wasted past, unwashed future

My name is Ana Patton Mendoza.  I was born in the Year of Waste, the early days of 2015.  My granddaughter, Liliana, says I have the memory of an elephant.  Elephants were extinct long before her birth, of course, but the lifespan of language has always been longer than that of life.

I am a baker.  I have green eyes.  I haven’t had a bath in over 20 years.

Yesterday, I celebrated my anniversary to my one true love, Gabriel — Gabe — Mendoza.  He passed away several years back, not long after my daughter and her husband.  It is a love still worth celebrating, but a time that is hard to look back upon.  Liliana, with the effortless wisdom of a 10-year-old, gifted me a journal to store my turbulent thoughts.

I suppose if you’re reading this, then this dusty anniversary present was found in a box with other estate items that no one wanted.

You’re from the future then, and I won’t pretend to know what would interest a person such as yourself.  Though I could guess.

I hear that I am one of the few remaining green-eyed women.  Baking is also a lost art, or so my grandfather used to tell me as I played on the floor of his bakery when I was just a child.

I suspect, though, despite my many oddities, you’ll be most interested in the lack of bathing.

Baking will always find a place in society– a small, unappreciated corner, but a corner nonetheless.  And green eyes– well.  Are they really so different from brown?   I look into Liliana’s chocolate eyes and see my daughter’s eyes, and my own.  They are a different shape and color, but there is a light in them that marks us as family.

But no, extinct elephants and bakers with green eyes do not have substance enough for the history books.  History is about eras, and we are living in the era of the Servian.

Though I lived through the transition into this time, I doubt I will live through the end of it.  You’ll have to fill in the rest of the story, dearie, whoever you are.

I’ll leave a blank page for you at the end, and I’ll start at the beginning as I remember it.

I was a little girl, growing up in the outskirts of Washington State.  I could have never foreseen the future– not that I ever thought past the moment.

I lived on a vineyard, one so big that it folded right over the edge of the horizon and kept on going.  Grandpa owned a bakery on the most southern portion of our land.  My parent’s vineyard sold directly to the major juice companies at the time, back when companies were allowed to bottle foods and juices.  You may find some bottles in the estate with the journals, though I hope not– those should have stayed with Lil and her children.  Or her children’s children.

Despite what the kids today would tell you, 2015 was a good year.  Yes, we were indulgent, but we were also accepting.  It wasn’t uncommon to look around a table and see that each person had a different diet, different style of clothing, and different belief system.  There were Vegans– those who didn’t eat any animal product.  There were Servians– those who served Mother Earth through the conservation of water and natural resources.  There were hipsters and hippies, techies and foodies, Hindus and Christians– all sorts.  Each subculture had rules of their own, but around the dinner table or at the school plays, we were basically the same.

Of course, that could just be the perception of a child.  I was young and my parents weren’t the sort to point out fences and borders.

At the time, no one really was.

The early days, when it was still funny.
2018

By the time I was 10, the Servians had really found a home up in Washington State.  They were funny, which is probably why so many people were willing to convert to an existence with limited bathing and no gasoline-powered cars.  In fact, the whole movement started with a joke by a late-night comic at the time.  Something about how we could fix all the world’s problems if we cut down on water by showering with a friend.

I only actually watched his show once, a fact that embarrasses my poor Lil to no end.

Today he’s considered the father of Servianism, and the kids are really into the look of the propaganda promotional posters that he created.  They call them vintage and the government styles everything after them.

To be fair, it was more than humor that turned a monologue into a movement.  We had just gotten over a lot of war,  international bickering, and a lot of the states were having to borrow the resources they needed from other states and were going bankrupt in the process.  This is before the re-unionization, of course.

In a way, serving our world by giving up a little luxury just made sense.

Washington State became officially Servian on the year I graduated high school.  To get any benefits, or even a job, conversion was pretty much required.  The news called us a hippie state, and the tech firms that operated out of the state left in a flurry of anger.  Around this time, we stopped being quite so accepting.  There were a lot of snide remarks about anyone who didn’t convert.

Gabe was always in a huff about it.  We were just friends at the time, but a summer job gave us the quiet moments we needed to turn a friendship into a full-fledged romance.  He turned out to be the love of my life.

We married and decided to save as much as possible in order to leave the state, so we went full Servian and stopped bathing entirely.  This effort provided us with an enviable tax refund every year.

Let’s see, that was the spring of ’37.

It took us 5 years to get enough together, what with getting married and having our first child, Lillith.

In the winter of ’42, we moved to one of the last non-Servian states– Las Vegas.  We enjoyed about a month of showers, baths, and cars that moved 10 times faster than anything we had seen in a long while.  Then the Federal Conservation Act passed, out of the blue.

Well, it was out of the blue for me.  I suppose if you followed the political unrest and finances of each state, you’d have seen it coming.  Gabe was always talking about the nation’s inevitable push towards a forced Servian society, but he was paranoid like that.  I thought of it more like a fad, a temporary thing– an optional conversion that maximized your tax benefits.

Gabe, bless his heart and curse his perception, was right.

2044
2044

The FCA wasn’t a small act.  No, it came with enforcement, and it was only about month after its announcement that soldiers ripped through our city, disconnecting water pipes and doing whatever they could to lay down the law.

Las Vegas was a wreck.  Gabe and I managed just fine because we had basically grown up Servian, but the rest of that state really wasn’t ready to handle it.  There were riots.  Spectacular Las Vegas riots.

On a Wednesday afternoon, I saw a car bomb go off in front of the Bellagio.  The next morning, the re-unionization happened.  The president said in an effort to stabilize the economy, the states should come together as one.

If I had known I’d be one of the last survivors of my generation, I promise I would have paid more attention to the hows and the whys.  But I was a mom, a wife, and a baker– and it was all I could do to focus on that.  All I know is that the re-unionization put the Constitution in question and that’s when things really started getting strange.

The Union was profitable, though.  I remember that much, at least.  We watched a little video in the cafe where I worked that showed how Servian society had completely rolled back the nation’s debt.  Just a few years into it all, and we had a surplus in the quadrillions.

It was a smelly, but good, few years for the Union.  The world took our lead, and they called it our coming of age story.  Servianism went world-wide.

Then the problems started.

We’re supposed to call them sacrifices, to make them feel like noble deeds and purposeful choices.

But I lost my husband, my daughter, and my son-in-law to those “sacrifices”.  It wasn’t my choice.  It’s a flaw in the system– an ugly, terrible flaw.

I’m not sure why we didn’t see the problems on smaller scales before the culture took over the nation, but in retrospect, I suspect they were kept quiet and hushed by the media.

Gabe would be proud of me.  Now I’m a conspiracy theorist, too.

The flaw of an unhygienic, unwashed people is obvious to anyone’s who has ever lived differently.  It is in the illnesses. The infections.  The contamination.

We had to stop companies from bottling or boxing up foods because it was too easy to bottle up a toxin and pass it all over the Union.  The vineyard I grew up on withered and died.  We isolated ourselves in every way possible.  The population thinned and is continuing to thin.  That’s all political speak.  It means that wives and sisters, husbands and fathers, children and grandparents are dying.

2076
2076

The country is filthy because the people are filthy, and the media and government keep promoting all this because it’s making them filthy rich.  They tell us we have taller buildings, and smarter children, but what good is all that if no one survives to see it?

In a week, we roll into the 80’s, and I’ll turn 65.  There will be a party in town for me, celebrating my grand old age.  They are genuinely happy for me, but inside I cringe at the idea that 65 is old.

Sitting on the floor of my grandpa’s bakery, I still remember him telling me that if he had a chance to go back to his 70’s, he’d party every day.  Who knows how old he was at the time? 80? 90? 100, even?

100 wasn’t unheard of in my day.

Liliana, on the other hand, has never met anyone older than me.  She’s never used an operational shower, or seen an elephant, or drank professionally bottled grape juice.

Her life today won’t be her life forever, though.  Someone of my grand old age, even just a baker like myself, knows that, at least.

I’ve started to hear people call themselves liberals. Today I saw a man set himself on fire, next to a sign explaining that he’d rather die than pass on his infection to his family.  I wonder if he had the cold, or flu, or something that I would have laughed at back in the 20’s.

Either way, it’s the beginning of a change.   In fact, they’re calling 2080 the Year of Change… but the people who name these years surely don’t live them.

I was born in 2015, you know.  The year they call the Year of Waste.  I have green eyes.  I am a baker.  My name is Ana Patton Mendoza, and I haven’t had a bath in over 20 years.  I was once married to the love of my life, a man named Gabe, who died from a minor throat infection as an involuntary Servian.

I’m hoping this finds you well.

I’m hoping whoever is reading this is clean and old— much older than myself.  I’m hoping this journal is found and that you understand what I’ve said and the life I’ve lived, even though my writing is poor and my details are vague.

I don’t know what lessons I suppose you should learn from this.  That celebrities and the educational elite bear a responsibility for the sensations they create and the causes they support?  That greed is a dark and sinister path?  That of all the resources on the planet to waste, the waste of life– animal or human– is the biggest waste of all?

Language, I’ve always said, has a much longer lifespan than life itself, and the language of a grandmother worried for her granddaughter is one that transcends time.

I suppose that’s the main reason that I’m writing anything at all, then.  Change didn’t happen in time for my daughter and it’s unlikely it’ll happen in time for me.  If it does not happen for my granddaughter, either–  if you are not her daughter, or her daughter’s daughter– please consider yourself part of our story since you’ll be writing the last page.

As part of our story, as part of our family, please remember her.  She is 10 years old.  She has brown eyes, and loves her silly old grandma.  She is a baker, or will be. She was born a Servian, a citizen of the Union of the States.  She has never had a bath.  Her name is Liliana.

___________________________________________

Weekly Writing Challenge: Write a short story or piece of descriptive faux-journalism describing your personal idea of a dystopia — a dark future when everything you hold dear is on the chopping block. http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/writing-challenge-dystopia/

(For any of those participating in the dystopic future challenge who might want to create similar images as the one above, I used http://www.photofunia.com.  Have fun with it!)

139 thoughts on “wasted past, unwashed future

    1. 🙂 Oh thank you! Of course as soon as I posted it, I found a zillion typos, *sigh*, so I’m happy to know it was readable and that you enjoyed it. 😀 Thank you for reading, and for your kind words! 🙂

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  1. Except for one example I can think of, a story about how escalators were outlawed and the chilling consequences thereof, this was the most chilling piece of writing I have read in quite a long while. I am, in truth, rather afraid of how prophetic it may be. As a mathematician, one with a somewhat abnormal brain, I see patterns. 2nd and 3rd and 4th order events that many others do not perceive. Most everything I see and hear propagandised for, perhaps the last 25 years or more, things we call by such names as “conservation” and other happy and benign sounding words, are… perhaps I should leave it there….

    Wonderful writing my most fearsome beast! I do pray you do not go extinct as have other “saurs!”

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    1. I would love to read that story! Like you, I have a probability-brain and can see how things that start innocently enough follow a natural progression towards something out of control.

      Thank you for reading, David, and for your thoughts! 🙂

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      1. I had not bookmarked it, I am afraid, I came upon it most accidentally, in fact; but I have searched it out for you:

        http://wp.me/14N5h

        I have tested this link and it works for me. Please let me know if it does not by issuing forth an immense RAWR and I shall come to your aid.

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  2. I don’t know how you do it – continue to amaze me. I know you are awesome, and have known for some time, but it seems like with each new post you are continually raising that awesome bar higher and higher. Brilliant writing: the plot, the story, the development of character and setting and feeling…

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    1. 🙂 Thank you! It’s not quite my normal fare, so I’ll probably just leave it here… but I’m glad you know you liked it enough to risk reading an entire book of it, 😀 Thanks for reading!!

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        1. I did, but only a minute or two before it went live. 9:14, the email, 9:16 the post, 9:30ish, I woke up. Still, I’m grateful, just in a bit of a shock. 🙂

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  3. I’m so happy your story was picked to be Freshly Pressed. It is haunting and beautiful (sorry I didn’t tell you sooner).

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    1. 😀 Thanks! I kept trying to move that sentence up to give it more of a punch intro, but that was as early as I could work it in smoothly, so I’m glad it still had a little zing! 🙂

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  4. Rarasaur – ***** – five stars – you snapped my heart in half with this piece. I am so glad I got to read this. It is one of those that will linger. Well done, Rarasaur. HuntMode

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  5. I had to keep going to find out what next. All I can say Rawr is full points for imagination and I wouldn’t want to live in that world. Then again, I can’t help thinking it’s a bit of predictive fiction. Lovely. 🙂

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    1. Yes, the plausibility of the idea is what I latched onto to begin with… scary to think about, right? Thank you so much for your support, and for taking the time to read!! *hugs*

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    1. That’s a lovely compliment and a great idea! Even if I get horribly rejected, I’ll at least know I tried to do something with it. 😀 Thank you!!

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  6. A really great piece of writing: fascinating and terrifying at the same time! As I commented in a different blog, “Water is the most precious resource we have, and – maybe, at least in “civilised” people – the most underappreciated. Far too few people realize that we can – maybe with some difficult adjustment, but perfectly well – live without oil, but not at all without water. Thanks for sharing this wonderful picture of the source of life.”
    Best regards from southern Texas,
    Pit

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  7. With this vision and empathy, I’m saying it again. People are going to say that just because I read her blog does not mean that President Rarasaur was my friend. It might not be the President of the United States or, God forbid, the President of the Union of the States, but you will be a world leader someday, Rara. I’m sure of it. Think Valentine in Ender’s Game.
    Great story. {{{hugs]}} Kozo

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  8. Water is so unappreciated and wasted. Am very thankful for my access to clean water as 780 million people world over lack access to clean water, so many deaths are caused daily by water, sanitation and hygiene problems. I loved every single line of this. Congrats on being freshly pressed.

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  9. Scary and brilliant. The scariest part is that we can actually fathom it, that it doesn’t seem so implausible after all. Congrats on the recognition, which is well deserved, Rara.

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    1. 🙂 Thank you, Rufina! *hugs* It’s weird to think on dystopic futures, and I think I’m grateful to have finished writing what I will write… so I can only write about good futures from now on. 😀

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