I started to understand six months ago, last year in school. My Life Learning teacher had a special presenter come in and speak to us about an exciting advancement from the government. I guess because the sickness had been hitting mainly my generation, the government found it necessary to encourage us. Before I came to understand, I shuffled through life with Scott, with homework, with reading because it was the only life I’d ever known. But this presenter talked about how the government was constantly working, not only to sustain life but to improve it. We’d heard it a million times before but never really knew what it meant. The man brought with him a small metal spoon. It was like an ice cream scoop, with a metal canister at the end of it. He made us all come outside and stand around him in a circle. Through his air filter tube, he told us he was about to do something amazing.
He reached down and scooped some hard ash from beside the pavement into the bowl of the spoon and tipped it into the canister. We went back inside and he put a powder into the canister and pressed a button, which made the whole thing buzz and mix I guess. Then he dumped the ash and powder into a glass cup that was half filled with water. The water bubbled and orange foam filled the top of the glass cup. When all the bubbles popped, the man dumped the whole mess onto a tray and soaked up the rest of the water with a towel. It had become dirt, brownish orange, mushy dirt. Nobody spoke. We stared at it and at the man who seemed very happy with himself.
We left the dirt in the room for a few weeks on the tray, letting it “stabilize” as the man had told us to do. Then we were going to try to find some seeds online and plant something in it. But a couple weeks after it had finished drying the whole class got started to show signs of illness. Kids who sat in that corner started coughing up blood; everyone got the flu and a strange orange tint in our skin.
Jason, the boy who sat closest to the dirt, didn’t recover. He’s still alive but he suffered massive brain damage and is kept alive by machine. It turned out the guy who came to speak to our class wasn’t authorized by the government to show his experiment to the public, but he wanted to give hope to our generation. When it went sour he killed himself and the soil experiment was scrapped.
Jason made me realize the truth more than anything I’d seen before. I realized we were all kept alive by machine, by chemical, by things that weren’t real. Kids my age didn’t even know what was real because we had never experienced it. I became very angry at anyone who had experienced life before the fall. They bragged and reminisced about the days when things were beautiful and they had summer nights and bonfires and lightning bugs and real food. I hated them. I hated them because they wouldn’t shut up about it. They talked and they did nothing to change it. They are the ones that destroyed the world but they would do nothing to fix it, but punish my generation by spreading their malcontent.
I couldn’t focus well in class anymore and my heart was bitter. I stopped hanging out with Scott as much after school. I suppose nothing major really changed. It was the ceasing of change that made it obvious to me. Healthy development involves change, I have been told, and healthy development is what ceased.
And here I am. I thought about all of this as I lay on my bed. I used to think one day I would bring hope to my generation; I would find a way. There had to be a way to undo what we had done. But I had come to understand finally. There is no way, and that is what’s understood by those who leave. I shut my eyes and crossed my hands over my chest, letting out a deep sigh. Tired emotion in water form streaked lazily down my cheek and dreamless darkness swallowed my head.
When I woke I was warm. I knew I was awake because I could feel it, though my eyes weren’t open and my hands were still on my chest. A new smell poured into my room. At first I thought it was my mother’s cooking, but it couldn’t be. It wasn’t the smell of something packaged and revived. It moved and changed.
I bolted upright, opening my eyes. I was definitely not in my room.