Here’s an excerpt from my novel The Journey (available on Amazon – link in sidebar). The novel is set in a future where the world failed to act on climate change in the 2020s. In this excerpt Terran, a young botanist is walking through a wasteland with a team of scientists from the institute, an isolated prepper community.
The group trailed behind Mitchell as he strode along the dry riverbed snaking out from the waterhole. It was baking hot but the steep river banks protected them from the dry wind that blew ceaselessly across the plains. Every afternoon they would climb up to the scraggly trees that lined the banks to get their bearings. At those moments Terran felt the desolate environment searing itself ever deeper into her heart. Even the sky had a muddy look to it as if particles of dust hung in the air.
As the days wore on the distances between each group member lengthened. Brad stalked along behind Terran but she ignored him. No one spoke much anyway. The heat was so intense that wasting energy on words felt frivolous. Unnecessary. In places the sandy soil of the river banks had fallen away to expose tattered ribbons of polyurethane and plastic sheeting, remnants of the agricultural practices of the previous era. The bleached bones of animals lying on the dry riverbed were further reminders of those times. The curving horns of long dead cattle and the eyeless skulls of sheep were both sculptural and haunting.
Occasionally they would see shards of rusted metal sticking up out of the sandy dust of the riverbed. These relics of past industry excited Cody. He insisted they stop and examine them for useful parts but everything was too decomposed to be of any use. For Terran these scattered reminders of the old world brought home the fact that the degraded landscape they walked through was a result of human activity.
Not knowing what else to do she bowed her head over her laptop each evening. First, she recorded the growing conditions of the plants she found in her official institute spreadsheets. That done, she opened her personal files and made images that expressed how she felt being out in the wasteland as the hot winds blew and the men cursed the yellow dust of the riverbed swirling around them. These things she noted alongside detailed drawings and photographs of the wider terrain. Jarad, the meticulous record keeper, had a habit of muttering the readings to himself as he checked his meteorological instruments. He often did this while she was working on her images so she would include these details as well.
This new way of working had developed from the sketch she’d made that first day at the lookout. It made more sense to her than the featureless lists she’d been taught to compile but she couldn’t imagine anyone at the institute being remotely interested. She was aware the men would react negatively to her images and always saved them to her USB sticks rather than to the laptop. When she returned to the institute she would be required to give the authorities her laptop and the data she’d recorded. She’d been trained to be a detached, objective observer of the natural world and had been taught to consider it separate from and even inferior to the human experience. Any research she did would be expected to conform to that worldview. Out in this wasteland laid bare by humanity’s excesses she found it impossible to maintain that position. The sight of the devastated plains stretching on, seemingly forever, hit her like a blow. It cracked her open and she felt as exposed and raw as the land itself.