KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 9: Spring 2018
Flash Fiction: 997 words
  [251 + 494 + 252]

Climate Impact Triptych

by Ashley Shelby


Ever since First Impact, king tides had become gargling monsters, so getting out of Plaquemines at high tide was a little hairy. Deacon sent a silent thank you to the climate gods that they were two weeks out from a full moon, and focused on the dark inland ocean before him. He and Evariste were headed toward the Atchafalaya, which would then take them to the Mississippi River Environmental Migrant Corridor. Once on the corridor, they’d make their way to Dubuque, where they’d sell the boat and find transport to Antioch, Nebraska, the ghost town that had been cleared for the reconstructed French Quarter. By the time Final Municipal Submersion (FMS) had been declared in New Orleans six months earlier, the city had only managed to relocate half of the Quarter upriver. Still, men were needed in Nebraska. No questions asked.

Uprooted trees floated by regularly—magnolia, black walnut, sweetgum, pecan. Even bald cypress, which preferred standing in swamp water, had buckled in earlier storm surges. Deacon enjoyed trying to identify the trees from a distance, but by sunset, his hands were trembling. The first one he saw he’d figured for a sweetgum trunk until it started pinwheeling in a catchment current and he realized it had a face. The second one was wearing a dress.

After Evariste took over, Deacon walked onto the deck. It was dark now. Blooms of blue-green swamp gas hung over the water. He wondered how deep he’d have to dive to reach the pavement.



The Recently Released Carbon Felon’s Guide
to Job Fairs

Deacon hadn’t been to the West Bronx since passing through eight years earlier on his way from Ithaca. Seen from the backseat of an Uber ride, it had seemed nothing more than a series of Laundromats, delis, botanicas, and auto-parts stores. Now it bore all the hallmarks of a “neighborhood in transition.” The subway entrances gleamed, festooned by public art. The streets had been replaced by permeable pavers, which gave Bronxdale Avenue a Dickensian feel. Even the cobra-head streetlamps had been uprooted, replaced by solar-fed LED luminaires that looked like props from the set of Mary Poppins.

Deacon followed DeShawn across Bronxdale Avenue and under the canopy of Joseph Lucchese Funeral Home, Inc., where a muttering horde was trying to squeeze into the front door. Deacon noticed most of them were clutching file folders.

“Shit. I don’t have any resumes,” Deacon said.

“Counselor Ange uploaded everyone’s resume into the Center’s LinkedIn group. They’ll be able to access it.”

Deacon’s relief was quickly replaced by embarrassment. “I’m not dressed for success, DeShawn,” he said, gesturing at his dingy khakis and the short-sleeved tee-shirt he’d found hanging in the closet of his rented room. DeShawn assessed him, starting at Deacon’s thick black hair, then running down the length of his thin but flabby body, down to his open-toed sandals and his ugly big toes sprouting hallux pubes. “It depends on what you define as success,” DeShawn said. “I’d advise avoiding financial services, emergent threats, and customer-intensive employment. Focus on manual labor—investment relocation and vertical farms, for example. Those people don’t care how you’re dressed.”

The Manhattan Carbon Felon Job Fair had been set up in the Luccheses’ former embalming lab, in the basement. The funeral home had gone out of business ten years earlier after the passage of the Sustainable Burial Act, but remained in the Lucchese family as a small events center and, on Sundays, a storefront Pentecostal church. As they waited to descend to the basement, Deacon noticed a man tapping on a glass tank set beneath a large bulletin board.

“You’re agitating it,” DeShawn said coolly.

“Fuck off,” the man replied. Deacon waited impatiently for the guy to move on, and when he did, he could clearly see a snake—a writhing solenoid whose mud-colored splotches were unmistakably Rattlesnakian.


DeShawn glanced over at the snake. “Snake-handling Pentecostals are the fastest-growing religious group in the city. Timber rattlesnakes are their preferred species. I think a connection could be drawn between the popularity of snake-handling and the resurgence of the Gadsen flag.”

Shaken, Deacon followed DeShawn down two flights of linoleum-covered stairs, and into the cavernous and poorly lit embalming room, mentally rehearsing the soft-shoe routine he’d have to perform if he hoped to land a job plucking lettuce heads from hydroponic tanks.

As he approached the Jail to Job table, he took a deep breath and tried to look less obviously Syrian.



The PCA Card

Deacon had just passed several groups of migrants heading uptown when he heard a throat being relieved of phlegm. This was followed by a cough larded with meaning. Deacon peered into the shadowed doorway. A pale face stared back. Clenched between the yellowed teeth was an e-cigarette. Deacon grew faint with nostalgia. His father had once singed his beard on an e-cigarette that had exploded without warning at a neighborhood Diwali festival. The cougher coolly displayed a worn plastic card in the curve of his palm.

Deacon knew he should walk away. The trade in stolen Personal Carbon Allotment (PCA) cards was brisk, but dangerous. Still, the cheery yellow plastic square called to him. Deacon had nothing more than his rations card and a change of clothes. A PCA card was obviously out of the question. Parolees were not trusted with such basics of responsible citizenry. They’d have to go through the tiresome Rehabilitated Carbon Offender process.

The man flicked the card with his fingers. “Untraceable,” he said quietly. A puff of patchouli-scented vapor obscured his face for a moment.

“How many credits?”


A fully rehabilitated carbon felon would not buy a stolen PCA card, Deacon realized, but without one, he had little chance of rebuilding his life. No bus rides to work, no trips on the subway, no ability to pay Off-Set Sales Tax. Six carbon credits would be just enough.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out the duct-tape wallet he’d made in Practical Crafts.


Publisher’s Note: See also the author’s essay Toward a New Climate Change Genre: First Impact Fiction, in which she writes:

...By rendering a First Impact world, where readers see both the familiar and the slightly strange, we [fiction writers] may be able to, through art and imagination, send the message that scientists and journalists have thus failed to effectively deliver...

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