It had rained again.
Updated: Apr 7, 2020
It had rained again.
He’d woken in the middle of the night, the staccato patter on the uninsulated tin roof penetrating the fog of sleep. He had a vague memory of having rolled over, exasperated at the realisation of what the next day would bring.
He stood staring out at the makeshift garden. Three racks of plants, with the broader leafed and more robust varieties above, less sunlight dependent and smaller plants beneath. A sickly grey-green on the best of days, the leaves were covered in a thin layer of muck brought by the previous night’s downpour.
Sighing, he pulled on a set of weathered gloves, and moved over to one corner. He reached, grabbed the leaf of a rhubarb plant, and methodically wiped the surface free of mud. He did the same for the next leaf, and the next. When that plant was done, he moved on.
His crops were smaller each month, and he knew the day would come where he could no longer sustain himself through the plantation he had. Acidity, ammonia and other toxicity in the soil was building up too fast for the vegetation to drain it away, and the pall on the foliage suggested the plants were slowly suffocating, starved for nutrients. The rain didn’t help. It was as bad as the soil, though it did save him watering them.
He wiped his brow with the back of his hand, taking care not to get the dirty gloves anywhere near his mouth. Humid. The cloying damp was at least a change from the musty heat of the last month.
The sounds of laughter that used to drift over the next door fences had long gone. Maybe it had been a night of quiet stories, and then a large dose of medicine. Maybe they’d gone walking through the haze, hoping to find some haven or other. Sooner or later, they all left.
He was lasting a lot longer than most, as through sheer dumb luck he’d had a flatshare with a large backyard, a mess of shelving in the garage, and a green thumb. Three months earlier and he'd been in a thirty-six square metre apartment. Not a lot of agricultural space there.
It had started while he’d been at the old place. These things take time to build up, then they happen all at once. The fires that swept across every continent on the globe. The mass of volcanic activity. A melted glacier full of ancient gas bubbles, each of them as noxious as the last, and then the dust storms started.
He moved to the planters against the back wall, stepping over the small wet mound that had formed behind him as he’d cleaned. The mess would have annoyed his flatmates, but they were gone. He wondered idly if they’d found what they’d been looking for. Shelter, or something like it.
He stood up to stretch, and stared up at the sky, wiping sweat from his brow. It was a hazy blue, for the first time in months. At least after the rain had collected all the floating particulates, the air outside would be safer to breathe. For a time.