In the first draft of my novel, Eve of Eridu, I wrote a prologue which I have since scrapped. I thought I’d pop it up here in case anybody was interested 🙂
And the lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it sorrows me that I have made them.
‘What are those white things?’ Eve asked the professor, jabbing her finger at the pale shapes hovering oddly in the picture book sky. They looked foreign, and, despite their innocent curves, strangely threatening to her six-year-old mind.
‘Those were called clouds,’ Professor Henry replied.
‘Clouds,’ Eve repeated slowly, trying out the unfamiliar word on her tongue. The professor had said ‘were’, which indicated that clouds must be another forgotten aspect of Before. She gazed outside the classroom window at the clear blue sky, feeling thankful that there was no such thing as a cloud floating menacingly above her.
Growing up in Eridu, Eve knew of concepts such as clouds, wind, thunder, and lightning only from the pages of a book. She had never experienced any of these, and likely never would. Not that this bothered her. She was glad for the protection Eridu provided.
In history, she learnt about Before – of a time when the weather was violent and unpredictable.
‘In one corner of the globe,’ explained Professor Henry, ‘people would be starving to death in a heatwave. Far away, they would be drowning in a flood, and in another part of the world they would be freezing to death instead.’
The students all stared at the professor, open-mouthed, wondering how so many unfamiliar, yet frightening words could exist in two small sentences. Out of all of them, heatwave sounded the most terrifying. Eve had learnt about waves before, by moving a tub of water. The students had to imagine that the tub was very big, or that they were very small. This wasn’t hard, as Eve constantly felt small in comparison with the towering green buildings that made up the city. The professor had taught them a new word, ocean, which was like a very big and very deep tub of water. When he rocked the container, little ripples moved from one side of the tub to the other. These were called waves.
Eve conjured up this image of a wave in her mind and now coupled it with a word she already knew – heat. With an uneasy feeling in her stomach, she imagined a giant, searing hot wave thundering across the land, consuming all of the crops and animals and people. She thought she was going to be sick.
Then Professor Henry explained that heatwaves weren’t actual waves, but they were just as deadly. He turned the temperature control up in the classroom and watched as the children all started squirming uncomfortably. Beads of sweat began running down Eve’s face but the professor refused to let them get a cool drink for over an hour.
‘This is what a heatwave felt like,’ he explained, ‘although it was ten times worse, so all of the water dried up. What happens to plants if they don’t have water? Lil?’
Eve’s classmate, Lilu knew the answer to this one. With shame, she recalled the time she had forgotten to water the plant beside her pod, and it had shrivelled up and died. Her parents had gravely explained the consequences of her actions and there had been no leisure time for three days afterwards.
‘They die,’ she responded, simply.
‘That’s right,’ acknowledged Professor Henry. ‘And in a heatwave, they don’t just die. They dry out and turn to dust.’
With renewed terror, Eve wondered how long he was going to leave the heating on.
While the room became increasingly more uncomfortable, the professor explained that without plants to eat, the animals had sat down on their haunches and turned to dust as well. Eventually, there was nothing left – no plants and no animals for people to eat. This was called starving. Finally, the people turned to dust too.
Although the heat in the room was oppressive, Eve felt a cold hand grip her heart in fear. She imagined ghostly dust-people roaming the plains, searching in vain for their loved ones. Eve looked desperately outside at the clear blue sky and felt thankful that she lived in a world where there was no such thing as heatwaves. No starving. No freezing. No lightning, or wind, or even clouds. She was safe.