Climate Controlled by Rhiannon Cowan

I haven’t spoken to another person face to face for five years. The last person I touched was my father. I kissed him on the cheek and thanked him for giving me a lift. I had been hired to review the revolutionary way we’d all be living within five years. I was among 500 people spending a month in one of the prototypes of The House of the Future set up in various locations all over the world. So the manufacturers’ PR lackeys told us. As events unfolded their target of five years was beaten by four years, 49 weeks and two hours. Three weeks after the campaign launched with the 500 people across the world entering the pods, the planet gave up on humanity and began to take them one by one. It was proven to be the most truthful and promise fulfilling advertising campaign since advertising began; the people who inhabit these protective future pods are the only humans left living on earth.

Floods. Earthquakes. Tsunamis. Extreme heat. Extreme cold. All on the grandest, most destructive scale witnessed in the thousands of years humans dominated and abused the earth. To the best of my knowledge my family would have drowned in the first days of The End of the World. Taken by the rising seas. The cost of coastal living I suppose. The rest of humanity came tumbling after.

The House of the Future; designed by the finest minds in engineering and architectural circles is self sufficient in every conceivable way. Recycled and harvested water keep me hydrated, the sun keeps me supplied with power, synthesized food nourishes me, and a highly controlled environment keeps me comfortable, all housed and protected in a self healing shell. I have all the modern comforts and conveniences with plenty of windows to take in the remarkable alpine views. The view is different now.

After the storms settled and we stopped expecting death we were shocked to find we could all communicate via email. Each of the 500 survivors had a different story to share, a different nightmare to relay. Each of us had the same question, “are we really the only ones left”? It was a strange thing to be able to communicate and connect, and still be so isolated. In our curiosity we found many websites, search engines and social networks still functioning. Technology was advanced enough to protect servers and power sources from the most extreme of conditions. The same technology was only protecting 500 human lives when it was finally needed. It is inconceivable and unsurprising all at once: The Internet will outlive the human race.

The Internet is the same useful distraction it always was, albeit a more depressing one now. The social networks are the hardest; they are the domain of the dead. There remain the people you knew. The people you loved frozen in time. A gallery of self-portraits painted clumsily by people who wanted to appear at their most interesting. Each human attempt at cultivating an image serves as a place of memorial and mourning. A profile page as a headstone. Token words as a bouquet rested at its feet.  The expanse of loss becomes easier to digest through the frame of the screen and with that the weight of the loss bears down.

I wonder how Noah felt after the flood. Looking out at vast a nothingness trying to find some sort of hope for humanity. Then I remember I don’t believe there was a Noah or an ark and I’m again left with nothing. Each year I see more birds. At the beginning it was the occasional solo bird flitting by. Soon there were flocks. It is no longer a rare thing to see a murmuration swelling with life moving with elegant freedom. The animals will inherit the earth, just as they should. We had our turn.

I have endless hours to think. I think about the events and actions that led humanity down this path. I think about oil and coal. I try and count how many wind farms I saw in my life.  I think about traffic jams and empty trains. I think about the governments and companies I blame. It is my fault too; I always get there eventually. What did I do to help? It is a conversation I have had with the other survivors more times than I can remember. Thousands of minds over hundreds of years all wondered what would be left at the end of the world; so far the only answer I have found is questions.

It has been calculated it will be 142 years before the earth will be habitable for humans, if it ever will be habitable again. We are soft and inadaptable. The landscape is violent and aggressive. The coupled survivors have agreed none of us will procreate. It would be cruel and pointless. I am a witness to the end of the human presence on Earth. I don’t want to be the last one standing. I don’t want to be the last of an endangered species.

Everyone I knew and loved is gone. All my favourite things are gone. Dismantled by forces of nature. I remain in a lock box. Self-sufficient and climate controlled. The irony of controlling the climate on a small scale after the climate devoured 99.99999% of the human population haunts me. My own survival disturbs me more than the death that surrounds me. Global warming was a warning. Now the hubris of billions has been thrown in the face of humanity. We abused and scarred our little planet. We forgot it was a wild thing and in turn it fought back. Five years on I write to commemorate all I lost, all we lost, all I wish I could get back.

Do you remember the taste of falling rain?

I don’t know why I still write to you. I like to pretend you might be still alive. Here I go again always drawn to “Send”.

I miss you, after the flood.

2 thoughts on “Climate Controlled by Rhiannon Cowan

  1. So well written it makes it absolutely and frighteningly believable. I like the flash back to Noah and maybe that connection gives us hope for a future despite man’s efforts.

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