Short Story: Aren’t

One hundred and twenty five years. That was how long it took us to go from the most advanced civilization ever known to the brink of complete and total collapse. One hundred and twenty five years. Hardly much longer than a human life-span, really. Maybe that’s telling, but I can’t be sure. Who can anymore? We were poised over a precipice, ready to fall or fly. Beneath us lay civilization’s destruction, above an eternal golden age. Rather than gracefully balance ourselves to preserve our world before learning to fly, we leapt straight off into a swan dive. We wound up battered, broken, dead far below where we should have been.

I wasn’t one of the working class before things went down. That’s not to say I was wealthy, not even close. What I mean is, I wasn’t the group that all of the shit came down on worst. I was just a two-bit drug pusher, running grass, pills, powder– whatever I could. Everyone had to make-ends-meet. Most of the time, too, ends didn’t meet.

I digress. In simplest terms, I wasn’t part of the group about to have the weight of the world on me and my children if I– and my peers– fucked up. Too bad none of us paid attention, huh? What could’a been…

That’s sort the way of things, isn’t it? Human behavior dictates those of us with the most riding on us pay the least attention. Always. Must be a defense mechanism. We adapt well. Too well. Hell, it was the only redeeming thing our species had going. That adaptation certainly back-fires when you’re adapting to shackles around your wrists, ankles, and throat. At that point, adaptation outright is the oppressor.

Hindsight’s 20/20, but I’m guessing that’s where the “Middle-Class” was when things took their turn. We balanced on that precipice’s edge, looked down, then thought, “ah fuck it,” and dove. Things weren’t going great anyhow, and while it was technically the safest, most peaceful time in history, that was like saying a nuclear apocalypse could solve overpopulation. Technically true, but sure as hell not fixing things.

So, things could’ve been better. Big deal. Right? Sure, but technology was linking all of Humanity together. Call it the net, call it the web, whatever your rose, it linked everyone. Every person, young and old, stupid or smart, everyone could suddenly share and discuss anything; common interests, opinions, or even arguments, all from the safety of their own homes. Meanwhile, the boxes and “pipes” between they and their opponents kept everyone safe when things went tits-up and people lost their temper. Which they did. Often.

But was it a good system? Sure. Perfect? Of course not. What is? So, Flawed? Again, what isn’t?

It gave us all an outlet; a place to bitch and complain when needed, to learn from when wanted and everything around and in between. The only limit to it, really, was our imagination. It was like a super-power the whole world had access to. It evened the playing field in a lot of ways, made us equal. Offline you were poor, downtrodden, unheard. Online, you and everyone else were at zero.

The problems that led us here, to the brink of extinction, stemmed from people’s adaptations to it. They adapting to being placated, to accepting the world as it was. That bitching and complaining became the sole outlet angry people in a damaged world. People’d log-on, vent, fight, argue, whatever, then be done.

Things started getting out of hand though: people kept doing it as the world got worse. It was like Pavlov’s dog, but the bell never stopped ringing. People became complacent. How we got from that to end of the world wasn’t really a stretch. Politically, the landscape was volatile at the best of times– and completely catastrophic the rest. At its worst it was… well, this about sums it up. Like I said, I was a pusher, so I’m not one to judge. And I won’t for good reasons. So, there’s no reason to judge me either. I’m just calling things as I saw ’em, so maybe one day there’ll be a record.

I knew things were taking a turn when my business ramped up. You can always tell the health of a society by the things it makes or keeps illegal. For us it was grass, pills, chems, anything providing an escape. When your society’s far enough gone that chasing a dragon becomes the international pass-time, your society’s in need of some seriously dire repairs.

Long story shorter; business was booming. Selling happy pills, doubling stock three times a week, and still not meeting demand means your clients are seriously unhappy people. It wasn’t just junkies either. That’s a common misconception in my line of work– or former line of work, anyhow. Junkies can’t afford to feed their habits like the stably employed. Most of my clients were the complete opposite of junkies; good, hard-working people that paid taxes, owned homes, and raised kids. Problem was, they were exhausted. They slogged through daily grinds because it was expected.

Meanwhile, the people supposedly representing their interests– politicians, civic leaders and the like– were ignoring them to the point of outrage. Something had to give. That something ended up being so completely out of our scope of control we’re still reeling from it.

See, the geniuses supposedly representing us let the environment go to hell. Earth was dying. Fast. For years we’d heard how Earth was “afflicted” by our shortsightedness. Bleeding hearts and ultra-blues said it was “bleeding to death” because of us. Granted, we’d industrialized to a point of madness, we never realized we could make such an irreparable impact, let alone that we had. As it was, we were looking to drown in melted ice, or sweat to death in napalm heat-waves unless drastic change came.

People said it was bogus. “Climate-change” was an oxymoron that meant even less to their plebeian minds than “Mother Earth.” But it was getting hotter. The ice-caps were shrinking. Empirical evidence said so. Cold, hard facts said so. Logic and rationality said so. It wasn’t ever going to convince the non-believers though. And unfortunately, most of those non-believers were also in government.

No matter the causes, the arguments, or the disbelief, something needed to be done. Everyone knew it. But we’d adapted. We’d been placated and patronized too long, had spent far too long in virtual worlds. We’d become complacent, adapted so wholly to the disappointment of the real world that we ignored it boiling around us. Literally.

The end came with a series of rash weather changes. The entire North American continent went from a blistering hot summer to– almost overnight– a sub-arctic winter. Latin America and South America got the opposite. It was so hot no-one could survive there. Few did. It didn’t end there though. Technically, it still hasn’t.

All the shifting weather caused hurricanes in wall-life formations across the Atlantic. The wall advanced on Europe but met monumental cold fronts from Europe’s sub-arctic winter. The wall blew back toward North America. In a stroke of ungodly bad luck, the storms combined to form one storm that was Earth’s Great Red Spot. Funny thing is, so far’s we know, Jupiter’s storm wasn’t formed from our ignorance. Still, it’s out there even now, drifting along the Atlantic as if patrolling the waters between continents.

After that, weather prediction went out the window. Seasons changed. There was no longer a specific few but rather one, totally unpredictable one. The Earth’s place in its orbit around the Sun seemed to have no affect on it either. With that uncertain nature, came the chaos of the people subjected to it. People protested, rioted in some places. It was too little too late. The damage was done.

All we could really do afterward was try to survive its aftermath, but without proper seasons or stable climates, global harvests disappeared. Survivors rationed dwindling non-perishables. Food labs sprang up in vain attempts to fight our fate. Unfortunately, the damage to the world’s power-grid made power so scarce the projects were DOA. The erratic nature of the sun’s appearance, too, meant solar power was completely unreliable. Days or weeks of sudden darkness killed off any remaining hope.

With no way to ensure crops grew, starvation ran rampant. The world was war-torn, places mid-battle, missing, destroyed. The human race was one bad day away from total annihilation– or rather, is. And it’ll come, trust me.

It’s just as well. We had the world and destroyed it. My guess is the Human-race was some grand experiment set up and let run. The experimenter definitely deserves marks for effort, but loses on account of the extinction thing. Then again, it’s not the scientist’s fault when the experiment fails. That’s just the way of things: they are, or aren’t. Soon enough, we’ll be “aren’t.”

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