January 13, 2800
A feline’s yowl slices through the night, as piercing as a swipe of its razor-sharp claws. I jolt up in my bed. Adrenaline cascades down my muscles. I feel my irregular heartbeat kick into action and each throb is noticeable, pounding against my sternum. Is everyone alright? I think urgently. Upon looking down, though, all I see is Adaktal’s pet ocelot. Phew… It’s so weird that I’m alive to see the day endangered animals cooperate with humans. In fact, early every zoo animal I can think of has been bred into a domesticated form. It’s an interesting way to prevent extinction.
“I have no food for you!” I snap in Avar, the tongue shared by all domesticated cats. The ocelot lashes her tail with contempt. “Aethyrr will come today,” she hisses, “He wants artwork.” She feels like a boss to me, and I find myself intimidated and wishing for approval, although she’s just a pet who’s been trained to say sequences of words in response to my tone. These words are empty to her.
I jolt up yet again. I’d completely forgotten about Aethyrr’s painting. I imagine the man's angry face, his burly stature, his attention-grabbing orange hair. “Oh crap, thanks for reminding me!” I chirp, sprinting to the garage. I was forced into this job. Adaktal often reminds me that I'm the best artist in Pyradimia, that my nation needs me. I’m not an object, I always complain in my head. I don’t feel significant for my talent, I just feel used.
For some reason, areas of land have been combusting one by one. People flock to me so I can paint those precious places before they perish. The world is burning. Pyradimia is the only country left that I know of. Scientists theorize that the Sun is getting too close to the Earth, but they can’t be sure, since they don’t remember how to make astronomical tools. I secretly pray for Pyradimia’s obliteration so I could be dead again. I don’t care about anyone’s perseverance. I want them to get the freak over it, which is ironic considering how I can never get the freak over my own precious nostalgia. That nostalgia is centuries old, from my past life in 2005.
When Aethyrr arrives, I holler at the ocelot to answer the door. She knows how to push through the cat door and give keys to trusted visitors. Aethyrr barges in and comes to me, yelling, “The Needle Forest is dying! It's getting poisoned by the Sun!”
I groan. "This means I have to paint it, doesn't it?" Those words should feel like a knife to Aethyrr. I can't wait to see his shocked face. Never before have I uttered a disrespectful note, or treated a commissioner with less than extraordinary service, but now the person I am inside is breaking through. With nothing to lose anyway, I have the urge to even tell him how I didn't finish his last painting.
1. Ocelot reminds Speron that he needs to finish the painting. Speron knows the ocelot has been trained to do this, by the way.
2. He hurries. Soon, the commissioner arrives. Speron tries to be rude or whatever.
3. The commissioner is like, “The art show needs a picture of the Adobe forest now! You haven’t painted that before. The environmentalist said it was in bad condition, so paint it before it perishes!”
4. Everything is perishing. It’s so annoying. Everyone’s so scared of the world ending that they keep coming to Speron to make him draw stuff. They don’t even treat him like a person, he’s more like a vending machine.
5. Speron goes outside. It’s hot, yo.
6. The forest is indeed in bad condition.
7. Scientist comes.
8. He goes to their lab.
9. What I planned.
10. Speron shows them his clock, which has been timing himself with as he paints so h e can pace himself. “Do you ever have a fear of time running out?”
“What do you mean?” “A fear of the end of the world.”