The weathermen in this future society generate weather conditions that are beneficial for them, but at the same time are devastating for their neighbours, the sandtowners.
After I'd been working as a weatherman for a few weeks, Marly went into labour*. Of course she didn't feel it, because of her meds, but she knew when her water broke, and a message came up on my screen at work. I'd just learned, theoretically, how to create a storm. Thunder, lightning, humidity. Kish had shown me the panels* on the computer that I had to open.Then he had taken me right to the ground floor, and stood me next to the wide tube that went up so high it went through the roof. All the time I had thought the huge floor space under the mezzanines* was empty, but that day I learned differently. There was a special generator for the lightning that was so powerful it was kept underground, below a trapdoor*.The lightning was conducted through the tube. Kish had warned me that the generator could throw out so much power there was a risk of electrocution* in the under room. And for that reason I was never to go there alone, and he wasn't even going to show me under the floor until we needed to go there. But, Kish said, we wouldn't do many storms in any case. Storms were a problem because they devastated the sandtowns so much. They took great care when they created a storm not to cause too much damage elsewhere, and on our mezzanine Kish had to endorse* them personally.
`So why create them at all? I asked, resting against the control panel. 'If they're so damaging?'
Kish was sipping some wheat tea, and frowned, looking into his mug. `It's not a why. It's just a sometimes. Sometimes we have to.' He paused, and looked at me. `It's not an answer, I'm afraid, but it will have to do. Storms are devastating, so we are careful with them. That's all you need to know.'
`But isn't that a problem with all of the weather we create? That is has to devastate somewhere, while we profit?'
Kish cleared his throat, no longer looking at me. `What, exactly, are you asking me?'
Kish and I worked together, but in that pairing, alone. He was a softly spoken man with rashes* on the back of his hairy hands. His face was small and gentle, almost like a bear cub. In that moment I wanted to put my arms around him and tell him I was sorry, but if I did that I knew I would never ask, and I had to, because even then I was afraid, afraid that I couldn't do what I had wanted to all my life, and I needed to hear it.
`I just ... Please don't think I am trying to make any criminal statements, but surely whatever weather we make has bad effects for other states? The sandtowns?'
Kish put on a smile and I knew it wasn't real because he sucked his teeth as he did so. `You are very close to making a criminal statement, whether you wish to or not.' He pulled his coat tighter around him. 'See these gold lapels*?'
`I didn't get them by chance. It's because I understand the full implications of everything we do here. I have studied for a very long time, and even I will never get to work on the upper mezzanine. Still, I know a great deal about this — more than you. You know that we control the weather here because if we didn't, we would starve, just like so many in the sandtowns have done. It wasn't a choice any of us made: we control the weather because we have to, else we'd have no food, no chance of survival. I pity the sandtowners, of course, but my loyalty lies with Green people, as should yours, as a Green person. Which is worse: if we all die, or if only some of us die?
It was an old, specious type of argument, the sort that Marly hated. And yet I was starting to see his point. The weathermen were the only reason Green people survived, and I knew that, felt it in my fingers, shivering in my stomach. It was the only way: I both knew it and believed it. And then Marly's message flashed on the screen.
`Go to your wife,' said Kish, `And remember what I said. What would become of your family if we couldn't be weathermen? Your child? What would become of any of us?'
I nodded and ran down the metal stairs so fast I could barely breathe.
Source: Beacons - Stories for our not so Distant Future, OneWorld Publications, London 2013, pp. 133-135
* labour - Geburtswehen
* panels - Schalttafeln
* mezzanine - Zwischenetage
* trapdoor - Falltür
* electrocution - Stromtod
* to endorse - bestätigen
* rashes - Hautausschlag
* lapel - Kragenspiegel, - abzeichen
1. Referring to above dialogue, what do Kish and the first-person character do?
2. There seems to be a certain hierarchy in their job. What conclusion can you draw as to the atmosphere among the staff?
3. Why is the attitude of the two main characters towards their job different?
4. Societies living at the costs of other societies doesn't seem to be so unreal. Can you think of another example which would endorse this assumption?
5. Would you like to live in such a society as described in this expert from a short story? Substantiate your opinion.