This is a very short story (also known as flash fiction) from the collection of speculative fiction that is my anthology of science fiction and fantasy. Ten Tales for Tomorrow is available via Smashwords, on Amazon UK (click on the title to this post for the link) or Amazon.com If you enjoy this sample, you might want to try more of the book. It's an eBook and can be read on most eReaders, including your PC or Mac via any .pdf reader.
A Land Despoiled
No one had been so far south for a decade. His trip of desperation was hope for those living in the north.
'Nothing but GM oilseed rape, as far as the eye can see.'
'Your height and location?'
He told them, sneezing and coughing as the pungent odour punished his nose and throat even two hundred metres up.
'Bees by the billion. Some adapted birds. Millions of crickets.'
'All dead or dying.'
'Even flying at three metres there's nothing but acid yellow to every horizon.'
'One small camp, maybe thirty individuals. What do they live on?'
'You'd better return now. Storm approaching from the Atlantic. Be your location, three hours.'
He scanned southwest, saw black billows pushing blue sky. Cutting power to everything but the prop gave his solar-powered microlite a chance to outstrip the weather. If it didn't, three-hundred kilometre winds would rip it, and him, to shreds.
Below, unbroken brimstone slipped past at speed. Even river beds and dried up lakes sported the ubiquitous plant. Four hundred kilometres north, occasional rain allowed specially cloned goats to exist on parched pastures, rains permitting. But continuing drought seared the land below. When the flowers died, smoke from lightening fires would replace the current dust and pollen mix.
West, a dark scar marked the ruin that was Birmingham, home to criminals and outcasts since the Great Starvation. He tacked east and glanced behind at building clouds.
A red diode flashed in his visor and he leaked power to hear the message.
'You've seventy minutes at most.'
'I estimate sixty-seven to the bunker.'
He cut power back to the prop and hoped cloud wouldn't obscure the sun. His biofuel emergency tank held enough for just twenty minutes in fair conditions.
Derby was still in flames, smoke soaring high and thick. He veered, keeping sunlight on his power cells.
Wind buffeted him over the Savage Zone, where renegades took pot-shots at him with home-made weapons. Cloud patched sunlight, dropping his power and subjecting him to fitful gusts. Skill, willpower and biofuel took him down the last slopes of the hills and he reached the tidal flatlands flooding York. As the sun vanished behind black cloud, the base, with bunker doors ajar for him, hove into view two kilometres north. He stripped off and jettisoned his protective shell to lessen weight. Unclipped landing wheels and watched them fall to fighting scavengers. The cameras and recorders with their data were vital. With atmospheric interference rendering satellites all but useless, his records would be all they'd have.
Skimming the high electric fence out of the Savage Zone, he felt power surging toward him as he crossed it. Brown fields passed beneath him and, ahead, uniformed figures stood by doors, urging him home. He wrestled with cameras and recorders, stuffing them inside his sweatshirt. Fitful wind lifted him thirty metres, then dropped him like trash. He swivelled the wings to break the fall, unstrapping himself as the aircraft rushed to meet the ground. A forward roll reduced impact and he stumbled the last few metres with only a dislocated shoulder as the cost for urgency. Hands dragged him through closing doors battered by the wrecked craft as the dry storm hit them. A medic relocated his shoulder, helped him into fatigues, and strapped his arm into immobility.
The commander shook his hand and took the data.
'Good work. Can we move back?'
'You know why they named that stuff rape when you look down on that desert. Thousands of hectares glowing bilious yellow. No Sir, we can never go back.'