Dedicated to all lovers of fantasy and our fragile planet.
- She is neither fish nor metabolic flesh.
- She has no lore nor allocated land.
- She disregards the tyranny of time.
- Possessor of a harsh and holy hand.
She flows through hills, the lilting of a lake.
Her features form new flowers, are laced in trees.
She rides the rain and worships on the wind.
Her tears maintain the essence of the seas. L.T.
This is the start of the story:
The comet carved the frosted sky; compacted ice and flamboyant flame, compelled in its oval orbit around the sun.
“Look!” breathed Hal, standing with his father at the great telescope. The boy shivered with an alien sense of excitement, adjusting the telescope to track the distant fire.
“Halley’s comet,” said his father.
“Lorcan, let me see.” His wife Sadie joined them in the moonlit garden. “It’s magnificent,” she said.
It was the year 2,120. Lorcan, whose studiousness and slim stature belied the inclinations of a pioneer, lectured at the Institute of Advanced Astronomical Science outside Brighton, a dust-filled and down at heel town set on salt lakes, carved by the rapidly rising sea. He drove his silently computerised car through the parched undulations of the Downs. With global warming, long droughts had robbed the hills of vegetation. Sea levels were rising, the ozone layer depleting.
Before leaving home, Lorcan had filled three buckets with water. Friday. The water would be cut off twice. What life would it be for Hal? he wondered, recalling a planet once fertile and self sufficient. Now resources were practically exhausted.
He parked at the Institute; its transparent and steeply angled planes shimmering in excessive sunlight.
“I hope you all saw Halley’s comet last night.” He addressed his students. “As you may have heard, there are plans to extend the interstellar shuttle, to shelve exploration of the outer universe and consider the transfer of people from Earth to other locations. You may consider the comets an unlikely choice. But it might be possible to colonise them.”
This was not a new proposition. Yet the students looked sceptical, aware that man was unable even to constructively colonise Earth.
“Are we going to live on a comet?” asked Hal that evening, as Lorcan related his lecture. Since the boy’s birth nine years ago, people loathe to invest with foresight or correct the calamities of the past, had been finally forced to consider alternatives.
The protracted wars of Eastern Europe, as countries reverted to tribal in-fighting, had further weakened global economy. National debts would never be repaid. Assets were being sold, the possibility of colonising other parts of the Solar System, seriously examined.
Lorcan did not confirm his son’s query. But neither did he deny it.
Lorcan was driving home through a dust storm. It whirled in a sallow cloud around the car, swirling into illusory forms; whining accusingly in the hot wind.
Intermittently, the road was obliterated and when it cleared enough to see through the windscreen, Lorcan found he was dangerously close to the edge and the thorny scrub that had taken root, as grass and hedgerow withered.
From the drifting dust, cold vibrations flow. They penetrate the car with particles of fire and ice. The sensation gathers to a visible beam of light, submerging Lorcan in a sense of wary foresight. Then in Lorcan’s head, the particles whirl and sigh as though trying to communicate.
His hands stiffen on the wheel. He swings into the roadside and stops. The sigh swells, hangs like icicles in his head, then ceases.
Lorcan, shaken and shivering, was again aware of the whirling sand. Cars crawled before and behind. Others had also sought the roadside. Slowly the dust cleared and the wind dropped. Lorcan tentatively started the car.
As he entered the house, Sadie said “Are you all right? The dust’s everywhere. Oh – you look as though you’ve seen a ghost!”
He touched her dark hair, cut fashionably short, yet full, and traced its silky lines around her neck. She had a small mouth that moved readily in ironic response to Lorcan’s often outlandish propositions. But she restrained her customary banter, waiting for him to speak.
“I can’t explain. The dust was dancing as though….these storms are getting worse.”