Applied Science – On a clear day…

I had heard it said that on a clear day you could see forever.

Well forever is a mighty long fucking time, and living in the negative times we lived in, it was hard enough to have to see as far as next week and if forever looked as bad as it looked now, why would anyone want to see it.

Sure enough that would be a reason for considering suicide.

But just for the hell of it I waited to see if it was true. I looked from the window of our sparsely furnished apt, and waited for a day that was clear. I had stopped going outside months ago. It didn’t seem productive. The air was polluted, the possibility of being exposed to some bacteria or virus that could kill you was great, and on top of that, it was just plain dangerous.

The year was 2055, and I had suffered many illnesses, lost two thirds of my friends and family, and now lived in a small two bedroom apartment. We had discovered the building some years ago. My brother had received an envelope with a description of the building and a package with the keys, combinations, and instructions for getting to and in the building. I had thought that it had come from a nut.

Then my brother was a scientist at a research company and he got lots of weird stuff from people in the mail. But he did not seem to think it was a nut or a joke and guarded the envelope like it was the key to some treasure.

When the difficulties had begun, he did not seem at all surprised and began looking for the building right away. It had two armored entry doors, it was smooth and uneasily scaled, with high sealed windows, and it looked as if it had been built to discourage access. In the times in which we currently lived I could see why, but it was hard to image why someone would have built something like this back in the 1970’s.

My brothers scavenged for food, and my sister and I tried to keep things tidy and sanitary,. which was hard in the filth the city had become. But survival depended on keeping things as clean as we could get them. The cabinets and closets had been filled to the brim with cleaners and disinfectants when we first arrived. I though it odd and assumed the person who had lived here must have been a real germiphobe. But my brother being the scientist had replied, “I doubt that, then they would have used them and the bottles would be empty. These were left here for us.”

I looked at him strangely, but shrugged and accepted his analogy, but how could anyone have known we would need them and why so much. Many days after, I began to appreciate the store of cleaners, especially when they began to get low and we had to find them outside. We boiled the water and collected cleaning supplies when we could find them. Occasionally running across a buried store of supplies in one of the used to be superstores that cluttered the metropolitan areas in the early part of the millennium. We found lots of things there. Dead things, half living things, and even valuable things. We’d bag up what we could find and take it home for sorting. Since I no longer left the house often this became my job. I would keep what we could use and then my brother’s would take what we didn’t need or couldn’t use and trade it with people who could.

On the day that dawned clear, I was cleaning a window high up in the building we called home. I watched as a large ball of flame swallowed up everything, and stood riveted as a storm covered the surface of the land as far as I could see. The last vision was an armada of ships, space ships. I covered my eyes and cowered as if they could see me.

Overcome with fear and despair, I was suddenly filled with the urge to throw myself from the window. Unfortunately at this height in this high-rise building the windows did not open. I slid down and remained sitting in that same spot until my sister returned. When she could not elicit a response from me she grew concerned, and when I finally did speak what I told her made her even more concerned.

“We are all going to die!”

“Yes one day we are all going to die, but not today. What the hell has gotten into you?”

“They said that on a clear day you could see forever so I looked.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about but you’re going to lie down until the boys get back. I won’t have you falling apart now. We have too much to accomplish.”

When my brothers arrived I told them what I saw. My other brother, an ex-soldier, thought I was losing my grip or succumbing to some illness, but my older brother, scientist that he was knelt beside me and asked me to explain to him what I had seen. It was dark outside and I couldn’t show him and I didn’t know when there would be another clear day so I attempted to explain what I had seen.

He looked pensive and stood to look out of the window.

“On the next clear day you must show me where you were looking.” he said.

The other’s looked at him amazed.

“What it is?” my other brother asked, “Is there something to what she saw?”

“I don’t know yet, but I need to see to be certain.” My older brother replied.

It only took two days for it to be clear and sunny again. Which was odd since it had been many months since such atmosphere had existed. My younger brother and sister went out to handle the scavenging and my older brother stayed behind to stare into forever with me. We stood at the recently cleaned window, which I had wiped again to be certain I had created the exact same conditions as before. I pointed in the direction of the clear empty sky. For a moment we saw nothing and I began to doubt my sanity, but my brother stood stark still and waited. He was not disappointed, though what he saw was different than what I had seen two days prior. Today the fireball seemed closer, the super-storms had passed and the Armada seemed to be search for something.

My brother watched a good deal longer than I had been able and when he was done he was calm but pensive again. He took out his computer, which he reserved for emergencies. It ran on stored solar energy from panels we had collected from the roof of buildings no longer in use. He ran a series of calculations on it’s fancy scientific programs. The space into which we were peering was apparently some temporal time gap, moving in several phases, though none the immediate present. After a short time he looked up at me and said, “We have to prepare to leave soon. If we are going to be gone when that fireball hits we will need to be gone in two weeks tops, and far enough away not to be caught in the fallout. The storms are four or five months away.” he said.

He did not talk about the Armada.

In the weeks in which we prepared to depart, I stumbled upon a small cabinet we had never opened. Inside there were a variety of things which I took and put in a back pack. Several vacuum sealed candy bars, a fire arm with the shells, syringes, a list with suggested items to collect among which was antibiotics, first aid supplies, and an envelope with maps and coordinates. I gave the backpack to my other brother. He would most likely know what was to be done with it, and would be able to inspect and verify the safety of the firearm. It was sometimes a good thing to have around when you had someone familiar with how to use one. For others it was dangerous especially if accosted by someone with a desire to take it away. But being a sharp shoot had been one of the benefits of having military training. But hopefully we wouldn’t need it.

Were readied ourselves to leave. Our electric paneled truck had been outfitted to recharge with solar panels, as long as there was sun during the day we’d have power to drive at night. There was no way to be certain of the roads or what we would run into, but my brother seemed confident we would reach our destination no matter what difficulties we might face on the way.

If my brother’s calculations were correct, even if we missed the fire ball we would arrive in Kentucky just in time to find shelter before the storms. Even if we were lucky enough to survive the trip across county, and the coming super cells, my brother said we might still not be among those chosen to leave when the last of mankind were selected to be rescued from our dying planet. I was shock at his revelation.

Apparently the building had been a temporal window for several of the inhabitants of our apartment. The lucky few to understand and heed what they had seen would be there to assist us if and when we arrived. The others were now too old but had followed their directives to make certain the things we needed were in the places we were destined to find them. I shuddered to think now that I realized the gun had been left there intentionally. The person who left it had to be privy to some circumstance that mandated it’s necessity. They must also have known there would be someone who could use it. Because of my fragility, the candies had been included to help control my glucose levels. Though I was not diabetic, my energy was often too low to endure too many activities that required stamina. With maps to guide us and our path laid out for us, we looked upon the place we had called home. It was the last time we would see it.

It was a shame the building would not last the fireball, but it had, my brother believed, served it’s purpose. He never said how he knew this, or explained fully what it was he saw, but one thing was certain, we would arrive at our intended destination. Maybe worse for the wear, but we would live to see a future.

A clear day might have given a vision of what to look forward to, but it did not tell us how to survive to arrive there safely. My brother did not have all the answers, nor were they provided by those who had seen the visions before us. But if he applied all he had learned, and we used our brains as well as our technology, then maybe we would have a fighting chance to be among those who would be the remnant of our world.

What was the point of science if it could not be applied to survival?

Applied Science © DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights Reserved

Afloat (A Pilna Dezigner story)

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Pilna Designer (prounced Dez ig nir) was named by her Great Aunt Ginnie, who said that she would never be anything but a plain child no matter how her mother showered her with precious gems and designer clothes. Her mother had said “you can’t name a child “Plain”!” So they agreed that her name would be an anagram, symbolic of the child rather than descriptive. Having a last name spelled like designer didn’t make matters much better. As Pilna grew older people realized that ‘plain mixed up’ described Pilna to a tee. Content to sit and wonder what to do about situations rather than attempting to solve them, often left her in circumstances that bordered on bizarre.

One Monday morning Pilna woke to realize her alarm clock had not gone off. While she sat wondering why the almost nearly regular chimes had not sounded, her phone rang.

“Pilna, it’s not like you to miss our morning coffee,” said her girlfriend Sherry from work.

“I can’t talk now, I’ll be late for work!” said Pilna.

She ran into the bathroom and turned on the water in the shower. While she searched through the clothes in her closet, she wondered what she would do now that she didn’t have time to stop for her regular morning coffee. While she stood wondering in the closet, the water in the bathroom began to run over the edge of the tub spilling onto the floor and soaking the bathroom floor before spilling out onto the bedroom carpet.

As she stepped out of the closet, she splashed into the 1 inch deep puddle that was steadily becoming wider. While she stood wondering where the water had come from, her bathroom was becoming a steamy river which now began to flood into other areas of her small two story cottage.

“I don’t know what to do!” she said spinning in circles, “I have to go to work.”

Suddenly aware that the water levels were still rising, Pilna returned to the bathroom to locate the source of the stream. A washrag left from yesterdays cleaning spree had blocked the drain and was not allowing the water to escape. As she reached into the tub to remove the rag from the blocked drain, she wondered how she had forgotten the rag in the tub. So tidy, it was not like Pilna to leave cleaning supplies lying around when she was done. Everything went back to its usual place.

While she sat wondering the phone rang again. Her girlfriend had called back to see if she needed a ride.

“I’m in the middle of a small crisis.” said Pilna.

Her girlfriend knew what that meant. When Pilna was like this, strange things usually happened.

“I’m coming right over,” answered Sherry.

On the way to Pilna’s cottage, her girlfriend noticed a number of blaring sirens. Her heart jumped as if it were attempting to leave her chest. “Why were there so many sirens?” She thought aloud to herself.

When she arrived at Pilna’s, the door which opened into her backyard was open and Pilna stood half naked, half drenched still in her bathrobe wringing water from various items of clothing.

“Why aren’t you dressed, and why are you wet?” asked her friend.

“I was surrounded by all this water and as I sat and wondered how I would get it cleaned up my yummy new terrycloth robe had been soaking up water from the floor.” Next to tears, she sat and she wondered how she would get finished in time to make it to work.

“Never mind about work,” said Sherry as she began to pile wet clothing and linens into a laundry basket.

Pilna suddenly smiled. Her Great Aunt Ginnie always told her no matter how disastrous a thing may seem it always turned out better when you were prepared. As she sat and pondered her Aunt’s words she suddenly remembered an impromptu purchase that she had made several months ago while shopping with her mother.

“What do you need with that?” her mother had asked about the small portable carpet shampoo/vacuum cleaner she had suddenly felt compelled to by, “You hardly have any carpet in your house.”

“It just feels like something I should have” had been Pilna’s answer.

Her mother had learned in the past not to argue when Pilna’s response was similar to this. Somehow the reason for a thing would appear eventually.

As she sat and wondered at her mother’s agreeable nature a loud explosion disrupted her train of thought. It was far away enough not to have been deafening, but loud enough not to have been very far away. Pilna sat and wondered what could have happened.

“Let’s get this water up,” Sherry said interrupting her musing once more,”We’ll have time to investigate the source of that sound when we have resolved our present dilemma.

Pilna liked how Sherry had taken partial ownership of her difficulty and wondered as she knelt and vacuumed warm water from her carpet how she had managed to acquire such a wonderful friend.

When they had put all the wet clothes in the washer and all the wet shoes in the warm laundry room to dry, Pilna emptied the vaccuum and dressed. As she dressed she wondered if it might be prudent to call her employer and let him know she would not be in to day. As she thought of this the phone rang several times.

When she answered her mother responded quickly out of breath, “thank goodness you’re still at home. I thought I had lost you.”

While Pilna sat and pondered what her mother had meant, Sherry watched a television report about an explosion in the building that housed the company in which they worked.  The explosion had ruptured water mains, caused electrical and fire damage and injured several people. Debris was floating down the street on a stream created by the broken main.

Pilna burst into uncontrolled laughter. Her mother waited at the other end of the phone, and Sherry too waited.

When she could control her laughter Pilna said,”I have saved us both from injury, and we are no worse for wear but it seems no matter where we planned to go today we were destined to end up afloat.”

Sherry looked at her and they both resumed laughing. Her mother cradled the phone happy to still have her strange wonderful girl, but as she sat and watched the television report she wondered what exactly the girl meant.

 

Afloat (A Pilna Dezigner story) © DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights 

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