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When I was a student I learned that one day our Sun would use up all of its hydrogen fuel, and expand out into a red giant, in the process swallowing the inner planets like candy. Mercury, Venus, Earth, would vanish in a fiery molten poof. I couldn’t sleep for days.
I couldn’t grasp that this event was not scheduled for 5 billion years. Five billion years is a number that our human scale brains can’t fathom. No one really “knows” how much a million is, let alone a billion. Our tiny little monkey frontal lobes have evolved over the eons to keep us in the now, to keep us safe from lions, to keep us from starving, it can’t handle concepts like a billion. When you hear something like “the US dept is so and so Trillions of dollars” your brain simply shuts down and you think “oh that sucks.”
When I told Rain what I had seen she seemed to take it pretty well, as well as anyone could really. She only cried a little, mostly because I had mentioned Boston as being “just the start.” I described to her how Ophelia was going to circle back around the Atlantic, how it could do this for years, and how it would shoot “normal” size hurricanes out of her like an Olympic discus thrower. In the process Ophelia would be killing millions and reworking the entire Atlantic coast line.
“I don’t get it, how can a hurricane become permanent?”
“Hurricanes are engines, they run on hot water, if there is enough hot water and they don’t run into land, they will just keep pumping up hot water and keep going.”
Ophelia was somehow avoiding land, she seemed to push herself away from land, building up some sort of self perpetuating circular motion that kept the winds pushing outward, always keeping her safe from a dry death on land.
When you learn that a there is now a global warming induced cyclonic death machine killing millions of people with the potential to permanently make the Atlantic ocean a no go zone for humanity, you sometimes cant really picture that in your head. Some problems are too big to understand logically, some problems you have to feel in your heart.
“Oh, that sucks.” Rain threw her bag on her bag and started walking towards the door.
We got our bikes, stole the rest of the pretzels from the break room and got back on the road. We spent the next couple of weeks cycling west.
Something was happening to nature. Tree’s wilted in the heat, and animals seemed to be on edge. We would regularly pass raccoons and squirrels sitting in the middle of the road. Watching you pass, no fear, not moving, just silently waiting for something to happen.
The roads were mostly empty, it was simply too expensive to operate a car. Gasoline had gone above $20 a gallon. All oil had to be shipped through the pacific, combined with the massive disruption caused in the Middle East when Ophelia sent a category three hurricane, like a snipers bullet, barreling through the Mediterranean into Israel and Palestine. It was now almost impossible to operate any North Sea or Gulf of Mexico oil fields because no one was suicidal enough to staff the platforms.
“You are doing much better Q, pump that shit!” Rain always seemed to be at her most joyful while riding her bicycle.
A couple weeks of steady cycling, regular meals (as regular as we could beg steal or trade for), and the other rigors involved in living on the road had started to show. My muscle mass had slowly started to come back, and I could now go for up to 40 miles in a day without feeling like I was going to die of exhaustion.
“A couple more weeks of this and you might graduate from ‘fucking pussy’ to just ‘pussy’.” Rain didn’t hide the fact that 40 miles a day for her was a relaxing ride around town.
“Speaking of which I am getting pretty tired, lets stop at the next little town.”
We had celebrated finally getting to New York State a couple days ago. Not that you would have noticed other than the sun faded sign that announces it as you ride in. There is very little regional culture left in this county. The Taco Bells in New York look an awful lot like the Taco Bells in Massachusetts.
We were sticking to back roads, finding it harder and harder to even find towns to stop at. They seemed to be emptying out; people would just get up and leave. Many times we found boarded up homes, with signs that read “out of money, gone to find work in the NYC” or “Cows died, heading to Albany.” Lonely sign posts, just in case a loved one came looking.
“Let’s just stop for a while” I huffed.
I was noticing just how much stronger Rains legs looked than mine, when I failed to negotiate around a rather large pot hole. Had I been a physics major it would have been to fun to calculate just how much speed you need to get your whole body to fly over the handle bars, and how much heat is caused by the friction of your body on the pavement, but because I was not a physics major I was content to just experience the pain. When I stopped sliding Rain was there to lean over me.
“That shit looks pretty gnarly man.”
“Is that your medical opinion, or your professional one?”
“I don’t know Q, I think you are going to need some stitches that arm looks pretty fugly”
Rain seemed to have a sick fascination with poking the rather deep gash on my left arm where it had encountered a rock.
“Don’t worry though, the bike is fine.”
We got out our map and took a look; we were only about ten miles outside of Kingston. I could ride, so we slowly made our way toward town. Even here, a once sizable community was showing signs of serious stress. The streets were full of empty shops; the grass was brown and dead in most yards, long and uncut.
The hospital was full of people with heat stroke, old people dying because it was so hot. Ten thousand years ago we didn’t live to be old, life was too hard. If you didn’t get eaten by a wolf, or break your leg and get an infection that ended your life, your teeth would grind down because of the rough nature of our pre-domesticated plants. Once your teeth went, so did you. It was starting again, the old, the weak, the young with no one to take care of them. The world was limping back to that more brutal time.
Strange the kind of things you think about while someone is sewing up your arm.
We filed for hardship care, and told them that we didn’t have any money to pay for the stitches. The lady at the front desk entered my name into a computer and we got back on the road, heading south.
The information that the kindly old lady with a southern accent had diligently typed into her data base was making its way at the speed of electricity into some very interesting computer systems. These computer systems began to become very active when they saw who had just gotten thirteen stitches in his left arm. This activity caused several large lights to begin blinking in earnest. This caused a lot of commotion, printers began printing reports, numbers were called, cell phones were texted, that blinking computer became the busy little center to a much larger system of activity. Someone very connected had been looking very hard for Quentin A. Anderson, and they had finally found him.