Infernal (a cli-fi story) part 8

in #fiction10 months ago (edited)

artwork by @iodacasamia.

Hello cli-fi buffs and Solarpunks of all persuasions! Here's part 8 of my climate fiction story 'Infernal'. I'm posting first here on #Hive blockchain as I get a piece or chapter roughly the way I want it. That way the ideas are secured forever.

In this chapter, we continue our build of a thermal chimney in order to save our 12 stair dwellers.

Work was slow, of course. People who are so tired and run down make a lot of small mistakes. Luckily, we had no serious injuries.

By early evening, the roof and ceiling were off at the top of the stairwell and the kids had collected a good amount of firewood.
One of the stair folk suggested we didn't build the fire directly on the floor so that we don't burn the place down. That was an oversight in our original plan -an effect of the all pervasive tiredness that could have been disastrous.

We found a steel filing cabinet which we turned on its back after removing the drawers. The drawers went beneath the cabinet, raising it further off of the floor and improving our chances.

Down on the lower two floors, towels, sheet and blankets had been draped on every possible surface. They hadn't been dampened yet, that part of the experiment will have to wait. There's not enough water for a practice run. I don't think that anyone has enough energy to gather more wood today so we will need to get it right, first time. Lives depend on it.

We had checked to ensure that we could jam the front doors wide open and made sure that the path that the breeze would take was unblocked by anything. One person suggested that we lay some big cardboard sheets that were found in the basement over the steps and the lower stairs to reduce turbulence and wind drag.

Everyone was coming together to help each other survive. People have a way of getting together to survive, regardless of their differences at other times. Even though I have a great distrust of the folks in the city around me, distrust that has been earned over the last decade, I also knew that given the right impetus, folks can overcome many things.

Just after sundown, we all gathered in the lobby and shared a little water and a little food that had been 'rescued' as Cat put it, from the first floor apartments.

I still hadn't shared the keys for the upper floors but the first floor apartments had been in continuous use for the whole day that they had been opened to the group.

The beds had been well used. The folks from the stairs hadn't had any creature comforts for a while now and the chance to enjoy the simple luxury of sitting on a comfortable chair or resting on a real bed for an hour or so. That those resting didn't need to do so with one eye open helped deepen the value of the break. Normally, one was always only half asleep because of the need to watch out for one's self and others. So, folks self organised with an informal roster so that everyone got a little break before sundown.

It would have been a shame to just throw good drinking water onto the sheets so it was decided that we would all have a modest wash first, for some of the group, the first wash in weeks. Then we would use the water a second time on the sheets.

Some sheets were lain on the floor to soak up the bather's water. We had no need for division by gender or modesty, there just wasn't enough water for a full bath that would require stripping.

Now that the building work had been completed and the sheets were wet enough, it was time to light the fire. The two kids who had brought in the wood had that honour and took the task with serious joy. They squealed with excitement when the first flame took hold and sat, watching their handiwork with a looks of serious satisfaction as the blaze grew stronger and higher.

One of the women, Sal, sat by the door. She chose to be the breeze monitor with good humor. She sweated more than anyone else in the group and said that she could feel a breeze before it got strong enough to disturb the toxic dust that blanketed the city.

As the flames grew and the flickering light of the fire filled the stairwell, we all stood on the third floor landing, just out of reach of the radiating heat and watched Sal intently.

A few minutes later, Sal jumped to her feet and performed a little twirl. 'I can feel it'! she shouted and continued her twirl, almost falling as she did but recovered herself by leaning on the bannister.

Once the fire had proved that is could pull a little breeze, it was time to add the water. Some wanted to put up the wet fabric immediately but the consensus was reached and we decided to wait a while until we were a tired. Sleep was the time that the heat killed most.

Later, as drowsiness, fatigue and the heat overtook us all, we hung the sheets in a manner that looked like the breeze would come into contact with most of their surface area.

It worked! We could feel the breeze cooling us to a greater degree than the simple, though artificial, breeze was doing.

Everyone made sure to take a drink from the remaining clean water and we all decided to settle in for the night. I was starting to like these people, as you do with folks when you share difficult circumstances. The kids and the oldest of the crew slept on the first floor landing and the rest of us settled onto the second where we took it in turns to either stoke the fire of dampen down the sheets with our remaining water.

We could raid the other rooms in the building as days went on. If all of them had a water ration, we could survive in this way for another night per room. That would keep us going for another four or five nights if we survived this one. Then we would have to see.