Alternate Histories: The Subway Series

I went to New York, realized that what I was seeing in the bottom of the subway tunnels was water, and wrote this story.

*

When we pried up some of the streets, we laid down metal grid and limestone and marble and peat moss and sharp sand and the bones of some of the dead and broken glass turned back to sand. We planted salt-tolerant grasses, beach peas, heathers, junipers. We left plenty of streets, don’t worry. The ambulances and the power chairs can still get through.

 

The negotiations between the builders’ and plumbers’ and electricians’ unions (whose representatives drove in from Queens and Staten Island each day), the water’s lawyers (arriving on foot and on bikes), the various tenants’ rights cadres (some of them armed and riding the city buses), the Doctors, Nurses and Patients’ Coalition (in wheelchair-compliant vans), the delegation from Riker’s Island–these took almost a year, even with everyone eager to be fair, to admit that they might have been wrong or done wrong, to outlive years and decades and centuries of mutual suspicion and uneven violence. Pain and anger and hatred all wash out slowly, slowly, and only when people stop renewing them.

 

Rainwater filters down through the grids of plant and sand and stone into what used to be the subway tunnels, diluting the dank sick dark-brown water with clearer, washed water. In the storms, on the wettest most tantrum days, the tunnels become flood tunnels: the seawater crashes in and the skywater pours down: we made a place for them, because everyone and everything needs a place to be, and sometimes more than one. Spillways open and when the storm subsides, they close; when the storm subsides, sunlight comes down through the light-and-ventilation shafts and makes the water steam up.

 

We don’t need the subway tunnels for the subway anymore because work doesn’t work the same way. Most people live pretty close to the work they do, and no one works for a living; people live and they work. This took a long time, almost as long as it took to pry up some of the streets. We started doing it, and some of us got tired, and lay down, and the rats and the dermestid beetles from the Museum became our undertakers, and we gave our bones to the water.

 

This is terrible, we hear you saying, how can you stand it? There are pilgrimages to the catacombs but there’s no horror, or rather, horror is a part of our lives, a neighbor. We combined a few of the many things that people have done with the dead, since the beginning of the world.

 

We admit that we smashed up some of the buildings to get the marble. Even the softest stone is still hard, and holds a lot of memory. We wanted it to communicate some of what it had known to the water; we wanted its power to be transformed. But we didn’t smash up any people, or trap them into smashing themselves. We worked slowly and we worked with care, and no one worked past or even close to the limits of their strength, to move the stone on rollers, we chanted rhythmic encouragement and carried cleaner water, water gathered before it hit the ground, in the heat. Our plant and animal neighbors fed us, or calmed our minds, or renewed the air, or shit fertilizer. That’s how they were to us. How we were to them: pruners, killers, renewers of air, cleaners of habitat.

 

The rats have their own routes; the light that filters in, the unpredictable waters, and the lack of dropped food–there isn’t nearly enough to waste, anymore–make it less of a place for them. They live there, and sometimes there are terrible rat stampedes–we feel disgust–we stand as still as we can, shuddering, while they flood our ankles. They stay out of the water, though, now, we don’t know why. Science works differently now, too, we cut fewer things open, we stop fewer processes. Its motion is even slower, making some of us feel crazy. Those of us who can write, write our findings up on the tunnel walls, and sometimes the floods wash them away. Depending on the changing levels of dampness, moss and fungi flourish or dry to dust and sift down.

In the tunnels a few bats live, refugees, but they’re shy of people. We found out about the crayfish when the first raccoons came down. We stay away from them: they carry rabies, and there’s no vaccine anymore, not anywhere in the city or the world. But they’re among the best at finding exits and entrances, so sometimes we follow them at a safe distance, to see if there are places we should be watching out for, places where we poorly understand the change from aboveground to underground, where they understand it well. We don’t eat the crayfish. You can go to another storyteller to find out more about how we feed each other and where we sleep, the various ways we decide about children or pray or joke or clean. This is about the way we know the water underground.

 

Year by year, decade by decade, century by century, the water in the tunnel bottoms becomes sweeter. We lay marble tile from the smashed-up buildings, with cracks between so it can seep back down into the cycle, what we used to call the water table but now call the belly. The tunnels are long throats. This metaphor will break down pretty soon, but that’s okay with us. We build things now to be breakable, reparable, to flood and subside. Sometimes the water that sinks back down is seawater, is salt. We know this slows renewal, poisons roots, just like it would make you sick to swallow. We hope for time to dilute it.

 

On the hottest, driest days, the former tunnels are cooler than the streets, and we walk down the long ramps to lower our temperature, and that’s how we notice–after some generations have passed–the stalactites starting to form on the roof, just little nubs with a drop of water glimmering. Their roots are deep tobacco-stained brown; their extremities are gray and pale tan with the slightest surface glitter, as the sediments work their way down. When you see them changing, you don’t know it’s change you’re seeing. They are made up of millions of years of the minute dead, in aggregate, now entering another form, moved by the requirements of matter. They aren’t beautiful yet. Neither are we.

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Alternate Histories: 5/11, 5/17

(If you’re a new visitor to the blog, you can read this explanation of alternate histories.)

5/11/16

 

We don’t kill the fish ’cause the fish have toxins in ’em by the time they come up this far. I tell people not to eat ’em. I tell people, there’s three discharge stations up there, three. … We just put ’em back. Stripers, if they stay out of the water too long, they get stressed and they die.

*

5/17/16

Two stories here: the story of H and the story of the fish.

The fish was born in a big river. (I’m sorry, but I have to use human names for the things the fish knew.) It swam with the current. It snapped at tasty fragments first, then smaller fish. Its siblings schooled together with it. The water brought it temperatures, pressures and flavors, currents and other currents. It moved like a muscle inside of a muscle. It tasted metal, plastic, rank things. Older fish of its kind came to the river–big shadows, muscling the water aside–and ate most of the food, but it managed to find enough. It was fish-wise, fish-strong. It inscribed itself on the currents briefly, repeatedly. For lice, it was a country; for smaller fish, it was the end of the world.

Seasons passed. The fish’s third winter, the water cooled less, it didn’t grow as torpid, it stayed hungrier. Some of its schoolmates died and the decay of their flesh flavored the water. When the fish was old enough and strong enough, it moved along a particular current, following the taste and itch of salt, passing the changes in plants and other animals, riding the rapids and pushing through the slow shallows, until it reached vastness.

H is a human, so he knows time and survival differently. His birth is a long time back, in what, up North, he calls the South. He rides his bike, he gardens, he works as a guide for kayak fishing. Sometimes he takes his kayak through the river some humans call the Woonasquatucket out into the bay and beyond, to get to where the stripers are that his fellow humans want to catch.

The fish wants to live and H wants to live. Once, he would have let the fish live long enough to grow big and stout, and maybe mate and make more fishes, before catching, killing, scaling, gutting, cooking, eating. Now he coaches his customer how to put it back without any intention of ever eating it, gently, reverently. It will still probably die from something humans have done–plastic in the water, carcinogens in its own body–but not this human, not this thing

But now trace the stories back upstream. Dredge out the plastic, by hand if necessary, all the able and available hands maneuvering small craft and squatting on the tangled banks; go to the houses, collect the plastic, go to the factories, don’t make any more. Find the places where the sewage outfall or industrial discharge enters the river, diverge some of it or plant them up with the cordgrass or phragmites that will filter the water (we’ll need to rip it out later, since it likes to spread; we’ll need to bind and weave the reeds into boats when our kayaks and canoes spring leaks we can’t fix because we’re not making plastic compounds anymore and the spruce sap won’t stick to the fiberglass properly). Pay the reparations that are due to H on behalf of his enslaved ancestors, before we get rid of money entirely. The window is small; we need to do it soon.

The fish has died, long since, drifted to the bottom to be devoured by the scavenger snails and hermit crabs that have managed to survive the increasingly warm oceans. Other fish spawn in the river, tastes their way to the ocean. They know all that fish know: the water reteaches it to them, along the lateral lines that run down every fish body from generation to generation. A blurred or interrupted lesson is still a lesson, and many fish have come to grief. Others have learned in their bodies how to digest new kinds of food, how to endure greater warmth and less oxygenated water, how to float low and weather out the turbidity and violence of storms.

Humans live longer than fish; H is old in this part of the story, and history has injured him in many ways, but his life is full of sweetness and he has access to all the medical care he needs. He kayaks out for the pleasure of survival; he lets out his line. The fish he hooks late in the day will feed him and six or seven of his neighbors; it thrashes with all its weight, because most things want to live. He says a reverent prayer of thanks for its life and its flesh, knocks it sharply on the head, and paddles back upstream.

 

 

Alternate Histories: 4/22, 5/5

4/22/16

I have four kids, between 18 and 26, and I worry about the kind of world they’re going to have. For the first time it’s made me almost wish I hadn’t brought kids into the world. I go back and forth between thinking there’s a reason to be hopeful and thinking there’s reasons to not be optimistic. I keep telling them, Your generation has to figure this out, because mine really messed it up.

*

5/5/16

Barely two weeks later, the fires broke out at Fort McMurray. J’s fingertip ticced over the news liveblog and the evacuation/relocation group, the human pleas for and offers of aid. Marie in Olds wrote, “Don’t forget that there are lots of people willing to open their homes in Central and Southern Alberta. I know it’s a long way, but if you can get here, you can stay for free.” J was in Rhode Island; no one could get to her. She donated money to the Red Cross. She sat still, refreshing the images of flames until her eyes turned red, thinking: We already have this kind of world. It’s now, it’s here, it’s burning. She tried not to think about the trees becoming carbon gases and ash, the reserves of tar and oil igniting underground–was that even possible?–and loosing their heat into the air; she forced her mind back to it.

J called, texted, emailed the children who didn’t still live with her and said, “Come home.” They came, and gathered close around her. “It’s scary,” they agreed, though they were calm. She almost wished they’d show distress so she could switch to comfort mode, but they were no longer her babies and she had no comfort to give. They were just here, in this world, and so was she.

When the fires finally died down, weeks later, Fort McMurray’s former residents slowly made their way back–many by foot, some in convoys–to bid farewell to their former home, a plain of ash, plastic siding melted into lava flows, soil calcined to a depth of feed in places, metal still pinging and cooling. Tree and house skeletons crumbled a little at a time. There was no reason for birds to be there. Those who were able made a procession around the blackened places, praying or singing, shouting or sobbing, according to their natures and their traditions. They marked their faces with the ash. It took days. When they left, each person took a piece of debris away with them.

(Meanwhile, people throughout Alberta and neighboring provinces were working to find housing, adapt infrastructure, continue schooling, provide medical and spiritual care for all the people who had been displaced, and find them new work to do in order to be useful and feel purpose, and helping them settle near each other whenever possible. J followed this process from afar, to the best of her ability. She wanted to know what to do when it was her turn. Her kids had to remind her to step outside, to walk on the beach, to eat with them. There are many ways to keep a vigil.)

Exploitation of the Athabasca oil sands was over.  As a home for living creatures, the place was in abeyance; the land was a graveyard. Later on, much later, after J and her children were dead, it became a field, and plants and animals–different kinds, that had weathered the world’s other changes–began to live there, and even do well on the rich black soil.

 

 

Alternate Histories: 4/22, 4/29

(If you’re a new visitor to the blog, you can read this explanation of alternate histories.)

4/22/16

Tipping points. Deforestation tipping points. Tipping points of rising seas, tipping points with ice melt.

*

4/29/16

The next day, C went to the library to return one book of dire predictions and take out another. On her way, she stopped the car by the salt inlet and looked out over the eelgrass and mudflats, the ways the water and soil and roots and dead matter and sand meshed with and ate at one another. She thought about the delicacy of their arrangements, the ways in which they were never still, growing and dying, eating and rotting, silting up and subsiding—the small changes that couldn’t survive a big change. She thought of the inlets swamped and choked by rising water and never coming back. Her mind didn’t even get as far as the wider world. She leaned against the warm hood of her car and sobbed.

C wasn’t afraid of loss or change in human civilization, or human culture. She was afraid of human disappearance; she knew that for that to happen, land, water and air would have to alter so drastically that they’d take hundreds, thousands, of other creatures and relationships with them. She knew that to prevent these alterations, other things would have to alter drastically instead: systems of production and exploitation, the supply chain of her wine and bread and salad greens, people’s imaginations of one another and of other living creatures. She wanted to support the second kind of alterations; hence the books, hence the conversations she tried to navigate, hence some of the small choices she knew didn’t do much but helped her feel connected to efforts of change.

What she feared, what she was crying for by the side of the road, was that no support she could give mattered—not just that she couldn’t do anything to hold off the deadly changes, but that no one could, that even the second kind of alterations would not replace the first. That the future was not a delicate and changing saltmarsh but a static, settling graveyard.

Why work toward changes that don’t matter, that won’t save anything you love, C thought? Why not just wait for the dead water to cover everything?

What is it too late for? To save ourselves. To keep ourselves going forever.

What is it not too late for?

In the weeks and the years that followed, C behaved like a person with an illness that they know will kill them soon, and so did many other people. They didn’t hoard much; rather, they gave things away. They made various kinds of amends, not just to human people, but to trees and insects, birds and waterways. They were kind. They sat down in strange places—in front of tanker trains, on the hoods of police cars, in front of the houses of lawmakers. They drank what was left of the wine, and didn’t ask for any more.

And the trains slowed and stopped, because the drivers didn’t know if they would live to collect their pensions. The cop cars rusted out, because there were so few years of human life left total; who’d risk their own, or take another’s? The lawmakers didn’t bother consolidating their power for their next term; they might not get to have one. They worked to make amends, to heal beyond damage, to nourish the present, while they waited for the dead water to cover everything.

Alternate Histories: Port of Providence

 

Note: I wrote this alternate history after attending a community forum on environmental hazards in the Port of Providence and nearby neighborhoods.

 

4/18/16

Routine releases means emissions in normal operation, emissions that might happen daily or more rarely, and they’re frequently regulated by permits … In accidental releases, planning is very important. –Barbara Morin, Providence Department of Health

*

We’re always planning. We’re looking at every event. –Michael Borg, Providence Emergency Management Agency

*

 

4/19/16

 

The next day, the hazmat teams descended on the Port of Providence, because they were responsible for reducing harm from hazardous materials. They were just doing their jobs when they gave the Univar and Motiva facilities and the staff at the Enterprise propane and National Grid liquid natural gas tanks a timeline and a protocol for distributing or neutralizing their fossil fuel and chemical holdings. The people working there were glad to cooperate, knowing that every day of dismantlement increased the chances of survival for a third-grader or an old man on oxygen or a school of fish, and knowing that as they did this work, their livelihoods were assured in the neighborhood.

 

There’s no good way to put natural gas or coal back in the ground–not every process is reversible, not every wound can be healed. A council of South Providence residents doled out the natural gas and propane out to the rest of the city household by household, rationing it for heat and cooking, knowing that there would be no more when it was gone. They built big, ramshackle structures out of scrap metal and wood from dismantled houses across the train tracks, and colored them with chalk and festooned them with fabric to make sure the drivers could see them from far away.

 

The people of South Providence made room for the people who’d worked in the Port, and learned from them and the hazmat teams how to work with the chemicals without harm. Sometimes they were able to reduce them to harmless compounds, or suspend them in substances that would neutralize them. Sometimes the best they could do is parcel them out into smaller quantities, to be stored above water. Filtration, solution, transformation. Prevention: better than cure. The people who’d worked in the Port, and the hazmat teams, learned from the people of South Providence other sets of skills: arguing, running repairs, improvisation, rapid calculation, code-switching, field medicine. They all breathed more easily.

 

The next hundred-year storm hit before the tanks were fully emptied. A lot of fish and seabirds died, too many to count, and two humans trapped in a car, and an entire long row of windbreaking saplings that the people of South Providence, old and new, had planted a couple of years before. They succumbed to the chemical-infused saltwater; they stood like thin gravestones.

 

It could have been worse, it could have been better. The rest of the city’s people took the people of South Providence into their houses elsewhere and took turns cleaning and airing the flooded buildings, breaking down the ones that were too badly damaged or too far into the floodplain to make sense saving; they took it in shifts so that no one had to have too much exposure to the poisonous debris. They noted and charted the lie of the land, where the water wanted to go. They thickened and lined the walls of their homes with torn fabric, scavenged wood, leftover office paper, dry grass; they cooked on tiny solar stoves outdoors in summer, and saved their gas and wood for winter.

 

The people who were young during that storm were almost old when the next one hit, and things went very differently. All the tanks were long empty of poison; some were reefs for the shellfish that were just starting to come back. Long sections of train track ran quietly under the water, coated in algae that had evolved to digest the tar and creosote that soaked the railroad ties. People’s weather senses were better now, and with the help of predictive technology, they knew when to leave and let the water rush through what was left, if that was where it wanted to go. The city’s high points had food stores and hospitals; the city’s low points were thick with marsh grass shading into waterweed, and tiny crabs, and sand fleas, and lugworms, hunkering down to wait out a cleaner tide.

Providence 2050

The Providence Public Library, a place and institution that I love so much, invited people living and working in the city to imagine it in 2050, and this is what we said. I’m in there (though I don’t know that I would call myself an “emerging leader”) and so are a lot of people that I also love, and some I don’t know.

Thanks to Kate Wells and the PPL for inviting me to be part of this story.

Alternate History: 1/23

Normally I write alternate histories in response to one or more climate anxieties that people share with me at the counseling booth or in some other context, but the idea for this one came from hearing our radiators bang and hiss, I think, mostly.

1/23/16

It took the people of the states neighboring states with oil, coal and natural gas economies about three years to get everything together, and in that time, the burning, the trucks passing over the roads, the leaks, the excavations, continued to do their damage. Many people died of them–salamanders and mosses, canvasback ducks and grasses, cactus wrens, honeysuckle bushes and humans. Some of the blockades during this time kept coal trains or LNG trucks from reaching their destinations, and others kept them from collecting new loads by standing across the railways and roadways and chanting the names of the dead. Meanwhile, people in neighboring states adjusted their budgets, in some cases altered the interiors of their houses or apartment buildings and increased the capacities of their septic systems, spread the word, and at last announced that they were ready.

Anybody who had made their living working for these industries–as riggers or as administrative assistants, as claims filers or miners or geologists, could leave their job and a person or family in another state would make themselves responsible for them, just as if they were cousins coming from another country. Some called it “adoption” and others “asylum”, but everyone called the people on the giving end “responders.”

Some humans moved in with their responders, right into the house, helping them build adaptively after storms, remediate their soil, remember to charge the batteries of their power chairs, or doctor their dogs. The people and plants and insects in that place adjusted to the presence of additional people: a new set of eyebrows for the mites to colonize, a new pressure on the ground above the roots.

Some of these living arrangements lasted years, some months; a few dissolved almost immediately, but the responders continued their interracination–their inter-rootedness–sending money, answering questions–as long as the newcomers wished it. “Interracination” because it needed a new word: it wasn’t patronage, since they weren’t patronizing; it wasn’t support, which can mean too many other things, and doesn’t acknowledge the work of entanglement, the constant recalibration, unease and shifting. Even those who remained to nurture their home places, with packets of money, kids’ clothes and nonperishable food arriving weeklyish via the still-functioning mail, or to pick up monthly at the fair days that were starting to spring up in disused parking lots, felt the stiffness, the difference, the pull, and had to work it off in their own ways. Teenagers attached harrows to their ATVs, now sunpowered, and shrieked their way around the edges, tearing up asphalt, and older people strolled or shuffled after them, scattering the seeds of tough grasses, elderberry or scrub pine or nasturtium, whatever they thought might be able to endure it.

The hardest months were the cold months. A lot of people living on high ground or in dry zones moved into their basements then, running vents to the outside, and some became seasonal migrants, learning the new and shifting patterns along with traveling birds, for whom they left sustenance in exchange. In cities, people got good at making paper waste into pellets and logs, and in the country there was the wood of trees that hadn’t weathered the changes. But there really is nothing you can burn for warmth that doesn’t add particulate matter and carbon molecules to the air, and people lived, as they had in the past, with the knowledge of what they were making worse. They sang songs of mourning and gratitude for the pulp and the ashes, for trees that had died last year, or twenty years ago, or fifty. They moved on to stories of the people of the past: giant insects, dinosaurs and ground sloths, rheas and dodos, moose and bowhead whales. These weren’t exactly adventure stories, since most of them had no humans in them, but they were stories of the thrill of being a living creature. When childrens’ eyelids got heavy, the adults–born family, gathered family, and responders– switched to stories of small people: close-to-the-ground animals, quick birds, the frogs that were slowly coming back to some of the streams near the tracks, though the mining and fracking sites wouldn’t support life until long after everyone listening was dead.

An Alternate History by Rolando Huerta: 12/18/15

Earlier in the year, I asked some writers I know if they’d be willing to write an alternate history for this project in response to a climate anxiety I’d gathered at the booth. You can read some of the other ones by Rachel Schapira, Rachel Schapira again, Ethan Robinson, Mia Hooper and Janaya Kizzie. If you think you might like to write one, let me know. This one just came in, and is by Rolando Huerta; the date at the top refers to the date the story was posted.

12/18/15

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

WESTERN DISTRICT OF RHODE ISLAND

EASTERN DIVISION

 

SARAH RICHARDS-MALKOVICH and .   Docket No. 1111-ACV-192735-JCSAC

TAYLOR MALKOVICH, IV,        .

.

Plaintiffs,              .   Providence, Rhode Island

.   Monday, July 9, 2057

  1. .   9:00 a.m.

.

STATE OF RHODE ISLAND        .

DEPT. CLIMATE CONTROL,       .

DEPT. GEOENGINEERING, et al,.

Defendants.              .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .  .

 

VOLUME I

TRANSCRIPT OF TRIAL

BEFORE THE HONORABLE JOANNE C. SOLOMON

UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE, and a jury.

 

APPEARANCES:

 

For the Plaintiffs:          Nixon & Carmicle, S.C.

By: MAXSON R. CONNOLLY, ESQ.

42 East Midland Street, Suite 18

Warwick, RI 02887

(411) 929-9911

 

For the Defendants:          State Attorney General’s Office

By: ANSOLM CLARK SABRAHAR, ESQ.

JOHN P. FONTELLE, ESQ.

P.O. Box 78570

Warwick, RI 02887-7857

(411) 294-9544

 

Court Recorder:              Carmen DuPont

District Court Clerk’s Office

1 Exchange St, Room 320

Providence, RI 02903

(411) 244-5156

 

Transcription Service:       Blankpunkt Reporting Co.

801 North Verdaccio Street

Providence, RI 02907

(411) 722-7428

 

Proceedings recorded by electronic sound recording;

transcript produced by transcription service.

 

INDEX

 

OPENING STATEMENT:                                     Page

 

On behalf of the Plaintiffs, by Mr. Connolly            3

On behalf of the Defendants, by Mr. Sabrahar           12

 

Further

WITNESSES FOR THE     Direct Cross Redirect Recross Redirect

PLAINTIFFS:

Bernadette A. Clay       25     49

Louis Fishbourne         70     92     75     129

 

WITNESSES FOR THE

DEFENDANTS:

Malcom Morgan           102   156 (Voir Dire)

Simon S. Moody           108   177

MOTION: Mr. Sabrahar   111 Denied   112

MOTION: Ms. Kennelly   118 Denied   115

 

EXHIBITS:                                     Marked Received

 

1 – Morgan affidavit and extra damages         29     29

summary

2 – Additional extra damages list             38     40

3 – Performance appraisals, 2053 – 2056,       60     64

Smythe-Richards

4 – Performance appraisals, 2047 – 2056,       75     —

Moody

 

ARGUMENT: Mr. Connolly                               165

RESPONSE: Mr. Sabrahar                               172

 

 

PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND, MONDAY, JULY 9, 2057, 9:00 A.M.

(Call to Order of the Court.)

THE COURT: Good morning, everyone. Let’s call in the jury, unless there are matters to consider first. Mr. Connolly?

  1. CONNOLLY: No, Your Honor, we’re ready.
  2. SABRAHAR: We have nothing to take up right now, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Good. Mr. Bailiff, please bring the jury from their waiting room.

(Proceedings continued in the presence of the jury.)

THE COURT: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Our first order of business will be brief statements of what this case is all about by Mr. Connolly and Mr. Sabrahar, whom you met yesterday during the jury selection process. Mr. Connolly will speak to you first.

Please proceed, Mr. Connolly.

  1. CONNOLLY: Thank you, Your Honor.

Ladies and gentlemen, as you know, this is an unusual case, in that we are here to decide whether the long accepted Weather Modification Act should continue to be implemented in the State of Rhode Island. Moreover, we are here to decide whether the State of Rhode Island is directly responsible for the tragic death of a Ms. Elizabeth Malkovich, eleven year old daughter of Sarah and Taylor Malkovich.

Particularly in question is whether the release of cloud-seeding aerosols, such as silver iodide, by Rhode Island’s Departments of Climate Control and Geoengineering directly or indirectly contributed to flooding in West Providence, which occurred at approximately 10:30 AM on the morning of September 5, 2056. This flash flood left thousands without a home, and even more people were left without running water and electricity; it caused over one hundred and fifty million dollars in damage. Worse yet, it took young Ms. Malkovich’s life. She was trapped and drowned at her school that morning. The very building housing teachers educating her on the Global Climate Control Initiative, and the importance of weather modification, Rhode Island’s premier charter school, the Casey-Anne Institute, became this child’s watery grave. And how compelling it is that we be here this morning to discuss this matter and reach the right verdict.

The long since tenured practice of cloud seeding was publicly instituted at the height of our climate change anxiety in the twenty-twenties, 2025 to be exact, and overturned the Clean Water Act of the twentieth century. It has been said that the Weather Modification Act of 2025 is responsible for over 10,000 accidental flooding deaths in the U.S.A. every year since its passing. It’s time that once and for all those responsible for such senseless and negligent policies of death, have their day in court, and that the State of Rhode Island suspend its implementation of the Weather Modification Act of 2025. Further, that restitution and damages be sought and awarded to the Plaintiff, may the jury reach the right decision.

We should do this for Ms. Elizabeth Malkovich, who did not deserve to die at the tender age of eleven, especially, at the hands of those who are tasked with protecting each and every one of us. We should do this not only for the Malkovich family, present today, but for all those parents not present today, who want to see their own children outlive themselves. Members of the Jury, I do not know whether any of you have children, but I do, and I do not want the Rhode Island Departments of Climate Control and Geoengineering to kill them, not by intent, nor by accident, and certainly not by negligent policy.

 

  1. CONNOLLY: I’d like to call Ms. Clay.

THE COURT: Raise your right hand, madam, and the clerk will administer the oath.

BERNADETTE A. CLAY, PLAINTIFFS’ WITNESS, SWORN

THE CLERK: State and spell your name for the record.

THE WITNESS: Bernadette A. Clay, C-L-A-Y.

THE CLERK: Be seated.

DIRECT EXAMINATION

BY MR. CONNOLLY:

  1. Do you know either of the plaintiffs in this case, Mr. Taylor Malkovich or Mrs. Richards-Malkovich?
  2. Yes, I do know them both.
  3. And what is your relationship?
  4. I taught their daughter, Liz, third grade calculus at Casey-Anne.
  5. How long have you been teaching at the Casey-Anne Institute?
  6. For twenty-three years now. Yes, I’ve been teaching at Casey-Anne since 2034.
  7. Was there anything unusual about the week of September 5, 2056?
  8. Well, yes. On that Monday the 4th [9/4/56], an overwhelming majority, ninety-five per cent, of our students, and ninety per cent of all Rhode Islanders, as I recall, voted for sunny weather, not rain. We were supposed to have [long pause] sunny weather all week.

[mixed voices]

 

Alternate Histories: 10/14, 11/25

10/14/15

When my son was seven, he heard there was an asteroid heading toward the Earth and he could not sleep. So we talked about it, and he read about it a lot, and he learned about it. In high school he took an environmental science class and it was back to the not sleeping. And that’s what he’s doing in college right now, and I say, “I’m sorry this is the planet my generation is leaving you.” … I think the wrong people are worried about it. My effort to do all this is nothing. The people who are causing this, the construction industry, the hospital industry–they’re not worried.

 

11/25/15

Now W is twenty-five; he has a job with the state foresters. Now he is thirty-three, training deer hunters and guerilla protectors of the state’s forests in the Arcadia Management Area. Now he is six, learning the deep names of the plants and landforms from his grandmother and aunties. Now he is thirty-five and the seedlings he and his cousins planted have reached hip height and then succumbed to an illness that drifted up from the south. Now he is seven, staying up all night, reading books about craters and trajectories and blast radii and impact sites; the flashlight they keep handy for when National Grid turns the power off is like a bright heavenly body that should not be there, and his mother comes in to sit with him. Now he is forty, leaning off a ladder to help his other cousins encrust a disused coal plant with solar cells and vine grafts. Now he is fifty-nine and chewing culen, which drifted up from the south, to manage his diabetes. Now he is twenty-one, dancing in honor of his history, in the presence of his future.

There is no construction industry anymore; there are people who build things, and people who advise them on building things, old people who squat beside heaps of excavated earth or lean on a piece of reclaimed lumber or roll up, nudging the controls of their balloon-tired power chairs with their chins, or are carried on the back of a stalwart grandchild. There is no hospital industry anymore; there is, sort of, a pharmaceutical industry, since some medicines and medical supplies are best made at a factory scale, but people care for each other’s bodies and minds on a case-by-case basis. They are tender, vulgar, exhausted; they don’t see death as anybody’s failure. Every year, the time comes to send some of them on their way. It doesn’t matter which year it is.

 

 

 

Alternate Histories: 10/15, 11/14

10/15/15

We’re maybe entering World War III. All the different hot spots of violence. Climate change changes environments, changes natural resources–it’s all connected.

*

11/14/15

The animals moved first, Z noticed: a red-bodied dragonfly clinging to his clothesline, nutria spotted in the river that divided the city, dead canvasback ducks at the midpoint of their migration when he drove out to pick up a secondhand desk. He pictured the soil under his feet crawling with bacterial motion, adaptation, life and death, migration, flight at a scale he could barely imagine. To them, all borders were open, all bodies were vehicles. He walked by the river and felt the wind splashing against his back, parting around him, pushed ahead of him, Z, the big thinker, the porous obstacle–the wind was changed by people and ducks and the surface of the dirty river, by temperatures of ice slowly shaling off thousands of miles away–that too changes the shape of the wind, the wind’s approach, the wind’s methods.

When at the COP21 convention in Paris participating nations agreed to the dissolution of borders, it was surprising how easily everyone adjusted to the idea, how little borders are felt in the body. Adjusting to the reality was harder: more people here, fewer there. Food, buildings and fields, no waiting, people streaming across, but how was “across” different now? On the other side of the river is the other side of the river. Maybe it’s a little higher or lower, but food was scarce everywhere. Places became “the place where the spiders come out of the ground” or “the place where we need to plug the leaking abandoned fuel tank” or “the place where the pileated woodpeckers used to nest” or “the place where Concepción and Beto were born, but it’s underwater now” or “the place where we’re borrowing the tools to dig the toilet for the Barzanis and the Ghaishes” or “the place where you leave the offerings.”

Near the foundations of the dismantled houses, next to the grave marker for the people who didn’t make it ashore, someone else had raised a grave marker for blue crabs. The water was predicted to reach it within the next four years. Z limped out there with two new neighbors to show them how to tend the seaweed seedlings and to learn from them how to tell the names of the dead to the wind in a way that makes it certain, almost certain, that they will cross the ocean.