She had been real at some point; of that, he was almost certain. They had travelled to the New World together. Both had been cautious, aware of the risks, and prepared to face them. There was nothing left for them on Earth; they had agreed. They had looked one another in the eyes and promised that, come what may, they’d never regret the decision.
But Joshua was full of regrets.
Upon their arrival, they had faced a number of disastrous obstacles, not the least of which had been the climate. It had been said that the environment would be reminiscent of Earth and that bodies would naturally adjust to the minor differences. Evolution. But that wasn’t the case. It was cold when it should have been hot, hot when it should have been cold – everything came in extremes.
There were days when the UV rays were so strong that the slightest of exposure would peel away flesh in an instant. It was like acid. The medics couldn’t do much except give you aloe and empty promises of biological adaptation. Similarly, there were days when the cold would create a layer of frost upon the skin that would tug and tear until; once again, the flesh would peel. Again, the medics offered little in the way of healing. Time and adjustment – that was the best an optimist could hope for.
And Joshua was not an optimist.
“Climate change was pretty bad down there, too,” she’d say.
No. It wasn’t, he’d think. No one had known the true ramifications of climate change until they left Earth. Now, it all seemed a bit silly. From overpopulation to barren lands, Joshua had reached an excruciating limit on how well he could cope with extremes. He could feel himself growing resentful. He missed the predictability of Earth, of his job, of his meager day-to-day. He missed climbing into bed with her, burying his body inside of hers after a long hard day. It wasn’t like that in the New World. The work was harder, the days longer, the exhaustion far more detrimental.
Then the new viruses spread.
“You have to send us back! We aren’t equipped for this! It’s not working!” He screamed, pouted, and fought with the hoards of dissatisfied customers in the Diasporic Hell they called the New World.
If this was the future, Joshua wanted nothing to do with it. It was a world built upon lies, an ideology grounded in fantasy. Utopia, as it turns out, just doesn’t exist.
She had convinced him that having a family would make it all worth it, that there were no other options, that this was the way out. He had fallen for it – the illusion of sanctuary. And now, he was paying the price. Their bodies could not function, could not do what they needed them to do. The infertility chips had been removed, but the damage had been done. The damage, in all honesty, was ongoing.
She became weaker every day. Her cough was hoarse; her internal temperature was all over the place, and her raw exposed flesh was too painful to withstand his touch. Meanwhile, his outer layer had become numb and the dull, deep, pain had become a part of him.
Just when he thought it couldn’t get any worse, the harsh terrain took her. She was swallowed whole by the lie of a better tomorrow.
And Joshua was full of regrets.
Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©
(This is an independent follow up to: The Way Out)