The final three years of our lives together we ceased to travel. At age 83, the arthritis in Elizabeth’s hips and her osteoporosis caught up with her and she lived in a motorized wheelchair, too much of a surgical risk for any joint replacement. We went as far as we could as often as we could with her in our city, more inseparable than ever.
At the end of those three years, when her pancreatic cancer was finally diagnosed, Lady Chief refused both chemotherapy and radiation. Whatever else you may say of “Julie”, she had grit. All she wanted was the company of her sisters, the statue of Kuan Yin and the touch of Elizabeth in the motorized wheelchair next to her bed, the closeness of Cherry Hawkins on the other side, and the presence of my permanent and adult optimism, not about the future, but about the ultimate worth of surviving all the dangers together with my sisters in the present.
I am a whore and a killer, and was a spy and a traitor. Maybe before I die I can become a decent human being, like Cherry is, again. If not, I know without any doubt that Kuan Yin and I are one, beyond any illusion of separateness or particularity and I am determined to stand in Her presence after death without fear. Cherry knows this as well.
It took 12 weeks for Lady Chief to die and, as I said at the beginning, only six more for Elizabeth to follow her.
This year, 2098, the last permanent ice on earth melted, sea levels have risen a full eighty meters from the mid 20th century, and only 60% of the Great Methane Emission has dissipated out of our atmosphere. There is an ongoing controversy about what comes next. Some climatologists say that it was the melting of the ice that has been the planet’s heat exchanging mechanism restraining the speed and extent of the inexorably rising land temperatures from the equator to the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn which has made that area, and now even further North and South, uninhabitable for humanity.
In their view, the heat accumulation of the Earth will now increase rapidly leaving only the polar areas of the planet available to man by the mid 22nd Century–confining inland habitation to beyond 60 deg. latitude both north and south, and coastal or high mountain inhabitation no further north or south than than 50 deg. latitude. Beyond that, the heat will continue to rise until humanity, and most other terrestrial life, is extinct and the seas will start to evaporate, shrouding everywhere under a permanent cloud layer still charged with methane, with continuous thunderstorms, tornados, and hurricanes.
Others, however, say that the increased heat sink of ocean water volume combining with the eventual total evaporation of the atmospheric Methane will bring the planet back into climatic balance leaving a remnant of humanity and other land life clinging to the North and the South Poles, which will likely separate into two completely divergent evolutionary paths.
In either case both Cherry and I have watched most of the concerns of our youth and maturity wither into irrelevance on a global scale. GLCIS is gone, the capital of Great Lakes Consortium is now Toronto, the uninhabitable heat is approaching the Ohio River, and only a sorry remnant of urban populations remains across the very edge of the southern Great Lakes. Within the lifetime of those who are born in these fading years, all of these will be forced into central and northern Michigan, between three of the six Great Lakes, and then slowly into Toronto on the other side of them.
The Dixielanders have already moved into the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Their new capital is Morgantown, in former West Virginia. In the Zone the Matriarchals have steadily diminished in population despite all their sperm bank efforts, and have moved ever inward toward Montpellier. Only the Israeli colony, in what once was Maine, is slowly growing now that Israel is no more.
No one needs to spy anymore and no one wants to travel anywhere but north, and that only when they are finally forced to do so. Lady Chief and Elizabeth died in Vancouver, for 3 years now the new capital of Pacifica as the uninhabitable heat has reached what was the San Francisco Bay and Lake San Fernando, once California’s great agricultural I cornucopia. The southern outlier of Pacifica is now small and beleaguered in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Cherry and I still both travel light and will move on to Juneau before the year ends.
Elizabeth grew up in the now only legendary United States of America which has been all but consumed by the encroaching heat. She even remembered great storms of snowfall, which neither I nor Cherry have ever even seen in our lives. At the end it was she who melded all our minds–including the deceased Lady Chief, the Julie of Cherry–into indissoluability with the light of Kuan Yin. When it happened, about three weeks after Elizabeth’s passing, we were left astounded at her power within Kuan Yin’s light that finally bundled all of us together for good in daylight and outside of dreaming.
The light continuously surrounds both Cherry and I, alone or together, there for the few to see if they can, the exquisite jade statue will always remain with us, and we are quickly learning Elizabeth’s power to transmit it’s compassion by words and touch even to those who can’t see it.
When Cherry and I are awake we can, if we both put our attention to it, see clearly in our mind the rebirth of Lady Chief in a realm where the moral dilemmas of humanity remain, but not our frame of reference of both space and time, and we can see Elizabeth vanishing in and out of Kuan Yin’s light in a realm of pure bliss completely separated from any human suffering.
May we join her in that bliss after we each go through our Moment of Truth.