Today's Future Tomorrow's Reality

by Abigail Oshell

A gust of wind nipped at Rowan’s freckled cheeks, blowing the never-ending smog past her. It was dawn, yet she barely noticed because of the always grey sky and the towering skyscrapers that were falling apart, just like the rest of the world. Rowan was the only one on a once lively street, and as the smog condensed with the wind’s howl, she wrapped her grey coat tighter around her to protect herself from the haze that engulfed the cities entirety. 

Moving through the deserted streets, Rowan leapt over rubble from crumbling concrete buildings and burnt belongings that were left behind. Rowan’s family had fallen victim to the last raging storm this new climate created. Since then, Rowan had not spoken or seen anything living and had not dared to venture far from what she thought of as familiar. Everyone else she knew had either left or been killed by their own climate. 

As she rounded another corner, the dim light of the sun peered through the fog and Rowan saw the rubble blocking an entrance she had never been in, had cleared, likely from the tremor that ripped through the city mere days ago. She approached it, pushing away small concrete chunks that obstructed her path. For the first time in almost forever, Rowan felt curiosity pushing her forward into the crooked building, and as she lit a candle from her pack, the room before her illuminated, her eyes widened and a smile dared to fill her face.

Inside, there lay a vast room with a ceiling consisting of nearly all skylights. This, combined with the ancient shelves that lined the walls, created an atmosphere that nearly cancelled out the outside world. Rowan looked up at the little bit of light that slipped through both the smog and the glass and took a breath, realizing she had forgotten to from the sudden burst of peculiarity the room presented. The musty smell was not un-welcomed by her, and she moved closer towards the shelves. Rowan nearly gasped at the sheer abundance of books on them, because in 2030 there was no such thing as abundance, as everything humanity once had, was either used up or destroyed. 

Out of the corner of her eye, Rowan spotted a faint light, followed by the gloom of a shadow. Her body froze. It had been a long time since Rowan had seen anything living, other than herself. She closely watched the shadow, attempting to convince herself that it was only a trick. A voice sounded from behind her. “You know, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone in this city since the last storm.” She jumped and lost her footing, in an effort to scramble away from the sound. Rowan was about to trip when the source of that voice grabbed her arm and brought her back to her feet. Apologetically he said, “Sorry. I shouldn’t have snuck up on you like that. I’m really sorry.” Rowan was dumbfounded, and glanced at the mysterious boy. He was young, perhaps her age. 

She suddenly became conscious of herself, and realized her lack of interaction had left her with a rather unflattering appearance. Her mouth opened to speak, but she struggled to capture her voice. “I…I…Thank you, my name is Rowan.” Was all she could muster together. “I’m Sam. I see you have stumbled upon my dwelling.” Sam responded. “A library? How long have you been here?” Rowan couldn’t help but ask questions. It had been a long time since she’d discovered something, or someone new.

“Well, I’ve lived here for almost a year. I have found these books helpful, as I am looking into the cause of the mass extinction. I know it sounds boring; however, I have learned more than anyone left living about this.” Sam spoke energetically. “The most I’ve learned is that supposedly we caused it” Rowan slipped into conversation, aware now of how much she missed such simple interactions. Sam’s face lit up. “Follow me.” Was all he said as moved towards the back of the library. 

When they reached the back wall, Rowan gasped at the board of pictures and articles that stood before her. “You see, I’ve uncovered the cause of humanity’s downfall.” Sam explained. The people pictured didn’t have ash on them, nor did they hold sunken cheeks, and of all of the things they could have done, they were smiling. Rowan skimmed the headlines of the articles. Greta Leads Revolution. Trump Stared Down By Greta. David Suzuki Urges People To Join The Fight. One after another they spoke of revolution, yet as Rowan knew, none had come. “But if this is true, then they knew?” Rowan was nearly speechless by Sam’s revelations. “Of course they knew, how could they have not? You see, the science was there and everyone knew what was going to happen, but they never changed. Greta was the first one to really change things. Close to the first tremor, that killed her, she gave a speech that rippled through society. But of course, it was too late. Oh, and David Suzuki! For years he had spoken about what would happen but never did anything to change.” Sam stopped, he was genuinely excited and yet so frustrated.

Rowan was enraged. The only world she had known was the one coated in smog and overrun with devastation. Her world was not green, nor was it filled with food or clean water She did not know herself without sunken cheeks and dirty palms. Her lungs had never breathed air that wasn’t filled with dust, her eyes had only ever seen through the fumes of pollution. Rowan had fallen victim to the life her predecessors feared, she suffered because they refused to change. Rowan knew that if she had the chance to prevent this reality she would, but those who had the chance never did. The gravity of the situation is, not many people would give up a present reality for an uncertain future.

Abigail Oshell is a grade eleven student at Lockerby Composite School. Her story was a runner-up in the Youthwords Writing Contest at Wordstock Literary Festival in November 2019.