When I went down to the river on Monday evening to row with my husband, the earlier sunset made plain that autumn was coming, although the scorching days haven’t felt at all like it. I’d been outside in my backyard during the afternoon, setting up a soaker hose to water what little there is left of my poor bedraggled willows. Before climate change hit, I had a lovely willow hedge all along my back property line, but not much remains of it anymore.

On Tuesday morning I woke up after dreaming that I was walking alone in a clearcut forest. All the way to the horizon, I saw nothing but stumps and dry, dead weeds. The heat was intense, and I heard no sounds at all—not even crickets.

Clearcut forest

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

I thought of it again later that day—but this time, I wasn’t alone in the unwelcoming scene. My satirical future self Kass was perched on a stump, wearing very short jogging shorts and a skimpy tank top with a built-in bra. The cap shading her face had a bright red logo proclaiming APOCALYPSE-R-US in bold letters.

“Yeah, right, Kass, you would think this was funny,” I grumbled.

Kass bounced up from the stump, with dead leaves crunching under her flip-flops. “Let’s go for a little stroll through the Forest of Collective Angst,” she suggested cheerfully.

Dust rose around our feet as we made our way through the desolate landscape. Other than the occasional small hill or dip, there was nothing to distinguish one place from another. After we had been walking for a few minutes, we crossed a dry gully full of pebbles and silt. I wouldn’t have been surprised to find a skeleton or two, but I didn’t even see any dead insects. Everything looked totally lifeless.

“Okay, so was I supposed to have learned anything from this?”

Wiping sweat from her forehead, Kass replied, “Well, now, that’s up to you, isn’t it? I’m just a projection of your overactive imagination, after all. But, given that I am you in the 2040s, the fact that I’m alive and in reasonably good shape means that the world as we know it hasn’t collapsed. You haven’t perished of starvation in a howling wilderness. Right?”

I thought for a moment about disputing the point because, obviously, my imagination—however active—wasn’t in charge of what might happen to the world in real life. However, I didn’t really feel like arguing about my chances of dying in a hellish future, so I kept quiet as we slowly trudged up another little hill and started down the other side.

“So—what does the world look like in your time?” I finally asked.

We took a few more steps and went around a particularly large stump before Kass stopped to glance down at a scraggly dandelion that had sprouted in its shade. One stalk held a seed ball. Plucking it, Kass held it to her lips and blew, her eyes closing as if to make a wish. The tiny bits of fluff drifted away on an almost imperceptible breeze.

“We’re still reseeding,” she answered quietly.

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