For many years, we went to the lakes in the summers, but when the springs became like the summers and the winters like the springs, we left earlier—and then earlier still—until we were already at the lakes when it was time for us to arrive.
Now we live in the north, or we live in the south. The middle is wasted with hunger and heat.
Upward mobility had always been appealing. The appeal only increased: the wealthy clustered their fortresses on mountaintops, while the rest of us nested in trees, or constructed stilted bungalows, or hovered above the earth in storm-ravaged zeppelins—sandbags long abandoned—everyone pushing higher and higher, chasing the ghost of a breeze.
Cold became precious. We went to war over shade. Most of us had never seen ice, though we dreamt of it. Our grandmothers told us they had seen it—once ice was so plentiful, people put it in their drinks just to watch it disappear. Ice was a toy. A diversion. An effortless gift. Ice was made into statuary. It was spread, for sporting events, on the oval floors of stadiums. Ice was everywhere, our grandmothers told us. It materialized along rooflines over the course of a night. To touch ice was like touching the sharp end of a blade: a shock both painful and exhilarating.
No, said others, the chill carried a sweetness, like touching a lover.
No, it was both of those things.
There was water everywhere. The whole planet wept. We built walls to keep out the flow, turning skyscrapers sideways—office furniture pricking out windows—stacking everything and anything to stave off the tides taking our coastlines, the water creeping inland, sponging abandoned living rooms and pooling into parking lots, drowning gas stations and submerging highway strip clubs. Any place can become sacred if it is about to be lost.
Now we live underground, or we live in the sky. The middle is mired in garbage and grime.
Once, our grandmothers told us, we swelled across the earth in vast herds. We grazed on what we found delicious. We gave our children our names. We gave our names our possessions. We gave our possessions our hearts. We died in unremarkable ways. We wished for nothing but longer lives.
No, said others, we wished to live forever.
No, we wished for a reason to do so.
In the times before, we looked only toward the times ahead. We saw the horizon as outstretched arms, the sun a stepping-stone to fate. We craned our necks, warmed with anticipation, the promising unknown. Better times awaited; we believed those times awaited us.
Now we live in the past, or we don’t live at all. The middle promises regret and reprisal.
These days, we follow one memory to the next to the next to the next, as if we might find our way back. We worship with nostalgia. We cower before dawn. We know only how to grieve. We anticipate the end.
No, say the others, it has already ended.
No, it has only begun.