Recently, some scary things have been happening in Ohio in relation to anti-abortion legislation. At the same time as these debates began to take on a new urgency, Welsh writer Robert Minhinnick asked me to contribute to a project called “Letters from the Future,” which sees a collective of writers creating imagined letters from a future world where climate change has transformed human life irrevocably. A performance derived from the letters is being produced, and will be performed in the near future. Given what is happening in Ohio and elsewhere, the future presented in this flash fiction is not so unthinkable.
Here’s the beginning of the story…
Letter from Ohio 2025
Do you remember those afternoons in summer? The high and tight sound: that ratta-tatta-tatta of the sprinklers making arcs over the grass? You joked that our lawn was the worst in the neighbourhood. Before long, the home owner’s association did send a letter out, said we had X amount of days to turn our green patch into monoturf: a luminous, plastic carpet.
It’s all yellow now. Water quotas mean yellow lawns, and yellow clay exposed with great cracks in it. I swear I can feel the foundations of the house shifting, squeezed by the dry earth.
I never thought we should live here: a part of the country that was once overgrown woodland, now sterile fields. The Wyandot, or Huron, lived here first, pushed out from the Georgian Bay in Canada. They lived in longhouses, in tight-knit villages, but when the white settlers came, they brought a new name: the Great Dismal Swamp. They drained it, mowed down trees for fields, forced it to bear crops. That’s how it’s been ever since: fighting the land into submission, always at war with the insects, the weeds, the mould that blights the plants, and the poison sumac drilling its tap root deep into the ground.
Years have passed since you disappeared, and they tell me now that it’s time to forget you. The boys are so tall and long you would hardly recognize them. Jon is in fourth grade, studying hard on his math, and Thomas lost his round babyface when he started kindergarten. Every night I sit in the rocking chair, and read to them. We started Alice Through the Looking Glass, but I had to leave off, because it gave me a peculiar feeling. How she looks into the mirror, and sees it all: everything reversed, and back to front, not how it should be at all.
They are pressuring me to marry again, but I continue to persuade: I can’t marry another man if my husband is still alive. Marriage is sacrosanct now. It’s supposedly a woman’s duty to marry as soon as possible and have children. I could tell them that the more people there are, the worse things will be, but they wouldn’t listen. All they want is more young minds to fashion in their own image.
So many of their rules are supposed to save us from global warming, but it’s just an excuse. It’s actually about control. None of it makes sense: they want more babies, but there are strict rules about how we have sex. No sex before marriage, no abortions, and no contraception. Abstinence saves the unborn, they tell us, but that’s just for the unmarried.
The other day, they sent a new man round to check the energy meters. Straight away, there was something I disliked about him. Maybe it was his doughy face, or the cool, flat flesh of his fingers when he shook my hand. His name – Mike – was stitched in white letters on the chest pocket of his blue boiler suit. He had a mild-mannered voice, but I could tell he was a true believer…