By Rowan Sylva
California is running out of water. Scientists now claim that the worst drought in a millennia is striking the world’s fifth largest economy, an effect of climate change. The situation is greatly exacerbated by the mining of “fossilized ground water,” irreplaceable reserves of fresh water underneath the ground. As the drought takes its toll more ground water is mined, but now even that is beginning to run low, and NASA predicts thatCalifornia could run out of water in just one year. But what does this mean? Let us imagine.
It’s another blazing hot day in Orange County. There is not a shred of cloud in the sky. It’s forty-five degrees centigrade in the shade. But Nicolas Cage doesn’t feel it, locked safely within the walls of his new, Newport beach mansion. He has had a late night. His head pounds. He needs water, water and pain killers, water to rehydrate his aging body – he’s to old for this kind of drinking. He opens the fridge to fumble for a bottle of mineral water, but he’s out.
Cage takes a glass from the cupboard and flicks his hand over the electric tap. Nothing happens. Then there is unsettling gurgling and a brown brackish sludge spurts out of the faucet. He looks at it with disgust. Another gurgle, than nothing. Problems with the plumbing? This can’t be happening. His head is hurting now, pounding. He throws back the pain killers and washes them down with a beer.
Standing inside his large mahogany paneled bathroom, Cage pisses into the gleaming porcelain bowl. He pushes the button for the flush, but nothing happens. He watches the yellow froth mingle with what seems to be an unusually precious pool of water. He washes his hands with whisky. He’s not sure what to make of his plumbing problem. He stares out toward his large bean-shaped swimming pool. Its empty. Was it empty yesterday? As he watches, a gust of dry wind blows across the yard bringing dust shriveled leaves into the aqua blue pool.
Cage opens a packet of salted almonds and chews on them slowly. A door opens and his house keeper enters carrying a stack of dry-cleaned towels. What are the point of towels if there’s no water? The house keeper gives a slight curtsy acknowledging the apprising look of her employer. Cage has never adhered to the modern mantra that a good housekeeper is invisible. Indeed his current wife, who he hasn’t seen for several weeks, was a waitress. There is something that Cage finds appealing in talking directly to staff. He likes to awe people with his celebrity. It gives him a feeling of worth and his house keeper, well she’s a competent and pretty Italian.
“Something’s wrong with the plumbing,” Cage remarks, “could you call the water guys.”
The house keeper stares back at her employer with a look of bewilderment. “You, you haven’t heard?” She averts her eyes.
“California, it’s run out of water.”
“But do they know who I am? They can’t just cut off my water. I’m Nicolas Cage.”
“But, but, its been allover the news for weeks. Everybody is leaving. It’s nothing personal. There’s just no water left. We’ve used it all and now its gone.”
Cage, keys to his new Mercedes in hand, strides out of the house and onto the lawn. He is instantly hit by the burning heat of the sun like he has just walked into an incinerator. He stares for a few moments at a sign one of the staff has put up, “keep off the grass,” it reads, “fresh paint.”
Cage stares for a few moments at the bright green grass. It’s funny it looks almost real. He gazes at his prize Spanish oaks. They’re tough trees, but they’re dying. Their leaves are shriveled green. He has to go somewhere where there is water. But where will he go? Where has everybody else gone?
Image by Daniela Gast