What if Mother Nature thought we humans were out of control and decided to reset population growth? How would it be if you somehow woke up 100 years after the event and didn’t find anything like what you see in the movies? What if violence and mayhem hadn’t come to rule, and that what you found was all peaceful and nice?
The year is 2130.
World population: 1 million.
Current fertility rate: 98%
Loosely based on an actual virus outbreak in Australia in 1997. The “Menangle Virus” was transmitted from bats to pigs to people. It caused illness in people. It caused massive infertility in pigs. This “Paramyxo” virus was localised and didn’t spread very far, fortunately.
December 8, 2130
Rachel Hayes thanks the Barista for her flat white and takes it to a table by the café window. There are two common use devices in the stand on the table. She takes one and places it in front of her, presses her thumb to the lower left corner and says, “Interface.” The device activates and shows her screensaver—her and her ex’s smiling faces pressed cheek to cheek. “Ugh…” Rachel grimaces and taps the call icon. “Eloisa.” Her sister answers immediately.
“Hey, Rach, where are you?”
“I’m having a coffee. I’m going down to see Mum. Do you want to come?”
“I can’t right now. Steven’s come home from work sick.”
“Oh… Is he okay?”
“It’s just the flu… Probably best you stay away, Rach. I’m getting it too.”
Rachel scoffs. “Stay away, huh? And where am I supposed to go exactly?”
Eloisa glares, her brows raised.
“You know, I saw him today… I saw them!”
“Oh shit! Together?”
“Yes together. The scumbag… You’d think he could at least be discrete for a while. They were walking down the street holding hands in broad daylight. Right past work.”
Rachel’s little sister frowns supportively. “Are you okay, Rach?”
Rachel huffs. “I’m fine. I’m more angry than hurt now. I just want to get this stupid market apartment sold so I can be rid of him.”
“Yeah? Angry’s good.”
Rachel swallows at a knot in her throat. Her eyes are suddenly watering. She holds her sister’s gaze on screen. “Anyway, I just wanted to know if you were up for a trip down to see Mum… It’s okay, though, you take care of your man. At least you’ve got a nice one.”
“Okay, go and see Mum, Rach. Tell her all about arsehole Kelvin.”
“Yeah, so she can tell me she told me so again?”
“Well, go and tell Dad then. He’ll know what to do.”
Rachel smiles. “I know. I saw Dad last night… I might actually go and stay with him for a while if you guys are all going to be sick.”
“How long until you can get a community single? Did you check it out today?”
“Yeah, it’s a 6 week waiting list for a temporary. I put my name down.”
“Oh okay. A temp is probably best.”
“Definitely! I want to get a permanent but not by myself. I just can’t wait to get out of this stupid home loan with Kelvin. I’m so broke all the time. I can’t wait till pay day.”
“Do you need some credits? I can transfer some.”
“Oh, could you really? Just 100. I’ll pay you back on Tuesday.”
“Sure, Rach. Is that enough?”
“That’s plenty… Thanks, sis. Love you.”
“Okay. Love you too, Rach. Give Mum a hug for me.”
Rachel taps on the transport icon. “Pod for one, please.” She then quickly checks her email and logs off, returning the device to its holder on the table.
Five minutes later, a pod arrives at the door of the café. Rachel finishes her coffee and waves a thank you to the Barista. She gets in the pod, which is a two-seater, and addresses the command screen. “Oakdale community clinic, please.”
It’s a 45 minute ride from the new community of Ascot to Oakdale, which is the last active settlement on the edge of the old city of Sydney. There’s a direct line for the pod and shuttle services, anywhere off the grid requiring a manual control vehicle—something Rachel is licenced to use but avoids as much as possible. The pods are smooth, fast and completely hands-free. They are also free of any cost, which suits Rachel’s current budgetary situation. She’s more than happy that Kelvin took their private car and the payments for it.
The thought of moving in with her father rolls around in Rachel’s head as the pod zooms through downtown and up into the hills and the streets of community apartments that overlook Ascot. Beyond the built-up sections of the new city are housing estates with both community and market homes mostly populated by bigger families. Rachel’s pod hugs its electro-magnetic rail and carries her out into the community farmland. These valleys of green go on and on to the south and east of Ascot. There’s a large industrial area to the west that ends at the base of a mountain. It’s 2 hours by high-speed train in that direction to the nearest new city.
Rachel’s pod zooms through the last stretch of farmland and enters deep forest. Twenty minutes later, the beautiful greenery opens to the crumbling remains of the Sydney suburbs. The shuttle line uses an old highway with the houses and businesses visible in the distance.
Rachel teaches primary school, so general history is one of the fields of study she had to wade through, giving her some insight into the lives of people through the 20th and 21st centuries—before the Menangle Virus sterilized more than 99 percent of the worlds’ female population and wiped out the old cities.
Rachel presses her thumb to the bottom left corner of the command screen. “Interface.” She taps the call icon. “Dad, please.” The jingling bell icon dances then her father appears smiling. “Hi, Daddy.”
“Hello, sweetheart. Watcha doing?”
“I’m going to visit Mum. I’m on my way down now… Can I come stay with you please, Daddy? They’re all sick with the flu at Eloisa’s.”
“Sure, love. Of course.”
“Okay, I’ll be late, though. I’ll eat out somewhere. I’ll see you tonight.”
Rachel blows a kiss and waves before logging off the system. She then yawns and rests back in her seat, closing her eyes in the warm afternoon sun.