tHe WeST manIFeSt
Terrestrial beasts of gargantuan bearing roamed the planet’s valleys consuming both vegetation and one another. The seas were filled with vertebrates, billions of rainbow-hued fish swimming in perfect sonance, each scale reflecting the light that descended from the heavens. Today, the sun wouldn’t give life, but take it. Volcanic fumes melted every cloud, diminishing Earth’s ozone blanket until the sun’s violet rays suffused lightning beams of destruction across the briny water’s surface. Toxic algae bloomed, poisoning the ocean’s fin-clad inhabitants and suffocating the great reptilian monstrosities whose roars once reverberated across the Earth’s surface. In the ice age that followed, the souls of the beasts would be forever entombed in arid earth and polar ice cap — never to be awakened again.
Year ‘1995 — plaquemines, new orleans, louisiana
It was instantaneous. The thick striped pelt, violated by the arrows’s carbon edge was now stained in rouge, a thin stream of the raccoon’s blood melding with the forest floor.
Jordyn shrieked — this had been her first kill, and it was just in time. She dropped the bow and started off towards the carcass, the leafen detritus shifting at her boots’ every step. Jordyn was yanked back, her father’s hand on her hooded jacket and the wind knocked out of her chest. Turning around to look him in the face, she heard it. The resounding feline growl echoing between the trunks as the creature trotted towards the carcass, Jordyn’s carcass.
“One round, all it’ll take, stay low.”
Words left his mouth but Jordyn only saw him straighten the barrel of his shotgun, preparing to shoot at the creature. One hand on the barrel and a finger on the trigger. The patina of the barrel’s lacquered mahogany was a mark of times past, a piece given to Jordyn’s father by his — the most proximate family heirloom that they’d had. The initials W.L were engraved on the butt of the gun, for Winfred Langmore and the eponymous men who came before him. As his shoes dug further into the moistened soil, his musculature tensed, a pad of sweat forming on his unfurled brow. His mouth agape and tongue escaping it, he sensed the direction of the bayou winds. Jordyn’s hand landed on his shoulder as he cocked the trigger, the enormous sound deafening them both as the bullet struck a Spanish moss. He’d missed it, but the puma was frighted. It exploded westward in a burst of instinctual energy, leaving the raccoon’s lifeless body behind.
“You didn’t have to do tha — ”
Jordyn’s jaw was met with the back of her father’s roughen hand, a painful reminder that he never just said the words ‘shut-up’. She was used to this,
“They only eat live prey.”
“Then you’d sure’ve been on the menu. We could’ve eaten cat and ‘coon. Now stop back talking me girl. Grab your shit.”
Tonight would be Jordyn’s inaugural dinner. As the eldest of her father’s three children (that she knew of), Jordyn was the first to hit sixteen. The legendary “Langmore feastin’ jaunt” had been her birthday’s privilege. Although one raccoon wasn’t much of a feast when there were four mouths to feed. This is how they’d always lived. Ends and odds of bayou delicacies, plenty of Louisiana moonshine, and gas that spent more time off than it did on. That’s what it’s like when your dad can only find odd jobs. Ten years earlier, when Jordyn was six, he’d been accused of the manslaughter of her mother. Of course he hadn’t killed her, but they only found that out halfway through his sixth year in the penitentiary. Mom had OD’d under highway twenty-three, they found her body in the river beneath Belle Chasse bridge. She’d always sold smack to support her family, but nobody knew she’d started using. Her death destroyed Jordyn’s dad, turned him into an alcoholic. He’d been a union man, but the whiskey lost him his job at the plant. It didn’t help when he showed up to the hearing hammered, his testimony obscured by boozy breaths that drifted right towards the jury. They probably thought they were helping the kids, you know, their crackhead mom’d just died and who’d want three sweet children living with an alcoholic. Well, foster care changes a child, and it’ll damn sure change three, especially when siblings are split up. Bad things happened, but Jordyn was just glad that they were together again. Between chewy pieces of boiled ‘coon étouffée, Jordyn’s dad praised her. The man was a dick, but he loved his kids and they didn’t blame him for it. He’d made it his mission to do right in his last year of prison. He sent letters to the kids in hopes that a judge would grant custody, unlikely at the time considering that to the state of Louisiana, Winfred Langmore was a killer. When news came out Win hadn’t killed his wife, the state freed him. He won a little money in a wrongful conviction settlement, but the greedy attorney took more than his fair share. Win’d earmarked the funds to pay for the kids’ schooling, and when the state finally gave him custody rights, he had a chance to use it. The only other thing he did was repurchase their childhood home and move the kids into it. Noone’d call it impressive, but it was theirs. The tiny home, which they very jokingly called the Bayou Biltmore, was perfect for the Langmores. They sat in the tiny kitchen now, as happy as they’d ever been…
year ’05 — plaquemines, new orleans, louisiana
Lead’s metallic ricochet yanked her from her slumber. Her lean-to had succumbed in the night, encumbered by salt ridden rain waters and deciduous debris. It was week three, after Katrina’s descent had splattered decimation over the creole lands of Louisiana’s southernmost shores. Jordyn jolted to action, the now familiar concussion of automatic fire her de facto alarm clock. She grabbed her shotgun and darted towards the back of a warehouse, the initials W.L could be seen on the end of the weapon, marled in grime and grief. The buttstock of her weapon came down on the rusted iron padlock, the creaky doors swinging open as Jordyn scurried inside. As the door open, a sign nearly fell from the ceiling, its suspending metal cables faltering until the sign lay at eye level. The façade read ‘Am-Co’ — the name of a dilapidated factory that used to manufacture diesel motors. Jordyn wouldn’t be plundered, she’d already lost her two younger siblings and childhood home, the unrivaled hurricane striking while her father was away. They’d never been warned of the storm, the family’s home absent of cable TV and internet connection. Jordyn’d taken a few days off from her job to watch her siblings while their father hitched upstate to find work. They hadn’t left the abode in the three days before the storm hit. The storm awoke them in the night, the concrete trunk of a twenty-foot mangrove obliterating their two-room swamp home. Jordyn had grabbed the shotgun from the foot of her bed and began hacking herself out of the destruction, the sight of her slain siblings causing her soul to scream and body to convulse. Now, she was here, shivering in the corner of the damp warehouse, subsisting on all sorts of swamp rations — roots that floated by and the limbs of dead bullfrogs, all things she’d eaten before when her family fell on hard times. Jordyn slept again, her worries ever so slightly assuaged by the rumor that the government was coming to help.
year ’18 — united nations headquarters, manhattan
“It’s a fallacy, a hoax — ” he pontificated, the labyrinth of his hay stained hair releasing the acrid smell of hairspray, assaulting those behind him. “…our confederate brethren have been driving gasoline cars and consuming glorious red- blooded ribeyes for generations. We are withdrawing from the Geneva Green Agreement effective immediately.” After a momentous soundlessness, sighs erupted from the crowd. There were no four worded, octosyllabic epithets spewed from the slobbering mouths of redhats — there was only massive dissent, fear, and the realization that the leader of the free world had just condemned the planet to death. World leaders and scientists filed out of the consulate, their warm breath releasing clouds of steamed exasperation as it met the abnormally bone-chilling mid June air.
“Cab!” — “Yes, to LaGuardia…I’m on my way to the Netherlands — Amsterdam…Jordyn Langmore — I’m a United Nations climate scientist…yes, I did see him speak….No sir, I don’t think he should bring coal back either.”
Jordyn traversed aisles of vomit stained seats and overstuffed overhead bins, finding her way to 24C, the one next to the window. The drought of her sandstone blouse was drowned in a river of tears at the end of the seven hour flight. All of Jordyn’s work had been for naught — thirteen years after her entire life had been obliviated by Hurricane Katrina.
year ’05 — plaquemines, new orleans, louisiana
It was six months post Katrina. FEMA’s aid was long gone, and so was any notion of caring from the American populace. On the site where Jordyn’s house once stood, now sat a fifty foot steel shipping container that used to be filled with ready meals and water bottles. Cobalt blue graffiti adorned the sides, most notable among them a caricature of George Bush being blown away in a cyclone. The town wasn’t desolate, in fact, it was overrun by spirits, husks of those who once inhabited the New Orleans waterfront. These spirits weren’t ethereal of course, they took the form of quadriplegics and crackheads, skeptics and quasi-psychotics — people who’d been robbed of their existences by mother nature and then stabbed in the back by the man. The streets were littered with voodoo dolls and dirty needles, starving mothers had to stop their children from picking up the mysterious metal spoons that were burnt black on their bottoms. Temp shelters were over capacity and disease ran rampant through the streets. The stench of rot and feces stirred an odiferous wind that suffocated those who dared inhale. Feral hounds found free reign in the filthy roadways, their ferocious blood blotted teeth feeding gratuitously on castaway carrion and rabies-ridden rats. Jordyn had fled Nola months ago — vowing never to return after clean up crews couldn’t find a trace of her younger siblings’ bodies. She and her father weren’t on speaking terms, the old man blaming her for the deaths of his children and she then blaming him for being an arrogant asshat. She’d returned to her job as an environmental analyst at the UN, with a darkly reinvigorated passion for studying weather patterns and climate events.
year ’30 — somewhere in the mojave, california, united states
The train was a long one, cars carried fertilizer from Fremont and pomegranates from Palermo. The last of the cars were brim-filled with fuel, the Paleozoic lifeblood of America’s still largest industry. The sheer silver surface of the locomotive bounced blistering radiation across the cracked surface of the desert. The corroded steel tracks spewed a fever pitch of sparks as the thousand-ton behemoth rounded a screeching corner. A withered wisp of tumbleweed blew by and was ignited by the sparks, rolling into an inferno as it landed in the nearby brush. Smoke erupted from the desert mountainside, billows of black tar enveloping the landscape and train track alike. That was all it took. The cars blew like dominoes, each one combusting after the next as a firestorm of Mojave mushroom clouds dominated the desert skyscape. Such a heat was created that the maroon skinned fruits burst like popcorn seeds, the juicy arils of their insides evaporating in the charcoal flames of pithy rainlessness. The barren surface of the wasteland was blackened as the fire surged forth, spreading westward as pacific winds rolled in from the hillside. The site of the blaze’s inception sat a mere twenty miles from California’s second largest forest — a nearly million acre sea of cedars and knobcone pines. The forest ran like a vein up California’s coast, lying blissfully heedless in its kindling. It grew adjacent to many other forests and bordered wine country on its northern tip. If a tree burns in the forest, and not a soul is around to see it, can you still smell the smoke? Coniferous hardwoods of untold age exacted valiant resistance against the raging wildfire, the thick bark of some ancient sequoias only burning after hours under the flames. Mammalian creatures of untold origin awoke from their repose, galloping on hooven foot and clawed paw as the hellish destruction singed their fur coats. As the last glint of light plummeted from the forest canopy, the day turned to night. Obsidian soot filled the noontime skies, and every object was obfuscated by the complete dearth of illumination. The muffled whir of ‘copter blades above signaled the presence of fire authorities, but it was too late. This fire was unlike any that humanity had ever seen before.
The west coast’s atmosphere was drained of its oxygen, the perpetual kiln of the ever-spreading wildfire absorbing every drop of life’s most obligate gas. Evacuations began by the millions, the government repurposing migrant labor facilities that had been used just years earlier to detain immigrant children. Thousands fled the country, distant nations opening their borders to the refugees. A report lead twelve years prior by UN climate scientist Dr. Jordyn Langmore stated that without ‘urgent and unprecedented action,’ the planet would see ‘catastrophic and irreversible’ effects by the year 1030. After a widespread scandal following the US’s withdrawal from the Geneva Green Agreement, Dr. Langmore was presumed to be assassinated after she never returned to the US from Amsterdam. The fervent heat of the smoke annihilated all precipitation before it could plunge to Earth’s surface. Clouds proceeded east and began overfilling the Atlantic ocean. Entire islands disappeared overnight and millions died as the east coast of the US flooded. Nations began starving as the ocean’s desalination culled all of the fish. Billions sat in direful anticipation as satellite images revealed that three quarters of the north American continent now more closely resembled the surface of Mars than that of the Earth they’d known. There had been a small colony on Elara, Jupiter’s eighth largest moon, for about five years. The downing of the seaborne telecommunication lines ensured that only the most elite would have the chance to escape. The torrential shift of water from the pacific to the Atlantic plate caused a tectonic disruption so massive that a fifteen-point-o earthquake fissured North America into two separate continents. The fault line was drawn from Toronto to Baton Rouge, the world’s new largest river now dividing the virgin continents as rain and ocean waters converged upon the leviathan basin. The firestorm would only be extinguished by a hurricane with post gale force winds so turbulent that they slowed the planet’s rotation. The westernmost continent that consisted of most of what was formerly called North America was drenched in trillions of gallons of water. The hurricane’s diameter exceeded the distance from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok Russia. It shredded mountain ranges into oblivion and drilled dangerously close to the Earth’s core. Global leaders called it Hurricane Jordyn, coincidental in the fact that the only place in ‘North America’ that the storm didn’t touch was New Orleans, Louisiana, Jordyn’s former hometown. From the depths of untold swelter had erupted a storm so cataclysmic that it destroyed everything in its path — until no distinction could be made between the primitive and the contemporary. The Earth had been reborn, in her fruitless quest to evade environmental distress, she had been rid of most incurable affliction, humanity itself.