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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics


Monday, April 6, 2015

The Dusty Many and the Splashing Few: A Science Fiction Story

Joanna woke up, and noticed that dust had got inside her bedroom.

Bill, how many times I gotta tell you,” complained Joanna. “You can't leave the window open at night. Too much dust gets inside.”

Sorry,” mumbled Bill. The couple got up, dressed, and had breakfast.

So who's gonna get the water today – you or me?” asked Joanna.

I'll do it,” said Bill. Bill and Joanna's apartment had a nice bathtub, and a nice kitchen sink. But there was no running water. After years of the long drought, their local municipal government in California had stopped providing running water to average citizens in the year 2052. Global warming was making the drought much worse.

So there was only one way for Bill to get water: he had to go to a local store, buy a 5-gallon jug, and carry it home. The water ran out pretty quickly, as it had to be used to flush the toilet. So Bill and Joanna didn't take showers very often.

Bill was halfway out the door when Joanna had a reminder.

Bill, you forget something?” she asked.

I got the cash,” said Bill.

No, silly,” said Joanna. “I mean your dust mask.”

Oh, yeah,” said Bill, grabbing the mask. He started out the door again.

You still forgot something,” said Joanna. “Your goggles. You wanna get dust in your eyes?”

Oh yeah,” said Bill, grabbing the goggles.

As he walked to the store, Bill wished that he had a car so he wouldn't have to lug the big water bottles back from the store. He once had an old used car, but he had sold it after he got tired of the chore of having to brush off the dust from the windows each morning. At least I have a good pair of goggles and a good dust mask, thought Bill; pity the poor people who walk around in this swirling dust without protection.


The water line at the store was too long, causing Bill to curse. He finally got his 5-gallon jug of water, paying 50 dollars. A large fraction of Bill and Joanna's income went just to pay for water.

Bill headed back home. But on the way back, he had a cruel surprise. A man approached him, and pulled out a knife.

Your water or your life,” the man with the knife said. Bill handed over the water bottle. He sadly walked home, and opened the door.

Take off your clothes, you're all dusty,” said Joanna. “Where's the water?”

I got robbed again,” said Bill. “Water muggers.”

What are we gonna do now?” asked Joanna. “We don't get paid until Friday. We got no more money for water.”

Don't worry, I'll take care of it,” said Bill. It was time for desperate measures. Bill looked in his closet, and got out a crowbar.

Bill then searched the streets for a car where no one was nearby. He used the crowbar to pry open the hood. He yanked out the water bottle that stored water used to clean the windshield. He tasted the water.

Argggh,” said Bill, spitting out the water. “Too much soap.”

Finally, after breaking open the hoods of six different cars, and looting the water supplies of three of the cars, Bill was able to collect enough water for him and his wife to drink for the rest of the day.

Elsewhere in the city, Caldwell and Bethany were having no water problems at all. They lived in a luxurious mansion surrounded by green lawns watered every day by sprinklers. In the back of the mansion was a large fountain that ran all day long. Their home had not just running water, but two large swimming pools – an indoor pool and an outdoor pool. Robots with water sprayers kept the dust off their gleaming home.

Caldwell was splashing with his friends in his huge outdoor pool filled with clean water. One of his friends had a question.

How can you have all this water with the long drought going on?” asked the friend. “What about all those rules restricting water use?”

Water rules are for poor people,” said Caldwell. “I paid for my 'rule exemption' fair and square.”

Do you think some day we should invite some poor people to come swim here?” asked Bethany. “Just for show, of course. It would make a good social media post, showing our generosity.”

Certainly not,” sneered Caldwell with snobbish disdain. “We don't want to dirty the pool. Do you know how smelly and dirty and dusty those poor people are these days?”

Yes, I know how those type of people are,” said Bethany vacantly. “Why can't they be civilized and take baths every day to wash off the dust-- or at least go swimming in the swimming pools in their homes?”