Happy Friday! This time around the story is actually under 1000 words. I wrote this when I was trying climate fiction and, well, this is how it turned out.
Dr Susan Wong’s husband left one month after she saved the world, citing “irreconcilable differences” and later, neglect. He never filed for custody of their two children though, which was how I got the job babysitting while she buried herself in her work, trying to perfect her weather manipulation machine. Her kids were smart, sweet and curious, especially since they had never even heard of my island before I showed up at their door. I had been so desperate for a job that I left off the PhD on my resume and took full advantage of my aunt’s address.
I left a lot of things off my resume.
Rumours about Dr Wong in town ran the gamut from mad scientist to cult leader. To hear the neighbours tell it, she had simply showed up one day, moved into a modest house overlooking the Hudson, and set to work restoring the world. The press ate it up, hungry for any hint of her next move. Terraforming plans for Venus and Mars? Humanity’s first Lunar Base? Gardening? I kept my head down and the children occupied even as the media and Reddit started digging into my background. I barely saw the woman, save for rare mornings when I came into work, and payday. I do not know what they hoped to find.
I wish that they had not spoken so snidely of what they eventually did. The questions about the types of homes my people had lived in and the food we used to eat were a bit of a surprise. Even the children had never questioned that. My family had escaped the Climate Refugee Resettlement Act by grace of us having relatives in New York. I knew friends who were not so lucky, cast off to Midwest towns with other groups of refugees of previous decades. My PhD was unearthed, but Dr Wong never mentioned it. I suppose, when you have multiple degrees in various fields of science, what do you care about some English lit critic?
The other stuff, well, thankfully that had been washed away or reduced to rubble by the incessant storms. The magazine had only circulated in the university, the meetings attended by those who could spare the afternoons, and the protests covered by the national news. We were scattered now with no hope of reunion or re-organization. There was no point to it without Dr Wong’s machine anyway.
One morning, Dr Wong called me to her lab. Her ex-husband was on the TV again. The media had believed him responsible for the machine at first, and he had not discouraged them. Too bad that Dr Wong had developed it in her university lab with a battery of assistants, some of who had followed her upstate. She said as I came in, “There is the possibility that my husband will win his lawsuit and seize control of the machine. I may have to leave, so that means I will have to let you go, Tempest. Do you understand?”
I thought about what I would do if she left. It had been hard enough to get this job. Those refugees who had been unable to find employment on their own could apply for government placement, but that usually meant farm labour my parents had sent me to school to avoid. It had been hard enough swallowing my pride to become a nanny. I asked, “Where are you planning to go?”
She shrugged. “Wherever he can’t find me and steal my work. He was a good husband when he had to be, and now he’s just being a monster.” She stopped and gave me a shrewd look. “You shouldn’t try to come with me. You have your whole life ahead of you and family who would miss you. I need to keep my work available for everyone and not just his new rich friends.”
“They’re not going to let you get away,” I pointed out.
“I know,” she replied, expression downcast. “But I have to do this for all of us.”
I thought about it for a time, looking around the lab with all its equipment. If Dr Wong left, her assistants would too, despite lives they had built here. I said, “But what if you don’t have to leave. What if you could continue your work right here?”
She raised an eyebrow, sceptical and curious. I smiled and said, “Let me try something.”
I suppose she thought I was just going to write an article or two. Make a few anonymous posts on Tumblr, which I did anyway. But we had written many letters and articles and reports. We had stood before the United Nations and begged for aid.
It was not difficult to figure out how her machine worked. It was a network of satellites and weather stations that tracked and helped regulate the weather to facilitate the cooling of the world. The supercomputer was in her vast basement lab. My favourite pastime was watching programming videos on Youtube with the kids. A few keystrokes and suddenly her husband and his new friends found their estates dried out or drowning. Snow piled high on mountain retreats and hurricanes wiped private islands off the map. How strange it was, that the bad weather only affected them.
It took no time at all for her husband to lose his backers once they figured out what was happening.
Dr Wong is not a mad scientist, a supervillain bent on plunging the world into perpetual winter, a naïve but super-intelligent woman who is victim to her own powerful mind, or spiritual leader out to guide the world into some utopian new age. She would never be any of those things, but me? My parents named me “Tempest” after all.