Sulagna’s previous work for The Toast can be found here.
2030, the Year of Winter Songs
The wind whistles outside all day long, and every day we go outside and listen to it. It’s a long ritual, putting on our layers and our specialized snowsuits, but it’s worth it to have the sun hit our eyes and to hear the songs of the season. And it’s our news for the day: our weather report, yes, but also our politics roundup, our scary studies and awkward, shameless cable show. Our national conversation is the chilling tones of winter. And after our time outside – usually an hour maximum, as recommended by the Science Corps – we go back in to the glow of our communication devices. Did you hear that tone change? That dropped beat? Was that a background ocean breeze? People send recordings, remixes, and analyses to each other. The Science Corps sometimes sends out a newsletter, but they tell us over and over again: this is as good as it’ll get.
2081, the Year of Cooking
There are three kinds of country. First, there’s Boil country, where the air is like the inside of your mouth, a hot gasp. Boiled people are always glistening, and it’s said their minds cook in their heads and dribble out of their ears. It never rains, the water hanging around in the air like a promise that can’t be kept. It’s bad country, salacious and greedy. That’s nothing compared to Toast country. Hot as anger, the air feels like a myth. People have faith in it, but it never moves, never budges when they cry to it, gasping for relief against the heat. People don’t look at each other in the eye – it’s no use with our heavy-duty lenses. The worst, though – the worst is Fry country. Above the large cities hang huge swaths of gas, so everyone has to wear gas masks at all times. They say it’s always night in Fry country because you never see the sun.
3005, The Year of Mutants
Only certain people are allowed outside – those born without eyes; maybe another kind with tentacles instead of limbs; yet another covered in soft, slick fur, swaddling them in a blanket when they swim, looking for non-radiated fish. These people are chosen, we say, even as we sting at the idea of not being chosen: we take care of their homes, their poor worked bodies, their very lives, everything they desire, so that we may have the food and shelter they provide. At other times we are glad not to be chosen: they have tales of woe from the outside world, and they are very often unable to create families in the same way we can. The mutants are random among the population. It is always a source of great joy to find a new savior every few months.
3402, the Year of Steam Showers
A curious thing happens: steam falls from the sky – like fog but beautiful and bright. Every moment becomes dramatic. “We need to have a meeting,” your boss tells you, as steam rolls past the window behind her, filtering the light with ominous shadows. “I thought I’d lost you,” says your teary-eyed beloved after a steam shower at the market, as you pat down their dampened hair. Because of this, silly villainy becomes a widespread problem. It just becomes too hard to resist running through a steam shower, parting it with a particular dramatic sweep of your arms, and saying, “I’M THE FAIREST NOW.” Replace “fairest” with any other kind of superlative or title: “I’M the teacher now!” yells a 7th grade boy in a neon school t-shirt. “I’M the manager of global investments now!” yells a young woman in a suit sharpened from the steam. “I’M THE BEST EVER!” you yell into the sky, just as the sun breaks between the clouds to shine on you like the holy greatness that you are.
3736, the Year of Room Temperature
Tell us riddles about rain, hail, sleet, snow, wind – voiceless it cries / wingless it flutters? We guess, “Love? Justice?” Anything but “wind.” There is sunshine, there is water, there is earth, but everything at the same temperature: room temperature, or 72 degrees, adjusted on the world thermometer. It’s the exact right temperature that if you close your eyes and put out your arms so your clothes fall away from your body, you feel nothing; just your mind floating in space, like a ghost. We’ve always called it room temperature, so that it never occurs to us: how does the world thermometer work? Was it always like this? And most importantly of all: what room?
4000, the Year of The Rains
Every morning, the Earth reawakens after the rains. Every time, we awaken to a reincarnated Earth – the houses might become boats, the trees might become mountains, the lakes might become shopping centers. Thanks to a series of unbelievable events including a mad scientist, an angry weatherwoman, and a mild train conductor, our whole world changes with the weather. Once, we were pleased to find prescient forests that opened paths for us to walk through or rustled companionably when we got low. Another time we awoke in fear to find monstrous beasts roaming around us, and our day became about survival. Change has become inevitable but is also completely out of our hands, both a sweet blessing and a fearful curse.
Sulagna Misra writes about the weird things that pop into her head when she's not paying attention. She's on Twitter so she can not pay attention more effectively.