Descripción del proyecto

Relato: Carlos Delclós• Ilustración: Aida Avalos

For The Time Being…

An historic agreement in Iceland. Over two hundred nations have signed a global accord to implement drastic limits on emissions and regain control over Weird Weather events. For more on the Iceland Accord, we turn to Fatima Boujema in Reykjavik

Nam swiped to the next stream, “Too little, too late.” The television over the bar loaded split-screen footage of a vintage Sim City tournament.

“Too late for what?” Alba tore her gaze from the raw sienna puddle gathering on the plate under her sausage bun. “By my count, I’ve still got three decades left on the clock. Four if y’all freshen up the grease you use on these things.”

“Ha! You wanna cover the cost? Be my guest,” Nam smiled.

“I would! I’d probably end up eating twice as many.”

“Well, then you’d have two decades left,” he replied. “Tradeoffs, Alba.”

“You’re probably right. Speaking of which, Roger’s finished mending those boots of yours, took him all month. What on God’s goopy Earth did you do to them?”

“Nothing, live in’em for ten years. Tell him thanks, those are my favourite. That’s at least a couple more months of those sausage buns for y’all, obviously.”

“Some salad would be nice.”

“Oh, would it?” Nam furrowed his brow. “You fill out those forms, greedy girl. Work that markup off.”

“Filling out those forms would more than cover it!” she laughed, “Anyway, I’m just jabbering. You know we all love your greasy plant-based superfood.”

Nam feigned a blush, “Well shucks.”

Alba lightly pounded the bar with her open palm and resolved, “Peace tomorrow.”

“Peace tomorrow.”

On the elevator down to the street level, Alba inspected her reflection. A simple flower print dress, rubber boots, tightly braided pigtails and her favourite cherry red lipstick, she was dressed just nicely enough to pop at the wetsquat party without overdoing it. As she stepped out, she remembered Nam’s diatribes about the city’s attempts to regulate the use of sidewalks by bars and cafés for outdoor seating. “These floods are gonna keep hittin’, and they’re just getting harder and harder to call,” he’d drawl, “putting cheap old tables and chairs out on the terrace takes a second, and so does bringin’em back in.”

Never get Nam started on the “terraces”. You’d think that, in a city that smelled like raw sewage half the time and hot, acrid compost the rest, people would avoid snacking and drinking in rickety plastic chairs on the sidewalk. But a similar logic underpinned the wetsquat parties Alba loved so much.

For the last ten years, Hardhaven had seen catastrophic floods at least twice a year. By now, the first two floors of practically every building in town was vacant. Local businesses were vertically adapted, and property owners quickly followed suit. Rising tides made leases longer than six months a thing of the past. Vacant, of course, did not mean empty. As citizens moved up, a growing gaggle of artists, temps, narcos, immigrants and vagabonds were socially filtered down. Ground-level life felt more contingent, but the parties were better than they were upstairs. For the time being was the informal slogan of this informal world, and Nam and the other proud terrace advocates had taken it up.

Tonight’s party was at Bartleby’s, an isolated, two-story wetsquat at the edge of the city limits. About six months old, it was best known for the fungal graffiti on its muggy second floor. Slime, mold and mushrooms had been crafted into a spectacular fantasy landscape, populated by fairies, aliens and ogres. There was always something new to see in it, not least because you could only spend about five minutes on that floor before getting nauseous.

Alba walked in to the sound of a booming floor drum and qraqebs clattering away like iron castanets. A trio of vocalists layered sweet salsa harmonies over the shuffling polyrhythm, and a rastaman plucked angelic tones from a homemade harp. From behind, a raspy voice.

“Slumming?”

Alba turned and rolled her eyes, “Hey Toni. Got a new theory of verticality you wanna try out on me?”

“Nah,” Toni smiled. “I do have a new herbal, though. It feels like something between weed and light mescaline, just enough to stop fearing death. They actually call it Death.”

“Probably means Nate made it,” Alba laughed, “he’s obsessed with Philip K. Dick. I’ll take some, sure.” She put out her tongue and Toni squeezed three drops from a tiny bottle.

Thirty minutes later, they were drops in a puddle, gently rippling around the band. When the humidity became too much for her, Alba stepped outside.

Looking out at the abandoned roads and railways beyond Hardhaven’s limits, Alba frowned and rubbed her nose. She had developed this nervous tick three years ago, when the Pact first went into effect, a gut-level response to her hatred of it. It wasn’t just the hypocrisy of calling a smart border a Pact, it was how the authorities had sanitized unfreedom. The Pact was invisible. There were no guards and no walls. No one drowned or got shot trying to cross it. Goods could pass through using drones, but people were repelled, as like ends of magnets pushed together.

She fixed her gaze on a bright star. After a moment, Alba noticed it was moving. It started shaking, then swooped down swiftly with a sharp unzipping sound. The air above her head opened up, and out popped a small creature, gasping in an oversized helmet. It landed on the ground next to Alba, gathered itself and cleared its throat.

The creature spoke in a flat, bureaucratic tone. “I greet you as an ambassador of Phlek, and to share with you an important message and a request. First, an inconvenient truth. After several millennia of exploration, we have found that the universe is actually finite. More troublingly, in all its expanse, there are only two planets capable of sustaining intelligent life. Mine has technology that can disable the borders that are destroying life on yours. We are willing to share it with you, on the condition that you will spread this knowledge of life’s scarcity. Do you accept?”