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Climate change education and literacy is an important part of of the 21-century world. Writers in general are vital to the discourse of information, and literary writers are important to imagining what might happen. That’s what writers did this week — imagine a brown world.
Yet, creativity knows no bounds. Beyond environmental factors, writers imagined humanity, humor, irony, tragedy and joy. If there is hope for our future, it is found in the creative spirit of determination to leave this world a better place for the next generations. We can nurture the earth.
The following stories are based on the April 1, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about the day the earth turned brown.
Brown by Luccia Gray
I used to think blue was the most beautiful colour in the world.
When Tim’s intense blue eyes first looked into mine, I soon realised I wanted to gaze at them forever, and he always said my clear blue eyes were like pools he wanted to sink into eternally.
I assumed our son would have blue eyes, so I was surprised when they were brown; a soft, honey brown. Tim says our son will be tall, dark, and handsome, like his father. Now every time I look into our toddler’s eyes, I remember the day my world turned brown.
Treasured Memories by Ruth Irwin
It was as if she was looking through a thick dark fog. The images were hauntingly familiar, but somehow strangely different. Amongst others, the elegant Eiffel Tower; the snaking Great Wall of China; Tower of London with its secrets of wealth and horror; the proud Statue of Liberty; the traditional Fijian Bure. The whole world was awash with a brown that sofened the edges and threatened to erase the images from view.
Despite her early morning coffee washing over the printed memories nothing would ever blur the treasured images in her mind of her adventures in far off lands.
The End Is Near – Flash Fiction by Susan Zutautas
Thirsting for water
Not a cloud anywhere seen
Everything is dead
Trees are screaming out
Our leaves are all on the ground
Somehow please save us
Once what was luscious
Voluminous green pastures
Has now turned to dust
Spring arrived with hope
Not a flower to be seen
Oceans are depleting
Lakes and rivers are hollow
Ponds now memories
Scorching sun daily
Humans are seeking shelter
Underneath the ground
Not one animal
Can endure these elements
Soon there will be none
Sorrowfully will soon show up
Such a travesty
Gasping for relief to come
When it Happened by Charli Mills
It felt like a shadow, creeping up my back. At first I thought it was a thunderhead, scudding across the midday sun. I knelt in freshly turned soil to finger a trench for stony beet seeds. When the crows flew overhead in silence, I finally looked up.
Like some grand dust storm from Arizona, a mass of brown clouds roiled like sediment, churning the sky. A volcano? No wind. No dust. A brown haze descended. It wilted green grass and shriveled clover. Water ran like mud. Electricity dimmed and batteries frothed. My beets never saw the light of day.
Darkest Before the Dawn by Geoff Le Pard
Mary stared at what was once her parents’ garden but now looked like the Somme. Figures in white suits, like choreographed aliens moved slowly between trenches. A group were struggling to raise a tent to protect the current working area.
She heard her half-brother say, ‘They’ve not found anything. The detective said they should be finished by the weekend.’
Mary watched the clouds roll in, the first of the promised rain dropping on the turned earth. Finished by the weekend? ‘It’ll never be finished.’
Her husband put his arms around her waist. ‘Yes it will; you wait and see.’
Flash Fiction by Irene Waters
“What colour do you want to paint the world? We have enough Mission Brown or Sunburst yellow. I doubt there is enough Burnt orange left in the storehouse.”
“You haven’t got a green?”
“Nope. All out of green. Very popular last year with the tree artists.”
“Don’t need to bother there no more. The Amazon’s gone and that mine dust killed most of the others. I think we’ll use the brown. That’s how I’m feeling. Drab. Down.”
“Okie dokey. I’ll get the paint to the decorators.”
True to his word, the painters brushed the world, soon turning it brown.
Dateline Fresno County by Phil Guida
The hills are usually brown in this valley, but not until June when the temperatures begin reaching triple digits. This is only April and our world seems to have been choked dry.
The ground is parched, the lakes of my younger years are merely ponds, and the rivers resemble creeks. Our once oasis is rapidly retreating back to its origins.
No rain, no snowpack, and soon, no farmers.
The air has a peculiar scent, one that I’m unfamiliar with.
Maybe it’s the slow dying of the land taking place or it could be the stinking denial of climate change.
Going Brown by Pat Cummings
Our new house was perfect, except for the poor garden plot in back. Limp weedy stalks drooped in widely-separated clumps over the dry gray soil.
Those first few weeks, as we unpacked and arranged furniture inside, I could ignore the gasping pleas of the water-starved garden. New house, new job, new neighbors to meet, new schools for the kids—there was no time for backyard farming.
Then my neighbor offered, “I make more compost than I ever use. I just enjoy making compost.” Digging it in felt so good, transforming that dry gray earth to a rich, fertile brown!
Dry Season’s Eve by Sarah Unsicker
I saturate my lawn for the last time, mourning the impending brown. The stifling hundred-degree days without a swimming pool. The baked brown lawns and flowerless gardens. The absence of squeals of children running through sprinklers. Already the sun beats down, a shadow of the summer’s heat.
I water only until I see water running down the sidewalk, then put the hose on the top shelf of the shed, the shelf I need a stepladder to reach. The dry season begins tomorrow.
I pour myself a glass of water, drink a sip, and pour the rest down the drain.
Desert Storm by Sherri Matthews
The Man With No Name sat motionless on horseback, his eyes squinting into the scorched, brown skyline as his horse pawed at the parched earth.
“I need fresh air,” gasped Ken. “I’m sick.”
Muriel smirked, as she followed him up to the deck. “I’ll join you, this film’s boring anyway.”
“I know what you’ve done Muriel,” yelled Ken, as he lurched towards her.
A packet of rat poison fell out of her pocket. “You idiot!” screamed Muriel as a gust of wind sent them both overboard.
Gun fire rang out from inside the boat as a vulture swirled overhead.
The Rose Garden by Ula Humienik
The heat seemed boundless. Farmers predicted rising grain prices. Daniel said it was unavoidable. My only concern was for my rose garden; it hadn’t seen water for weeks.
“How long do you think they could last without water before we can declare the damage irreparable?” I asked Daniel.
“I don’t know, honey. They’re probably gone. Where’s my navy sweatshirt?”
“In the second closet.”
Three weeks had passed since water rations had run out. I skipped a glass of water a day for my roses.
“Honey, we need to get out before it’s too late.”
“But what about my roses?”
The Cure by Sacha Black
“What do you mean you saw a rainbow, Tyler?”
“Before you were born, and before the world became this slush of vintage browns and antique beiges, there used to be colour in the world. The Earth was flecked with colour and shaded with meaning.”
The girl just stared at me, brows deeply furrowed.
“I’ll show you if you promise to keep it secret?”
I led her to the back of the house and into the greenhouse.
“You see that? The tiny budding shoot? It’s the first of its kind for five years. I’ve found the cure.”
A World of Browns by Roger Shipp
“Do you want to walk outside, Dad?”
“You need the exercise.”
“I can get that walking the halls. Besides, more people to talk to here.”
“I know that. But wouldn’t you like the fresh wind in your face… see the mountains… hear the birds?”
“When blue jays aren’t blue, they’re just mean vicious bullies. Mountains without sunsets have little meaning.”
“Are all the colors gone, Dad?”
“The sky is still a nice shade of blue…. But who wants to see a brown sunrise? Oh, ignore me. I am blessed. My love for you will never turn brown.”
** Monochromacy can be an acquired eye malady of the aging. The cones in the eyes weaken and eventually the ability to see all colors except browns and shades of blues is vanquished.
Lawn Care by Larry LaForge
“I got this,” Ed said confidently.
Edna was apprehensive. “But, Ed, it’s our front yard. Let’s get a lawn professional.”
“That’s just throwing money away,” Ed replied. “Fertilize. Water. Cut. That’s all you have to do. It’s not rocket science. Trust me.”
Edna relented, and Ed took on the project with his usual gusto—and impatience.
He gave it a triple dose of fertilizer, watered twice per day, and kept it cut super low to prevent any weed growth.
The blazing summer sun did the rest.
Finally, Edna had seen enough. “Ed, isn’t a lawn supposed to be green?”
The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine.
Thirsty by Amber Prince
We stood on the bridge looking down into the sandy abyss littered with long forgotten lost belongings and decaying fish.
“This isn’t good.”
I shook my head. There was nothing else to be said, we both knew what was coming next. It had already begun. Dehydration crept up the embankments as though the Earth was looking for a drink, and sucking the life from anything in its path.
No one knew how long we had, but we all knew what was coming. Without water, there could be no life.
We watched as the last lake took its last breath.
One the Scene by Sarah Brentyn
“Wait!” Skinny rushed over with her can of hairspray, lifting a flyaway strand out of my face.
I sighed, “Hurry! I’m first on the scene. Don’t screw this up for me.”
“Okay.” Skinny scurried away. “Just wanted…”
“Whatever,” I snapped. “Blondie, you ready?”
Blondie shifted her camera slightly, “Go.”
I drew my eyebrows together, pursed my lips, and spoke slowly. “Minutes ago,” I slumped my shoulders and swung my arm to show the surrounding brown grass and trees, “our beloved park….”
“Stop. News reports coming in from everywhere—‘the dying earth’ they’re calling it. You’re not the first…”
The Smell of Peace by Ruchira Khanna
Zeenat woke up to loud screams, sirens, and gunshots. She was quick to peep out the window; after smelling fear, and anger she collected her essential resources and ducked in her basement.
Stuffed her ears with cotton and started chanting. Hours ticked to days and soon to a week. Finally, everything was quiet.
She came out with her face covered cause of clouds of soot. The residue had turned everything brown and burnt sienna. However, she lifted that cloth and inhaled deeply cause the smell of peace is far more wholesome and harmless than any destruction caused by mankind.
Scorched by Georgia Bell
She’d been sweating out here for hours. Turning over dirt. Moving it from one place to another. She accepted the canteen gratefully when it came her way, barely remembering the time she would have refused to drink from the same container as a stranger.
“Thanks,” she said and wiped her hand across her mouth, likely just smearing the filth on her face into streaks.
The young girl who worked beside her looked down, but she saw the smile that turned up the corners of her lips.
Taking a chance, she leaned in. “Come see me later. I have news.”
Palette Potential by Norah Colvin
She walked between the desks admiring their work. From the same small palette of primary colours, and a little black and white for shades and tones, what they produced was as individual as they: J’s fierce green dinosaur and exploding volcanoes; T’s bright blue sea with sailing boat and smiling yellow sun; B’s football match . . . At least in this they had some small opportunity for self-expression. She paused at M’s. M had mixed all the colours into one muddy brown and was using hands to smear palette, paper, desk and self . . .
Binding a World by Rebeca Patajac
Day by day, the population thinned. Babies weren’t being conceived as often as they once had. The sun’s radiation increased week by week. Cancer counts increased. Hospitals overflowed. Lives faded.
Those with fair skin donned sunscreen every morning without fail, before continuing life. Most just stayed indoors.
All were failing fertility tests.
A coloured President. A Prime Minister. Council and Board members. School principals. Teachers. Newspeople. Neighbours. Friends. They all grew darker.
White folk just weren’t strong enough; their evolutionary lines unprepared.
The last died and all others pushed onward, brown skin binding a world in peace.
Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin
Her cheeks were a hodgepodge of colour when he left, slamming the door behind him. Mascara washing into blusher, rainbow shadows streaking from around her eyes. It reminded him of mixing paints as a kid: the power to reduce sky and sun to mud.
Now, under heavy clouds, with the snow recently melted, the moors are likewise conquered: grass leached of green, shrubs stripped of leaves, the heart sucked out of the bracken. He leaves the paths to the Sunday walkers with their Gore-Tex smiles and stumps across the peat to lose himself in a muted landscape of brown.
Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning
It was time. After all the waiting and hoping and false starts we’d broken through, both on the calendar and the grasshopper thermometer outside the window.
Stabbing in with the shovel, I unearthed moist, brown soil, like that of a brownie just out of the oven. I stirred the fragments, the once vibrant yellow banana peels, dimpled corn cobs along with red tomatoes, leaves, egg shells, and even some soda that I’d snuck in before my diet.
Thick earthworms wiggled as I stirred nature’s crockpot, where the fertile brown earth would soon bolster the wonderful green stalks of life.
Tilting the Future by Geoff Le Pard
We’ve browned off the Earth with careless needs
Thoughtless beyond our artificial horizons;
Enlightened by science, scattering seeds
Of our potential destruction. Denizens
Of Earth shrug – having a secular faith
Expecting absolution; they plough on
While the plough rusts in the field; a wraith
Of their lush youth melts in the heat. Clarion
Calls dissipate. Tipping points have passed.
Narrow minds ‘know’ summer’s oven is a phase,
Seasons change: solid winter never fails its task.
Oh history, be their teacher – Time’s backward gaze:
Recall the dinosaurs; even they all died
While the rest – the birds and beasts survived.