[Author's note: A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a Friday Flash called "When the Sky Was Blue". Some of the commenters said it felt like part of a longer story and after a lot of thought, I came to agree. This is a first pass as to how that universe and some of its customs might have had their beginning. I think I might feel a novel coming on... ]
John Proctor cupped his hands around the tiny plant in a futile attempt to nurture and support it. But first one leaf dropped, then another and the forlorn stem sagged.
He sighed and sat back on his lab stool. Well, that’s that. He’d been diligent in collecting and filtering water samples and had done his best to refine the outdoor soil samples he’d collected, but no matter how remote his travels were, he couldn’t get away from the toxins which had spread, like tumors, from hundreds of years of industrialization and all that went with it.
A child’s amateur interest in green and growing things had become the man’s profession. For most of his work life, he’d gone from radio show to talk show to television interview to newspaper interview, preaching about the damage humans were doing, not only to their world but to themselves. As a rule, he was dismissed as alarmist and a “crackpot”. Most people liked their lives as they were and weren’t willing to make the major sacrifices needed to fix the damage. Now they were dying by the thousands, born and unborn — quick and painful deaths, untreatable and for which there seemed to be no anodyne. His scientist’s mind calculated that at the present rate, Earth’s population could become non-sustainable in less than five years.
Proctor held face up to the weak sun. That was another issue. He sighed again. There were so many – but it was time to stop weeping over what was done and uncorrectable and salvage as much as possible. He spun his laptop around, and in a few decisive keystrokes, he started a new email.
Subject: Project Ark
Per our discussion last week, my last experiment just died. There is no time left, and you must begin the procedures I outlined when I was in Washington DC in February. What good resources we have need to be collected and rationed. Use must be rationed. It’s time to revive that good old Yankee saying our great grandparents lived by: “Waste not, want not”…