Thursday, July 29, 2021

Plan Eff

I am conflicted when I look out the pod window to see the fog drifting lazily over the hills. In days long past my mother would’ve looked out the window and quietly praised the lord that the last of the great redwoods could still drink from the mists that rolled up from the sea, even though she already knew how sparse that moisture and those trees would become.

I remember the warmth of her arm about my shoulder before she put me to work packing my belongings, hoping to protect the few of our beloved family knick knacks amidst my clothes and worrying over size and weight limits. I was transported from our coastal home at the very last because she was a well-respected oceanographer for the government, and insisted I stay long enough to study the sea as it rose up to claim everything it touched.

I reached out to the little wooden statue on the window sill and caressed it’s haloed head. My grandmother had brought it back from one of her many UN visits, carved and sanded and oiled by a native shaman from the fetau tree of her island. She had said it represented the salvation promised with the relief programs, which neither she or the shaman lived to see fail. My mother said it represented the labor she and these women had done to protect what they loved.

Last night's message from Central Command lay open, and I reread it while making my breakfast.

Report received. Request Denied. No further studies required. Observation pod to be closed upon your departure. Reassignment unavailable. Relocation instructions attached. Pick up in three weeks. Thank you for your service.

I ate the last spoonful of my porridge, quickly rinsing out the bowl and drinking the rinsing water no matter it tasted like watered-down paste. This was my allotment for the morning and I’ve not enough to spare for actual washing. It takes too long for the mist to be processed through the multi-layered filters, and the reclamation system needs cleaning.

Lately, too many things need something. Last week I’d spent days repairing the large antenna on the roof, testing the signal to make sure the dish is pointed in the proper direction, and hoping my weekly report was received by Central Command. The week before, I repaired a rip in the greenhouse that I must check every day to confirm the hardened foam is holding the rip closed until the next drop shipment of supplies. 

Supplies, it seems, that I won't receive.

I loom over the predictions I’d prepared after receiving Central Command's denial, and worry if my analysis is correct. I’ve been living in this observation pod for nearly all of my approved terms. Fifteen years of data from the sensors should be enough to put me at ease for the few weeks until the weather is calm enough for the next shuttle. But predictions can be wrong, and the bell curve in my report is too wide and too shallow.

I remember my mother glaring at ancient reports, when first they suspected that earlier predictions were faulty. No, not faulty she had argued. Those reports had been ingested by politicians and only the best case scenarios had been fed to the public. Government, business and religious leaders ignored the too generous timeline, and social media pundits scoffed at the suggestion that humans were impacting the planet to the point of extinction. Until extinction became real.

And here I am. The last lookout in the last pod sitting atop a little hill overlooking the ocean. Watching the waves wash over a city long abandoned to the encroaching sea. Timing the outgoing tide to pull the litter of carcasses away before the smell rises up and drifts in through the air filters.

I don’t know if my mother would be proud of me for volunteering to continue her work here. Perhaps she would frown and wish instead that I had put my energy and time into more prudent and off-planet activities. But like her, I was born by the sea and I wish to remain by the sea, and that is why I am planning to sabotage every shuttle they send, and scavenge the parts to keep this pod alive for as long as possible.

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