A Forage in the Park by Maria Francesca Spiteri
Melly was restless. It had been a good day – all three of her children had come to visit with a card and flowers too. But Melly was bored beyond compare by five thirty in the afternoon – with the rest of the evening stretching ahead as it did. So, it was time for a forage in the park across the road from her apartment. She put on her tennis shoes and off she went down the three floors and out into the grey space ahead. The first thing that hit her was the wind that was too cold for comfort. It was better to be out in this wind than to be cooped up inside with nothing to do. The day was full of light, despite the earlier rainfall that glistened on the silver metal of the equidistant identical trees. It made the paths slippery too – so Melly was careful. After all, she had to be, as she was eighty five and infuriatingly happy to be alive. Even though the trees were gone and she couldn’t get a piece of real meat any more. It was all mass produced in America and sometimes she could barely taste the difference between fish pods and chicken pods. Worst of all, the imported vegetables tasted like cardboard.
The path slithered across all the way to the brackish water and all the way to the boat houses where she used to swim when they’d first moved here in 2019. Now, the water was declared a no-go zone due to the sewage problem in the entire city. In her memory, Melly could still remember the smell of green grass after the rain and brown clumps of dog shit too – when dogs existed. These days parents bought e-dogs, e-cats and e-rabbits and e-everthings in an attempt to keep their children away from spending too much time looking into their digy-palms. Melly refused to take the government sponsored digy-palm. Her children insisted that it would be better to have one in case of an accident. I can manage just fine with a mobile phone and a tablet – and don’t go on and on about my age.
Saintpease had its issues along the years, but Melly held on to those years when she and Joe had first moved there, some fifty odd years ago. Before it had all happened – the fog cloud, the extinction of all animals and day zero. A tear rolled slowly down Melly’s tender cheek as she remembered day zero. That was when the fog cloud started covering the north side of the Island Country. They said it would dissipate in a year or two – but it had lasted twenty-five years. And now, not a single blade of grass was left in the Island Country. All because the sun was blocked out for a quarter of a century under a cloud of construction dust that had been five years in the making.
The government tried to cover it all up by blaming the larger Island Country to the north. The news called it an Environmental Apocalypse of epic proportions. Within months, the Island Country became a sad, cold and dark place. For it had lost the warmth of the sun that had shone on it for thousands of years. The sun that the islanders and visitors alike had bathed in so gratuitously each summer and spring. The sea became too icy for swimming, the birds that stopped on the Island Country on their way up to the continent did not stop anymore – they could not see the Island Country through the gargantuan monster of grey. Farming became impossible as the crops turned yellow and then brown. The following harvest yielded nothing.
In the years preceding the apocalyptic cloud, the people of the Island Country campaigned and signed petitions in protest to try and slow down the rate at which the Island Country’s open spaces were being swallowed up by the construction moguls. Fat and callous, the moguls continued to eat up all they could by getting their filthy, grubby hands on the entire Island Country ever so comfortably. When the cloud descended they had all retired into their bubbles on the ninetieth floors of high rise buildings that they had built for themselves in Gorgesan – which used to be such a pretty place when Melly was a teenager.
Melly took one deep breath and sighed. That was then, and this is now – the twenty-five years were over. The sun had returned – but the damage had been done. So she blotted her single hot tear with the sleeve of her cardigan and started making her way back up the path, thinking about her next meal. It was getting late and her bones ached, despite the fact that she was relatively healthy for her age. The bleak options for her impending solitary meal bounced around her subconscious; chicken pod or fish pod?