642 Things to Write About
Fiction Prompt from ‘642 Things To Write About’ by : Your city one hundred years from now
It is the year 2117. A very old woman named Mrs Lil Van Wyngaard walks the streets of Melbourne. I specify walks not because she is homeless, because she is not, but because walking these days is a rare event. Most people hover (if they are really poor they use a hovercraft instead of having the jets surgically implanted into their feet). Lil has always been old fashioned. She tells the kids on her block that she used to be suspicious of ebooks, but they tell her that they have no idea what an ebook is. Does she mean insta-info pads?
A lot of the time they look at her funny and she suspects that they think she has completely lost her marbles (of course marbles are a relic of the past too).
The kids, not meaning to be rude, ask Mrs Van Wyngaard if when she expires (the term ‘death’ is no longer used so as to avoid offending the people mourning or those who are close to their ‘expiry date’) she will be stuffed and put in a museum, like Phar Lap? They somehow know who he is. Go figure. Although horses are extinct now. Too much pollution, and they got phased out, just like cars. Teenagers laugh at their parents when they use the word driving to describe hovering, or ‘hovving’ as the cool kids say. “Mum,” they say, “that is so last century.” Literally.
The museums are getting too overcrowded all over the world so the earth government have made an executive decision to start deleting parts of history, like throwing out old files in an office. The obsolete bits of history—the boring, inconvenient and unusable parts, of course—are distributed to the poor to take strain off the social security system. The paperback history is divided up and used by them as stuffing for their coats in the winter. Feathers are also extinct, because of all the birds being eaten. Lil’s next door neighbour Peter claims that they were worth every delicious mouthful, but his grandson tells him that that’s politically incorrect and insensitive to those birds that have expired. Peter replies, “Stuff and nonsense!”
Lil is unfortunately a widow and expects to expire soon after a nice, long life. Asking for anything more than 123 years just seems greedy, she thinks.
On sunny days she walks along the neglected grey footpath, marvelling at the city around her. She keeps her tinted UV protector bubble activated at all times. Old fashioned she may be, but her pale skin and the sun weren’t the best of friends before the remainder of the ozone layer did its disappearing act, like a bored guest at a party… so she is not taking any chances now.
The skyline of Melbourne from a distance is much the same, but like a small crop of wheat that has grown upwards, being fenced in by suburban grass on all sides. Up close though, everything has changed.
There are no waiting lines to get in anywhere, because people pre-book for everything, by law. Cigarette smoke and smog has taken a back seat, because the sun (thanks to the non-existent ozone layer) is more than capable of powering everything—and cigarettes have of course been outlawed. Perhaps most noticeable of all is that there is no sense of chaos anymore. Cars have long since gone, and everyone punches in their destination to a little keypad at the start of their journey so that collisions are all but eliminated (except when the computers melt down of course, but that’s too shocking to tell you). There are no horns blaring, and the music is in everyone’s own ears, so they’re not forced to listen to anything they don’t like, ever.
But Mrs Van Wyngaard keeps walking because four blocks east of her house, and five blocks south there is a park. One of the few parks left in the city (it’s extra special because the trees are made of recycled wood and green pained linen, rather than plastic). There is talk going round that somewhere far, far outside the city there is a park with real live trees, protected by a bubble containing a high oxygen concentrate. Dreamers discuss it with naïve hope but the realists dismiss it as urban legend, like mobile phones with actual buttons on them.
This park is buzzing. Everyone is walking or sitting or running. Lil shuffles past the ‘no hovering’ sign that is scrawled over with the graffiti ‘hovving rulz’. The hand writing is barely legible because iPads replaced handwriting in schools about two generations ago.
Lil finds her regular table and sits down, breathes a sigh of relief. Her friends at the table greet her. Some are absent today—maybe they have expired. But for right now Lil is alive; she is happy.
Smiling, she picks up the paint brush and dips into the oils, pulls a picture from her mind of an old farmhouse on a hill beside a river. The word ‘Hillegersberg’ is written on the white gate and there is a beautiful river garden hiding all her childhood friends.
She continues to paint.
Image: Alamar AV Communications, ‘Urban Melbourne’, <https://urban.melbourne/forum/melbournes-trams>, sourced 31 May 2017.