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Short Fiction: A Life Pod at Riverton


Speculative fiction has always been a great way to imagine the future. The following is a short climate-related piece I wrote.

A Life Pod at Riverton

“When we look at biological analogues,” Jane began, lifting the cover off the evap system and dropping to one knee, “we see the many ways in which large organisms are vulnerable when climate push comes to climate shove.”

The sun hovered in an infinite sky, bright, blanching out any atmospheric color. It was spring, and the air was warming, with a sweet sugar breeze.

Jane lifted a hand to shadow her eyes.

“Elephants, lions, cows, all the big mammals,” she said, then gestured in the direction of several grassy mounds that rose from the prairie. “Too big, too slow, too pack-oriented. Vulnerable.”

Then, she reached into the evap unit and pulled out a length of rotten rubber hose.

“So too all the networks dependent on leaders,” she went on. “Bees and the like. Vulnerable.”

“And now mostly gone,” I added, handing her a wrench.

“Yep,” she reached into the opening at the base of the evap unit to screw down a new hose. “Humans in our old hierarchical mode as well. You know what almost happened to us. It’s amazing to think that the principles that gave us such tremendous adaptive benefits in the past would lead us to disaster.”

“The greed, the dependency, the consumption,” I agreed.

It seemed everyone was talking this way now, I thought to myself, after ten years of utter madness. A sudden sanity had taken hold and was spreading across a ravaged world.

It was a simple idea, a small idea in a way, but the life pod concept did it; it catalyzed the clarity, the life-affirming sanity that had begun to sweep over us all.

I had been unrooted for several years, waiting on various waiting lists. They were difficult years, but in late March, I was offered a pod in this section of the plains, and so I had made my way by foot and auto from the east coast to this new Midwestern place, Riverton. After everything went down, and society fell apart, we all abandoned the old places, the cities and towns, just left them behind where they were. We made new places, like Riverton here.

“I get it now,” she said, flipping the master switch on my life pod, “It took me a while. The problem was always the grid systems. Millions, billions of people depending on these artificial networks — agriculture, economy, power — that others control, that bunched up masses of people. Exploitation was inevitable.”

The machinery within the life pod woke up and began to hum its soft, green-power hum. Water condensing from the air, circulating in the grow systems. Photovoltaics and wind turbines charging batteries. Air scrubbers.

Jane had been one of the earliest Riverton residents, she told me, and now it was her turn to welcome me, the newest resident.

As we waited for the life pod to flush its air and water circulators through the three rooms, the garden terrace, the aquaponics, Jane offered me a glass of water from a bottle dangling from her belt. We sat on a bench in front of the main door.

“I met Sam Turner once,” she said, then laughed at my surprised expression. “He came through here seeding the pod plans, the 3D printers, helping us put it all together. I’ve been here since the beginning.”

“Wow,” I said, sipping from the cup of water. It was fresh and clear. “They say he’s disappeared.”

“Well, he moved on from here. But the pods are everywhere. They’re how we live now.”

I nodded.

Yeah, it was a small idea, a simple idea. Just give everyone a life support system, a life pod. Provide each person with an automated domicile that produces water, fish, vegetables, fresh air, security. One integrated life support system, complete in itself, powered by itself, easy to build with surviving technology, easy to maintain.

And the repercussions were simple too: no money, no economy, no deprivation, no starvation, everyone with their own place, with the freedom of guaranteed sustenance. You owned a life pod, and it’s all you could own, all you needed to own. The small barter markets of goods and services were for entertainment, diversion. Nobody’s life depended on them.

That was Turner’s gift to a world that needed both liberation and healing.

After a few minutes, the light on the front of my life pod toggled from red to green with an audible click.

“Well, here you are,” Jane smiled and patted my knee. “Welcome home.”

She stood and walked off into the bright April day, waving at me. I waved back and looked again at the rising mounds to the east, now luminous with spring grass.

Here I am.

Author: Eric Kingsbury

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7 thoughts on “Short Fiction: A Life Pod at Riverton

  1. Hmm. A post-apocalyptic story with what appears to be a happy ending. But would life have any meaning in these self-contained pods?

  2. Well, I suspect it depends on what you think creates meaning in people’s lives. I suspect meaning is what you make, or fail to make in some cases. What do you think?

    • Well, as an existentialist I certainly believe in making your own meaning. I guess my question is, would we need to find new kinds of meaning in an environment such as this?

  3. Glad you allowed for the barter system to provide what Mark above (perhaps) found lacking in your new ecosystem of pods. And I did wonder about families…would each child get a pod of his or her own? But love the idea. Radical notion of doing away with cities. The story speaks to the deep need humans have for the connection to the natural world (though I know Tom would immediately argue that everything ensuing from human endeavor is also natural.)

    • But meaning goes beyond bartered things. I retired recently from my pharmaceutical industry career, but found that I still need meaning beyond “things” and the golf course, so I set out to be a futurist as a “retirement career.” It gives me meaning.

  4. Reblogged this on Seeking Delphi™ and commented:
    Here is a fascination question for those who fear the apocalypse. Can there be a post-collapse world that might not be so bad? In this short piece of fiction, my University of Houston foresight colleague, Eric Kingsbury, suggests a future transformation that might not be so bad. It’s re-blogged from his site,

  5. Interesting…except there will always be those people who would want more than one life pod; who would take those of others by force, and then slowly create an economy where wealth correlates with just how many you have at your disposal. Perhaps that’s how we got into this mess of a planet in the first place.

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