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The Life They Left Us

By Fabiana Romain

Edited by Eman Hamed

Walking down the street, I see nothing but a gray fog covering all the buildings that once were offices for the most powerful businesses of the world. When did everything mess up? What happened to us? Nobody in this city wants to talk about it, only my mother. I think they’re all ashamed of what they’ve done to explain it. Mom told me scientists had said that 2050 would be the year of the collapse of humanity due to all the pollution that had accumulated over the years. Turns out they were right. 20 years later, almost all the animals are dead and there’s not enough clean water for all of us. The number of humans has decreased incredibly fast and people are now dying because of the extreme amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

My eyes burn more and more from the contact they have with that thick, near-black mass. “Avoid going out,” my mom told me some hours ago, “the fog won’t let you see anything and it could damage your eyes.” My eyes are begging for water now. I have always considered myself an obedient daughter but my brother needs his medicine and my parents have been working all day. I couldn't leave Lucas like this. Not when I could do something. I put the medicine bag in my backpack and run towards the woods. There’s a small lake of which only my family and I know and I need to get there as soon as possible.

Most trees are withered, or burned from forest fires that were caused by thunderstorms. I’ve seen the sun just a few times in my life and I miss its warm rays embracing me, comforting me, making me believe that everything will improve. Near the lake, I hear a shriek that almost breaks my eardrums. I keep running to find a little squirrel lying next to the pond. My vision gets better the moment I pour water on my eyes and I see what hurts that poor squirrel. Its tail is burned and it has a cut on its leg. I can’t imagine how much it must be suffering. There’s a scent of something that smells awful, like acid or poison. And then I see it. A few meters away there is a small puddle with what appears to be water, but when I get closer I see that it is a dark greenish liquid from which the most unpleasant smell that I have witnessed in my life is emitted. It smells worse than the rotting garbage people leave in my neighborhood.

"The companies that still operate surely dumped their toxic waste here. And when they mixed with water, an acid was generated which burned the tail of the squirrel," I think, as I try my best to help the delicate animal. I clean its wound with the clean water and put some cream for burns that I brought from home on its tail. You never know what you can find. I leave the squirrel on a tree, hoping it heals. I can’t stay here for much longer or I won’t be able to find the way home because of the fog.

My house is near the sea. Mom told me it was beautiful. There were lots of fishes and it was a deep-blue hue. She used to go every morning when she was little to see the different animals on the beach and to enjoy the gorgeous sunrise. Something I’ve never seen. Nor a sunset. The fog doesn’t let us. Enjoying the wonders of nature is not a privilege we young people have. And all because of what others before us did. It’s not fair. Weren’t they thinking about their children and grandchildren when they started polluting the planet? Weren’t they thinking about the Earth’s future? Or did they think our planet was indestructible? That what they called climate change was just a phase? They were all wrong. And now we’re facing the consequences.

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