It’s so hot. I water my plants twice a day. The plants aren’t much–people call them “trash plants.” The smell warrants the name.
They produce dense black fruit that smells sulfuric but tastes surprisingly delicious–like broccoli, actually. I eat at least one a day. The fruit satisfies. I’m guessing that the high sulfur content protects from cancer. That’s probably why eating it is a cultural tradition around here.
It’s so hot.
I think of heading up to Sky Islands, but I don’t think I could survive the walk. It’s too dangerous to navigate the steep trails in the night. Even if I leave at dawn, I have to trek twenty miles of exposed trail, with little shade and mostly without a source of water. I would die from exposure.
Base camp is so hot I feel queasy staying there.
I head to the marshes at the edge of the hot springs.
I strip to my suit, and I spend the early hours of the morning with my toes in the mud listening to frogs. I feel cool, all the way through to my core. I feel cool and happy and at peace.
The frogs are singing and I feel like singing, too. They don’t mind as I join their song.
At sun rise, while we’re still singing, someone calls my name.
Across the street, one of my friends waves and heads over to see me. I quickly pull on my clothes and hat.
I can’t remember her name.
“Your glove-things don’t match,” I say to her.
She laughs. “I couldn’t decide! I like white! I like blue. Which do you like best?”
I can’t decide either.
“Where are you coming from?” I ask.
“I was dancing all night,” she says. “Do you like dancing?”
I do. “But only outdoors.”
“This wasn’t outdoors. They named me the Queen of the Ball,” she says.
I can see why. Her total ensemble would be hard to compete with. I wish I could remember her name.
“Have you ever felt it so hot?” she asks. “It’s getting pretty hot.”
“Yesterday was hotter,” I say.
“It’s only seven o’clock,” she answers.
I hear a rustle in the marshes.
“Did you hear that?” I ask.
We listen. There’s a sound like a soft sigh and then more rustling.
“It’s a frog,” she says. “These swamps are thick with them!”
“How long do you think the heat will last?” I ask. “I mean, it’s not like we have seasons anymore.”
“We have seasons-ish,” she replies. “If it gets too hot the thermal winds will come and then at least we’ll have moving air.”
“Moving hot air,” I say. “I miss the jet stream.”
“The jet stream was an illusion,” she replies. “It never really existed. It was just lines on a map.”
She has to leave. She’s baking in her black dress, even though it’s sleeveless.
“Come visit sometime!” she says.
“I’d love to,” I reply, if I knew her name and knew where she lived. “Maybe we’ll run into each other again.”
I hear the rustling again, and then a sound like a watermelon being dropped into the mud.
I run towards the sound.
I cannot believe what I see.
A woman lies collapsed at the edge of the marsh.
I reach down. Her pulse is still. Her skin feels burning. It’s so hot. What’s the wet bulb temperature? It must be 95, 96.
I scoop cool mud onto her forehead and wrists. I try to resuscitate her. She’s limp.
I try everything I can think of. I run to fetch water. I wave my hat over her. I decide her name must be Martha, and I call to her, “Martha. Martha. Wake up.”
She doesn’t. She is still and limp. I can’t remember what name I gave her. I call her Sally. “Sally, wake up.”
It’s so hot.
She’s not moving. I feel the temperature rising. I can’t survive exposed much longer.
It’s so hot, and death is all around, and the jet stream is gone, and the thermal winds don’t help, and tomorrow will be hotter than today, and I’m feeling faint and queasy and there is a dead woman at my feet.
I must find shade.
How did any of us survive into the After?