I wake up and don’t move from the bed for a minute, letting the dream go on. I wonder what it was like before the crash, to take a shower just to feel awake and not to prevent outbreaks. To see clear water running from a sink washing everything away, the filth and the disease and the rot of our lives, like a Baptism. It's fading but I fight to hold onto it, imagining what it’s like to get in a car and drive and visit the beach. I stare at old pictures sometimes that my father left; my mother took them as we drove the coast and you can see our happiness, our freedom, our disregard for anything but the moment we were in. I remember those times and hold them in amber, fading, but most of us who survived the crash have replaced memories with blank spots. Little black voids to ease the pain. I know I’ll never see the beach again. It’s so far away now and I heard that it’s mostly black but I would still like to see it. A lot of people ran, off the grid, thinking they could do it alone. They were some of the first to die.
The prompter chirps and I place my thumb on the screen to confirm my identity. A digital voice informs me that my FWA appointment is today. I have to hurry it’s a 12 mile bike ride and the community transport is long gone. FWA stands for food water allotment. It’s a trading post where everyone is given a share of the necessities. Most of us take the transport which comes once per day but I can’t stand the stink. My nose still has not learned how to block out the stench of labor and sweat, panic and decay, the desperation that we all reek of. So I bike most often with a cart pulling behind me to carry my gallons of water and sawdust textured calorie bars. I burn most of a day’s calorie bar just by getting there. I remember to grab my bag of trash trade in and take off.
The line is short today. I guess I got lucky. There is usually a two hour wait. I give the man my bag and he looks at it hard. “No plastics?” no sir, I have been a good boy. “Good job” he says with a doubtful eye. We have to bring our trash in so it can be re-purposed. The trick is to budget out the waste. Bring too much and you get fined with extra labor. Too little and they don’t believe you and come for a house audit. As I pass onto the water line I hear my number. It’s my turn to run on the wheel. After the collapse we all became human guinea pigs. Each city has a system of tread mills, no seriously, which power generators. They call it giving back what you use. At least they give you an extra half gallon of water the day you run for the sweat loss.
My family was always ahead of the times. My dad insisted on rechargeable batteries and car pooled to the office. We gathered all of our grocery store bags and returned them to be recycled. My sister, I don’t know if she even made it out alive, would always make sure her cosmetics were cruelty free. I started riding my bike everywhere in college to do something good, after all my mom always said “it’s the little things”. So I kept that habit through grad school and chose a job where I could still bike to work. Now I hate this bike. I feel chained to it.
I’m home now. I lie back in bed and wonder what went wrong. I think about my mother’s words and I know that there lies the answer, the root of the collapse and the foul world we are left to dwell in. We all did little things thinking it was enough. These tiny little acts of humbleness to show we were not part of the growing problem which was about to hit us in the face. But little things didn’t cut it. We needed a visionary, a prophet of warning with a real plan. “I command thee to use solar energy, wind turbines, drive small cars, take short showers, eat less…” but he never came and here we are. I said those who fled were the first to die. They missed the point: they couldn’t do it alone. The communities that were forced to share and cooperate and think as a whole for a common good - they were the ones to survive. We could have done so much more to prevent this. Hindsight is always 20/20.