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Aspen had found a good spot on one of the rocks at the end of the beach. From there, she could conveniently stare out into the brown horizon as she tried to come to terms with the new reality of the world. She looked in vain for any signs that the phytoplankton might be clearing away. But all she could see was an infinity of despair. A planet that was undergoing new growing pains, just at the time when Aspen’s generation, an old model of humans, was coming of age into this new, foreign planet. She was already an outdated life form, at the peak of her youth.
She closed her eyes, trying to remember what the sea had looked like just weeks ago. She looked to the sky in search of a hint of blue, but it was too late in the day. A peach-colored sunset was underway over the Martian-looking surface of the sea. Each breath she took was filled with the decomposing souls of millions of lifeforms, dying silently in the darkness underneath the Veil.
Aspen could quite possibly be the last generation of humans. The phytoplankton was one of the new tenants on the block, and it loved heat. It was better adapted to the New Earth. It was growing even more vigorously, feeding on all the sea life that was going extinct, recycling its precious nutrients. Earth had created one new child. One day, far into the future, it could reach again the maximum number of species, 8.7 million. 8.7 million old models, the vast majority of them unfit to survive in this new world.
She passed a group of Minimalists who were standing on the beach, each on their own, exploring the emotion of grief. She stopped at the vertical farm on her way home, ordering a Greek salad. Today’s special was “1963, Santorini”. The cucumbers and tomatoes in the salad had been grown using the daylength, sunlight, volcanic soil minerals and humidity parameters of that year and location. A not-so-white feta cheese imitation was coarsely crumbled on top, made from a fermented mix of plant and insect proteins. A squeeze packet of a few expensive milliliters of olive oil was included at the bottom of the paper bag. Since the spread of the Xyllela bacterium olive tree disease from Italy to all major olive-oil producers across the world, production of olive oil had fallen by 90%. The now precious commodity was grown exclusively on small, isolated and sterilized plots of land located on a few uninhabited Greek islands that had escaped the bacterial plague. 1963 had been a good year indeed…
(from the upcoming novel A New Earth) – PRE-ORDER NOW:
George is an author, researcher, podcast host, chemist, molecular biologist and food scientist. You can follow him on Twitter @99blackbaloons , listen to his Spotify podcast George reads George, sign up for blog alerts below, or enjoy his books