by Andre J. P. Warner, 21
The quiet crunches of footsteps on the decrepit asphalt echoed in the barren landscape, sparsely occupied by wilted weeds and rundown buildings. Lucas, a lean bronze skinned young man walked towards the coast silently eyeing his destination, his eyes kept low from the blaring sun. His steady pace soon came to a stop as the road took an abrupt plunge into murky waters, filled with detritus. Lucas’s gaze locked on the lone building visible in the distance; partially submerged, with the paint barely reflecting the orange hew it once held. Lucas began to undress for the unpleasant dive he wished to avoid, but with his increase in asthma symptoms, that old hospital was the only place where he could find the Ventolin inhalers he needed. With a grimace and a deep breath, Lucas took his dive.
Steadily swimming, Lucas began to think about what led to the country he lived in being in this state. The answer was simple, it just simply got hotter. Global warming peaked melting the icecaps, elevating sea levels to the point where the sea took 30% of the land. The sea ports, airports, coastline hotels, and all the offshore islands sunk! St Johns, Green Bay, Coolidge and all areas close to the coast along with every beach simply disappeared, so fast were the effects that there was no time to plan for the devastating economic effects. With this new aquatic territory, Sargassum sea-weed flourished, creating many forests around the island inhabited by the most vicious predator, Lionfish. As the kings of the underwater jungle, they destroyed most aquatic wildlife with their indiscriminate feeding. Lucas came back to focus as he reached his destination and began his frantic search, the results were lacking, but the single dosage he found would have to do. Doubling back, he swam to shore for his trek to Scott’s hill where he lived, one of the few decent places left on island.
Lucas approached the base of the hill to his home he heard a sharp crunch, lifting his leg he saw the source, a brown shell. Staring at the shattered remains of the shell he recalled the past behind them. The April of 2008 was the day when the first infestation of the Giant African Snail was identified, a small patch in Jolly Hill. A manageable infestation but due to mismanagement the invasion spread, in the eyes of the public and the government they were not that important. The farmers were the first to complain, then a few communities, but the masses did not complain; after all it wasn’t their properties. Then the businesses started complaining; the government put up a few initiatives and even put a bounty on snails, but who wanted to pick up nasty snails in hot sun for only five dollars a bag? As time passed they spread like the slow stream of water on the dinner table, you only noticed when it’s dripping on your lap. The nation was flooded; the government still dragged their feet even when the tourists complained. The snails were seen and ignored until disaster truly struck. In November 2020 the corona virus hit the nation, one that could not even properly fend off Dengue fever. The initial cases were contained but, an unknown fact was that the snails were perfect vector for both dengue and the corona virus. Within the bodies of the snails these viruses fused to create, the Krylan virus. The discovery of this virus was at a point which it was too late; a mortality rate of 55% devastated the island and Antigua was quarantined from the rest of the world. The government in desperation released the strongest toxin possible in an attempt to quell the outbreak, this did yield results but also destroyed local species and biodiversity. Between the deadly virus and the now barren land Antigua was evacuated, with a small group of villagers including Lucas’s grandparents.
The thought of the injustice of his ruined nation ignited a fire in Lucas. “You selfish bastards,” he yelled. The politicians and tycoons who profited from pollution, ignoring the consequences. “Those impudent worthle-” it was at this moment Ben realized he could no longer hear himself. With his simmering passion rapidly cooling, he was able to come to the realization that his mike was…off? Eager to return to his speech, Ben rapidly tapped the power button; his futile efforts led to the realization that he had been muted! A rising heat was felt in his cheeks as a slight blush was formed as he slowly raised his head and looked at his audience who had been forgotten in his fervor. There were variety of expressions to be seen, with half of the viewing audience shocked. The expression on his principal’s face was that of restrained anger, who had warned him not to embarrass his institution with “foolishness”. Faces of resentment were worn by the minister who had expected to be praised, not criticized. Visages of amusement and barely restrained laughter adorned the faces of all his classmates. Lastly was resignation in the face of his teacher who begged him not to ‘overdo’. In the corner of his eye Ben spotted a waving hand signaling him to leave, facing the crowd he quickly said “thank you” and strutted off stage. Passing the shocked speaker of ceremonies, on his way to the exit Ben heard her sputter out “T-that was Mr. Ben Mascal and his piece titled ‘A Bright Future for Tomorrow.’ I-I want to thank you all once again for coming out to our sustainable development awards program, here at the parliament building”. The voice faded as Ben left with the knowledge that he was clearly suspended, but with a small smile on his face with the feeling of his message being heard. Staring over the cityscape, with the ocean reflecting the Sun’s glow on his face Ben whispered “it might just be a bright future after-all.”
ABOUT the story: “The exploration of a young man in a now dystopian Antigua ravaged by climate change and its effects. This piece was inspired by my own ‘what if’ scenarios and the award sub-heading.” This story won the 18 to 35 age category and the Imagine a Future/Climate Change themed prize, and tied for the main prize in the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize 2020 Challenge.
ABOUT the author: Antiguan writer with a passion for reading and the literary arts…also fond of chess and hiking. Warner is one of five 2018 Wadadli Pen honourable mentions.
ABOUT prizes won:
Each winner is also set to receive a certificate, a selection of books from The Best of Books Bookstore and cultural items from the Cultural Development Division – Antigua and Barbuda.
Prizes – Patrons:
Winner ‘Imagine a Future’ Climate Change Theme –
EC$500 – Juneth Webson (businesswoman and writer – Milo’s First Winter)
Main Prize Winner (tied) –
EC$500 – Frank B. Armstrong; free eye exam – Paradise Vision Center; US$250 worth of books – Sean Lyons; journal – Just Write journal by Brenda Lee Browne (Just Write); name emblazoned on The Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Alstyne Allen Memorial Challenge plaque – The Best of Books
For the full breakdown of ‘who won what’, if not linked, use the site’s search feature.
ABOUT Wadadli Pen: The Wadadli Youth Pen Prize launched in 2004 with a writing Challenge that continues 16 years later. It is Wadadli Pen’s pilot project, in keeping with its mandate to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda, encouraging writers (and visual artists) in Antigua and Barbuda (35 years and younger) to create a piece on any topic, within a Caribbean aesthetic. In 2020, there was also an Imagine a Future climate change challenge. To support the work of Wadadli Pen, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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