Viral Implosion - chapter 14
Mike Freedman was jostled out of his bed once again. The earthquakes are becoming frequent enough to be recognized even here in New York. They say it’s from fracking, but he didn’t expect it would reach this far; mostly the quakes were in sparsely populated areas. His son Jesse now ran IBN, so Mike’s trips into the offices were not overly frequent. He spent decades teaching Jesse the arts of persuasion and collaboration and had full faith in Jesse’s ability to run “the world”, as they jokingly say.
Perhaps it’s time to leave his high rise condo in Manhattan and move out to the suburbs. Long Island is a floating sand bar, so tremors and aftershocks tend to change rattles into rolls. Fifteen years ago Mike’s wife committed suicide, claiming there was nothing left to live for. Mike didn’t miss her; she was more of an accoutrement than a companion; he had been too busy to waste time socializing outside of business.
With rising ocean levels, the Whitestone and Triborough bridges had become hazardous. There was a lot of construction rebuilding lost docks. But the outcome was a lovely marina for ferry rides between Manhattan and Long Island.
Mike called his old friend Abe. Abe and Esther had moved to Long Island a few years back and Mike wanted to know how they liked it. He had a decades-long affair with Esther, but hadn’t seen her in months now. If he moves out to the burbs maybe they can rekindle the spark, even at this age. Boredom is a natural consequence of “making it”.
Abe was enthusiastic, glad to have another friend nearby. With his assistant virtually running his affairs, he had too much time on his hands. Esther didn’t like taking orders from the assistant, but that was the price she paid for the good life Abe afforded her. Besides, she got too old to do so much running around, so her role had shrunk. He even let her children into the businesses, to keep them from being albatrosses. The bulk of his businesses were being run by his own children, whom he had groomed for the responsibility.
Billy Silver, on the other hand, was suffering the depression that permeated Production Communities. Though long in the tooth, he had to keep working. Will had joined the military in the hopes of improving his own (and family’s) future, but died on a skirmish at the Mexican border. These wars with Mexico had been going on for decades, and everyone was surprised and saddened when Will was sent there – usually that was handled by minority squadrons, but Will showed an aptitude for leadership, which the army needed there. JayJay left home in the hopes of finding another place to live with more hope, ut with communications being monitored, he would only communicate by visiting every few years. Marylou helped her mom man the candy counter at the movies. Mom had long since died of complications from a cold. People were constantly missing from the community, usually leaving to find a better way to live. Many died for lack of medication such as insulin for diabetes and other long-term “weaknesses”. Many women had become midwives of a sort since birthing a baby in the hospital was too expensive. So childbirth had once again become a dangerous experience for both mother and child. There were “merit raises” at the factory – one percent if you were an outstanding employee. None if you were not. That one percent was matched by a two percent increase in the cost of living.
Farming conglomerates were suffering because they were no longer rotating crops. The soil quickly became infertile. This was counterbalanced by chemical fertilizer, which cost a few lives of workers each year. Fracking was causing earthquakes in places that had never before seen them. And for every five or ten small quakes a big one came along. Sheep were no longer raised, since llamas and alpacas offered a much higher yield and that wool was lighter in weight. Milk, whether from cows or goats, was getting tainted from eating grass that had been sprayed with poisons to control the insect population. Cotton farms increased in number, as people searched for work. Fruits and vegetables had long since lost their taste and a lot of their nutritional value. Alar was reintroduced in apple orchards. In the lower forty-eight in the US, such exotic fruits as bananas, mangoes and pomegranates were not known, since they would have to be imported from enemy countries. Alaska and Hawaii were left to fend for themselves; fortunately these two states were accustomed to the isolation.
Beth and her compatriots at The Haven (their name for the overtaken university) were facing the same problems as the rest of the world when it comes to environmental damage. The average temperature had risen seven degrees over the decades, which managed to extend the growing season, so it was alright – for now. Their biggest problem was growth. People kept coming in, some with talents to offer, and others offering labor. But housing was reaching a maximum. And The Haven had become the source for the homes in the periphery that were still trying to maintain a normal existence. These “outborders” offered only money, but that was still a need until complete autonomy could be reached from utility companies and some supplies needed to continue research for independence and progress. Hunting and fishing were done in groups, partly for help and partly to be sure that care was taken to not wipe out any animal populations. Sometimes newcomers were under the erroneous impression that they were entering a commune. But this was far from a socialistic compound. It was more like a mini country, complete with town meetings with true democratic voting – if you appeared at the meeting, you could vote on any and all issues covered that evening. Ben moderated the meetings, but there was no real government structure.
Globally, the view had changed a good deal. Rising water levels wiped out The Netherlands and parts of Scandinavia. Siberians and Mongolians were left to fend for themselves. An Ebola plague wiped out one-third of the African population, across the continent; the survivors engaged in constant tribal wars. The Mediterranean and Aegean seas were getting too polluted to fish, partly due to leaking oil rigs offshore. Bickering between countries in Europe had broken into border wars. The cost of war was impoverishing all European countries. The Mideast and Far East were constantly reeling under warlords and emirs; any able-bodied man or woman was conscripted to support the power struggles. South America settled into the dictatorships they were already comfortable with and the general population accepted whatever soporifics the leaders dished out. Australia was perhaps the least affected continent, being reasonably separated from the rest of the world historically. The land mass shrank a bit, but there was still plenty of land to cultivate. There was little dependence trade wise or financially, so loss of both didn’t strongly affect the Aussie mindset.
© 2017 Bonnie-Jean Rohner