“Here is the only place in this collection of stories where I felt it appropriate to include my own personal accounting, for the calamity that I myself witnessed was too strange and incredible to leave off these pages, for it was on June 22, 2089 when every single pre-Pollen human across the entirety of the Earth simply ceased to be.
I was a few miles north of Ventura, California, riding my Lectrocycle along Coastal Highway 1. I pulled off onto a scenic overlook for a break. It was an hour before nightfall and I noticed a few other travelers who shared my intention of getting some rest. I grabbed my rucksack and walked a few paces onto the beach, unrolled my sleeping bag, ate the contents of a decomp-MRI, then settled in.
There were twenty-five or so other people within a two-hundred yard radius, a few traveling alone like myself, and others assembled in twos and threes. These were all homeless refugees: people who had lost their properties to militias, fraudulent security firms, and countless other predatory acts. The feeling on the beach was that of an uneasy détente – a ‘you leave me alone, and I’ll leave you alone’ feeling. Some went about their business in complete obliviousness, while others eyed their surroundings with deep suspicion. The guy closest to me pulled a gun halfway out of his bag and warned me to keep my distance. I told him that he had nothing to worry about – from me, anyway. I turned my attention toward the sea and watched the red orb of the sun slowly descend, then deform as it melted into the horizon, and wink-out in a flash of green a second before it dipped below the vast Pacific. I then laid down with my hands clasped behind my head and watched the sky settle down into a deep and dark violet blue with its billions of stars arching their way across infinity. I nodded off.
It was the strong scent that jarred me awake, followed quickly by the collective moan and elation of my fellow travelers. The sky flashed and shimmered in a wild and iridescent array of colors and tones, while strange, terrible, and colorful clouds billowed and roiled in a furious tempest above, but there was no wind – not even the slightest breeze. The ocean was still and reflected the chaos above. Pollen had returned, but because I had not been exposed the first time, I was apparently immune from the calamity that transpired over the next few minutes. I turned my gaze from the sky and onto my fellow travelers. Their elation was immediate, and they greeted the return of Pollen with an enthusiasm that catapulted them to their feet, their arms desperately reaching toward the roiling and boiling chaos of colors above. They inhaled the perfume with deep and panicked breaths, and many openly wept with joy – then, as quickly as they’d jumped to their feet, they were quieted and stilled, frozen in place, their faces surpassing the pleasure and pain of ecstasy.
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