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Excerpt: A Diary in the Age of Water by Nina Munteanu

Centuries from now, in a post-climate change dying boreal forest of what used to be northern Canada, Kyo, a young acolyte called to service in the Exodus, discovers a diary that may provide her with the answers to her yearning for Earth’s past–to the Age of Water, when the “Water Twins” destroyed humanity in hatred–events that have plagued her nightly in dreams. Looking for answers to this holocaust–and disturbed by her macabre longing for connection to the Water Twins–Kyo is led to the diary of a limnologist from the time just prior to the destruction.

This gritty memoir describes a near-future Toronto in the grips of severe water scarcity during a time when China owns the USA and the USA owns Canada. The diary spans a twenty-year period in the mid-twenty-first century of 33-year-old Lynna, a single mother who works in Toronto for CanadaCorp, an international utility that controls everything about water, and who witnesses disturbing events that she doesn’t realize will soon lead to humanity’s demise. 

A Diary in the Age of Water follows the climate-induced journey of Earth and humanity through four generations of women, each with a unique relationship to water. The novel explores identity and our concept of what is “normal”–as a nation and an individual–in a world that is rapidly and incomprehensibly changing.

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Kyo approaches the solid maple door.

She knows which book she wishes to study. It is clearly ambitious of her. Ho will be cross with her for presuming such an undertaking. The textbook is over a thousand pages; it will take her at least six months to learn it. Confident that she will convince the old librarian, Kyo glances back at the forest of her birth and pulls in a deep breath, committing it to memory. Then she reefs open the heavy door and enters the place she will spend the rest of her life on Earth.

Ho meets her in the entranceway. Her stern face is already set in a scowl; she has anticipated Kyo. “Tell me that you have reconsidered,” she says gruffly.

“I have not,” Kyo says, her voice unwavering. “It will give me the truth, before the post-truth time.”

To her surprise, Ho does not pursue her line of questioning or offer a rebuttal. With a wave of her arm toward the main stacks, Ho says, “Very well, child. You have chosen, and that choice is yours to bear.” Ho points to the far stacks. “There.” She eyes Kyo with a strange look. “That is where you will find your answers.” She retreats to the side stacks, her attention presumably elsewhere.

Kyo finds a copy of Robert Wetzel’s Limnology on a lower shelf of the L section. It stands tall with a thick green-coloured spine. This is the book that Hilde, one of the Water Twins, had saved from the book burnings of the Water Age. A present from her limnologist mother. Hilde kept it hidden under her mattress. When CanadaCorp police burst into their home and dragged her mother away, Hilde was left alone with Wetzel. The limnology textbook was forbidden because its facts were no longer facts.

After some coaxing, Myo shared a most bizarre tale of that time, which led to the catastrophic storms and flood. What the governments hadn’t told their citizens—but what each citizen felt and knew—was that humans had lost the ability to reproduce. Then a spate of “virgin births” throughout the world spawned what seemed a new race of girls—“deformed,” blue, and often with strange abilities. Many considered them abominations, a terrible sign of what was in store for humanity—a punishment for their evil ways. Then, as quickly as they’d populated the world, these strange blue girls all disappeared without a trace. They simply vanished and became known as “the Disappeared.” Myo told her that some people called it a Rapture, a portent of the end times. Others suggested that the girls had all been murdered in an act of genocide organized by what was left of the world government.

Then Hilde’s twin Hanna brought the storms and changed the world.

Kyo had dreamed about the storms and calamities. It happened so fast, within a few months—tipping points and titrations in a cascade of disasters in a world already rife with climate change. Both ice caps collapsed in concert and took out most of the world’s coastal cities with dramatically rising seas, violent floods, and tsunamis. The seas acidified and the plankton rotted, releasing toxins and more noxious gases. Then, showing an unrelenting fury, Gaia burned the inland cities and countryside with scorching fires, unleashing widespread pestilence. Feverish temperatures raged. They brought wildfires, disease, and great hardship.

Forests burned. Towns burned. People burned.

Pests wiped out the food.

Abandoned by an impotent government, the masses fled north with what they could carry. Like fungal nodules on a root, northbound roads and highways sprouted tents and lean-tos. Temporary shanties colonized edges of decaying cities. They evolved into permanent slums, places where you could buy a dog at gunpoint to eat. Roads were filled with the detritus of humanity: dead technology, rusty appliances, and vermin-infested furniture. Whole families scavenged abandoned cars as temporary homes and lived amid the rancid odour of rotting meat, human sewage, and diesel fumes. Nothing stayed fresh for long in the forty-five-degree temperatures. Markets were set up next to garbage dumps, selling contaminated fish and wilted lettuce. Vermin and disease chased people north with the heat wave.

Occasionally, a wave of migrants would overtake a previous wave, resulting in a violent skirmish over dwindling resources. When there is less for more, there is no sharing.

About the Author

Nina is a Canadian ecologist and novelist. She worked for 25 years as an environmental consultant in the field of aquatic ecology and limnology, publishing papers and technical reports on water quality and impacts to aquatic ecosystems. Nina has written over a dozen eco-fiction, science fiction and fantasy novels. An award-winning short story writer, and essayist, Nina currently lives in Toronto where she teaches writing at the University of Toronto and George Brown College. 

Her book “Water Is…” (Pixl Press)—a scientific study and personal journey as limnologist, mother, teacher and environmentalist—was picked by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times as 2016 ‘The Year in Reading’. Nina’s most recent novel is “A Diary in the Age of Water”—about four generations of women and their relationship to water in a rapidly changing world—released in June 2020 by Inanna Publications.



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