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How We Died

The Five Waters. All one 'freshwater' system. All too dangerous to drink.

The Loops are what got us here in the first place. The Positive Feedback Loops. We didn't take the climate crisis seriously, so we lost control of it. One problem fed into another problem, and before we knew it, crisis turned into catastrophe. So we fled, those of us who weren't already here.

And once we got here, the Tides doomed us to this existence. Tides of plastics, industrial chemicals, and acid rain. We came for the freshwater, we're surrounded by freshwater. But few of us have ever tasted it and lived.

Now, the fruits of our failure close in on all sides: perpetual chemical fires, mutant predators, biological agents, and toxic industrial pollutants.

But the synthetics keep us going.
  The last of humanity clings to the shores of the former Great Lakes, now known as the Five Waters. They're so heavily polluted that it's too dangerous to drink from them. However, synthetic chemical corporations produce neutralizing agents that are used to treat the water and render it drinkable. Until it's inevitably 'discovered' that the neutralizing agents themselves are a health hazard and require their own neutralizing agent. In the process, the corporations have made themselves necessary gatekeepers to the last drinkable water on the planet - they manufacture both the problem and the solution. Everytime.

Synthetics

Humanity

Living breathing chemical cocktails. Humanity has only survived this long by gorging itself on synthetics. Everything - the air, the water, the dirt - is hazardous for one's health in one way or another, and almost everything is cancer-causing, even the synthetics. But then there's synthetics for that, too. In any case, no one lives for long. Everyone dies of unnatural causes sooner rather than later.

Those that live in company towns, working for the corporations, are the best off. Plenty of perks. The rest of humanity has to contend with life in the old metros and backwater towns that survived the Crush. A foolish few try to create a life for themselves in the lawless countryside or ghost towns. Wherever you are, synthetics keep you going.

The Chem Corps

Procurers of life and death. The synthetic chemical corporations, known as 'the chem corps,' rule from small company towns, leveraging power via the life-saving water-purifying synthetics they produce there. Only a single corporation governs within a set territory (known as a 'market'), enjoying a virtual monopoly on synthetics: they're the only ones that produce, ship, sell, and recycle. A pact between the them ensures this balance of power: no corporation will sell in another's market. But old habits die hard - the itch of the good capitalist threatens this fragile order.

The Five Waters

Lake Superior

Superfund Status: On Fire

The Purple Skies burn atop the waters of Lake Superior. No one inhabits its shores - practically the whole of its watershed, land and lake, burns. The pre-Crush Lake Superior Control Station stops this upper lake from flowing into the others. The Superfund Coalition currently focuses its environmental rehabilitation efforts elsewhere, so the situation here isn't expected to change anytime soon.

Lake Michigan

Superfund Status: Undergoing Remediation

Lake Michigan receives, on average, the least amount of acid rainfall of all the Five Waters. Additionally, its shores are the least developed by heavy industry and the chem corps. Consequently, it's the least polluted of the Five Waters. But, that's not saying much. One of its biggest pollution problems stems from the plastics that are so numerous, many square miles of its surface are coated with the petrochemical product.

Lake Huron

Superfund Status: Undergoing Remediation

Lake Huron is the safest of the Five Waters - the Edges of Existence are far from its shores, and thus humanity wraps around it. However, humanity's embrace can be suffocating. Being so safe means that polluters can easily come here to quietly dump anything and everything unsightedly into its deep waters. Evidently, 'safe' is a matter of perspective.

Lake Erie

Superfund Status: Area of Concern

Ever since the stoppage of water flow to Lake Ontario, Lake Erie has effectively become the lowest lake. All water and, more importantly, everything in it eventually flows here. Consequently, the water can be thick at times with the heavy amount of pollutants in it. Seasonal phosporous floods from the surrounding pre-Crush farmland load the water with nutrients for mutant plant growth. Between the churning chemical foam and the stinking mats of chemical-resistant algae, there's few reasons for one's eyes to linger long.

Lake Ontario

Superfund Status: Total Salt Intrusion

Rising sea levels reversed the flow of water so that ocean water now penetrates the lowest of the lakes, Lake Ontario. Shortly thereafter, the west end of Lake Erie was blocked up and dammed to prevent the loss of Great Lakes freshwater. Now, Lake Ontario rests nearly 200 feet below its sister lake, isolated. Unrecognizable. A part of the sea.

The Edges of Existence

Purple Skies

Superfund Status: Health Advisory In Effect

In the northwest, chemical fires perpetually burn, their purple flames giving the skies an unnatural hue. Besides the danger of the fire itself, toxic gases hang low over the area, released as a byproduct of combustion. Occasionally, winds collect some of the gases and form a rolling fog that creeps across the land; others remain invisible, often the deadlier threat. Above the low-hanging gases and purple fires, chemical clouds gather, shedding acid rain.

The Cutover

Superfund Status: Health Advisory In Effect

In the southwest, mutant predators roam, always probing the boundaries between the Cutover and civilization. Many folks consider it to be the 'softest' of the four Edges, however they haven't had to abandon their homes to the horrors that hunt in settled lands, much less attempt what they're suggesting: to colonize the Cutover, itself. The mutants that originate here aren't the kind that one hears in bedtime stories nor around the campfire at sundown: they don't wait for nightfall, they don't lurk in the shadows, they don't hide come morning. They're always on the hunt.

Number Three

Superfund Status: Health Advisory In Effect

In the northeast, a mysterious biological chemical simply known as 'Number Three' prevents organic life. Theories abound about whether the chemical interfaces with living organisms via inhalation, skin contact, or some other manner, but no consensus has yet emerged; part of the danger of Number Three stems from the fact that so little is known about it. Regardless, few are interested in travelling here to conduct research - any disturbance to the topsoil where it has settled releases it back into the air.

The Rust Belt

Superfund Status: Health Advisory In Effect

In the southeast, the old industrial heartland and its toxic dumps have been flooded by the near-constant storm surges that penetrate all the way from the Atlantic. Of the thousands of pre-Crush chemicals that have leaked into the quagmire, most were unregulated, so no one knows what combination of synthetics, if any, would be able to keep you alive here.


Cover image: by Beth Jnr

The Loops

... 2040

The beginning of the end.

  • 2039 AD


    Number Three Chemical Deployed
    Disaster / Destruction

    A Public Health Measure

  • 2039 AD


    The Rust Belt Rusts
    Disaster / Destruction

    Bleeding Machines

  • 2039 AD


    Chemical Fires Begin
    Disaster / Destruction

    Taming Wildfires

  • 2039 AD


    The Crush
    Population Migration / Travel

    Fleeing the Crisis and Heading to the Refuge of the Great Lakes

  • 2039 AD


    Mutant Predators Close In
    Disaster / Destruction

    On the Hunt

The Tides

2040 2050

The death of the once great lakes.

  • 2041 AD


    The First Tide
    Disaster / Destruction

    Plastics

  • 2042 AD


    The Second Tide
    Disaster / Destruction

    Industrial Chemicals

  • 2043 AD


    The Third Tide
    Disaster / Destruction

    Acid Rain

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