Inspiring Conversations

Short Story Selection: The Rain

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“The Rain” is a projection into an imagined future where rain is no longer just acid but deadly. Behind the story lies a stern caveat about climate change. This world is dark, hopeless and cynical.

By Jun Wen
Short story contributor for Penny’s Daybook

Jun Wen is a messy-haired student of 23 years old with interests ranging from chess to prose. Between the consumption of copious measures of caffeine-laced beverages and the sanctuary of idleness, he enjoys crafting short pieces of fiction especially for you.

rainI used to love playing in the rain. It wasn’t the monster that it is now. When I was five or six, and perhaps even when I was older, I would run through the falling rain with glee. I would look up into the darkened skies and feel the beads of clear liquid falling lightly on my face and shoulders, or try to catch them on the edge of my tongue. Other times I walked under and along the eaves of a building with my hand outstretched and felt the light pressure of the rain hitting my palm. My mother used to react with horror to my fascination with the rain. She often warned me that playing in the rain would make me sick, but I was young and paid no attention. I never imagined that she would one day be more than right.

The changes came slowly and imperceptibly. After certain wet spells, people started reporting symptoms which were not consistent with the common cold. Nausea, fainting spells and skin rashes appeared with increasing frequency. There were theories of influenza mutating into more complex forms, and scientists scrambled to create new vaccines. People began to notice that the rain was now tinged with colour, and often greasy. You couldn’t come indoors after a storm without hosing down your shoes or else you risked leaving a trail of oily footprints behind you that was hell to clean.

Theories, more theories. Looking through the archives of news reports from my youth, it amazes me that no one understood what was happening. Some said it was a sign of global warming spun out of control, others said the detergents and chemical waste we were emptying into out rivers and oceans were to blame. A small but increasing number believed the end of the world was approaching, and talked about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Something had to be done of course, and what was done was a lot of talking. Global leaders met and amidst the demonstrations and protests outside their conference halls spent days on end discussing and negotiating. Their verdict: It is imperative that action is taken by the leading nations in controlling…etc. Again, going through the archives, I came across this gem of a quote by Le Monde, a leading newspaper which was housed in what was then Paris, before the rains forced the Europeans underground. The headline read: They have doomed us all.

I was in my teens then, and didn’t really take much notice of the political bickering. What I did notice was that we stopped using those flimsy constructions of plastic called ‘umbrellas’, and started wearing protective suits that the rain couldn’t eat through in a matter of minutes. My dad stopped parking his car in front of our house since we didn’t have a porch of cast iron or stone. If you were caught in the rain for a brief moment, you might be coughing up black phlegm for ages. I stopped going out in the rain.

Nowadays only the insane and the suicidal go out into the rain. I remember writing an essay in my undergraduate days comparing past and present methods of capital punishment. It seemed to me that hanging, in which the condemned only suffered for about fifteen minutes, was a more merciful release than being left in the rain as they are now in some Middle Eastern countries.

I sometimes wonder what the younger generations will think if I told them I used to play in the rain, or if I told them the rain used to be a clear liquid, not unlike the bottled fluids we drink now. They will not believe me; they will look at me and laugh. They will ask me why people used to run for shelter in those days, or carry little shields if not to protect their brains from seepage wounds. They will ask me how we could have something so pure and wonderful, and not hold on to it.

It is starting to rain again. Outside my windows the screams will soon begin. Tormented cries that are oddly inhuman, that are still audible through the many layers of Plexiglas separating us. Before I had curtains installed I would sometimes catch a glimpse of the homeless and the stranded, their faces streaked, as if with black grease, the wild look of fear and pleading in their eyes. At times they pound on the glass with their bare fists, pleading to be let in, but the pounding never lasts long.

I used to love the rain.

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