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February 19, 2024

The Yellowstone Mechanism

By A. L. F. Fagan

A slender young man slowly shuffled into the dark, cold room. He carried with him a single candle to light the way. After sitting down on a large sofa, he placed the candle on a coffee table in front of him. Despite wearing a winter coat and knit hat, the man started to shiver. He reached out and held his hands over the candle's flame for warmth.

An older man stepped out from the shadows. He softly said, "Hello, Phillip."

The young man looked up and replied, "Oh, hello, Grampa. It's been a while."

"Yes, I guess it has been."

"You wouldn't have happened to have brought something to eat?"

"From the other side? That's not possible, sorry."

Phillip coughed uncontrollably for a moment. Once he was able to stop, he said, "It didn't hurt to ask."

"I know it's tough, but hang in there."

Phillip had another coughing fit, then asked, "For how long?"

"It's going to be a while."

"You know that?"

"Now that I'm on the other side, I can see everything more clearly. I wish I'd had this kind of insight when I was alive."

"Well, if you can see so clearly, tell me what to do. How am I going to survive this? Since the eruption, there has been so little to eat. The electricity is off again, and this place is freezing."

"You need to be brave."

"But I'm hungry!"

"I know. This is all my fault. The evidence was all around me, but I couldn't see it because I really didn't want to. I accepted the lies put forth by climate deniers because I wanted that to be the truth, even though it wasn't. Like a fool, I fought against changes that could have averted this catastrophe."

"Well, now we see how well that worked out," Phillip said as he shivered.

"Everything proved to be much worse than what the scientists warned us about. Most people were so fixated on measuring global warming based on air temperature that few focused on how the warming atmosphere also made the ground heat up over time. That led to more active magma, which led to the eruption at Yellowstone."

"Yeah, and that eruption still continues to affect global weather even after two years. Crops all around the planet have failed, and millions have already died of starvation."

"Now that I'm on the other side, I can see clearly how this is a natural mechanism that has kept the planet in balance over the eons. Whenever the world gets too warm, this forces a cool-down."

"If you can see so much, tell me how much longer it will take before we get back to normal."

His grandfather paused, then replied, "I'm afraid the world has several more years to go before any semblance of normal returns."

"Several years?! Millions more will die! How am I supposed to survive this?!"

"I assure you; mankind will make it through this catastrophe and thrive again."

Philip had an expression of dismay, struggling to respond. After several seconds, this changed to a look of grim concentration. Then he said, "I asked you about me surviving, but you responded that 'mankind will thrive again.' You know that I'm not going to make it, don't you?"

Phillip's grandfather remained silent; he just stood looking down at the floor.

After an awkward moment of silence, Phillip erupted angrily. "Answer me!"

His grandfather continued to look away, saying nothing. The two remained silent. Then his grandfather tried to speak up saying, "Phillip . . . I --"

"Tell me the truth!"

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry."

"You and your generation had everything, and you left my generation with nothing. I hate you!"

"I promise you; humanity will survive."

"Yeah, too bad I won't live to see it."

"I'm so sorry."

"Get out of here. I never want to see you again!"

Phillip picked up a book on the coffee table and threw it at his grandfather. The projectile merely passed through the ghostly form.

"Please try to understand --"

"Get out, now!" Phillip's face turned red, and his eyes teared up. "Just let me die in peace," he said softly.

His grandfather vanished, leaving Phillip alone in the cold darkness with a single candle.

Article © A. L. F. Fagan. All rights reserved.
Published on 2022-05-02
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