Jacksonville, Florida
January 2028


Century City Beach

Normally Calder avoided the nearer city beach, but these were different times. He decided to head for it even though finding access to this so-called public beach wasn't easy there was an unbroken row of tall condo towers lined along it. To cross between the towers was to trespass on private property.

Calder rode a little further, to a group of buildings that had been severely damaged and abandoned 2 years ago, when Hurricane Fatima hit the coast and tore away the city beach, together with a number of other beaches down the coast. The city beach had been artificial to begin with, made out of synthetic, cohesive sand, guaranteed to remain stable for a century due to its engineered foundation.

Well, that century hadn't even lasted for a decade, Calder thought.

He crossed the overgrown, debris-littered parking lot of one of the derelict condos, then dismounted to walk his bike on the narrow edge of yellow sand that Fatima had left. As expected, he had the beach to himself. Occasionally disaster tourists, the kind who might visit Chernobyl or New Orleans, would stop there. But not today.

Even a destroyed artificial beach can be beautiful, he noticed.

Calder sat on a broken palm trunk, resting his eyes on the waves curling shoreward and the drifting clouds. Shore birds had learned to avoid the lifeless artificial beach. He noticed a few gulls flying by, but none lingered.

Calder did not understand how, but the beach untangled his thoughts and calmed his anxieties. He relaxed and felt cheered. In this mood, he began to study his immediate surroundings. Naturally, there wasn't a lot of vegetation to be expected on a synthetic beach, but a certain type of weed had started to spread from the parking lot. When taking a closer look, he realized that on most of the plants, the petals, normally white, were pale grey.

- Steve Wing