Welcome to the January 2020 edition of First Monday Free Fiction. To recap, inspired by Kristine Kathryn Rusch who posts a free short story every week on her blog, I’ll post a free story on every first Monday of the month. It will remain free to read on this blog for one month, then I’ll take it down and post another story.
It’s winter in the Northern hemisphere or at least it’s supposed to be, so this month’s free is a wintery tale called “Shelter”, which may be found in the post-apocalyptic collection After the End – Tales of Life After the Apocalypse.
So follow graduate student Ryan, as he trudges across a frozen future Earth in search of…
Ryan had been walking for seven days, when he found the ships. They were just sitting there, smokestacks, masts, radar antennae, bridges, even whole decks jutting from the massive ice layer that covered much of the Northern hemisphere.
For decades, humanity had worried about climate change and global warming, engaging alternately in denial and aimless action just for the sake of it. What hardly anybody — well, hardly anybody except for a few scientists to whom no one listened anyway and a few bad disaster movies no one took seriously — had foreseen was that even as the average global temperature steadily rose, parts of the Earth nonetheless got colder. A lot colder.
And so — while humanity was still arguing whether climate change was real — the thermohaline circulation in the oceans gradually slowed and finally shut down altogether. The Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Drift grew steadily weaker and finally broke off. The Northern hemisphere experienced an increase in severe weather events, super-blizzards and the like, until it was finally left buried under a thick layer of ice that never melted.
All that had started a long time ago and had already been in full swing when Ryan was born, on the battered, but still inhabited South Coast of England. After three winters in a row that lasted from September to May, Ryan’s parents had enough of it all and emigrated, like so many others, to more temperate climes. And so Ryan had grown up in Morocco, until the encroaching ice layer had forced him to relocate even further south, to Senegal, as an adult.
But even though most of the Northern hemisphere and its major population centres were long lost to humanity, people still mounted expeditions into the frozen North, to check if there were any changes, if the ice layer was still growing thicker or perhaps thawing again or if there was anything up there to be salvaged.
This story was available for free on this blog for one month only, but you can still read it in After the End: Stories of Life After the Apocalypse. And if you click on the First Monday Free Fiction tag, you can read this month’s free story.
Check back next month, when there will be a new story available.