Infernal , a cli-fi story, chapter 7

in #clifi9 months ago

Hi and welcome to the next part of my little cli-fi story 'Infernal'. In this part, we switch back to the original character and continue his arc while we get to see some of the underground activities going on in the community.

Even though the general dystopic settings will stay with us for a while on both story arcs, the focus on them and the bad stuff going on around the place will be fade and the focus will be on more positive things. I really believe that, while acknowledging the terrible aspects of life with 3 degree of warming, as many of us as possible should be looking at how community adapts and deals with bad situations. Its the only way we're going to keep a livable world for the next two generations.

I'm also starting to slip some DIY ideas into the story so that folks who are interested can take them and apply them in their own climate disaster affected lives.

artwork by @iodacasamia.

Here we go - Part 6!

Alby started choking in the coffee shop. Not a food in the throat kind of cough but a deep, down strangulation type choke that was starting to be heard all over the city.

The cafe owner came over, pretending to clean our table, and cooly placed a card in my hand. It was blank except for an address, a place about a block away and a picture of a girl on a bike and the same green leaf design I had seen graffitied on a wall earlier. I knew immediately what it was for and we set off. I would the customary gift to the owner of the Ono later.

I half lifted, half carried the gasping Alby out of the cafe then down the street. Nobody spared us a glance; it doesn't pay to get involved. When someone was suffering from something we probably would get sooner or later, the beggars and pickpockets gave them free pass. They were after marks with money, if you had the chokes as this was called, you had to be a local and, therefore had too little to bother with.

A series of propaganda paintings on the walls explained ways to stay safe in a dust storm. Useless ideas of a previous regime. Between the flaking paint of the girl on the bicycle and a man crouching with the mask was a small, black, button surrounded by the same leaf design that I had found earlier when I encountered the seed. This one had the leaf tip pointing upward. Pressing the button bought no sound but a few seconds later a door opened a few feet further down the street.

An Asian girl with old school punk looks and piercings waved us inside. Cliched retro punk was very cool at the moment. It was a style that always appealed to someone.

'Hurry! Too hot today and there's no power so no cooler' she said, jostling us inside and closing the door as the last of us passed through it.

'That's better. We can't let the stock get too hot or it'll spoil before we can use it'.

'Alby here is having the chokes' I told the girl 'started this morning'.

'No names OK? OK OK sit him down here'. We helped Alby slump onto a well worn couch. I read the name 'JiJi' on a handwritten name tag on her shirt while placed a mask over her patient's face and looped the elastic strap over his head.

JiJi reached down to where a hose came from under the chair and fiddled with something. A couple of seconds later, Alby relaxed and slumped deeper into the chair. 'Just oxygen water and an anticonvulsant' smiled JiJi its easy to fix. 'Let him sleep here for an hour and please be on your way'. She stood back a bit to check her handiwork. In better light, I could she that she was only an 'Asian by design'. It was a trend with richer youth -plastic surgery epicanthic folds and brown contacts. Some even had their ankles thickened.

'The Chokes' as it was imaginatively called was a new phenomenon of city living, started to be noticed after the last big fires. Something decidedly unpleasant had burned that as the fires ate their way through suburbia, something airborne and toxic. Small kids had been the first affected. Long lines of distraught mothers queued outside of hospitals and relief centres, babies screaming whenever they could catch a lungful of air. A number of refuges started experimenting with whatever was on hand trying to come up with a mix that could ease those cries. When they had something, broadcast their recipe far and wide. The mix that JiJi had given Alby was the most effective using materials that were commonly around in this area but the speed with which it worked showed me that she had contacts further afield where better mixes and other ingredients could be found.

Richer clinics soon tailored a brew that could be taken as a preventative but nobody had hacked that yet to get it down to the city proper.

I looked around the refuge and asked if I could use the lounge and masks. I tipped JiJi a handful of small notes and laid on the closest, pulling the mask and its virtual lightshow over my eyes before drifting off to sleep. This mask was one of the good Sleep Co. models.

Sleep Co. was a bunch of activists who had started setting up their sleep tents in poor communities and giving folks a chance for a little down time. Life was stressful enough with no money and the climate disaster was grinding folks down even further - there was just no escape from the heat and no chance to fully rest. Someone had the idea to start the first sleep tent in the river district and Sleep Co. was born. Of course, the name Sleep Co. is an ironic one, the 'Co.' stands for 'community. and there is no company involved at all. It is just hackers and activists who apparently they got the name from an old add on the media feeds and thought it sounded official enough for their style of humour.

The idea is basic but works very well. Anyone could enter an unoccupied tent where there is a bed, sleep goggles and earplugs. An attendant is always nearby and a guard sits outside until your time is over or you call with a buzzer. The goggles and headphones are connected to a hypno unit (the first ones were stolen from an upmarket hospital but within a short period of time, DIY models were available and the designs and plans made open source).

The client lays on the bed and the earphones cancel out street noise and play soothing music overlayed with relaxing and affirming messages. The goggles played soothing light shows to match the music.

Sleep Co. suggest that a half an hour in a rig can be the equivalent of two hours continuous sleep - something so many people haven't had in a while. Most refuges had a couple of setups that were in pretty continuous use.

While Alby recovered, I settled in for an hour of soothing images and the sounds of a natural world that hadn't existed for decades.


I'm gad that you're enjoying my story, @riverflows

I need to sit and read them all in one go!!

I'll be doing a rewrite of some parts soon and will link to the project as it stands nowish so that its all in one piece.