was the future everyone hoped for. A dream out of reach. An impossibility. We all prayed we’d be one of the hundred that SIND selected to rise up into the blue heaven and leave this hell behind. I knew the odds.Not good.I had reluctantly placed my name in the drawing three days prior and signed my name in the ledger. I almost missed the deadline actually.

The blue water rising like a wet mist was beautiful as it was sucked through the one million ton suction thrusters and into the turbines to generate power. Due to the excessive need of water to cool the engines and fuel the turbines, several millions of gallons of seawater filtered through each day. The sea level dropped three centimeters the first five years Proc 1, 2, and 3 were in rotation. The other ten Proc ships went up over the next fifteen years. There was no telling what the water level was now. The floating pyramids looked like blue diamonds in the sky with a black fog as its backdrop. The pollution that these things released into the atmosphere was...insane. Three trailer sized vents spit out the exhaust twenty-four hours a day. The only time I had ever seen one paused was for maintenance to remove the blockage that had built up over time in the shafts. The black soot was scraped off the edge and splashed into the sea. The sky lost its blue a long time ago and took on an opaque hue. Actually, I’ve never seen it otherwise. We were the sky generation. Born grounders with a propensity to soar. It was the dream of every child in the precincts to one day be lifted up into one of the flying pyramids. Sadly, fantasy has no place in a world burning alive from the sun. With the ozone layer fractured in three places along the Antarctic Circle, all of Northern and Central America and most of Asia, there was no room for dreams. Instead, we made due with what little we had:each other. You never knew when your time might come and you’d join the buried bodies in the sand, with only the searing heat as your sole companion.

The line up horn blared.Daydream over. I saw other lifeless bodies crawl out of their dust bowls and shuffle down the road towards the Market. Some climbed out of the trunks of old cars; others slid rusted roofing to the side that they had piled against dead tree stumps, while others wedged their makeshift refuge between telephone poles. The street was full of hustling bodies within moments. I retracted my head and dug the tip of the tarp in between the wood panels. It wasn’t pretty but it would have to do for now until I found a more permanent solution. I wiped the dirt from my eyes that had accumulated over night and looked at my wrist.

The plastic bracelet read 9:27am. I had slept in.

Roll call happened at 10:00 every morning. With electrical sand storms a weekly occurrence, this was the precinct’s way of keeping track of everyone. In reality, it was the new obituary.One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.Already eight people had gone missing the last two days. And after two hours with no sign of their return or possible survival, all their belongings went missing too. Nothing lasted around here. No one even waited to see if you showed up or not. The unspoken motto wasdead until proven otherwise,so to speak. Or, in the case of the dead,dead until, well, dead.No one ever bothered looking for bodies in the sand. We couldn’t afford the energy. Plus, if someone had gone missing, the bodies would be long gone by now with the wild dogs roaming around or covered by no less than a foot of sand within hours. That would be like digging for a toothpick in a sandbox.Impossible.The world was an unforgiving place. We did what we had to do to survive these days. And it wasn’t pretty. The half-chewed dead man whose boots I pried off two months ago was evidence of that fact. The cataracts over his corneas had made his eyes look like grey fog as they drooped from their sockets, hanging from the optic nerve like spaghetti strings. The yellow secretion seeping from the pupils haunted my dreams even now. I couldn’t wash thoseeyesout of my memory. The retina had combusted from the internal heat. And the boils...I’ve never seen anything like it. As if the sky had poured acid all over him. One big bubble of pus, blisters, and melted skin. The boots were all that I managed to savage before the stench forced my retreat. The rest wasruined. Even the wild dogs hadn’t even bothered. That’s when you knew it was bad.

The night had been quiet.No storms. At least none that I can remember. Perhaps today would be a good day.But who knows. Maybe I slept through it?It wouldn’t be the first time. And I’m sure not the last. Eventually you get numb to it all.

My canteen hung limp on the post at the end of my cot. I flicked it with my finger to see if any liquid was still inside. A shallow splash.Good, I hadn’t drank it all the night before.Precinct 11 was stage four water rationing. All you should know is you’re going to be thirsty. Very, very thirsty. The Manasquan Reservoir was only a few miles away, but its water levels had dropped 70% since the last water run. Storms were frequent here along the Atlantic Coast, butpurerain never fell. Just drops of red mud. With sand storms sprouting up at any given moment, they kicked up dust into the atmosphere, which only added to the pollution in the clouds and ensured our standard particle rain.

We couldn’t drink the water straight. We had to use a filtration system to purify the water before it was drinkable. This could take anywhere between a day to a week depending on how thick the mud was and how dense the radiation in the water. The pumps and filters clogged regularly. In fact, they clogged so frequently that it felt we were always rationing our water. I couldn’t remember the last time we weren’t thirsting for water.

We sent a crew two days ago to have a look at the pumps in the Manasquan Reservoir. The water had stopped pumping into the main fountain in town a week prior and already it was having its toll. I hoped they managed to fix the problem soon.

I jiggled the canteen in my hands and heard the faint splash of liquid. I uncorked the cap and held it to my lips.Just a few drops. That’s all we can allow. The first drop hit my lips and I felt my stomach twist and start to cramp. With the second came the thirst. And on the third, I nearly sucked the canteen dry.

I quickly screwed the cap back on before I swallowed any more than the three sips I allowed myself each morning. My intestines immediately started groaning as they clawed for the valuable hydration. The ache in my abdomen was a commonality these days. I strapped the canteen to my belt and grabbed my tunic.

Within thirty-seven seconds I was in full battle dress. Long sleeves, pants tucked in the boots, collar up, hood draped over my head, and gas mask securely fastened. The original storm trooper.

A faint haze hovered over the ground as I exited my hut. It felt like someone had just punched me in the sternum. The sand hissed as I walked. My eyes were burning as sweat began to congregate around the mask’s rim. The mask was a privilege. As a microbiologist, it came standard government issued. It did little to parlay the heat or keep the sweat from your eyes, but where it lacked in comfort, it more than made up with each puff of sand-free air.

I peered through the slits of my raised hand and could see the grey parting. The first waves of solar radiation would soon stream down through the sand clouds and blanket the entire ground in its heat. By midday the place would be a furnace. A nice comfortable 145 degrees.

I joined the stragglers on the road and shuffled my way to the Market. I could hear the Conductor yelling in an intercom for everyone to line up in single files by classes. There were three. The Sifters, the Metallics, and the Divine.

I shuffled into my class’s line and waited for my name to be called.

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