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SustainabilityCreative

We Can Try

It was one of those lazy weekend, mid-winter mornings, when all you feel like doing is lying in bed with a warm cup of coffee, comfort being the only thing you feel. Evan Pierce didn’t have to go into work until later in the day, so that was exactly what he did — lie in bed with his beautiful wife until 10 o’clock, when their daughter greeted them with breakfast in bed.

“Mmm,” he said, letting Elora leave his embrace so that she could greet the young adult. “This looks amazing, Adira!”

Adira simply grinned, letting her parents shift up in bed so that she could hand them the food.  Evan could feel his mouth water at the sight of it.

A stack of pancakes stood proudly on a plate in the breakfast tray, surrounded by various fresh fruits and topped with a small square of melting butter. A thin line of Elora’s favourite syrup was making its way around the fluffy cakes, dripping off the side as it reflected a light brown colour, courtesy of the winter sun glaring through the open curtains.

“I’m heading out early today,” Adira told her parents after they relieved her of the tray. “Work awaits.”

Evan sat silently as his wife and daughter exchanged a few words, and he watched as she left the room, pure joy and admiration written all over his face.

Adira truly made him proud. She’d become a strong, self-advocating person and an excellent lawyer. Although he was proud, he would change one small thing if he could.

She had always been completely fascinated by the world and its wonders. From a young age, she’d been a powerful girl who fought for the safety of the environment around her. She grew to become an environmental lawyer, passionately engaging in the battle against climate issues, which was exactly what she’d always wanted. This was in contrast to Evan’s style, to his line of work. While his daughter was involved in law, he was deep into the world of business as a shareholder of a major car company.

Evan had a different take than Adira did on his and her work.

He believed that climate change was ridiculous, a fabricated new topic the world had come up with due to boredom. Was it possible, in his opinion, that all of this “end of the world” and “global warming” hogwash could be real? Of course! Evan just couldn’t help but think that if all of this were to happen, then it would. What was humanity compared to the natural forces at work? Every step that humans took towards reversing climate change was just an effort in vain. It wasn’t going to make a difference anyway.

That was why he hated the subject matter from the very bottom of his heart, and the sole reason he didn’t want his daughter pursuing this field within law. The only thing that was stopping him from blocking her path was the fact that environmental law made Elora happy. And as long as she was happy, he could be happy too.

So Evan kept his mouth shut, and enjoyed his heavenly breakfast in bed with his wife.

——

“…Meanwhile, the newest IPCC reports have been released, the results being far from what we needed. Scientists are predicting that we are almost out of time, and it will take pure luck to reverse our current situation climate-wise. The report clearly states that humanity is the main driver of th—”

“Elora, shut that off, will you?”

It was nearing six in the evening, and darkness had cascaded over their home. Elora sat in the dark living room, lights still off, with a bowl of popcorn in her lap and the television playing the day’s news. She had always watched the news as though it was a suspense thriller, engrossed in every single scene and barely tearing her eyes away from the screen for even a moment. To say it irritated Evan was an understatement. He constantly wondered how she could sit there and never have that nagging feeling of dread incessantly crossing her path as most people did.

Evan had hardly stepped into the house, back from work, before he heard the reporter’s voice echoing through the halls.

Elora turned the TV off before making her way over to greet him, buttery popcorn still in her arms. “Back so soon?” she asked sweetly, angling her face so that her husband could plant a soft kiss on her cheek.

“Mm,” he replied. “Don’t sound so disappointed.”

She chuckled, following him inside so that he could go and take his usual shower after a day at work. Since he was smiling, Elora could tell that Evan had had a good day, and that made her grin from ear to ear.

The evening went by rather quickly. After Evan returned from his shower, the two of them whipped up a Kraft dinner; neither of them wanted a very large supper that night. Adira had called them not long before to let her parents know that she’d be home late, so Evan and Elora simply sat there with their supper, enjoying each other’s company. At nine, they switched the TV on again, in the mood to watch Star Wars for the hundredth time. 

Adira returned near 11 that night. Both Evan and Elora were used to her returning at odd-ish hours, especially because Evan knew the unusual work timings of a lawyer, and that was why neither of them felt the need to ask her where she’d been all evening. Plus, she was an adult. But when the two of them heard a loud slam come from the upper floor, where the young woman had disappeared into her bedroom without greeting her parents, they shared a glance.

“Go check on her,” whispered Elora.

Evan nodded before slipping off the couch. Frowning, he raised a hesitant fist to knock gently on her door.

“Adira, honey?” he called gently. “Is everything okay?”

He waited. There was no reply.

“Can you open the door, kiddo?” he tried again.

Silence was his reply, until he heard small footsteps gracing the floor quietly. Not a moment later, the door opened to his daughter. His heart wilted slightly at the sight of her.

Her dark brown hair was a ragged mess, and her eyes, which were exactly like her mother’s, were sunken with gloom. She looked as though she’d gone through hell and back.

“Hey,” Evan said, putting his hands on her shoulders and applying marginal pressure in an attempt to soothe her. “Hey, what happened?”

“Nothing, Dad.” She sighed. “I’m just tired.”

“We do not fib to each other in this family, Adira Pierce,” Evan joked, doing his best to sound like he had that one time he’d lectured Adira when she’d been eight years old about lying to her parents. The two always laughed back on it whenever it was brought up, but today, his daughter didn’t crack a smile.

“I’m gonna sleep now,” she told him shortly. “Goodnight.”

“Wait, Adira.”

She raised an eyebrow, and for now, he excused her slight rudeness.

“You want to tell me why you look so sad?”

“No. No, not really.”

“Honey, what—”

“Can you stop?” she snapped. Evan’s lips parted in surprise. “Please, just stop. I don’t want to talk to you tonight.”

Evan knew that the best option at that moment was to just leave, but he felt hurt. Everything had been dandy that morning, so what had changed? “What? What did I do?”

She sighed again in exasperation. “Do you really want to do this right now?”

“Yes,” he said, firm but still gentle.

“You want to know what’s wrong?” she scoffed, a sarcastic chuckle making its way out of her mouth. “I don’t get why you can’t just support my dreams. Why is it that you’re against everything that I want to do?”

He shook his head, lost. “What are you talking about?”

Adira laughed again, the sound piercing his heart like glass. “Ever since I was little, the only thing I wanted to do was protect our environment, protect the world. You didn’t like that.”

“But—”

“I’m not finished,” she interrupted. “I wanted to get a tattoo the moment I turned 18. What did you say again?”

Evan opened his mouth to reply, but she cut him off once more.

“Oh yeah. ‘Wait until you’re older.’”

“I didn’t want you to regret it,” he told her softly.

“That was none of your business. In university, I wanted to live on-campus. You told me no. When I graduated and got a job, I begged you to let me move out. It was no again. Okay. That was fine. What about now? I’m trying to move forward, get better at my career, make a difference, and for some reason you’re still trying to stop me.”

“You don’t understand—”

“No, Dad,” Adira barked. Evan flinched. He’d never seen her like this before. “You don’t understand. The world is changing. Global warming is a thing. Humans are dying, and people like you still stupidly believe that all of this isn’t a thing. Look around, Dad! We don’t have time. We’re going to die, and it’s all your f—”

He’d had enough now. “Young lady, you’re going too far. These baseless accusations need to stop.”

“Baseless accusations? You’re the one that said you wanted to do this now!” She shouted.

Evan was shaking his head, turning around slowly and backing out of her room. “Goodnight Adira.”

She didn’t reply, but he didn’t need to hear it. When he returned to the living room, Elora sat there, waiting.

“I heard everything,”  she murmured, opening her arms so that he could lie in her lap. “Do you want to…”

“No,” he whispered in response. 

Elora simply nodded, letting her fingers slide into his ebony hair, playing with the strands. “We should sleep.”

“Yeah.”

Moments later, Evan laid in bed, Elora sound asleep right next to him. He didn’t drift off to dream world for another hour, and when he finally did, he had no idea what to think of it.

——

 Evan stood on a beach not far from his home, the mid-summer sun kissing his face, and his bare feet were dug deep into the sand. The waves glowed a light blue, the pink sky reflecting in the water. He was alone. Weird. He never went to the beach alone.

He didn’t remember getting here. In fact, he didn’t remember this beach being here.

Dazed, he slipped his hands into the pockets of his dusty brown khaki shorts looking for his phone, and when he found it, he quickly found his wife’s contact. As he hovered over the call button, a sudden voice came from beside him.

“Don’t bother.”

His phone almost fell out of his hand. A young man, maybe in his late 20s, was sitting on the sand beside him. His sandy hair was ruffled as he gazed into the distance, admiring the view in front of him.

“Sorry?” said Evan.

“She won’t pick up,” the mysterious man told him.

“I don’t mean to be rude. Do I know you?”

He chuckled, and his pearly white teeth and tinkling laughter irritated Evan. This didn’t seem like the time to be laughing. “No,” he replied. “You don’t know me. But I know you.”

Evan stared at him.

“Sit.” The man patted the sand beside him.

He didn’t know why, but Evan obeyed. “Who are you?”

“Nobody,” there was a twinkle in his eye. “You can call me Gray, though.”

“O… Okay,” muttered Evan. “Why wouldn’t she pick up?”

“Because you argued.”

“When?” demanded Evan. “What? Why? How do you know?”

Gray didn’t seem rushed in the least, despite Evan’s growing agitation. “I told you. I know you.”

This wasn’t helping. Evan groaned internally, getting up again. “Where are we?”

Gray stood too, shaking his head. “The question isn’t ‘where.’ It’s when.”

Evan’s breath caught in his throat, the air rattling his lungs in a way that he’d never experienced before. Just as he opened his mouth to say something, he burst into a fit of coughs.

“Well,” smiled Gray. “That was rather anticlimactic.” He waited until Evan’s coughing ceased, and put his hand on the older man’s shoulder. “Evan Pierce,” he said dramatically, “welcome to your future.”

Evan wanted to leave. He had to admit, if this was the future, it was beautiful. And it felt real, but it didn’t feel right. It was as though this impending doom was upon the Earth, and it was only a matter of time before he was going to be blasted off the face of it.

It made him rather uncomfortable.

He was confused again, as he seemed to have been all night, but when he’d tried to ask Gray another one of his unending questions, the man disappeared. It was beyond nerve-racking. Now here he was, hiking his way up to his home in search of his wife, all the while cursing Gray under his breath.

When he finally made it home and rang the doorbell, it didn’t take long for Elora to answer the door. He sighed in relief as he caught sight of her, a smile making its way across his face.

“Honey,” he said, moving in for a hug. “What is going on? I just met a random dude on the beach, he says I’m in the future, and I think he was on some sort of—”

“What are you doing here?”

Evan froze. He looked up at her and really stared at her. That’s when he noticed differences. Her long brown hair had been replaced with greying strands. She looked older. Her eyes seemed tired, but they still had crinkles around them, just like they always had. He loved the way they took shape whenever she smiled — but she wasn’t smiling now.

Instead, she was frowning. Almost as if she were angry. Angry at him.

“What do you mean, ‘what are you doing here?’” he asked incredulously. “I live here?”

“You used to,” she corrected. “You left four years ago, remember?”

“No, I—” And then it clicked. 

“Welcome to your future,” Gray had said.

“Oh my gods, he was telling the truth,” he whispered aloud, to which Elora frowned.

“Wh—”

“Where’s Adira?”

Elora stared at him, her frown frozen in place. Then her eyebrows raised. “Is this some kind of sick joke?”

“No,” said Evan slowly. “No. Look, Elora, you have to listen to me.” He tried moving to put his hands on her shoulders, but she shrugged him off.

“Get out of here,” she warned. “I will call the police.”

With that look in her eye, he had no doubt that she would. But he had to try. “No, Elora, please, you have to listen to me, okay? Something is happe—”

“I don’t have to listen to anything you say,” she snapped at him using a tone she’d never used on him before. “Get out of here.”

And Evan had no choice but to leave.

“Believe me now?” asked a now familiar voice as he walked away. 

“Gray!”

Gray shrugged, leaving Evan a little ways behind him to process the fact that he had just materialized out of thin air. “I told you you argued. Should’ve listened to me, eh?”

“Why am I here?” Evan pestered. “Let me go home.”

“No can do,” replied Gray. “See, you’re my assignment. I’m just here to make you understand whatever forces up there want you to understand,” he told him, gesturing up at the sky.

He had no idea what Gray was talking about. “And what do ‘they’ want me to understand?”

“That you are not special. And that what you believe is not always right.”

“No offence, but I don’t really care. I’d just like to get home.”

“See, this is exactly why you’re here.” Gray rolled his eyes, leading him across the street. “You need to learn not to be so uptight. Relax, enjoy the air—”

And just then, Evan burst into another fit of coughs. Gray sighed.

“In 2041,” he began, “air quality got worse thanks to your factories and air pollution. Literally every terrible thing that could’ve happened did happen. Millions of people died—”

“What does this have to do with me?” asked Evan.

“Patience,” snapped Gray. “About three years later, your daughter, Adira, developed a rare lung disease.”

Evan stopped in his tracks. “What?”

“She died in 2046. Elora left you not long after that.”

“No,” whispered Evan. “No, that doesn’t make any sense.”

“Doesn’t it?” Gray was glancing at his nails, coming off as totally unbothered while he broke the worst news possible to his new assignment. No remorse or sympathy radiated off of him. “Anyways, you’ve been living with your sister ever since. You’re kinda pathetic, not gonna lie.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“Anytime. We’re here now, by the way.”

“Where?” Evan looked up, his eyes greeting a huge mansion. It looked like it had at least five floors and a basement, and it was made of white marble. He couldn’t imagine how much it would cost. 

“Your sister’s,” said Gray.

“She lives here?” Evan widened his eyes, turning to look at the young man, but he was gone again.

“Evan!” A sweet voice sounded. “Where’ve you been?” Olivia Pierce stepped out of the front door dressed in a thick sweater and a face mask.

“Ol,” he said. “Hi.”

“Hi,” she replied, tilting her head when she got closer to him. “Where’s your mask?”

“What m— oh,” he mumbled while his fingers brushed his pocket. “Why do I need a mask?”

“Air quality, remember?” she waved a hand in his face. “Are you okay?”

“Fine,” he responded. “Hey, can we go inside? I have a few questions.”

Olivia fixed up a glass of marmalade for her older brother, and they both lounged on the couch in the huge, expensive-looking living room. Technically, he hadn’t seen his sister in years. Life had kind of just taken the siblings in two very different directions.

“Well?” she said. “What’s up?”

“What did I do to Elora?”

Olivia set her glass down. “Are you sure you want to talk about this?”

He nodded once.

“You know what happened,” she told him. “If you’re asking what you did wrong, then… well, it’s hard to tell you. You did a lot of things.”

That really didn’t ease him up. “Can I fix it?”

She fell silent for a moment, looking older than he’d ever seen her. “I don’t know.”

Olivia and Evan sat quietly, stress eating at his mind for a few moments. “Can you turn on the news?”

His little sister looked mildly surprised, but nodded nonetheless, moving to switch the TV on.

“And today the forecast was a high of 97 degrees Fahrenheit. An air quality statement was issued, and will stay on until tomorrow, so it is recommended that everyone keep their masks on, while the older population stay inside all day if possible. We should have some relief the day after tomorrow, as we will have a few severe thunderstorms moving in, so take cover. Supercell activity is not being ruled out, and there is a risk of a few tornadoes. Now, here, we have…”

Evan wasn’t oblivious. He knew why he was here, and he knew why it felt so real even if it really was a dream. He was back in 2021 at the moment, sleeping right next to his wife, his daughter in the next room. But why did it feel like if he didn’t fully accept the consequences of his own actions, he would never see his family again?

It was his fault that his daughter would die in the future. He was to blame for his broken marriage. It was all his fault. He had the ability to at least try and fix it. He just didn’t believe that he needed to.

“I, uh… I think I know how to fix this,” Evan stuttered. “Olivia, can you take me home?”

“Look, Evan, I don’t know if that’s—”

“Trust me.” He looked up at her, pleading with his eyes. “Please.”

They arrived within five minutes. Evan stumbled out of the car, and he was glad that it was late in the night and that nobody could see him. He raised his hand up at the door, getting ready to knock, when he hesitated.

Was this even a good idea? What if she didn’t want to see him?

You made this mess, muttered a small voice in his head. Fix it.

So he knocked before he could chicken out.

Elora answered almost immediately, and groaned. “You again?”

“Elora, you have to—” he stopped. “I mean, please hear me out.”

She stood, arms crossed and foot tapping the floor.

Evan took a deep breath. He needed to tell her. If he couldn’t tell her, who could he ever tell? “Look, I need to tell you something important. I’m gonna sound crazy, but please, just listen.”

He waited. She didn’t stop him.

“I made a mistake. That’s why I’m here. I did the wrong thing years ago, and I’m the reason Adira… is gone.”

Elora winced.

“I can’t fix that,” continued Evan, trying to keep his voice from breaking. “Not in this time anyways. But I promise you, Elora, I won’t let our daughter die.”

Evan could tell that his wife had absolutely no idea what he was saying, but she sighed. “Evan, you need to grow up. Move past this. Just live your own life, okay? I believe that you could have done more, but you are not the reason Adira is dead. I forgive you.”

And that was all Evan needed to hear.

The next morning, Evan woke up beside his wife, her warmth in his arms, and to Adira bringing in breakfast again.

“Morning,” she said.

Evan was up almost immediately, but he was careful not to wake Elora. Guilt flooded through him, and even more rushed to his heart when he recalled the events in his dream. “Honey, I’m sorry about last night, I…”

“No,” she said, putting the food down on the table beside their bed. “Dad, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have spoken to you like that.”

“You were right,” he told her. “I think it’s time I start helping with what I can.”

Adira frowned for a moment, but then her eyes widened. “You mean it?”

“I’ve held you back for too long,” he said. “You go do what you need to do. I’ll support you. Always.”

He saw her smile and started to come at him for a hug, but he wasn’t done.

“I was also thinking… You were right. What my company is doing — it’s not what the world needs right now. I don’t know what I’m gonna do yet, but I promise you. We’ll figure something out.”

“Wait,” Adira gasped. “Really?”

Evan shrugged.

“Why the sudden change?”

He knew that there was no way to reverse everything. But he could help buy time. He could try. He owed that to his family.

“That’s a story for another day. Let’s wake your mom up now, because I don’t think I can hold back from eating those waffles much longer.”

Why I wrote this piece

Our world is nearing its point of no return. Environmentally, there are so many issues that need addressing, as well as more action towards being resolved. There’s no way that we can fix everything anymore, but we can try to at least delay it. That is what I’m trying to get across through this piece.

Author

We Can Try