At first, everyone was relieved, because you know, everybody’s an expert, okay, not really, everybody’s an idiot and they wouldn’t know a death portent if it bit them in the ass. But I guess I could see their point. It started raining in March and it rained every day, all day, through April, and May, and June, and July, and August, and halfway through September until the last day that it rained. Ever.
That much rain all over the world washed away tiny villages first, then crops, then American SUVs, then big cities, and finally it was like the friggin’ apocalypse, if reality shows still played on TV during the apocalypse. Boat sales were good, I’ll tell you that much. And recipes for fish. There were a lot of recipes for fish on the morning shows. It was pissin’ awful, to tell you the truth. It was gray and sticky every day, like a jungle without the dirt, and those people that had SAD, sunlight alertness deficit, or whatever it is that makes you pretty friggin’ miserable when the sun doesn’t come out . . . well, I guess sales of anti-depressants were good too.
You know what I said? Whatever. I was trying to finish my degree and you get a lot of homework done when you can’t go outside without stepping in a pile of whale or something.
Anyway, there was a lot of rain. You get the point.
And on September 14th when the rain stopped and the sun finally showed its gawd-forsaken head, everybody was going “boo yah” and “thank heavens” and “finally” and, maybe, just maybe, some of them who are probably feeling like dumb asses now, said, “I hope it never rains again!”
Cause the universe doesn’t get sarcasm.
You know what I said, though? I said “whoopdidoo, I’m buying me some bottled water.” Mostly because my father told me not to, because he said, what’s a twenty-two year old pile of crap who lives at home under the pretense of finishing his degree going to do with two trillion gallons of bottled water?
Be rich, is what he’s going to do.
Yeah, the filtration and the storage cost money, but sure as your granny’s good in bed, the water didn’t. And those “booyah” “thank heavens” “finally” types weren’t interested in water in September, or October, or November, or December or for most of the spring. But by the time my father kicked me out of the house and I switched majors again and I got my Time magazine feature as world’s most eligible genius or whatever, they wanted it. Oh yeah, they were dying for it.
So I was rich. I mean, I wasn’t the only one who read the writing on the wall that said the planet was due for a royal screwing, but it didn’t matter. I got rich enough.
But whatever. I didn’t really mean to talk about me and my money. I was just trying to explain the whole rain thing. It didn’t affect life as much as you’d think, having lots of water and then not having any water for years. Mostly, it was just, like, a few million people dying of strange diseases that hadn’t been around for centuries, and every species of corn going extinct, except for this weird albino variety that looks like it’s been growing under a rock, and it’s really hot all the time and you can just forget horseback riding as a sport, because there isn’t much in the way of horses.
But there are still reality shows, only I guess they’re a little weirder than beforehand, because the stakes are a little higher and you get a lot of whackos both as contestants and producers. They were filming one right outside my m-flat that was particularly messed up. The producers were standing around looking like zombies on crack while the host and camera guys watched these people trying to squeeze their bodies through an impossibly tiny hole to get a key on the other side.
By nature of their make-up, the humidity-recycling membrane and all, m-flats don’t have great insulation, so I could hear the host as clearly as if I were standing next to him. So I knew that these contestants — who looked kinda like 400 miles of bad road, if we’re being honest — were all trying to get this key because it was a key to a brand new m-flat, which was a pretty ace prize. Basically it cut down on your water usage by two-thirds because of the way it recycled the water in your breath and the air and crap, and so it is basically the difference between spending your yearly salary on water or on the other nice things of life, like shoes. Or, you know, food.
I went down there to check it out. It was gross but fascinating. Mostly I wanted to see how idiotic people would be for an m-flat. The answer, if you’re wondering, is pretty idiotic. One guy dislocated his shoulder on purpose to try to fit through this hole. So he was sweating like a sumo wrestler, screaming like a baby, and even with all that lube and noise, he wasn’t getting through that hole.
Another girl almost got through, but she just couldn’t get her hips through. Not like she was big — great thing about the apocalypse is that it really cuts back on that obesity pandemic — but she just couldn’t do it. She clawed at her hips and I almost went back inside, but she gave up.
Then the third girl came up, and when she saw me standing there, watching, she shot me this real crappy look. And you know what? I shot her a real crappy one back, because if she had a problem with me watching, just wait til this show aired on national television.
She stood there and looked at the hole, which, I’ll give her credit, none of the others had. Then, without a second’s hesitation, she took off all her clothing. She was gleaming with sweat, thin as a rail, with about one thousand more ribs than anyone else I’d ever seen. Yeah. Pretty much only wearing her black hair, up top and down below.
And she just slid through the hole and got the key. She came back out and stood in her birthday suit, clutching it with a screw-you-all sort of expression. The cameras kept swinging to her and away, as if they couldn’t decide if they shouldn’t be showing this or this was the best catch ever.
The producers conferred amongst themselves. The host told the girl that it was against the contract. The naked part.
And they took the key.
They took the key.
For a moment, I didn’t really think they would do it, but then I saw the producers wrestling it out of her hands and thrusting her clothing towards her. The host ran his mouth about some new challenge for the key instead, since this one was void. Something about killing as many dogs by hand in ten minutes — what, didn’t I mention this? Oh yeah, dogs and horses, they were the big carriers of that retrovirus that showed up during the first part of the drought. The horses just died, but the dogs passed it on to humans before they did, and dog-killing became this big thing. First any dog that looked like it had the signs, the scabs, you know, and then just any dog that looked like a dog.
You know, before I moved out, I had a dog. He was a great dog.
I’ll never forgive my dad. Ever.
Oh freaking hell, the producers weren’t kidding. They had a pen of dogs. Like, a hundred dogs. All kinds. With collars and without. People’s pets. Oh, that was messed up. There weren’t really going to —
The contestants were staring at the dogs. The big guy with the dislocated shoulder was clenching his fists and unclenching them, testing the strength
of his bad arm. The girl with the big hips was tracing a finger over a ligament in her neck, looking thoughtful.
And the girl who’d gotten the key already was just staring at one of the dogs in the pen, a golden retriever, who was looking back at her and wagging his tail. She’d covered up her ribs with her clothing again, but I could see she was shaking as she watched the dog.
Wagging his freaking tail.
I smacked aside one of the cameras and stepped between the contestants and the dogs. I walked right up to the girl. She looked at me with that same screw-you look, only now I knew why it was on there. Because c’mon, look at what they’d done to her just since I’d been watching. I took out my wallet, got out the blank check I always kept in there, and I wrote it for $57,000, which is $1,000 more than a basic m-flat costs. I handed her the check and I just walked away.
I heard the producers say, “That was Dominic du Bois. Dominic du Bois! He invented the m-fl– he is a billi — what did he give you?”
At that, I turned around to look. The freaks were fighting with her about it. They told her she couldn’t quit because of her contract, and they told her she couldn’t keep it, because she got it while on the show, and then when that didn’t work, because I was staring at them, the producer came over to me.
“The dogs are all gonna get killed anyway,” he told me.
Just to be mean. Because people are like that, a lot, now, I didn’t say that before either, but they are. They’re kind of awful, actually, a lot of them.
“You’re a piece of crap,” I told him. “You’re a piece of crap that other pieces of crap crap on.”
He sneered at me, ugly bastard only his mom would like, if she even did, because he knew he’d gotten to me because I’d said anything at all.
The girl with the check stood behind him, looking at me, and she was still staring at me in an unfriendly way. Probably because she thought I was trying to buy her or something as messed up as the reality show people had been doing to everybody.
I went back inside the m-flat. I needed to study. Not for the degree. Screw the degree. I was going to make it rain.
image courtesy Joolz Perry.