Vision the First.
This is one of the more optimistic scenarios I can imagine in the next 51 years: Civilization reconfigured itself around natural, locally-produced energy rather than collapsing. There’s still a USA, but it’s a loose federation of independent regions. Planet Georgia was originally part of New Dixie, which was variously a white supremacist paradise or a dictatorship dressed up in a theocracy, but by this time has balkanized into a collection of freeholds and city-states. FAR Manor is now part of the New Hope Freeholders’ Community.
Climate change missed the “runaway” scenario, although a big chunk of Greenland ice let go in 2032 and flooded most of the seaports. Population declined without too much starvation or all-out war…
“Hop it, kids!” Mama yelled down the hall, harvesting some grumbles. “The digester’s clogged! I’ll fix breakfast on the patio while you’re taking care of it.”
As usual, Martina and Bobby were the first two moving, walking through the kitchen while Mama packed a crate with pans and food. “No gas?” Martina chirped.
“Nope,” Mama said, looking her over. Martina had a baby on the way, their first in a long time, and was just beginning to show. “You guys grab the tools and wait for the rest of ’em. Don’t reward ’em for being slow, right?”
“I heard that,” laughed Miguel, entering the kitchen. “You need some help with that crate, Mama?”
“Nah. But you can pump me a bucket of water while they’re getting the tools out.”
Mama had the fire going in the patio stove before Miguel brought the water, and it was starting to steam by the time the rest joined Martina, Bobby, and Miguel at the digester. Thank God I’m upwind, she thought, as the whoops and laughter told her what the smell was like when they lifted the cap. She looked up at the windmill, turning slowly in the morning breeze. They were pretty well off here at FAR Manor — there was usually enough juice for lights, and nearly always enough to run the small refrigerator. Air conditioning was a distant memory, but fans usually worked when needed the most, and they slept outside in screen tents most of the summer anyway. This time of year was pleasant, if a little cool for outside; the first frost would likely come in a week or two, and they would soon be harvesting and canning the last of the warm-weather veggies. With the digester down, though, they’d be cooking outside for a week or so until the methane pressure built back up.
Clad in their work smocks, the kids worked quickly to get the hardened muck out of the digester, tossing it on the Next Year compost heap. Once the biscuits were cooking in the Dutch oven, and the omelets were going, she turned to find all the boys — and two of the girls — standing on the benches around the open digester and pissing in it. Modesty these days was like gasoline: hard to come by, and mostly not missed. (“Boys” and “girls” — they were all adults, but she was Mama and they were the kids. None of them were hers — her only child sailed out of New Savannah on a merchant ship — but in another sense, they were.)
“Throw a couple handfuls of wood chips in there if you’re gonna do that!” Mama called. “And wash up after!”
“We know!” they chorused. Of course they did; the important parts of biochemistry were taught in fourth grade.
Don’t hassle the people doing the crap work, Daughter Dearest, Dad — or the part of her that used Dad’s voice — whispered in her head. You can’t afford to alienate them, especially.
I know, she answered. They expect me to hassle them, though. Just like I expected you to hassle me.
He laughed. You gonna work ’em ’till they drop today?
“All morning, anyway,” she laughed aloud. “This afternoon, we’ll do something really strenuous, like weaving kudzu baskets and deciding what to take to the community Thanksgiving dinner.”
“Plannin’ the day, Mama?” Liliana patted Mama on the shoulder and surveyed the cooktop. Mama was getting ready to start the omelets. “I was kinda hopin’ me and Roberto could get a little sleep here after breakfast.” Roberto stood grinning on the edge of the patio, holding her rifle and his bow. One of the cow dogs sat at amiable attention next to Roberto, grinning just like the boy and reminding Mama of a dog they had when she was even younger than these two.
“Yeah, if you sleep. I know how you two keep yourselves awake all night.” She rolled her eyes. “Newlyweds.”
Liliana just grinned. “I think we finally wore each other out this morning. We’ll sleep.”
“Nothing happening with the cows, I guess.”
Roberto shook his head. “Not even a coyote. We left the other dogs down at the pasture, we’ll hear ’em if there’s a problem.”
“Anything I can help with here?” Liliana asked.
“Nah, you two go wash up with the others. You both can help carry it in after.” A stray breeze carried the sound of the other kids chattering around the pump. “You missed the excitement, by the way. The digester clogged and the other kids took care of it.”
Roberto wrinkled his nose. “Oh, is that what we smelled coming up here? Give me night watchman duty any time!” The couple walked to the pump, arms around each other. The dog followed them a few steps, turned and sniffed toward the patio, then trotted back to lay on the cool stones.
Good bunch of kids there, Dad spoke up again. You’ve done well — I never did make this place home like you have.
“You almost got there, Dad,” Mama said. “You said it yourself. The last thing you wrote, I think.” She thought about Dad’s old diary, the oldest pages printed off his blog from back when Internet was something you could access just about anywhere (not just the occasional day-trip to the library in town), most of it in his loopy scrawl with an occasional photo or drawing pasted in. This was the time of year… tomorrow, in fact, she would gather the kids on the porch and read some of it to them, contrasting those early oft-despairing rants with the peace he’d realized in the last few months of his life. She thought she would end this year’s reading with one of her favorites: We were refined in the crucible of chaos, depopulation, and Pharisee warlords, and have emerged a purer, stronger people. We have come through the fire with hard-won lessons, and this is perhaps the greatest of them all: unbounded energy does not lead to unbounded happiness, quite the contrary. In the end, we have gained more than we lost.
And that was true. People had to travel in those days, just to get far enough away from home and work to rest. And then they would rush from place to place, wearing out themselves and their machinery and never really finding any rest. Compared to those times, every day at home was a vacation.
“Kids!” she called. “It’s ready! Someone come help me bring it in!”
Vision the Second