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Snowfall

Richard Bertram Peterson is a short story writer residing in the quaky and quirky state of California. He has several published works of fiction and creative nonfiction. This is his initial foray into speculative fiction.
The young child pressed her face against the triple-paned window.
"Mommy! Mommy! Look! It's snowing outside." She jumped and screamed with excitement.
Her mother joined her. Sure enough, the flakes swirled and billowed and floated to the ground. It had been years since she had seen such a sight. After all, this meteorological phenomenon was not commonplace, even at the northern latitudes where they lived. And now, it was happening on Christmas!
In a corner of the tiny apartment stood their decorated tree, a clever facsimile, fashioned from carbon composites, as were most of their possessions. Real wood was a rarity. The trees, that is, the few that remained, had retreated to the poles. The curse of plastic had been removed, but not before it was too late to save the oceans. As the atmosphere warmed and the deserts migrated north, civilization found refuge in the buildings of the central cities with their hydroponic gardens and huge, humming filtering and cooling machines. Outside was a dangerous place. Those who could do so transited to Mars where, after decades of terraforming and oxygenation of the atmosphere, it had become less hostile than their birth planet.
The mother reminisced that her grandparents had once regaled her about a time when the Earth was lush with verdant forests and domed with azure skies. There were pictures, too, of course, of when people could roam outside without the fear of suffocation or heat death. Once, birds flew, the oceans teemed and grasses covered the prairie. But things were different now. Only rarely did one venture outside.
"Mommy! Can I go out and play in the snow?" The child was gleeful and anticipatory for she had been told a story about when on the days around Christmas it would snow and people would go on sleigh rides and have snowball fights and make snow angels.
The mother looked from her hermetically sealed apartment to the scene below. Yes, there were people out there, shrouded in their protective gear. It was strange to see so many others outside the habitat. But they also had seen the snow and wanted to frolic in it. She acquiesced.
"Yes, dear, you can go outside. But first let's put on your special clothes."
The child all too eagerly climbed into her suit. The mother zipped it up, attached her helmet and turned on the air supply. They took the levitator down to the airlock.
The mother waved through the observation window as the child gathered the snow and threw it over her head. It floated down and around her and glittered on her face plate and she shook it, unmelted, from her hands. Other children, cocooned in their safety garb, ran and slipped and fell. They laughed and waved to their parents standing inside.
Earlier that day the teletron announced the violent conflagration of the northern forests. The soot and ash had funneled into the sky, then carried by the winds and deposited on the sere, parched landscape.
The mother looked upward. The sun was a smear of yellow in the smoky-hazy sky. Overhead, the cremated remains of the trees and the vegetation showered down. She watched the child running and laughing with the other children. The mother's eyes moistened and her lips slightly quivered.
Outside, the dark snow fell softly.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, March 9th, 2020
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