Once in the green area, Taya knew exactly what to look for. When she was searching for butterflies outside Aire, by chance she spotted a dozen of exemplars collecting nectar from the passion flower that grew also in Aire’s botanical garden, where she was now standing. Butterflies had not been spotted for years in Aire, yet their role in the micro ecosystem was fundamental for the survival of the plants. Sure, there were artificial ways of pollination, but the goal of Aire was to rely as little as possible on technology and maintain a self-sustaining ecosystem. Taya’s research suggested that butterflies might still be living in the remaining vegetation of the Amazon basin from which most of the wildlife had almost completely perished. So on the advice of Professor Elro, she had carefully captured the butterflies she found in a box only to release them a few minutes later in the green area of Aire. It was uncertain whether they would acclimate to the new surroundings and eventually lay their eggs, but now that doubt was gone. Continue reading
Only a month ago, Taya’s project appeared insignificant to most other students in Professor Elro’s class in biodiversity. In Aire there were no forms of school like the ones we know and associate with our present time. From an early age, after the first five years of general education, children were encouraged to pursue classes that best suited their personal interests. There was no age limit. Each resident was entitled to attend courses they were naturally drawn to, and at the same time, there was no obligation to continue studies. Each made their own destiny.
Curiously, in Aire most of the symbols of structured societies were absolutely absent. Aside from protectors, which consisted of all residents from the age of eighteen, there were no other peace officers nor law keepers. Knowledge was considered the only currency, and barter or exchange of goods was a regular form of trade. No one was poor, and at the same time the notion of wealth didn’t exist either.
Walking towards the green area, Taya remembered the day she left the community, though only for an hour. It felt like it was long ago, years almost. In her twenty years, she probably had not stepped outside Aire more than a few times, never distancing herself enough to lose the sight of her hometown. A month ago, in concordance with the Professor, Taya left Aire when the energy shield was temporarily turned off to allow her to conduct her research in the proximity of the community, located where once the magnificent Amazon rainforest ruled with its breathtaking river, vegetation and savage creatures, all almost completely perished now.
Some two centuries after our time, Earth had turned out to be a much different place than we could have ever predicted. The future we feared was merely a mitigated version of what had become reality.
One of the rare remains of natural habitat was Aire, with its small surface protected by a dome of impenetrable energy, shielding it from the toxic pollution and radiation menacing the external world. Continue reading
Not many people can say that they start their day by saluting the stars. But that’s how my mornings, or should I say late nights, begin when the alarm clock goes off and I drag my confused body out of the bed. This has been my usual routine my whole life it seems, but I never really got used to it.
On my way out, I try to avoiding making much noise so I don’t wake up the neighbours. I rarely encounter anyone on the streets at this time. I camouflage myself in the dark and let my legs walk down the familiar route. Sometimes I think that at this early hour my soul has not yet returned to my body. That it’s still nicely tucked in my bed, refusing to awake against nature’s rhythm. When I arrive at our station I encounter the familiar faces of my colleagues in the locker room, but we rarely greet each other with words. We acknowledge each other’s presence when our eyes meet as we prepare for our daily assignments. Our silence is not a result of any ongoing dispute or bad blood. Most of us get along just fine. I guess we are simply in agreement that before the sunrise it is best to mute the sound. We save the words for later, for the first break when we all re-enter and have breakfast together. I mostly work alone, and this solitude offers much time to reflect. Mostly on our work that nobody recognizes, yet, if we didn’t do it, the whole city would notice the consequences. The work that knows no holidays. When others celebrate with their loved ones, we are always outside, be it chilling cold or unbearably hot.
Once the sun rises and the streets become flooded with people rushing to work, I take part in the tacit game of mutual ignoring. As I stand in one place or slowly move up and down the street, people pass me by, effortlessly avoiding collision. Our eyes never lock, I look down and focus on my work as hours go by.
But why am I telling you all this? Maybe because of what happened just yesterday? A few words that shook my silent real of routine.
Just when I was about to finish my shift and head to the station to sign off for the day, I noticed a rather agitated lady moving in my direction down the street dragging a visibly crossed boy by the hand. Once they passed me by, they stopped and turned around, just a few steps away from me. I could hear the woman say: “Is this what you want to become when you grow up? Take a good look! Go on! If you don’t behave and pay attention in school, this is how you will end up. You’ll be a garbageman.“
As the potent rays struggled to find their way through the clouds that rolled across the unusual sky, Taya slowly opened her eyes to welcome another day. She moved her long black hair from her face and tucked it behind her ears. In those first moments of wakefulness, her attention was immediately captured by a flash of bright colors coming from the source of light. Toe-walking to avoid waking up her roommate who was sleeping on the other side of the wall, Taya came closer to the window to salute the charming visitor standing on the edge of the open pane.
“They are here to stay,” she whispered as the bright yellow butterfly with red lines tattooed on its thorax flapped its wings, preparing to disappear into the light of the day. Excited by this curious encounter, Taya quickly put on her indigo dress, paired it with sand- colored sandals, and rushed to her teacher’s house, knowing that he must have been already awake, despite the temptation to indulge in some much-needed rest. When you do what you love, it’s not really work. The words of Professor Elro echoed in the back of her mind. His house was only a few blocks away. Continue reading
The curious looks encountered drowsy ones as the crackling fire fought to stay alive for a few more minutes. Some had heard the story many times before, others listened in awe as the new world opened up before their eyes.
“In essence, nothing has changed. Good and evil still reign. Each in their own worlds which at times abruptly collide in the human mind, resulting in unnecessary pain and invisible scars.”
The younger ones were completely puzzled at this point. The words of the old man made no sense to them. Yet they knew it was not polite to openly show indifference. So they kept pretending to follow his story while gazing at the fire that was about to quench any moment now, bringing this long night to a much-needed close. Continue reading
Some two centuries from our present time, the future we feared has become reality. Untamable climate change has taken its toll on the planet and shaken the technologically advanced society to the core. The extreme pollution and radiation have made the health care system dependent on the medical oxygen supplies and rare healing herbs imported from the last remaining natural reserve called Aire.
This isolated community is a home to Taya, a young woman who secretly wishes she could travel the world and at least once experience life outside of her secluded hometown.
As a result of a peculiar turn of events, Taya finds herself all alone for the first time in a strange city she does not belong in. Here, in the capital of the new world, she encounters a kind man who shares her values and passions. But, as their short romance unfolds, a cloud of danger hovers over her hometown.
Unaware of the environmental disaster that threatens to destroy Aire, she is torn between nostalgia for her home and the desire to stay with her soul mate, whom she might never see again if their contrasting worlds continue to drift apart.
Starting from tomorrow, each week you will be able to read two chapters from the book “Aire” right here on the blog. Please contribute with your comments. I am looking forward to hearing back from you!
I always considered myself lucky. I never took our blessings for granted. I was aware of the difference between our lives and theirs. If you don’t have someone to compare yourself to, how could you possibly know whether your life is good or bad? You need to see the ugly to learn to recognize the beauty around you.
We never saw them though. They were too far for us to catch a glimpse of them. But we could feel their presence and sadness even if two fences, a vast green land and a wall of bricks and wood separated us. We knew we were the same. By nature anyway. I often wondered if they could see us through the cracks in the wall that isolated them from the rest of the world. Unlike them, we were spending most of our time in the sunlight, in the open air, which potentially made it possible for them to spot us. But we didn’t know if they could. Often, we talked about them. We tried to imagine what their lives were like, what they ate, drank, how many of them were closed in that facility that resembled ours from the outside.
We on the other hand, lacked nothing really. There was always plenty of grass to eat, fresh water, and a comfortable shelter from the rain and cold. We were left free to move around the field and socialize as much as we wanted during the day, but as we heard, my sister, being female, would soon be able to bring the young ones to this world, just like our mother did with the two of us. This change would certainly add some responsibility to her daily schedule.
I didn’t know our age, but we must have been pretty young because we still remembered the day our mother disappeared. It was the first time we tasted grass, because there was no milk anymore. Nobody could tell us where the mother went. All the other cows, as the owners referred to us, were as young as we were and didn’t know much about the world either. Despite my worry for my sister and fear that she might disappear after one day giving birth, our days were spent in peace, enjoying the view of the horizon in the distance, blending the endless blue with the green that was too far for us to ever reach. The humans treated us well most of the time. Sometimes they would kick or hit with a stick those who protested against re-entering the barn at evenings. I wasn’t one of them. I never minded separating the day from night by transitioning from open fields to closed doors. It gave me something to look forward to every night. Before my eyelids closed, I could feel the aroma of the next morning’s fresh dew-drenched grass waiting for us outside. It helped me sleep better.
One morning, that could have, and should have, been just like any other day, everything changed. There was no warning, no signs, no reason. The humans, whom I regarded with much respect, revealed their true intentions that day, but we realized this too late. Continue reading