Holiday is a #Shortstory I've decided to do for the sake of Xmas. #Christmas in the year 2100, as an elderly woman rides a superfast train to see her only remaining family- a reflection on the desolation of the world she's grown old with, and a reflection on the regrets her own decisions have made for her.
Zara blinked her weary eyes open. She could see the shining crags of the Rockies and the fresh green of trees below.
"Two hours by Crossway." Zara told herself. "I'm too old for this."
Christmas. She rode the Crossway so she could spend Christmas with her only living family. Her brother. She hadn't seen him since the year prior. The only reason for me to leave home.
My eye gazed through the transparent wall of the Crossway. The faster-than-a-bullet train kept throttling toward Helena. We were passing over Glacier National Park. What used to be Glacier National Park. There were no glaciers down there. The grey and burnt pines looked lonely below the Crossway.
The wildfire. Zara thought. I remember worrying about it burning across Montana. Everything looks so desolate.
Zara had visited Glacier back as a child. That had been such a long time ago. She ignored the automated voices announcing facts about Glacier. They would stop there for a few minutes before continuing onward to Helena.
She'd know it couldn't have touched Helena. Zara mourned the loss of another large chunk of Montana's wild beauty. It felt her childhood had burned. Those precious few moments of early aughts and teens, back when everything felt gigantic. The magic burned along away with the ashes in her reflection.
Zara could see her own reflection in the glass of the Crossway. The superfast rail flowed above the ground. Zara roughly understood that the Crossway used superconductors and a vacuum tube. It accelerated faster than car or train travel. No one drove by car anymore.
Desolation. The landscape through the glass mirrored her reflection. White hairs and wrinkled, freckled cheeks. Old scars on one cheek from being overseas so long ago. Zara winced at her own image. She couldn't afford the youth-restoring anti-geriatrics she'd seen others use. Every bit of her eight-five years seemed to appear in each shadow in the burnt trees of Glacier.
"Christmas without Snow." Zara said aloud. She wished a bit for the cold wet snow she remembered from her youth. When winters weren't just wet, but white. Her worst Christmases always were the ones that weren't white.
Snow. Zara closed her eyes, trying to remember what this might've looked like with snow, not ashes. Ashes. All her eight-five years, it always had been ashes never snow.
"It's Christmas." Zara had told Paul. "Don't you want to have a little snow?"
The young man smiled at her. The warm tropical, salty air had made his hair look like a tangled mess. "Z, only you would come to indonesia looking for snow."
"Hey." Zara shoved him over playfully as she grabbed another bag to unload. "I know what I signed up for. It's Christmas, Paul."
"You miss the snow then?" Paul asked.
"You're a Portland kid." Zara said, pushing the young red hairs out of her eyes. "You're used to rain. I grew up with snow in December. Seems unfair to be out here with so little. I mean, I know it's silly, but wouldn't a bit of snow at least make it feel better?"
Paul grimaced. "I know. This isn't enough."
"They don't need more food, Paul. Or even snow." Zara sighed. "A little snow, I guess. Just a bit of a sign the whole world hasn't forgotten charity and goodwill you know?"
Paul put her arms around her. "I know. Just like those white Christmases we used to know, huh?"
"Rich folks get those." Zara murmured. "Seawalls too. They get to keep their homes while the rest drown."
Zara's eyes flickered open. Her phone vibrated in her coat pocket. Others on the Crossway didn't even notice her. Of course they didn't.
No one under the age of fifty was around her. Not that Zara could tell the difference. They'd all adopted Tele. The constant stream of data coming from an implant. All the younger people around her looked catatonic. Like zombies.
But maybe that was how her parents felt about smartphones when she was a little girl.
"Uh... hello?" Zara asked.
"Hi. Is this Missus Gates?"
"Miss." Zara corrected.
Zara held back a sigh. "This is Zara Gates. I'm not married. It's 'miss'."
"Oh." There was a confused pause before the younger man's voice continued. "Well, the automated system wasn't able to reach you in the night, so it alerted me to call you..."
"Okay." Zara waited. Then after a moment, frustrated, Zara asked. "About what?"
"Oh, right. Sorry, uh, Miss... Gates... This is Paradise Suites in Helena Montana? Your brother had been a resident of ours." The younger man coughed. "Something happened in the night."
No. Zara thought. Oh nonononono.