“You know why they always have a fence around the graveyard?” my grandpa asked me.
A brittle October afternoon flashed past outside the truck windows.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because people are just dying to get in!”
Neither of us laughed. As we passed the cemetery, we surveyed all the corpses pressed against the wrought-iron fence, collapsed there after getting this far under their own steam. A few that had managed to get inside industriously dug their own graves, anywhere they could find the space.
There was no sign of the cemetery attendants.
Soberly, Grandpa said, “Guess that fence wasn’t enough.”
You looked so confused when you possessed your portrait. A portrait you never commissioned yourself.
I had spent most of my life painting your likeness. Getting closer and closer to a perfect reproduction. When at last my painting looked just like your face, your soul had no choice but to return to me.
At the sight of my face peering too close at your picture, you frowned. When you recognized me, the one who tormented you in life, now in death, you shrank back within the ornate frame.
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi follows the characters of Angel Velasquez, a “water knife” or enforcer of the will of a big water rights company; Lucy Monroe, a journalist living in Phoenix, AZ; and Maria, a teenage refugee from Texas. Struggling to alternately survive the dwindling water crisis, uncover the murders and espionage surrounding that crisis, and committing that espionage, all three of these characters get pulled into a hunt for the oldest water rights that would require water be siphoned back to Phoenix to save the dying city.
As someone with an interest in environmental impact, I enjoyed the narrative’s exploration of how a lack of water in the most barren areas of the United States would shape society, political intrigue, economic focus, and personal opportunism. While the mystery of the ancient water rights – who has them, who plans to sell them to the highest bitter, and who gets murdered over them – keeps the plot racing to the end, moments of interaction between the main characters somehow rang a little hollow. As if they often read too much into what they saw in each other, unable to truly connect with the truth.
My favorite part of The Water Knifewas the particular aversion toward Texas refugees and how, once the murder of hundreds of Texans trying to cross the border into California came to light, the remaining Texans in Phoenix banded together to start protecting each other from further harm. This resulted in an all-out shootout with some corporate thugs when they perceived them attacking another Texan.
Fellow Texans, you know this is how it would go.
With the focus on environmental downturn, The Water Knife puts a unique spin on fast-paced, action-packed dystopian corporate espionage stories. Those who enjoy reading this particular genre will appreciate the hallmarks of the style with tough, loyal men, gritty, truth-seeking women, and street smart kids, all wrapped up in the fight to change the world.
One year after my brother died, I found his last discovered geocache. Just a plain, hollowed out rock down by the local creek. I knew it was the last one he found, because he had logged the date in the geocache journal.
I ran my fingers over his name. Next to the exact date he died.
The dates before his all also… occurred the same day every year. Why were people finding this cache on this day?
Why had I? I didn’t hunt treasures.
Frowning, I noted a scribbled word at the bottom of the journal. It just read RUN.
On the outskirts of a forgotten town, I found a person with a white sheet draped over them.
The sheet covered their entire body. They stood in front of a burnt out building on the side of a gravel drive. Just stood there. All day. No one else came or went. And I sat on a stone wall on the other side of the drive, watching. Waiting to see what they would do.
But in the end, as twilight began to creep up from the horizon, I gave in first.
Gravel crunched beneath my shoes, echoing loud off the nearby building. I approached the seeming specter at an angle, going slow, as if to avoid startling a wild creature. The enshrouded person did not move away.
“Hey,” I said. “What are you doing out here? Are you okay?”
As if to face me, the head turned, tracking me. They made no reply.
I crouched down in front of the person. Even this close, they smelled like nothing more than laundry detergent. “I won’t hurt you,” I said. “I’m just going to check.” Hand shaking, I took the rough hem of the sheet and lifted, peering beneath to see the person’s face.
No one was inside.
Within the human-shaped space underneath, reddish evening sunlight filtered through the cloth on the other side of where the head should have been.
I dropped the hem and backed away, breathing hard.
A muffled voice said, “No one sees me without this on. You were watching, so I stayed.”
Then the sheet made all the motions of someone opening it up. Invisible arms pushed the cloth off and it fell into a heap at my feet.
“Where…” I turned all the way around, but I was alone with the pile of cloth, “…did you go?”
We stood together in the middle of our cornfield. We had our arms stretched out in a T-pose, resting along poles lashed together like a cross. The same as the poles that held up the scarecrows dotting the field around us. We each held bundles of straw or twigs.
“We’re being scarecrows again?” I asked.
“Yes, again. Shhh…”
As the sun vanished below the horizon, the scarecrows slipped off their poles and crept past, ignoring us as they advanced on our empty house. Last year, when they surprised us, they got daddy.